Home Smoking Beef Short Ribs: The Little Guys

Smoking Beef Short Ribs: The Little Guys

by Brad Prose
beef short rib, barely hanging on that bone.

Strong flavor, easy to smoke.

The headline says it all. Beef short ribs are super easy to smoke and will give you that punch of beef flavor you’re looking for without the 15+ hour wait that comes with brisket. They are forgiving and adaptable (and portable? At least into my mouth), you can marinade, rub, and spritz it however you prefer or want to serve it with.

I have techniques and tips below. If you’re just ready to start, jump to full recipe here: Espresso Chile Short Ribs.

Recently I posted some beef short ribs on Instagram and was asked to share my recipe. Well, there isn’t just one recipe! If you know me, I can be all over the place with flavor profiles. I tend to spice meat to match what the final dish will be, and sometimes I just get weird. There are a lot of recipes and techniques online. I’m not claiming that my guide is anything authentic or the best, it’s just the process that I use to achieve the results that I prefer. Hopefully this helps you get closer to what you’re looking for.

beef short ribs
lighter rub was applied, these are about to be braised for tacos.

Preparing the beef short ribs.

First, I recommend prepping the night before, but if you can’t at least give yourself 2 hours. The biggest key is making sure that you can salt the meat ahead of time. This helps tenderize and season the meat to a far deeper level than you’ll get if you salt right before. It also helps keep the meat moist during your cook. Just make sure you don’t go overboard with salt since your rub might also have some!

Trimming: There’s not really much to do here aside from the silver skin on the top. THE TOP, not underneath the bone! That’s my preference at least. I feel that the silver skin under the bone helps hold it together and adds a nice crunch at the end when you’re eating and you tear it off like the carnivore that you are.

Binders: I’m not a mustard-binder fan. It’s mostly water and has not enhanced flavor at all in my testing. There are definitely binders that do make a big difference though! I tend to go for spicy ones like gochujang paste, hot sauce (Cholula or Franks), or even soy sauce. This is really where your flavor customization comes into place before you apply the rub.

Rubs: Go for bold flavors, and don’t be stingy with the rub. I don’t like BBQ sauce generally with my BBQ but you can definitely consider that as a factor when choosing your rub. Salt & Pepper works wonders, but I always like to add a little chile. Coffee adds a roasty earthiness that matches so well with beef too.

Smoking: I keep this simple and smoke at 225 degrees for the entire cook. It’s a very similar feel and texture to brisket. I will usually smoke with pecan or oak, but you can use whatever you’d prefer

Basting/Spraying: Living in Arizona means that we generally have moisture problems with smoking meat. I typically have to keep a small pan of water somewhere in the smoker so make sure the humidity is increased. Beef short ribs can definitely be tough cubes if you don’t make sure they stay moist! Spritz the ribs every 30 minutes after the first hour with something acidic: Coffee, beer, apple cider vinegar, apple juice, soda, Worcestershire sauce, fruit juice, etc. I will typically use apple cider vinegar as my go-to when I’m wanting a standard BBQ flavor.

Braising: This is what I generally like to do if I’m going for a unique flavor. Once the ribs hit 160 degrees you should add them to a foil pan with juices. Some ideas would be (1) beef broth with red wine, onions and garlic, (2) enchilada sauce, (3) apple juice with BBQ sauce, etc. I’ll typically use some form of chile colorado sauce if I’m going to end up using them for tacos.

Enough of the tips. Let’s get to a recipe! Check out my Espresso Chile Short Ribs.

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