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I am recent convert to the beef short rib. Well maybe not like recent recent, but in the last few years I have fallen in love with them over & over again. Beef short ribs are fatty, tender, rich and delicious cuts from the rib section of a cow. I have seen them cut in any number of ways from gigantic slabs to fist sized pieces, it seems to be very dependent on the butcher. I don’t see them in grocery store meat cases all that often so I seek them out when I am in the mood from a real butcher. Little secret – I will drive to Butler Farm Market (about an hour north of the city) to get my short ribs every time; I prefer the dinosaur cuts they have for their short ribs, they are about the size of a standard desk stapler give or take on either end, and their prices are amazing. Actually all of their meat is good, so when I go I get dinner for a few days making it worth the trip…although in my mind just getting the short ribs is reason enough.

Short ribs are, for the sake of argument, the bovine equivalent to a pork spare rib. The differences in the animals themselves make the appearances differ, but the comparison is close enough for horse shoes & hand grenades. The first time I came across them the first thing I thought of was the Flintstones – brontosaurus ribs to be exact. The bones are much bigger than what we are used to seeing on pork ribs and they are a lot meatier than their swine counterparts. Like spare ribs, short ribs require Low & Slow cookery, moist or dry heat methods work equally well, though I generally use moist. I don’t think I have ever come across boneless short ribs, though I am sure they are out there. Big shock here – I wouldn’t, especially for smoking or any dry heat method. The bones add a ton of flavor to the meat and the meat slides off quite easily one they are cooked; I see no reason to NOT use the bones if they are already there & don’t effect the cook time in any significant way.

I have braised short ribs a bunch of times in a bunch of different ways, all delicious, but it’s not braising season. I mean really, who wants to have a burner or the oven going for 4 hours to MAKE a hearty stew-like dish or even want to EAT that kind of richness when its in the 90’s…no one sane. The smoker, on the other hand, is outside where it can add to the hot out there & it is BBQ season. Short ribs are built for low & slow cooking – they are super fatty & heavy on the connective tissue – this lends them well to an extended stay on the smoker to let that all that delicious melt into the meat. As they slow cook all that fat cooks down giving the ribs a rich meatiness that can totally handle a long smoke with a strong dry rub. My only worry was that the dry heat would make the short ribs dry…but then I remembered that I have done the exact same thing to all manner of swine without this concern so why was I all worrying on it now. Good point. Let’s do this.

With the pork rubs I usually want the sweetness to be present, that wasn’t my goal here. I wanted enough sweet to let a chewy bark form, but not enough that it was sticky bbq sweet. I wanted the rub to be more spice forward, with a deep slow burn.

These smoked at 200 degrees for about 9 hours. They were HUGE as you will see from the photographs, each one was between 14-16oz total (see why I get them at the Butler Farm Market?!?), but your time on the smoker may need adjusted if yours are significantly smaller, not by much, maybe an hour or 2 – minimum I would have them on there would be 6 hours, they just take that long to cook.  I smoked off 6 of them and made the leftovers into a smoked short rib hash for brunch that was of another world. I may post it, even though I didn’t get any pictures, it was that good.

We are getting into the recipe portion of today’s post, but if you want and/or need some more background information you can go check out Smokin’ 1 ~ The Smoker & Smoking for more details about my grill/smoker and how the whole process of smoking works or Smokin’ 2 ~ Ancho Chili Rubbed Pulled Pork with some more smoking tips and the recipe for my most favoritest pulled pork ever. I may not get into a ton of detail here, but I sure do over there and that should cover any gaps in the instructions.

These were only dry rubbed and were smoked over apple wood soaked in an imperial stout at around 200 degrees.

 Spicy Mustard Rub

  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Kosher Salt
  • a lot of Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (+/- depending on your tastes)
  • 3 Tbsp Ancho Chili Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 cup Dried Mustard Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Granulated Onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Dried Marjoram (or Oregano)
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Coriander

Put everything in the rub in a bowl and mix together, I usually use a wire whisk or fork to get the job done. When combined pur onto a plate or some kind of tray, I dump it out onto one of my flexible mat cutting boards.

Around the time you are firing up the smoker use a spoon or a brush to baste a light coating of  dijon mustard on to each of the ribs then roll through the spice rub until evenly coated. Set on a platte for about 30 minutes to an hour, letting the sugar mixture get wet and kind of ookie.

After the mustard coat & round #1 dry rub

Right before you get ready to put them on the smoker give another roll through the sugar & spice mixture to get a nice dry coat on them.

After round #2 dry rub

At this point you should have the smoker ready ~ the smoker itself should be assembled with the hot coals, soaked wood chips & grate in place for cooking. Get the ribs onto the smoker over the drip pan with some space in between for even heat circulation & caramelization. Lid the smoker & adjust the vents.

Check the smoker after half an hour to check the temp and make any necessary adjustments. After that check back every hour or two to make sure the temp is holding ok, add more wood chips or coals if needed & just generally make sure all is all good under the lid. The progression…The short ribs are cooked when the meat can be easily pulled from the bone, was about 9 hours here. You don’t want it to fall off, but it should offer little to no resistance when pulled away. Let them rest, covered with foil for about 15-20 minutes after they come off the smoker, they had a rough day :)

I served them with no sauce, and heard no complaints, with some mashed red skin potatoes and grilled corn on the cob. I, predictably, made way too much, but thats ok with short ribs. They are actually better, more tender and flavorful, the next day reheated! Wrap them in foil and heat on the grill (or in the oven but remember its HOT outside) until heated through. I cut some off the bone and diced up to make an out of this world potato hash with onions & peppers.  Smoking is a preservation method, so leftovers last a loooong time in the fridge, so if I smoke I make a LOT.

Next time I am going to do a bourbon or beer brine THEN dry rub ~ because why not ~ I’ll let you know how they turn out. Beef short ribs are definitely making it back on to my smoker in the near future!