How to cook incredibly tender beef short ribs on the smoker and finish them in a rich and indulgent stew.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth sharing again since beef short ribs were a game changer for me. Years ago, before we bought our first smoker, I was a (mostly) vegetarian. I say “mostly” because I wasn’t very strict about it (fish and poultry sometimes made their way into my diet, but never beef or pork).
Everything changed the day we ate at Chef Mavro Restaurant in Honolulu. The restaurant offered a strict pairing menu, and I wasn’t going to tell a James Beard Award Winning Chef to alter his tasting menu just for me, so I went with the flow. One of the courses he served was a braised beef short rib. It had to have been slowly stewing in the most incredible and savory sauce for hours and hours. The texture was like butter, and I was in love. I exclaimed to my husband I would eat beef every single day if it could taste as good as that one memorable meal. After that day I started incorporating beef back into my diet. And it’s been my mission ever since to recreate that meal at home, or at least come close.
Fast forward to a couple years ago we started playing around with smoking beef short ribs on the smoker.
You can get incredible flavor and ridiculously tender meat, but I’ve still missed that rich braising sauce. Most of the time we do short ribs like this recipe, and create our own braising sauce in the smoker for the meat to finish cooking in. But I’ve been craving a rich and hearty winter stew that incorporates the smoky flavors and textures of beef short ribs cooked on the smoker.
Over winter break we experimented with a few methods, and finally found what I’ve been looking for.
Tender, buttery, rich, smoked beef short rib stew.
We start with the meat.
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, salt, and pepper, or feel free to use your favorite beef rub.
I’ve found that a lower temperature, like 225 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.
We elected to cook until we would typically wrap and cover the beef ribs in a broth, around 165 degrees F. You’ll see the color below and that bone exposed. The plan is to finish on the stove top in the stew until butter like texture so the smoky flavor melds with your stew.
When you see your meat getting to to roughly 150 degrees F on the smoker start your stew.
Start layering your flavors by cooking up your bacon until crispy in a large dutch oven. Then remove the bacon and set aside, discard most of the bacon fat. In the same dutch oven soften your veggies, and then add your liquids and seasonings. Stir, and then add in your smoked short ribs.
Cover and simmer together for around 90 minutes, or until your short ribs come up to 203 degrees Fahrenheit.
Always use a good thermometer for a cut like this for a proper read.
We love the Thermapen Mk4 for its quick and accurate read.
At this point you may want to test one of the short ribs. Test it in the pot or remove it and poke it with a fork to see how tender it is. If you want it to cook more, just allow it to continue simmering at a low heat for another 20-30 minutes, or until it gets to the tenderness and textures you’re trying to achieve.
In the meantime, cook up your mushrooms separately and then add them to the stew.
When the stew is the consistency you like, and the meat has come up to 203 degrees, you’ve got yourself heaven in a pot, ready for you to serve up with your favorite side dish to soak all of the incredible sauce (we like parsnip puree or celery root puree, but feel free to use mashed potatoes too).
- 2 pounds beef short ribs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons pepper
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- Combine in a food safe spray bottle
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 slices bacon
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced
- 1 rib of celery sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 3 cups beef broth more or less depending on pot as the liquid needs to cover the ribs
- 1 bay leaf
- Reserved Smoked Beef Short Ribs from above
- 10 sprigs thyme wrapped in kitchen string
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms stems removed and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter separated into 1 tablespoon for mushrooms, and 2 to finish the stew
- 1 ½ tablespoons flour
Preheat smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit (we used cherry wood)
Trim excess fat and membrane off of the ribs, coat in olive oil and salt and pepper. 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. When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees pull it (it will continue cooking in the stew to 203 degrees, our desired final temperature).
Preheat a large ovenproof pot (like a cast iron Dutch oven) to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil then the bacon. Cook until bacon is crispy (8-10 min) then remove bacon and most of the bacon drippings.
Add onions, carrots, and celery to that same pot and cook for 8-10 min, to soften. Add garlic and cook for 1 additional minute. You want the veggies softened, not caramelized.
Next add the tomato paste, wine, and enough broth to cover the short ribs. Add your reserved smoked beef short ribs, bay leaf, and the thyme. Bring to a simmer and cover.
In a separate medium saucepan, set to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and the mushrooms and cook for approx 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. You may need to do this in two batches. When cooked add the mushrooms to the pot of stew and cover again.
After about 90 minutes, in a small bowl mash together 2 tablespoons butter and the flour. Mix into the stew. Continue simmering the dish on the stovetop for an additional 10 minutes to thicken.
You know the meat is done when it reads 203 degrees. If the meat isn’t to your desired tenderness feel free to continue simmering in 20 minute increments until you get to the tenderness and texture you’re looking for. If it reduces too much, add more beef stock.
Just before serving, pull out the thyme and bay leaf and season with a little salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with your favorite puree to soak up the juices (we like parsnip puree, but celery root puree or even mashed potatoes work great).
For more servings (6-8 people) adjust meat to 3-4 lbs. Figure roughly 1/2 lb per person. The stew is enough for up to 8 people, but the meat will shrink down. The meal itself is quite rich. We've found about 2 short ribs per person, served with the stew and side (like a puree) is a hearty serving.
This dish is truly incredible. The meat is smoky and tender, and the broth is rich and savory with herbal notes in the background. You don’t want wine that’s too intense, but try to balance out the flavors. Look for something with medium tannins, on the earthy side. We’ve tried this with several options and find that a high tannin fruit forward wine is a little too much. Stick to old world style red wines from France or Italy. Rhone style reds have been our favorite so far because they have just enough fruit but also have that savory, herbal, and earthy notes we’re looking for to match the dish.
*This post contains an affiliate link for the Thermapen Mk4 digital read thermometer. We only recommend products we use and love! And you can’t smoke meat to the perfect temperature without a good thermometer, and this one is awesome.
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