Smoked Beef Short Ribs

In this edition we are going to make some great tasting smoked beef short ribs.

Everyone complains that the beef back ribs are tasty but are very slim pickin's when it comes to actual meat quantity. These beef short ribs are the way to go since they are a lot more meaty and there's quite a bit of fat marbled into the meat to keep them moist during the cooking process.

Beef short ribs have a lot of fat on the outside of the meat and in the meat and this makes them perfect for handling the high heat that they must get to in order to reach tenderness. Think brisket when you think of these.. they are usually braised and cooked in some sort of sauce or liquid if you cook them indoors which accomplishes the same purpose of cooking them to very high temperatures and allowing most of that fat to render during this process.

Like brisket, they will need to get up to about 200°F or so before they get tender and a lot of patience and TLC will do wonders on them.

What You'll Need
How to Prepare the Beef Short Ribs

Preparation is quite simple and this can be done ahead of time, the night before or right before you cook them depending on what is more convenient for you and how much available room you have in the fridge.

Remove the ribs from the packaging and, if the butcher did not do this for you, remove the silver skin from the outside of the meat. I usually let the butcher do this extra stuff for me and I don't claim to be the expert at this process.

Tip: Use a very sharp knife and paper towels for good grip.

At this point you can also remove some of the fat that is on the outside of the meat if you so desire. I trim a little but I don't fuss with it too much unless I have plenty of time.

Lay the ribs down in a deep foil pan before applying rub so as to not make too big of a mess and this is also a great way to carry them out to the smoker once they are ready.

Beef short ribs in pan

Apply mustard or olive oil to the outside of the meat to help the rub to stick better. I chose mustard this time and it works so well.

Apply mustard to the outside

Rub the mustard in a little bit and make sure it gets on all sides of the beef short ribs

Massage mustard into the meat on all sides

Sprinkle my original rub (purchase recipes here) onto all sides of the meat and let them sit until they get that “wet” look.

Apply rub to all sides of the meat

Prepare the smoker

Setup your smoker for cooking at 225°F using your favorite smoking wood. I love pecan or mesquite on these.

You can use any smoker to cook these as long as you follow my recommended temperatures and you make sure they are tender before calling them done.

Here's some information that I have written on various smokers.

Note: In colder weather, it is advisable to preheat the smoker at least an hour or more before you are wanting to use it. Keep the door closed as much as possible and even skip basting if necessary to maintain proper smoking temperatures.

Smoking the Beef Short Ribs

Place the short ribs directly on the grate leaving space between them to allow the smoke to have full access to all sides.

Insert a digital probe meat thermometer into one of the ribs making sure the probe is going into actual meat instead of just fat. I use the “Smoke” by Thermoworks which is a dual probe remote thermometer with the sending unit at the smoker and the receiver in my pocket or around my neck. This way, I can go about what I need to do and I always know the temperature of my smoker and the meat.

Let them smoke cook until they reach about 190°F. You can expect this to take about 5 hours in most cases depending on the thickness of the ribs, fat content, etc.

At this point, start checking them for tenderness by poking one of them with a toothpick or a fork. It should go in and pull out with very little force applied.

The ribs will probably be around 200°F when they reach full tenderness but once again, it can vary so you have to keep checking every 30 minutes or so and make a judgement call when they are tender to your liking.

Another Option

When the short ribs reach about 160°F, place them in a foil pan covered with foil. Add about 1 cup of liquid (water, beef stock, apple juice, etc.) to the bottom of the pan just before closing them up.

Place them back in the smoker and cook them at 225°F for about 2 hours or until they reach about 200°F. Note: with this method, leave the probe in the meat so you will still be able to monitor the temperature of the meat and tell when they are nearing completion.

Should You Use the Water Pan?

If you have a water pan.. use it. This is a great way to help regulate the temperature of your smoker and to reduce the natural drying effect of heated air.

How Long to Keep the Smoke Going?

In wood smokers, the meat would be getting smoke for the entire time and this is what gives real wood smoked meat that characteristic robust smoky flavor that we all like so much. In your gas, electric or charcoal smoker, you can keep the smoke going the entire time if you so desire to give it just as much smoke flavor as you can or you can follow my recommended minimum which is to keep the smoke going for at least half of the estimated cook time.

Regardless of what you choose to do, be sure the smoker has some sort of way for air to get into the firebox via a vent, hole or opening and that the smoke has plenty room to exit the smoker via a chimney, vent or opening after it has passed over the meat.

This will ensure that the food gets nice and smoky without any creosote being added to the mix.

How to Serve the Smoked Beef Short Ribs

I usually plan on about (2) ribs per person. Serve with some of my original barbecue sauce (purchase recipes here) on the side since some folks just have to dip the meat in something.. at least give them something great to use for that purpose;-)

  1. Remove from package and place into a deep foil pan
  2. Trim fat/silver skin if required
  3. Apply yellow mustard to the ribs
  4. Sprinkle my original rub (purchase recipes here) onto all sides of the ribs
  5. Place short ribs directly on grate
  6. Smoke at 225°F for 5 hours or until 190-200°F
  7. Check for tenderness and remove when finished
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You can also order the formulas for my rubs and sauce and make these yourself at home. Grab those HERE and download immediately.

Jeff’s Smoking Meat Books

smoking-meat-book-coverSmoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue – The book is full of recipes and contains tons of helpful information as well. Some have even said that “no smoker should be without this book”!

With more than 1000 reviews on and a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, it comes highly recommended and is a Bestseller in Barbecuing & Grilling books on Amazon.

AmazonBarnes & Noble | German Edition

smoke-wood-fire-book-coverSmoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.

It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.

Purchase at Amazon


  1. Karen Coyne June 4, 2021 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    I have been a member of your site forever and your literally taught me how to smoke. I have one many competitions thanks to you. Do you ever leave your short ribs together instead of individual ribs? I have four racks of five bones each. Just wondering if I need to cut them first or if I can leave them whole until they are done.

  2. James Parks February 16, 2019 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Made the short ribs this week and they were way to salty for us. Now I did use your Naked rub and I did dry brine the ribs, but it was way over salty. I am blaming the soy sauce (low sodium) and the Worcestershire. I plan on re-doing it with just the root beer and dry brine and the Texas rub.

    • AP February 22, 2019 at 6:41 am - Reply

      Hi James,

      I looked at Jeff's recipe above and didn't see any mention of brine, soy sauce or the Texas rub (uses Original Rub). If you do it again with the strict recipe, I'd like to know if you find it improved. I haven't tried this recipe yet, but am planning to in the future. I don't plan on modifying it, except maybe using olive oil instead of mustard.


  3. BBQ Newb September 1, 2018 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Tried the short ribs today. Turned out perfect. Approx. 240 degrees in our little electric smoker with a full water pan and lots of wood chips. Refilled the chips at 3.5 hours. 5.5 hours total to 200 degrees, no foil wrap. Very juicy. It’s difficult to fine tune the temp on our smoker, so you’ve got to just go with it. I couldn’t be happier.

  4. Bret April 15, 2018 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    If you keep it refrigerated, how long does the barbecue sauce keep?

    • Jeff Phillips April 17, 2018 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Bret, I have used it up to 6 months later and it was still good. I am not sure how far beyond that it will remain good. The flavor will most likely begin to degrade at some point as well beyond that point.

  5. Wil January 8, 2016 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Smoked beef ribs today and used the Texas rub recipe. I've always used mustard as you suggest to allow the rub to stick, and with your rub, Jeff, these turned out perfect!

  6. John July 2, 2015 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    I followed your recipe. The ribs were dry and tough. Not impressed.

  7. Deb November 6, 2014 at 8:48 am - Reply

    I use the 3-2-1 meathod for baby pork ribs. turns out great!! With the Beef Shorts Ribs do you recommend wrapping in foil or not/

  8. Judd Kiteley February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am - Reply

    You don't mention it in the recipe but it looks like you had the short ribs cut to about 3" is that right? Just trying to get the right portions for 8 people I am cooking this for tomorrow.

    • Jeff Phillips February 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      They were 3-4 inches

  9. Robert clemons February 15, 2013 at 5:34 am - Reply


    I enjoy your rub and sauce recipes.  Your newsletter has made me a "pro" with my smoker.

    • Jeff Phillips February 15, 2013 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Thank you for the kind words.. I am very happy that the recipes and the newsletter are working out great for you!

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