Smoked Beef Shortribs

It was a cold January weekend and I decided to get up early and smoke some beef ribs I had ordered. They only had one plate of prime ribs, so I ordered a plate of choice as well, at about 5 1/2 pounds each, as a kind of comparison. I was also making some Texas baked beans on the smoker, and my standard buttermilk cole slaw.

I was very pleased with my order from Wild Fork Foods, with the exception of the extremely large fat cap on the corner of the prime ribs. Seriously, the entire corner was solid fat, but I guess it’s not a perfect meat. The choice ribs even showed some very good marbling too.

After trimming the silver skin and any excess fat, I seasoned with a simple coarse salt, pepper and granulated garlic rub and let it sit while I got the smoker ready. Short ribs are supposed to be full of flavor so I wanted to let the smoke do the talking rather than drown it in spices.

You can see the fat cap in the prime rib on the right. That went all the way through.

We were going to smoke with post oak wood splits today, for some traditional Texas flavor. 1/2 chimney of hardwood lump charcoal and one medium log and the temperature was up to 325 degrees. I always find it best to bring the temp higher than what you want to cook at in order to “warm up” the smoker. Today we were going to smoke at 275 degrees. Truth be told, I wanted to keep the temp between 275-285, a much harder task than I thought. I used my Thermoworks Smoke thermometer to monitor the temps at grate level, but had a very difficult time keeping the temp as steady as I wanted to. I had the high and low alarms set so that there wouldn’t be more than a 20 degree swing, but the alarm went off every 15 minutes, something that did not happen last time I smoked. After a while though (several hours), things started to settle down. It was 31 degrees out that day, and windy, so that might have had something to do with it.

This seemed to keep the temperature just right.

With the ribs on, it was time to close everything up and keep the temperature steady for the next 3 hours. After that, I would start to spritz with apple cider vinegar every hour until it was time to wrap in butcher paper.

At about the three hour mark, I started to pay closer attention to the temperature. I wanted to wrap at 190 degrees and after 3 hours, the ribs were about 165 degrees. It took another couple hours before they came up to temp. In the mean time, I made the beans and got them ready to put on the smoker. My plan was to cook them low and slow like the ribs, about 45 min uncovered and then 2-3 hours covered in foil.

I found myself having to wedge a log into the firebox to let some of the heat escape in order to keep the temperature regulated. It seemed to do the trick anyway.

About 5 1/2 hours in.

By this time, the ribs were just about ready to wrap, just a little bit more until 190 degrees. Then I would also cover the beans. Earlier, I had made my buttermilk cole slaw and it was chilling in the fridge. Here’s the recipe if you want it:


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp brown mustard
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 package slaw mix


            Combine all ingredients except slaw mix in bowl and mix well.  Pour over slaw mix and mix well. Served chilled.

All wrapped up! Now I just had to be patient and watch for that magic 200 degree temperature mark. I had inserted a probe into the rib at this point, just for ease of monitoring. I will say though, my smoker gets hotter in the back, so the choice rib was done first. It took a good 1/2 hour for the prime in the front to catch up and make it to the 200 degree mark. Much like a brisket, when probing for doneness you should have next to no resistence, like a knife through room termperature butter. When I reach that point, I let them rest in a cooler for an hour to reabsorb all the juices before cutting them up.

The final product was exactly what I’d hoped for. Nice bark, thick smoke ring, juicy, flavorful and tender. You can tell the difference in the pictures below between the prime (on the left with the huge fat section) and the choice (right) ribs. The texture was a little different too, with the prime being a little more tender and juicy (more marbling in the meat). The flavor on both was amazing though!

All in all, they spent about 7 1/2 hours on the smoker, with the prime taking a little longer, plus 1 hour in the cooler to rest. They were on the smoker at 8:30 and we were eating at 5:00. We were barely able to finish the requisite 1 rib each. That’s a lot of meat! I really enjoyed this smoke. I feel like I learn a lot every time I cook. I guess that’s the idea though, right? I will say, adding cherry wood to the fire, like I did with my brisket, definitely gives it a little more flavor, but I wanted the traditional Texas post oak flavor for this meal. Smoky beans, ribs and the brighter cole slaw made for a delicious way to end the day.

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