Smoked Beef Short Ribs Recipe
Most of us, myself included, think about baby back or spare ribs when we think about ribs. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. Pork ribs taste fantastic, are readily available in most local supermarkets, and are relatively easy to smoke at home whether you’ve got a charcoal grill, offset smoker, or pellet grill. However, pork ribs are by no means the only type…
Most of us, myself included, think about baby back or spare ribs when we think about ribs. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. Pork ribs taste fantastic, are readily available in most local supermarkets, and are relatively easy to smoke at home whether you’ve got a charcoal grill, offset smoker, or pellet grill.
However, pork ribs are by no means the only type of ribs you should be thinking about smoking. A couple of months ago, I finally got to try smoked beef short ribs, and let me tell you, they were incredible. They lived up to the nickname “brisket on a stick” and are in my personal opinion one of the best bites in BBQ.
So I took it upon myself to source some plate ribs and smoke them. If you want to do the same, it will be an investment both of time and money, but it’s well worth it. Let’s dive into short plate ribs and how to smoke them.
What Are Short Plate Ribs?
Short plate ribs are cut from the plate primal of the cow. It’s low on the chest, sitting behind the brisket primal. Unsurprisingly, the rib bones themselves are quite large. An entire rack of short plate ribs has three to four bones with the meat from one bone usually being enough for one adult.
That’s because there can be one to two inches of meat sitting on top of each bone, depending on the trimming job by your butcher. The meat is well-marbled and has plenty of beef flavor, hence the nickname noted above. You might also have seen these ribs referred to as “dino ribs” on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, thanks to the incredible size of an untrimmed plate rib.
However, due to the fact that the meat is so thick, you’ve got to be prepared for a longer smoking time than baby back or spare ribs. It takes time for all the connective tissue and marbling to break down properly so you get tender, juicy beef ribs.
However, these ribs are not readily available like pork ribs. In fact, sourcing short plate ribs is arguably the toughest part of smoking these ribs as they rarely are available in a standard grocery store. Thankfully there is a high-quality butcher within half an hour of my house and I was able to get ribs with no issue.
Even though these ribs aren’t the easiest to get a hold of, they have a deeply beefy flavor that pairs incredibly well with salt and black pepper, much like brisket.
What Do You Need To Smoke Short Plate Ribs?
While you may need to do some work sourcing your short plate ribs, you don’t need to source any exotic ingredients or tools to smoke them. It’s pretty darn simple, in fact. Here’s a handy list to follow.
- Plate short ribs (can’t smoke ‘em if you don’t have ‘em)
- Smoker – You can do this on an offset smoker, a pellet grill, electric or gas smoker, or even a charcoal grill set up for indirect heat as long as you can manage a consistent temperature and get good quality, thin blue smoke.
- Wood – I strongly recommend treating the meat a lot like you would a brisket, so oak is the perfect wood in my opinion. You can experiment as always, so check out our guide to smoking wood for what wood is typically associated with beef and brisket in particular.
- Wireless meat thermometer – While I don’t temp my pork ribs throughout the entire process, I do that for these short ribs because the meat is so much thicker. We’ve reviewed a number of quality options like the Thermoworks Signals and the ThermoPro Twin TempSpike, so take the time to find a quality meat thermometer that fits your needs.
- Binder – I tend to keep it simple and use yellow mustard. Not everyone uses a binder, and that’s fine. You can also use other binders like mayonnaise or even oil.
- Dry rub – Stick with a basic Texas-style brisket rub, equal parts coarse salt and coarse black pepper. These ribs are beefy, and the combination of salt and pepper makes the beef shine through.
- Butcher paper or aluminum foil – When I’m smoking a large cut of meat, short ribs or otherwise, I prefer to wrap it to help get the meat through the stall and prevent it from drying out. If you prefer not wrapping, you don’t need to change your ways for this recipe. I also use aluminum foil because it’s super easy to get, but waxless food-grade butcher paper is a great option and won’t trap quite as much moisture against the meat, helping keep the bark in better condition. Experiment!
- Towels and cooler/oven – It’s always a good idea to let your big cuts of meat rest when they come off the smoker to allow the juices to redistribute. However, you want to make sure that your ribs don’t drop into the “Danger Zone” below 140°F where bacteria are going to thrive. You can choose to bundle your ribs (still in foil or butcher paper) in towels and put them in a cooler for at least half an hour, or you can instead put the ribs in an oven preheated to 150°F. This will keep your ribs warm and above the threshold of 140°F without worrying about overcooking them.
- Sharp knife – While you don’t need to trip short plate ribs anywhere near as much as a brisket, there is still potentially some thick fat atop the ribs that you’ll want to at least trim down.
- Spritzer bottle filled with apple cider vinegar/apple juice and water – You want to ensure that you’re keeping the surface of your ribs moist. The moisture not only attracts smoke particles, but it’ll keep your ribs from drying out. You want a good bark, not jerky.
- Nitrile gloves – This is optional as well, but having these type of gloves for trimming and handling the raw ribs is a good idea.
- Grill gloves – When you go to handle the ribs for wrapping and also removing them (and your meat thermometer from the ribs) at the end of the cooking process, you’ll appreciate having protection from the heat. I’m a big fan of my Grill Armor Gloves.
How To Prepare Short Plate Ribs For Smoking
As I said earlier, trimming these ribs is a lot less intensive than trimming a brisket, but you’ll still want to make sure you don’t have a layer of fat that’s too thick to render properly. If your ribs have more than ¼” of fat, trim it down using that sharp knife I mentioned earlier.
Do I Need To Remove The Silver Skin On The Bottom Of The Ribs?
Silver skin is a membrane found on all types of ribs, regardless of whether they come from a cow or a pig. Most recipes for pork ribs call for the membrane to be removed, but on these short ribs, I leave it on. It will help hold the rib meat and the bones together as it cooks.
Once you’re happy with the trimming, apply a thin layer of your preferred binder (in my case, mustard,) to all the surfaces of the meat then season well with your salt-and-pepper rub. You absolutely can over-season these ribs, but you also want to ensure you get good, even coverage of the entire surface of the ribs. You want to taste the beef but you also want the salt and pepper to help elevate the beef flavor. You can also add some garlic powder to the rub like I’ve done for smoked chuck roast. It complements all the flavors well.
You can let the rub sit on the ribs for half an hour or even a couple of hours if you like.
Fire Up Your Smoker
While you let the rub set on your short ribs, it’s time to get your smoker up to temperature. We prefer using 250°F for a number of our cooks and that temp works great here as well. It still allows for plenty of smoke flavor while providing the necessary heat.
Whether you’re using an offset smoker, pellet grill, electric or propane smoker, or a charcoal grill, we recommend using oak due to the similarities between the short plate rib and brisket. It gives it a quintessential central Texas flavor combined with the salt and pepper. If you’re not sure what type of wood to use on your electric smoker or your charcoal grill, check out our breakdown of smoking with wood chips vs wood chunks.
Once your smoker is up to temperature, you’ll want to instert your meat thermometer probe into the thickest part of the rib meat. This will keep the probe away from the bone, but you do need to make sure you avoid any pockets of fat that could throw your temperature reading off.
Then your ribs are ready to hit the smoker. If you know that one side of your smoker runs hotter than the other and your ribs are thicker on one side, put the thickest part of the rib rack towards the hotter side.
Let your ribs smoke for about two hours before you open the lid again. After two hours has elapsed, grab your spray bottle and give the ribs a healthy spritz. This will prevent the surface of the meat from completely drying out while also attracting more smoke and helping the bark form. You’ll repeat this process every 30-45 minutes until your ribs are either ready to wrap or you’re done smoking if you decide to forgo the wrap.
We’ve talked about the stall a lot when it comes to big cuts of meat like brisket and pork butts. It’s when the internal temperature of the meat plateaus due to the evaporation of moisture counteracting the heat of the smoker. On a large piece of meat, the stall can last for quite a while. On a rack of short plate ribs, the stall is not as long but it still occurs. Typically this happens anywhere between 150°-180°F internal temperature. You can wrap your ribs in aluminum foil or unwaxed food-grade butcher paper to help counteract this, or you can simply let the ribs eventually power through the stall.
Once the internal temperature of your ribs reaches around 190°F, you’ll want to start testing the tenderness of the meat with an instant read thermometer like the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE. You’ll know the ribs are done when the probe slides into the thickest part of the meat with no resistance as if through room-temperature butter. You’ll want to check every 10-15 minutes until the ribs are done.
If you wrapped your ribs, you can proceed to rest them in a cooler or oven preheated to 150°F. If you did not, at this point you’ll want to wrap them in foil or butcher paper and then rest them. You want to let them rest for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two hours, but you want to make sure you don’t let them drop below 140°F due to that being the ideal temperature for bacteria production.
Once your ribs have rested properly, slice them into individual ribs and serve!
What Are The Best Sides For Beef Ribs?
If you’ve got a go-to side for brisket, it’ll pair well with these smoked short ribs. If you’re a big fan of mac and cheese, a true BBQ side dish staple, check out our recipe for smoked mac and cheese. Hey, any side dish that can be cooked on a smoker is a plus, right? If you’re looking for a simple side, corn on the cob or potato salad is perfect for these ribs, too.
Smoked Beef Short Ribs Recipe
Smoked Beef Short Ribs Recipe
- Smoker of your choice
- Meat Thermometer
- Smoking wood – We prefer oak wood, and I use Bear Mountain BBQ pellets for my pellet grill
- Aluminum foil (or waxless food-grade butcher paper)
- Spritz bottle
- Instant read thermometer for checking tenderness
- 2 Racks Beef Short Plate Ribs
- 2 TBSP Yellow mustard or preferred binder
- 4 TBSP coarse salt I used kosher salt
- 4 TBSP coarse black pepper
- 1/4 Cup Apple juice or apple cider vinegar or your preferred liquid for spritzing while smoking
- Trim the layer of fat on the surface of the ribs if needed to ¼ inch thickness.
- Coat the ribs in a thin layer of yellow mustard (or your preferred binder.)
- Combine your dry rub ingredients of 4 TBSP of coarse salt and 4 TBSP of coarse black pepper, then apply evenly across the surface of the ribs.
- Preheat your smoker or grill to 250°F.
- Insert temperature probe into the thickest part of the ribs.
- Place the ribs onto the preheated smoker or grill.
- After two hours, spritz the surface of the ribs with your preferred liquid. Repeat every 30-45 minutes until the internal temperature stalls. Usually around 160F
- Remove the ribs from the smoker or grill and wrap tightly in aluminum foil or butcher paper. If you’re using a wireless meat thermometer that uses Bluetooth to link the probe to the base like the ThermoPro Twin TempSpike, remove the probe before wrapping, then reinstert after the wrapping is completed. The foil will interfere with the Bluetooth signal. Return the ribs to the smoker.
- Once the ribs have reached 190°F, remove from the smoker and insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. If the probe slides in without any resistance, the ribs are done. If there is resistance, return the wrapped ribs to the smoker. Continue to check every 10-15 minutes until done, usually somewhere between 203°-205°F.
- Rest the ribs in a cooler wrapped in a towel or in a preheated 150°F for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours.
- Slice into individual bones and serve!
Question: Should I Use Barbecue Sauce With My Smoked Beef Short Ribs?
Answer: While we may associate barbecue sauce with ribs traditionally, these short plate ribs do not need any sauces, BBQ sauce or otherwise, to be enjoyed. Just serve them how they came off the smoker and you will have plenty of flavor to enjoy.
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