Pork ribs are fantastic for cooking low and slow in your Masterbuilt Smoker. However, beef and lamb ribs are also excellent choices for smoking and should go unnoticed. For this post we will focus on smoking beef ribs. First, we need to look at the different types of beef ribs.
There are three basic cuts of ribs that you should become familiar with before deciding what will work best in your smoker. Unlike pork ribs, beef ribs can be costly, so you want to make sure you are getting the appropriate cut for cooking with smoke. A good tip is to buy the ribs directly from the butcher so you can see both sides of the bone to know how much meat your are actually getting.
A steer has a rib cage on either side of its mid-section. Each rib cage contains 13 individual rib bones. The rib cage is divided into 3 named sections. The sections are identified as the Plate Short Ribs, the Back Ribs, and the Chuck Short Ribs.
Plate Short Ribs
Despite the name, Plate Short Ribs are large, extremely tasty, and are prized by the hospitality industry. They are often cut by butchers into individual portions specifically for restaurants. If you want these, call your butcher and order them ahead and ask for a slab so that they remain more moist while cooking.
The Plate Short Ribs are the sixth, seventh, and eighth ribs located nearer to the belly of the animal. Plate Ribs have a good amount of meat to fat ratio. The marbled fat imparts flavor and juiciness when cooked low and slow. If you can get your hands on Plate Short Ribs, you don’t necessarily need to marinate them prior to smoking. They only require some simple dry rub seasoning.
Back Ribs, also referred to as Prime Ribs, are cut from near the upper backbone. Often, the back ribs will have much of the meat removed to sell as prized prime rib roast. The remaining ribs may not actually have a lot of meat on them. So again, call your butcher ahead and ask for back ribs with plenty of meat.
I think this cut is extremely flavorful. This may be due to the bone marrow that renders down while cooking. This cut of ribs is also fairly expensive, so make sure you are getting meaty ribs. The cooked meat is quite tender. Again, I don’t think a marinade or brine is necessary. Season generously with a dry rub before smoking.
Chuck Short Ribs
Chuck Short Ribs, or Flanken Ribs, are cut from closer to the shoulder area. These are ribs 1 through 4 or 5. The Chuck Short Ribs are the ones that you most often find in your market. They are both meaty and fatty and need a bit longer to cook than the other rib sections for the fat to break down.
Chuck Short Ribs are most often braised in liquid for a long time. If you are going to cook them in your smoker, this is a cut that I do recommend marinating first. The meat is not as tender as the other ribs, but it is delicious. Chuck Short Ribs are generally sold as individual rib portions. You can ask your butcher for a slab. It will remain more moist that way.
Preparing the Ribs for Smoking
We will tackle 2 smoked beef ribs recipes. The first is for marinated Chuck Short Ribs. The second is for dry-rubbed Back Ribs.
Before marinating or seasoning the ribs, it is a good idea to peel the tough membrane off the bone side and to trim all but a 1/4 inch of the fat cap on the meat side. You can have your butcher do this.
I don’t think beef ribs should ever be brined. However, I do like wet marinating Chuck Short Ribs to help break down some of the hard fat and muscle fibers. The ingredients of the marinade need elements of acid, salt, spices and herbs, fat, and perhaps some sweetness. Marinate for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.
Preparing Back Ribs for smoking only requires a nice dry rub that is composed of salty, sweet, and herbal or spice elements. A dry rub can work its magic in as little as one hour. However, you can apply the rub the night before and place the ribs in the refrigerator. This is sometimes referred to as a dry marinade.
Always remove your ribs from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before smoking. The meat should be at room temperature.
Marinated Smoked Beef Short Ribs
- 3 to 4 lbs beef chuck short ribs
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 TBS rice wine vinegar
- 2 TBS peanut oil
- 2 TBS sesame oil
- 2 TBS grated fresh ginger
- 2 TBS minced garlic
- 1 TBS chili paste
- Water and apple juice
- Apple, cherry, or oak wood chips
Total time: 9 hour 10 min – Prep time: 10 min + marinating time – Cook time: 9 hour – Serves: 4 people
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients until well combined. Taste the mixture to be sure it has the correct amount of saltiness, sweetness, acidity, and heat. Adjust if necessary.
2. Place the ribs in large sealable plastic bags. Pour enough marinade over the ribs to cover them. Seal the bags and massage gently to coat the ribs. Place the bags in a baking dish and put in the refrigerator for 4 to 12 hours.
3. Remove the dish from the refrigerator 40 minutes before placing the ribs in the smoker.
4. Place wood chips in the tray of your smoker. Fill the water bowl half with water and half with apple juice. Preheat the smoker to 250°F with the top vent open.
5. Place the slab of ribs, or individual ribs, on the smoker rack. Cook for 8 to 10 hours until the internal temperature reaches 200°F and the meat has started to pull away from the bone. Replenish the wood chips and liquid approximately every 60 minutes.
6. Remove the ribs from the smoker and wrap them in foil. Allow to rest for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.
7. Serve the ribs with an Asian style barbeque sauce on the side, a crunchy cabbage slaw, and plenty of napkins.
Asian Style Barbeque Sauce
- 2 cups good tomato ketchup
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 TBS soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 TBS fresh ginger, grated
- 1/2 cup scallions, minced
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Total time: 15 min – Prep time: 10 min – Cook time: 3 to 5 min – Serves: 4 people
1. In a sauce pot, whisk together the ketchup, mustard, honey, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil until smooth. Stir in the ginger, green onions, and cayenne. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and heat until slightly thickened, stirring often.
2. Remove the pan from the heat. Allow the sauce to cool slightly and serve with the ribs. Store any remaining in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
Dry-Rubbed Smoked Beef Back Ribs
- 4 pounds beef back ribs
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 TBS sweet paprika
- 2 TBS smoked paprika
- 2 TBS freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 TBS chili powder
- 1-1/2 TBS coarse sea salt
- 1 TBS onion powder
- 1TBS garlic powder
- 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Hickory wood chips
- 1/2 cup melted butter with a couple dashes Worcestershire sauce
Total time: 25 min – Prep time: 10 min – Cook time: 15 min – Serves: 4 people
1. In a small mixing bowl, place the sugar, paprika, pepper, chili powder, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne. Whisk everything together to combine completely.
2. Place the ribs on a clean cutting board. Coat them evenly with EVOO. Then, pat the dry rub all over the ribs. Take a rack out of the smoker and place the coated ribs on the rack. Allow the ribs to sit for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Place wood chips in the tray of your smoker. Fill the water bowl half way. Preheat the smoker to 250°F with the top vent open.
4. Place the slab rack of ribs inside the smoker. Cook for approximately 4 hours until the internal temperature reaches approximately 185°F. Replenish the wood chips and liquid approximately every 60 minutes.
5. In a small pot, melt the butter with the Worcestershire sauce. Place the ribs on enough aluminum foil to completely encase them. Pour the butter all over the ribs and wrap them well in the foil. Return the wrapped ribs to the smoker and continue cooking for approximately 1 more hour until the internal temperature reaches 200°F and the meat has started to pull away from the bone.
6. Remove the ribs from the smoker and allow them to rest for 20 minutes before serving.
7. Serve the ribs over mashed potatoes or cauliflower purée and a green vegetable side.