Smoking Beef Short Ribs Recipe in 5 Easy Steps

Smoking beef short ribs is easy, fun and very rewarding for the palette. Especially when you use the very straightforward 3-2-1 smoking ribs method.

Beefs ribs have much more meaty and bold flavour than pork ribs, and are just as easy to smoke. 

We have mentioned the 3-2-1 method for ribs a few times on this blog but we’ll break it down for you another time.

Smoking Beef Short Ribs Recipe
Smoking Beef Short Ribs Recipe

3-2-1 Method For Smoking Beef Short Ribs

  • Smoke the ribs at 225°F for 3 hours unwrapped
  • Wrap ribs in foil/butcher’s paper and smoke for another 2 hours
  • Remove the wrap, cover the ribs in your BBQ sauce of choice and smoke for a final hour

Types of Beef Ribs

The 3 main types of Beef ribs are:

  • Plate Short Ribs (often called Beef Short Ribs)
  • Beef Back Ribs
  • Chuck Ribs

The back ribs come from the top of the ribs, near the prime rib cut.

The plate short and chuck ribs come from lower down on the cow, near its stomach. They have more meat on them and are bigger than the back ribs. 

The Best Type of Beef Ribs for Smoking

We recommend plate short ribs for smoking because they have they have plenty of fatty connective tissue, which is perfect for cooking slow and low for juicy, mouthwatering results.

They are the biggest and the most beefy ribs with chuck ribs being the second biggest, and back ribs being the smallest of the 3 main types of beef ribs.

Aim to get ribs which have plenty of meat on them without excessive fat to ensure an even cook in the smoker. 

Try to source your meat from a local butcher, but if you can’t find plate ribs, chuck ribs are your next best option.

Smoking Temperature and Time

Using the 3-2-1 method described above we want to keep the smoker as close to 225°F (107°C) as possible throughout the cook.

It will take roughly 6 hours to smoke the beef ribs, but always cook to internal temperature not timings. 

Doneness and final internal temperature

Insert a digital meat thermometer into the ribs at the thickest part of the meat tissue. Your ribs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 200-205°F or 93-96°C.

Dry Rub For BBQ Beef Ribs


  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • ½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon chilli powder (more if you like heat)

Applying the Dry Rub to the Ribs

The best way to make sure the dry rub stick to the beef is to use a binder such as mustard, olive oil or butter. 

Rub the binder all over the top, bottom and sides of your ribs, before shaking the dry rub all over the meat. 

You won’t really taste it, it will just help the rub stick.

How To Get a Great Bark on the Beef Ribs

There are 3 main ways to make sure you get a great bark/crust when smoking beef ribs.

  • A Well Balanced Spice Rub Liberally Applied – This Helps to Form a Spice Crust (Especially Coarse Salt)
  • The Right Temperature – Too High and the Meat Will Burn/Caramelise (and taste bitter), Too Low and the Bark Won’t Form. That’s why we cook Low and Slow at 225°F – the Sweet Spot
  • The Final Hour of Smoking Unwrapped – After the Ribs Have Been Wrapped and Braised in Liquid For 2 Hours the Crust Can Be Soggy. Putting Sauce on them Helps Caramelise and Crisp up the Ribs for a Dry Bark

Wood for Smoking Beef Ribs

There are a few good options for wood choices with beef. The bold beefy flavours stand up well to a stronger smoke flavour from Hickory wood or the spicy and strong flavours of Mesquite.

Oak is also a good option as it has a strong, earthy but not overpowering flavour.

The milder fruitier tastes of cherry and apple also go well with the deep meaty flavours of beef ribs. As do sweeter, milder smoke flavours from Maple and Pecan.

You can also experiment with different blends of woods e.g. half Hickory, half Cherry.

How to Smoke Beef Short Ribs

Step 1 Prepare the Ribs

  • Pat the ribs dry with kitchen paper.
  • Use a sharp paring knife to remove the membrane at the back of the ribs
  • Cover with binder (mustard, butter or olive oil)
  • Liberally dust ribs all over with rub – top, bottom and sides of the meat
  • If you want to dry brine them for extra flavour, leave them in the fridge overnight

Step 2 Smoke Beef Short Ribs For 3 Hours Unwrapped at 225°F

  • Get your smoker up to temperature
  • Place the ribs into the smoker away from open flames and direct heat, and close the lid
  • After an hour spritz the ribs with apple cider vinegar (or a mix of apple juice and apple cider vinegar)
  • Smoke for 3 hours with the lid down at 225 until a bark begins to form and the ribs reach an internal temp of between 150-160°F 

Step 3 Wrap Ribs in Foil and Smoke for 2 Hours Wrapped

  • Wrap the beef ribs tightly in foil or butcher’s paper, adding a little apple juice, apple cider vinegar or butter
  • Braise the ribs in the wrap for a further 2 hours

Step 4 Unwrap Ribs, Sauce and Smoke for a Final Hour

  • Take the ribs out of the wrap and slather them with your favourite BBQ sauce
  • Put them back in the smoker, close the lid and smoke for a final hour
  • You may want to brush the ribs with extra sauce every 15-20 minutes or so if you are worried about them drying out 

Step 5 Rest then Slice and Serve Ribs

  • Rest the ribs in foil for 15-20 minutes or up to half an hour – this will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the connective tissues
  • Slice the ribs between each rib bone into equal sizes for your guests
  • Serve with mash or roast potatoes, fries, corn on the cob, coleslaw, or other BBQ dishes such as smoked chicken wings or smoked brisket.

If you’d like to see a video on the cooking process for smoking beef short ribs try our Instagram account below. The smoked raspberry BBQ sauce might just be worth it in itself.

Smoking Beef Short Ribs Recipe

Recommended further reading on smoking beef short ribs:


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