These beef short ribs are the perfect barbecue comfort food. Rich in smoke flavor and juicy beef, this recipe is enjoyed with a tasty rub and BBQ sauce for the perfect plate of Texas-style smoked meat.
If you get them right, beef short ribs are beautifully tender and delicious, and pack in a rich beef flavor that’s different from any other type of rib. But what makes them stand apart from other cuts of smoked beef is just how easy these are to rustle up.
Requiring only salt, BBQ sauce, and beef rub, cooking them from start to finish couldn’t be easier.
Today I’ll walk you through the entire process, and give you some easy tips to make sure you’re all set to make the best BBQ short ribs possible. From dry brining to smoking woods, I’ve got it all covered. Let’s get into it.
When you place your ribs on your grill or smoker grates, try to do so with the bone-side facing down. This will help shield the ribs from direct exposure to heat, and allow the whole cut of meat to cook slowly.
If you don’t have a smoker, a charcoal grill is just as good. Just be sure to set it up for indirect grilling in order to enable a low and slow cook. As an added tip, if you want to take your indirect cooking to another level, try setting it up in line with the snake method. Find out more with my guide on how to use a charcoal grill as a smoker.
It’s easy to be confused when buying beef short ribs, largely because of the different ways that butchers tend to sell them.
The name itself can be confusing too. ‘Short’ ribs aren’t actually particularly short in length when cut from the cow, but do tend to be served shorter when they make their way onto your plate.
What are Beef Short Ribs?
Beef short ribs get their name, not because they are short in length, but because they come from the short plate primal of the steer.
They’re cut from the short sections of ribs from across the lower part of the cow’s rib cage, usually between the sixth and tenth rib. They’re usually between 3 and 6 inches long, and carry up to two inches of meat on top and a straight bone.
Unlike other types of beef ribs, short ribs don’t tend to come from one specific region of the animal’s rib cage. Instead, they can come from the main rib, as well as the brisket or chuck.
For this recipe, we’ll be making 3-inch, individual beef short ribs.
In its best form, the short rib will carry some of the serratus ventralis muscle (also called the boneless short rib or the chuck short rib ) running through it. While your regular butcher might not be able to tell you the muscle composition of the meat, the price should be a good indicator. Chuck tends to be more expensive than other rib cuts of beef.
Despite their short length, they tend to carry a lot of meat. They can also be really tough, so getting your timings and temperatures dead right is very important here. I’ll get on to all of that in this recipe.
When beef short ribs are done right, they’re very tender and rich in delicious, beefy flavor. The muscles on this part of the rib cage are tough, so shorties need to be cooked low and slow for a long time. Smoke them for eight hours and the fats and collagens will melt, blending with the dry rub and leaving you with an incredible mouthful.
Beef Short Ribs vs. Back Ribs
Shorties and back ribs are often confused, but there are some stark differences between the two beef cuts. The main one being that short ribs carry more meat, and are mightly impressive when served as a single rib.
Back ribs are often cut from below the prime rib roast, a famously expensive beef cut. As a result, back ribs don’t tend to carry a lot of meat on top of the rib, but they do have some delicious stuff between the bones. Unlike shorties, they tend to come in 8-inch slabs.
They can be cooked in a similar way and can be done in six hours cooked low and slow. Check out our smoked beef back ribs recipe to find out more.
How to Choose the Best Beef Short Ribs
Short ribs come in many different forms depending on what you prefer. You can buy them in slabs, each carrying four connected ribs, or you can buy them individually. You can even buy them as 2-inch riblets, or as boneless short rib meat. For this recipe, we’ll be going Texas-style and using a 4-bone short plate slab of ribs.
Short plate can be difficult to find in some stores, so your best bet is to go to a specialist butcher. You can also find some glorious beef ribs online. They can be a little dearer, but the quality is outstanding. We like to use Snake River Farms or Porter Road for premium beef, or Crowd Cow for something more affordable.
Beef can be a demanding meat to smoke, especially one with the amount of bone and fat that short plate does. It’s crucial you get your meat prep right.
Place your slab of short ribs on a butcher block, bone-side down. You should be able to see a large amount of meat sat on top of the bones as well as between each rib.
Start by removing any silverskin from the top of the meat, and trim any large areas of fat. The meat contains a lot of fat anyway, so removing excess surface level fat won’t risk the overall flavor of the beef.
If you want, you can cut the plate in half here to give you two sections of two ribs. I prefer to keep my 4-bone cut intact, but cutting it will help to reduce cooking time.
Sprinkle kosher salt across the entire slab surface, on all sides. Place in refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours. This will act as a dry brine, helping to lock moisture into the meat as it smokes. This is a process in which you apply salt across the surface of the meat and allow it to rest. This will help bring the juices in the meat closer to the surface, and give you a juicier finished product after you have cooked it.
While in an ideal world you would dry brine them every time, if you are up against the clock and doing things last minute then you can skip this step. But I urge you to do if possible, as it’s a way to guarantee that your ribs are as tender and juicy as possible.
The BBQ sauce is a great way to add flavor, but it also acts as a binding agent to help the BBQ rub to adhere to the ribs while they cook.
A lot of people also use sriracha, Worcestershire sauce or mustard. These are all great and will depend on your own personal preference, but for me nothing matches the flavors of the beef and the rub as well as barbecue sauce does.
A lot of smoked beef recipes are best with little-to-seasoning, and short ribs are no different. Texas-style BBQ is best done with just salt and black pepper, so will be the approach we take here.
I like to only use a little bit of salt, which I apply ahead of time in the form of a dry brine. If you want to add a little bit more seasoning, you can use a blend of salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. If you like to add a bit more flavor with a kick, our classic beef rib rub blends brown sugar with cayenne pepper and smoked paprika for the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.
Smoked Short Ribs Internal Temperature
Aim for an internal temperature of 210°F. Short ribs tend to soften at a higher temperature than other cuts of beef, at a temperature of 205 to 210°F. This means that we need to smoke at a higher heat than the 225°F that we normally do as a general rule.
I like to smoke short ribs at 250°F. This is usually enough to allow the ribs to slowly come to our target internal temperature without the risk of it during out.
If you like to go on feel, your ribs should be done once your thermometer probe can glide into the flesh of the meat, almost like cutting through butter. This will show that he meat is tender throughout, and will be fall-off-the-bone done.
How Long to Smoke Short Ribs
It usually takes 6-8 hours to smoke short ribs. Time will vary depending on the thickness of the meat on each bone, as well as the quality of your smoker.
Ultimately however, your ribs will only be cooked once the internal temperature of the meat has reached 210°F. If this takes you past 8 hours of cooking, then so be it. Internal temperature will always be a better gauge of doneness over smoking time. So allow yourself added time when planning.
Like with a lot of smoked beef, woods that give an earthy and deep flavor tend to be best. I like to pair woods like oak or hickory, but also sweeter woods like cherry or pecan are also great.