Smoked Beef Ribs are the ultimate treat for beef lovers. Slowly smoked, these giant ribs are rich, tender, and melt in your mouth like butter!
For this recipe we’re using Plate Short Ribs, because it’s my all time favorite cut of beef. Find out why.
Short ribs are my favorite cut of beef of all time. Slowly smoked, sometimes finished in a wine braise, until tender as butter, and served alone or over some kind of root vegetable puree. It’s what I request for Mother’s Day every year. But one year Sean surprised me with a whole plate of my favorite cut of beef, and decided to smoke the whole thing. It was fantastic and made us more curious about cooking the whole plate vs the store-bought pre-sliced ribs. What do I mean by this?
Beef Ribs – The Cut
There are a number of beef ribs you can buy including chuck ribs, beef back ribs, and our favorite, short ribs.
For our smoked beef ribs, we are using plate short ribs. Short ribs (or the plate ribs when they are not cut up) come from the belly area of beef ribs versus closer to the spine. The bones are straight, and often you see these already butchered in small 2 to 3-inch pieces (like in this recipe).
You can also purchase these ribs as a “plate” which is typically three bones.
This cut is similar to pork spare ribs for reference. Because the ribs are closer to the belly, the marbling is incredible, and requires a slow cooking process to best get the fork tender texture.
Pro Tip – Call your butcher in advance, ask them when they get their short rib plates delivered. Reserve the entire plate before they use the saw, as it is not common for anyone to go into a store just for a plate. You can also shop online and have it delivered. These ones were ordered from Snake River Farms (we love the quality of their beef).
Preparing Beef Ribs for Smoking
Smoking beef ribs low and slow allows the intra-muscular fat to break down over time. Keeping the ribs whole prior to smoking is important so they can cook evenly. You can certainly smoke short ribs in the smaller cuts from your butcher, or as single ribs, but these large plates serve a crowd really well. Single beef ribs fall over during the cooking process, and it just looks really cool for your photo bragging.
- Trim excess silver skin off the top of the ribs. This exposes more of the meat and that silver skin is not going to render out.
- Use a binding agent for the rub. This helps the rub stick. We recommend olive oil.
- Keep the rub simple. Beef ribs are often called brisket on a stick, and good quality beef really does not need much dry rub. Keep it simple with salt, pepper, garlic (or SPG), witch a touch of cayenne for heat.
Smoking Short Ribs — The Cook
As mentioned, plate short ribs are a lot like spare ribs from pork. Our process is simple for smoking, it just takes time. We add extra flavor by adding wine to our spritz combined with beef stock. For wood we like hickory for that balance of sweet and smoke, oak also works really well.
Why a spritz? It adds a little more flavor to the beef as it cooks and the moisture helps as the smoke looks to adhere to the meat during the cooking process. We wait to spritz until we see a nice bark form, generally around the 2 hour mark from the start of smoking.
Simple steps for smoking short ribs:
- Smoke for a couple of hours to develop bark
- Spritz to add moisture and allow the smoke to adhere to the meat
- Remove when at desired temperature and let rest
- Slice, serve, and eat
As the ribs cook, the meat will pull back on the bone, which is normal. The most important part of cooking plate ribs is giving enough time to get to the right temperature so the fat is rendered out.
The photo on the left is the cook at about 2 hours. That’s when we knew it was time to start spritzing. The photo on the right was after 7 hours of total cook time, just before we pulled them off the grill. See the difference in how much they pulled back from the bones?
What temperature to cook beef ribs to?
Between 200-210 degrees (F) internal temperature is the sweet spot. Similar to brisket, this will take several hours to slowly get to. There is no exact time as each rack will be different (it could take 6 hours total, or up to 8, there are always factors that will effect total time). Be patient. It’s worth every minute! We like to use a bluetooth probe thermometer to monitor the cook throughout, and double check with an instant read thermometer like the Thermapen Mk4.
Your efforts will reward you!
Recipe for Smoked Beef Ribs
Smoked Beef Ribs
- Prepare ribs by trimming the silver skin and excess fat off the top of the ribs the day before cooking. Combine pepper, salt, granulated garlic, and cayenne into a small bowl.
- Coat the ribs with olive oil, and liberally apply dry rub, cover and place back into the fridge overnight.
- The day of cooking, preheat the smoker to 275 degrees F. At the same time, remove the ribs from the refrigerator. Insert a meat thermometer probe like the Smoke unit (optional) and place onto the smoker when it reaches temperature.
- Combine the wine and beef stock into a food safe spray bottle for your spritz.
- Smoke for two hours, and then begin spritzing every 30 minutes for up to an additional 4 to 6 hours. As the internal temperature of the beef ribs reads 200 degrees, begin probing with a handheld instant read thermometer looking for consistent temperature of somewhere between 200-210, and that the probe inserts easily, like inserting into room temperature butter. This could take more time if your ribs are large. Always cook to temperature, not exact time.
- When at temperature, remove from smoker, and wrap in foil or butcher paper, and place into a cooler (with no ice) to rest for at least 30 minutes. Remove and slice between the bones and serve with your favorite side like polenta or a root vegetable puree.
Do I need to wrap my beef ribs?
No, wrapping isn’t necessary. While it may speed up the cook, the lower heat and the intramuscular fat in the beef ribs will keep the beef juicy as it comes to temperature. If you do wrap, it will speed up how quickly the internal temperature rise to 200 degrees, so adjust your total cooking time appropriately.
Should I rest my beef ribs?
Yes. As meat warms, the cells expand and the intramuscular fat renders down. Resting the beef ribs, or any meat, allows the carry over cooking to complete, and the cells to start to contract and pull that moisture back in. This is often why you hear that cutting a hot piece of meat straight off the grill will spill the juices all over.
Where to find plate ribs?
As we mentioned you can call your local butcher for them. We use Snake River Farms and they can mail order all over the US. You can find short ribs here. The best part is they will mail order to your door. The marbling on the American Wagyu beef is tremendous and worth any special occasion.
Wine Pairing for Beef Ribs
These incredible melt in your mouth ribs are juicy and tender and super rich. Typically I pair bold food with bold wine, but this cut of meat, when slowly smoked, is incredibly rich. I don’t want an overly rich wine because I’m going to be full and tired from the first bite and sip. Instead I want a red that’s not going to weigh me down, but still strong enough to not get lost in the flavors of the meat. Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon can be great with this (and not as intense as its neighbors in Napa). The fruit is prettier, and the tannins aren’t as bold.
Rhône based blends, or Rhône-style GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) made outside of France, Italian reds (such as Sangiovese and Barbera), even some Zinfandels (those on the lower alcohol side), all work great with this dish.
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