Smoked Beef Ribs: Big & Meaty BBQ Ribs

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These smoked beef ribs are packed with flavor and they are sure to get the attention of all your guests.

Don’t let their jumbo size scare you. Beef ribs are surprisingly easy to cook and come out great if you follow a few simple steps.

In this recipe, you’ll learn which type of beef ribs to use, how to get an awesome bark, and how you can have juicy, tender bbq beef ribs each and every time.

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What you’ll need:

Before you get started, ensure you have:

  •  A smoker – I smoked these beef ribs on my Pit Boss 1600 Pellet Smoker with hickory pellets from Bear Mountain BBQ but you can cook these on any type of smoker.
  •  One or more slabs of beef short ribs (individual ribs will work, but for best results try and get a whole slab.
  • A decent temperature probe
  • A binding agent such as yellow mustard or olive oil and salt, pepper, and garlic to make your own rub.
  • 6 – 10 hours until you need to eat.

Types of beef ribs

There are three main types of beef ribs:

  • Plate short ribs
  • Back ribs
  • Chuck ribs

For this recipe, I used plate short ribs (also known as just short ribs). Plate ribs come from the chuck primal cut found on the shoulder and neck area of the beef animal.

Plate ribs are incredibly meaty and usually come in a set of three to five ribs, with just one rib weighing in at 1 – 1.25 pounds!

Don’t worry if you can’t find plate short ribs, any type will work although you may find the cooking times vary.

Before we get into how to smoke these ribs, let’s run through what to look for when you’re at the butcher.

Tips for buying beef ribs

  • Try to get the best quality you can afford. Some things to look out for include USDA Choice, USDA Prime, Wagyu, or Certified Angus Beef.
  • Look for a rack of ribs on the thicker side, with decent marbling throughout. You can see in the picture below the lines of marbling running through the meat. This is going to break down and make your ribs taste delicious!
  • You don’t need a large fat cap as we’ll trim most of that off, but being able to leave a little on does help keep everything moist

For this recipe, I used a rack of American wagyu short ribs from Snake River Farms that had a crazy amount of marbling. You can still get great results with a cheaper cut though.

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White streaks of marbling mean these ribs will be nice and tender when smoked

Now that you’ve selected your beef ribs you’re probably rearing to go. But before you can throw it on the smoker we need to make sure we maximize the flavor.

How to make smoked beef ribs

You can’t go wrong keeping things simple and going for classic Texas Style beef ribs. This involves using a simple rub of salt, pepper, and ground garlic and allows the beef flavor to shine through.

For this recipe, I decided to add an extra layer of all-purpose bbq rub to really amp up the flavor, but this is optional.

You don’t need to fuss around with fancy rubs, sauces, or injections to get delicious bbq ribs.

1. Trim your beef ribs

These BBQ ribs are very easy to prepare.

Begin by removing the fat and the very tough silver skin from the top of the meat. It might be tempting to keep the fat on but it won’t render and it will stop your rub flavor from getting into the meat

You can see how much fat I take off in the photos below.

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You can leave a little bit of fat, especially around any thinner areas as this will help prevent them from drying out.

I usually don’t remove the membrane on the back because I like it there to hold the rack/ bones together.

2. Rub your ribs

I like the keep the flavor simple with bbq beef ribs, so I used a simple homemade rub of equal parts salt, pepper, and garlic flakes.

I find flakes work better than garlic powder although you can certainly use powder. You could also add some smoked paprika for a little bit more flavor.

Mix the rub ingredients together and preferably use a rub shaker to help you get an even coating of seasoning over the ribs.

Before applying the rub, spread a thin layer of yellow mustard over the ribs to help the rub stick. Oil or Worchester sauce work too.

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Try and get an even layer of rub where you can still see the meat

You can let your ribs sit for 20 minutes while you get your smoker setup but I don’t find any benefit in leaving the ribs to sit overnight.

3. Smoking your ribs

These bbq ribs are simple to smoke, and the exact setup depends on the type of smoker you are using.

  • I recommend cooking on the higher end of low and slow around 250-275°F. Aaron Franklin does beef short rubs at 285°F so feel free to experiment with temperature.
  • I used hickory wood pellets but you could use any fruit wood or oak, which is traditional in Texas.

Place the ribs on the grill, bone side towards the heat source to protect the meat.

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beef ribs on pellet smoker

Placing the ribs bone side down helps protect the meat from the heat source

I wouldn’t bother turning the meat over. I wish I could tell you exactly how long it’s going to cook but there are so many factors that can influence cook time.

For a general rule of thumb these time estimates are pretty accurate:

  • 1″ thick ribs about 5-6 hours
  • 1.5″ thick ribs about 6-7 hours
  • 2″ thick ribs about 10 hours

Leave your ribs to smoke for at least two hours to allow the bark to set properly. At that point, you can start spritzing every hour with a 50-50 mix of water and apple cider vinegar.

Now you need to sit back and wait until the ribs get to at least 200°F internal temperature and the probe goes in and out like butter.

If you’re used to cooking pork ribs you might be in for a shock at how long these can take.

This is what my ribs looked like after a couple of hours before the bark had properly set.

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These ribs have a while to go before the bark is set

These bad boys can take a long time to cook.

4. Resting and serving your beef ribs

This is where all your patience pays off. The probe goes in like butter and measures 200-205°F.

Carefully pick the ribs up and wrap them in aluminum foil or butcher paper to rest.

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rack of smoked beef ribs on a chopping board

These short ribs are now ready to wrap and rest

Be careful not to damage the bark. A good tip I got from Aaron Franklin’s video is to pick the ribs up with a damp towel so you don’t accidentally damage the bark.

When resting smoked beef ribs make sure to give them at least 30 minutes, or preferably an hour.

  • If you need to serve them to your guests sooner, let them sit uncovered for 30 minutes before slicing into them.
  • If you have longer to wait, wrap them in butcher paper and then a towel and place them into a cooler.

If you’re serving these ribs at a party you can using the faux cambro technique will keep the meat warm for a few hours and you will benefit from a longer rest time. This allows the juices to redistribute back into the meat.

Once your ribs have rested for at least an hour slice them into individual ribs with a good slicing knife. Don’t forget to grab a rib by the bone for the ultimate caveman experience.

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Smoked Beef Ribs: Big & Meaty BBQ Ribs 19

I’d say that’s about enough for ribs one serving

And that’s it! If you’ve followed this guide your ribs should be tender, with a rich smoke ring around the outside.

Bbq beef ribs like these really don’t need any kind of barbecue sauce, but if you really like sauce use something that goes well with beef like this Texas mop juice

How long does it take to smoke beef short ribs?

As a general rule of thumb, you should allow 6-8 hours to smoke a large rack of beef short ribs.

I wish I could give you a more accurate time estimate, but the cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the meat, the number of ribs in the rack, and the temperature you decide to smoke at.

If you are pressed for time feel free to smoke a little hotter, around 275-300°F.

Don’t forget to include the time it takes to prep and heat your smoker, and an hour to rest the ribs.

So from start to eating, allow a solid 8-9 hours. This is why I like to always have more time than I think I will need because if the food is finished early I can always leave it in faux cambro for longer.

What temperature should short ribs be cooked to

Beef short ribs are typically done between 200-210°F. I usually aim for the higher side, between 205-210°F.

I use my Thermapen ONE to check the internal temperature in multiple parts of the rib, and don’t consider it done until everywhere is probing like butter.

At that point, the ribs should be almost falling off the bone.

How to get a great bark

Getting a good bark on bbq beef ribs involves a few easy steps. The first step is to apply enough rub to the meat. Because beef ribs are a huge cut, feel free to season them liberally.

You will need to put a nice even layer on to help the bark formation. Use a rub with a coarse blend of seasonings instead of finely ground which will just absorb into the meat. Large chunks of pepper, garlic, and other spices really help the bark and texture.

Spritzing also helps with getting a good bark, just be careful not to spritz too early and rinse away the rub. Normally I wait two hours before spritzing. By this time the rub has had enough time to stick to the meat and by spritzing you will allow the smoke to stick and layers of bark to form as moisture evaporates.

Smoke is another key factor in the creation of the bark. The longer your meat is exposed to smoke, the darker it will become as more and more smoke sticks to the surface. When cooking low and slow you are giving the meat more time to build your bark.

You may notice that if a piece of meat has been smoked for a long time it may almost look burnt. More than likely it is just the particles that have caramelized on the meat and gotten dark over the long cooking process. It should not taste burnt and still be cooked through and be moist on the inside.

Do you need to wrap beef short ribs when smoking?

I find that wrapping during the cook prevents the bark from forming properly, and there’s really no need unless you are running out of time.

Aaron Franklin doesn’t wrap his smoked beef ribs, and that’s good enough for me!

If the bark is getting too dark or I need them done sooner, I will wrap them in butcher paper.

The reason I opt to wrap in butcher paper is that allows the meat to breathe and does not steam or braise the ribs like aluminum foil does. You’ve worked hard to create a nice bark, the last thing you want to do is ruin it.

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