Today we have a recipe I’m very excited about (even though it is still a work in progress… more on that in a minute).
I’m talking about Smoked Beef Short Ribs!
But first, let’s talk about Mother’s Day. Being about a thousand miles away from my own mom we couldn’t celebrate with her this year (but I plan to make it up to her next month when she comes out to visit). Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! So it was just the boys and me this year. Every year I request only one thing for Mother’s Day – Eggs Benedict — and Sean outdid himself this year with this Smoked Salmon Benedict with Smoked Bacon.
Inspired by one of the best Benedicts I’ve ever had at The Country Cat last fall. I’ve since returned twice to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and it wasn’t. That Bennie haunts me. So Sean made his own version for me. He smoked a thin salmon filet for about one hour with a simple preparation of salt and pepper. Then placed it over a fresh English muffin (they use house-made biscuits at The Country Cat), and then made this hollandaise sauce, and topped everything off with more salmon and crunchy smoked bacon. OMG.
Now back to these smoked short ribs, which we made again for Mother’s Day Dinner after working on the recipe for the last three weeks.
Once upon a time I told you about that ten-year period of my life when I was a pseudo-vegetarian. It wasn’t until Sean bought his first smoker that I came around to the meat side. Shortly after that I had my meat epiphany at a restaurant in Honolulu called Chef Mavro (I LOOOOOVE this place!). It was a single cut of meat that did it for me — braised beef short ribs. The meat was so tender it melted in my mouth like butter. I told Sean if he learned to cook meat like that I’d eat anything he served me. So he’s been working on his short ribs ever since, but his way – smoked.
We’ve learned a few things along the way.
First, The Cut:
The beef short ribs we are cooking here are typically smaller cuts (around 3 inches of bone) and meaty; and that’s likely how you will see them in the butcher case. Buying Prime, Choice, or even Wagyu cuts for marbling is key so that you get that flavor that makes them magical.
I like to trim excess fat off of the top of the meat. You’ll see a thin membrane that, when removed, will expose that gorgeous meat that will pull that smoke in. Unlike pork ribs, you don’t need to take the membrane off the bone side. Leave it there so it can hold that beef on the ribs. Coat the ribs in olive oil and salt and pepper, or feel free to use your favorite beef rub.
I’ve found that a lower temperature, like 225 or 250 degrees and using a fruit wood or oak is key. That way you complement the beef flavor and not over power it. It’ll also take hours to cook, like five hours or more depending on how thick the meat is. While it’s cooking I like to spray with an apple cider vinegar and apple juice spritz. The acidic flavor really complements the beef. After the first hour of cooking I spritz every 15 minutes or so. So be prepared for spending time around your cooker and being sure you have good beer to pass the time; or the wine you may use for the bath. 😉
I wrap when I see the color I am looking for, then letting the meat baste in its own juices and getting that collagen to cook out. You can also add into a beef broth/wine bath for moisture and flavor as well. I like a combination of broth and wine for flavor.
It’s really about what flavor you want. But in the end, what you want to do is get the beef time on smoke for a few hours, and then finish the cook by getting the internal temperature of the beef ribs to over 200 degrees (between 200-205 is the sweet spot). This is when that fat and collagen all melt away, and the texture of the short ribs is soft like butter and melts in your mouth. It’ll be super tender, but not spongy.
A Work in Progress:
Like I mentioned earlier, this is still a work in progress. We’ve been, and will continue to, play around with different methods, preparations, and plating ideas. But we’re darn happy with what we have here!
- 2 ½ pounds (or six large) beef short ribs
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoon beef rub (or 3 tablespoons salt and 3 tablespoons pepper)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup apple juice
- (Combine in a food safe spray bottle)
- 1 cup red wine (like Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec, something you would drink)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons dry rub (or simple salt and pepper)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit (we used cherry wood)
- Trim excess fat and membrane off of the ribs, coat in olive oil and your rub. Be sure to get all sides of the beef.
- Place beef on the smoker for about 3 hours, until the color is mahogany and a nice crust has set. After the first hour during the smoke period, start spraying the meat every 15 minutes with your spritz until you wrap.
- Wrap (optional) – you can either wrap in foil or place in a baking dish with your bath and then cover with foil for about two hours (like pictured above). If you don’t wrap, make sure to keep smoking and spritzing. You are looking for an internal temperature of 200 degrees.
- Serve when the beef is tender and almost falling off the bone. If they appear rubbery or spongy, they are not quite cooked yet, so keep going until it reaches 200 – 205 degrees.
You’ve got an incredibly tender texture from the meat, and a lovely smoky infusion. Much of the fat has rendered out, but what you are left with is juicy, melt-in-your-mouth meat. We also let the meat braise in a shallow bath of wine for awhile, picking up some of those concentrated fruity flavors, but not as long as a traditional oven roasted wine braise. For this I’m looking for a red wine that a somewhat rich and velvety texture, with medium to low tannins and deep fruity flavors (not ripe or overly sweet). I want something full-bodied, but not overly intense, and I want some acid to refresh the palate.
We’ve made this several times, with several preparations (including transferring the meat to a richer braise with vegetables and wine, and serving over polenta with blue cheese… recipe coming soon), and also what we have here, which is simply prepared over some grilled greens. Both were spot on with Cabernet Sauvignon. But I would avoid an overly tannic wine, like, say, a young Napa Cab. Turn to other regions like Sonoma, Chile, or those from Washington State. Two of our favorite standouts were high end Cabs from Rodney Strong in Sonoma County.
2012 Rodney Strong “Rockaway” Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley, CA)
Just what I was looking for. This wine was rich, with dark berries (black cherries and blackberries), plums, and toast, with some mild herbal and woodsy notes. It had a lovely lush texture in the mouth with moderate (though not distracting) tannins that made for a fantastic match with the tender meat. 14.5% abv | $75 (media sample)
2012 Rodney Strong “Alexander’s Crown” Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley, CA)
This one we tried with a richer braise served with polenta (not pictured). Yes!!! Brighter and more concentrated red berry notes were present here (cherry, raspberry, cranberry), along with some blueberry, plums, and toast. The mouth was rich and full-bodied with some mocha flavors and a lingering velvety finish. The softer tannins and intensity of fruit was to die for with the richer and more concentrated braise with the smoked short ribs. 15% abv | $75 (media sample)
Both of these wines benefited greatly from some decanting. They are a bit shy at first and become much more expressive with a little time.
I also recognize that these two wines are on the very high-end, so feel free to sub your favorite Cabernet at whatever price range you feel fit.
Other Options: Sangiovese can also work nicely with its stewy, herbal, and smoky notes. Rhone reds will also offer some lovely savory notes to match the meat. I’m also curious to try it with a moderately rich Syrah.
What about you? Have you done smoked short ribs? What wines did you pair?
OR If you’re a Mother out there, did you have any food highlights from this past weekend? Please share!
For more barbecue recipes, and tips and tricks for your smoker or grill check out the Recipe Index.
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