How-To Guides

How to smoke beef short ribs

How long to smoke beef short ribs?

When it comes to beef short ribs, patience really is a virtue. Time and a little bit of love will give you tender meat with a delightful smoke flavour that melts just like butter. For this, you’ll need a specific smoking bbq, where the temperature can be fairly well controlled and monitored. You will find it incredibly difficult to cook this well in a more basic bbq.

Swaledale’s heritage beef short ribs are single-portion lengths left on the bone for a stronger depth of flavour, while also leaving the top muscle intact for some delicious fat reservoirs.

You will need to smoke your ribs for around 6 to 8 hours (excluding resting time), but it’s the internal temperature that’s really important. This is why when low ‘n’ slow bbq cooking, we always cook to temperature, not time. Aim for your ribs to reach an internal temperature of 88-90°C — this means a meat thermometer is essential to ensure juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat.

Your goal should be to have a dark, crunchy bark (outside crust), while the inside becomes incredibly rich and unctuous.

Best way to smoke beef short ribs

  1. Preheat the smoker to around the 110 degrees mark. Remember to monitor the temperature throughout the cook.
  2. A rub can be added just before cooking, although a day ahead of time would give more time for the flavours to penetrate. You can use a variety of rubs to flavour your meat, but we, along with many purists, believe in keeping it simple so the beefy flavours of your ribs can sing. All you need is sea salt and cracked black pepper.
  3. Generously rub your chosen spice blend, or our suggested simple seasoning of sea salt and cracked black pepper, all over the ribs, covering each side.
  4. Place your ribs bone side up onto the grill, close the lid and leave your meat to cook.
  5. During cooking, a ‘bark’ will form, often a good while before cooking is complete. If this is the case, then wrap with butchers’ paper or, more accessibly, greaseproof paper. This should be several layers thick and will act as protection from the heat and prevent the bark becoming too thick and inedible.
  6. Your ribs need an internal temperature of 88 – 90 degrees. They’ll be extremely tender when they’re cooked and almost falling off the bone. Keep an eye out for something called the ‘smoke ring’ (see Top tips) — if achieved, you’ll know you’ve done an exceptional job.
  7. For best results, you’ll need to let your beef short ribs rest for at least 30 minutes (ideally an hour) after cooking. Resting inside the wrapped layer is advised. You can also take it to this stage, allow to cool and keep in the fridge if you plan to cook ahead of time.

Top tips

  • When properly slowly smoked, something called the ‘smoke ring’ occurs. This is a pink area beneath the dark exterior, up to 3mm wide. Produced by a chemical reaction between the pigment in the meat and the gases produced from wood or charcoal, Barbecue advocates often see this as confirmation all has gone as it should during cooking.
  • Light-flavoured woods such as apple, cherry, and pecan pair wonderfully with Beef short ribs. As you want to create a steady smoke for several hours, you need to use chunks instead of woodchips or pellets, as they will burn far too quickly. These should be added alongside charcoal, providing longevity during the rib’s long, slow cook.