Smoked Beef Short Ribs: How to Make Them Juicy and Tender

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Last updatedLast updated: February 25, 2021
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Sure, hamburgers are delicious, and who doesn’t love a good steak? But if you’re trying to really impress people when they come over for dinner, then smoked beef short ribs are the way to go. Delicious, tender, and oh so flavorful, beef short ribs really pack a flavor punch. The beauty is that if you smoke them, you can actually prepare them ahead of time. The rich smokiness is not only infused into the meat but you can spend your time socializing with friends instead of having to agonize over whether dinner is ready or not. If you’re wondering what some of the best smoked short ribs recipes are, we’ll walk you through how to prepare this delightful dish and provide you with all the necessary information to transform your dinner.

Step-by-step recipe


Learning how to smoke short ribs includes finding the best ingredients. Thankfully, there aren’t many you need.

  • plenty of short ribs (number depends on how many people you are feeding);
  • spices like pepper, salt, garlic powder, and paprika;
  • store-bought spice rub if you so desire;
  • BBQ sauce (optional);
  • wood chips (type depends on the flavor profile you want).

Choose the right beef

Among all the steps to craft delicious smoked short rips is choosing the right cut of beef. Now, for a lot of people, beef cuts are pretty confusing. Not only are there many different cuts, but not all stores sell these cuts. Then, you also have to add in the fact that in different countries, meat is cut differently as well as different names.

To find beef short ribs, your best bet is to try a local butcher shop. While your grocery store might have what you’re looking for, this is not a cut of beef that is always readily available. Furthermore, it might not be the right size. So, to save you time and disappointment, head right to your butcher as they will definitely have short ribs.

Once you are at your butcher, you will have to choose from three different types of short ribs.

Plate short ribs

Perfect for barbequing, plate short ribs have large chunks of meat and when cooked, they are quite tender. Furthermore, when you purchase this cut, it is usually composed of three rib bones, which are quite large and therefore take a lot more time to cook.

Back ribs

Smoked Beef Short Ribs: How to Make Them Juicy and Tender

If you’ve ever purchased a prime rib, you may be aware that it comes from near the breast of a cow, which is where back ribs are found. While there may be less meat on back ribs, there is still enough to warrant cooking them.

Chuck short ribs

If you’re short on time, then chuck short ribs are the easiest to find, especially at your local grocery store. While they don’t have as much meat as plate short ribs, there is still enough to sink your teeth into. The bones from this area are smaller and there is usually a higher fat content around the meat.

Prepping the beef

No matter what type of short ribs you have chosen, the preparation will be similar.

Remove the silver skin

Across the side of short ribs, there will be a thin layer of connective tissue, which is called silver skin. Unfortunately, it is not really edible because it is tough and chewy. And, unlike fat, it won’t melt down during the cooking process. As a result, it should be removed before cooking.

To remove silver skin, simply grab a corner and gently tug on it. You may need a filet knife to loosen it, and if you want more of a grip, you can always use a paper towel. However, silver skin is usually easy to remove.

The rub

Smoked Beef Short Ribs: How to Make Them Juicy and Tender

A good slow smoked beef short ribs recipe is all about the rub. Now, you can certainly get pretty innovative and fancy with a beef rub. However, if this is your first time cooking short ribs, it’s recommended to go simple. A little can go a long way and you want a base recipe to play off of for future meals.

A solid short rib rub consists of ground black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Use more pepper and salt than the other two ingredients. Also, don’t go skimpy with these spices. Depending on the size of your meat, you want at least 2 to 3 teaspoons of garlic powder and paprika, and up to 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt and pepper.

Mix all the spices into a bowl and then quite simply, start rubbing your short ribs. Make sure you evenly cover your meat but you should also be able to see through the spices; otherwise the rub can be too overpowering.

The really nice part of a spice rub is that you don’t have to leave it sitting overnight. Put the rub on the meat and just let it rest while you get your smoker going. Once your smoker is ready, so too will your meat be.

If you really aren’t sure about making your own rub, there are plenty of premade spice rubs that you can choose from. They are made specifically for beef short ribs so you know you won’t be disappointed.

Choose wood wisely

After you have your meat ready, it’s time to get started on the smoker. Smokers need wood and not every wood is the same. You can use a combination of charcoal and wood chips, and even a few wood chips will add to the smokiness you’re looking for.

  • Apple – Best used for pork as it has a fruity flavor to it.
  • Cedar – Perfect for fish due to its strong flavor.
  • Cherry – Adds color to poultry and has a sweet and fruity flavor to it.
  • Maple – Great for poultry and pork with a subtle sweetness.
  • Mesquite – Strong and smoky for a real Southern taste.
  • Oak – Versatile and great for beef.
  • Hickory – Creates a subtle smokiness and perfect for all BBQ.

Start smoking

Now that you have your meat ready and your wood picked, out, it’s time to get smoking!


Smoked short ribs should be cooked for a longer time at a lower temperature. This allows the flavors of the rub to penetrate the meat and means you don’t have to worry about the meat burning.

An ideal smoking temperature is between 250 degrees and 285 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once your grill is at the right temperature, you can place your ribs on the grill. There are many different types of grills that are made specifically for smoking purposes. For example, the Traeger grill is the perfect environment for a delicious smoky taste.

Your short ribs should be placed bone down. This way, the bones get the bulk of the direct heat, meaning that your meat has less chance of burning.

One positioned, you should then put the lid on your smoker. This keeps the grill at the right temperature and creates an even cook.


Now comes the waiting game. Smoked short ribs do take quite a bit of time, so be sure to prepare for this. While every piece of meat is different, a good rule to follow is 1-inch thick pieces of meat take 5 hours, 1.5-inch pieces of meat take 7 hours, and 2-inch pieces of meat take 9 hours.

While you can follow these time guidelines, taking the internal temperature of your short ribs is just as important. The ribs should reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that the texture inside the short ribs is tender as well as ensures that any bacteria has been properly killed off.

If you’re starting to get antsy, and hungry, there are a few ways to tell if your short ribs are ready. The first, as we discussed, is temperature. Don’t let the ribs get too hot inside, or else the meat will start to burn. Stay in the 200 degrees to 235 degrees temperature range. Furthermore, when you insert your temperature probe, it should go easily through the meat, like butter.

The outside, spice rubbed part of your short ribs should be nice and crispy. This area is sometimes called the bark, for good reason, and it is dark in color and quite crispy. However, it should not be burned.

Let it rest

Finally, the moment has arrived. Your smoked short ribs have finished cooking! However, you can’t bite into them just yet. The key to delicious smoked short ribs is letting them rest for at least 30 minutes. All the juices are still flowing inside the meat and they need a chance to solidify and keep the meat tender and juicy.

A good tip at this point is to wrap your smoked short ribs in aluminum foil. This way they retain their heat. When you transfer the ribs to the foil, you want to be careful when handling them. The outside bark rub is delicate at this stage, so either use tongs or a damp paper towel.

Also, if you don’t plan on eating yet, especially if you are entertaining people later, you can actually keep your short rips wrapped up for 2 or 3 hours. They will still be flavorful and tender.

Serving is key

Smoked Beef Short Ribs: How to Make Them Juicy and Tender

Sure, short ribs are messy once you start eating them, but they shouldn’t look messy at the beginning. All that time and effort you put into your short ribs should be reflected on the serving plate. Therefore, use a good slicing knife and cut into the short ribs so that they are now individual pieces.

While you can definitely serve your short ribs as is, some people do like to add a barbecues sauce to the ribs. This is a tad controversial. Purists believe that the spice rub and the smoky flavor should be more than enough. But it’s all about personal preference. If this is your first time cooking short ribs, though, do the meat a favor and try it without sauce before you attempt to make it better.

The best part about smoked short ribs is not only the flavor but the texture. Essentially, all that cooking time should result in incredibly tender meat. The rib meat should pretty much fall right off the bone as you eat it. The connective tissues will have dissolved and the fat will have melted into the meat.

The last decision you have to make with short ribs is whether you eat them right off the bone or whether you want to be a bit more sophisticated and use a knife and fork. There’s no judgement from us, so use whichever method suits you best!

Wine pairing

Food and drink are a perfect pairing, but what exactly goes with what? If you’re looking for a nice glass of vino to go with your smoked short ribs, there are a few options.

To start with, stick to the red selections. Red wines have deeper, dryer flavors that are better paired with beef than white wines. While there are some fruitier red wines, these should also be avoided.

Deep reds that have peppery notes will pick up the spiciness of smoked short ribs. A Syrah is a nice wine for this. Furthermore, a French red will also have fruity and smoky notes to them.

Finally, a big bold cabernet sauvignon is a great pairing with short ribs. While not all dishes can handle the full body of a cab sav, short ribs have their own, deep flavors so can work in tandem.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, after reading this your stomach isn’t growling too heavily. There really is nothing like the juicy tenderness of short ribs and when they are smoked, their flavor profile is given an extra layer of depth. It does take quite a long time to craft the perfect smoked beef short ribs. You will want to portion out up to ten hours of your day. However, they are indisputable worth it. So, fire up your favorite smoker and get cooking. Just remember to make extra as you are sure to draw a crowd.

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