Our Barbecue Beef Ribs Recipe for Your Smoker

You can have the traditional beef ribs our forefathers knew, or the fast becoming popular beef short ribs! It all starts with the "Cookin' Cousin's" beef rib recipe and our belief that..."Barbecue is the Mystical Communion of Fire, Smoke and Meat". 

Please visit "6 Secrets to Smoking Meat" page, for competitor level backyard barbecue tips!

Lets start with the stuff you'll need...

Patience  Low and slow is the real secret. We're talking low heat (200-225°F/93-107°C) for an extended cooking period. This is not the fastest method, but the "bestest"! Figure about 5 to 6 hours for perfect beef ribs.


Beef ribs are often sold as "Back Ribs", in a plastic vacuum pack, by the slab, with about 7 ribs, or "Short Ribs", (shown here) which are meatier.

Spices  One secret the "pros" know is to use the best spices you can get. See "Secret #2...Great Spices" for more on this.


The vertical "wet-pan" type is the most popular backyard smoker, so we wrote this smoking ribs recipe from our experience with this fun cooker. You can buy these wonders at any "big box" store, hardware store or, try the garage/yard ("jumble") sales for a real bargain! Our favorite economical, easy to use backyard smoker is this Masterbuilt 2-Door Propane Smoker and the 36 inch Vertical Stainless Steel Propane Smoker for we who love weatherproof stainless steel cookers.

Wood chips/chunks  For smoking ribs (or any meat in a smoker) always use only seasoned (never "green") hardwood chips/chunks like Hickory, Oak, Mesquite, Cherry, Pecan, fruit woods, etc., to suit your taste. These are generally available during the summer, wherever barbecue accessories are sold. Never use softwoods such as the conifers fir, pine, spruce, cedar, cypress, oleander,etc. Many trees and bushes/shrubs are toxic to humans, so stay with the known traditional woods used by the experienced "smokers".

Oven/Grill thermometer 

To ensure your success with our beef ribs recipe, this tool is the only way you will really know what's going on inside your smoker! Our two favorites we use constantly are the CDN High Heat Oven Thermometer, and the Admetior Kitchen Oven Thermometer. They are both very accurate, durable (stainless steel), and exceptionally reasonable in price.

Mop tool 

This is optional, but boy, it sure makes basting a whole lot easier! Yep, a mop...just a miniature version (12-14" long) of a string-mop you might have for cleaning the kitchen! For ease of cleaning, and long reach, we prefer this Sauce Mop with Removable Head. More on this subject in the "Prepare a Mop?" section, below.


Long and strong is the secret. We prefer, and suggest, no-nonsense professional types like the OXO Good Grips 16-Inch Locking Tongs, or the Weber Style 6441 Professional-Grade Chef's Tongs.

Let's talk meat ...

The "Cookin' Cousins" are a couple of guys with a ravenous appetite forbeef ribs, and we consider a slab of "back ribs" (usually 7 rib bones) just enough for two. Our family and friends seem to agree whole-heartily, so when smoking a slab of beef ribs, we buy as many slabs as will fit on all of the smoker's racks. There are usually no "leftovers"!

"Short ribs" have considerably more meat and we have found that 2 or 3 ribs (with all of the side dishes), is generally enough for each person.

Now, let's prepare the meat...

NOTE: Beef ribs should be always kept in the refrigerator (between 33-40°F/.55-4.4°C) before preparation.

  1. Take the thawed meat out of the refrigerator and allow ribs to stand at room temperature for less "on grill" time (about an hour). You can do the meat, and rub prep, the day before. This makes it a lot easier when "the gang" shows up.

           Skip to "rub" for "short ribs".

           The next 4 steps are for slabs.

  1. Rinse in cold water. Pat dry with some paper towels.

  2. Remove any excess fat, or stuff you don't want to eat. Just remove the excess fat surrounding the good stuff.

  3. Remove the membrane (on inner side). We feel this is a must for a great barbecue beef rib recipe, as it allows the smoke and rub to penetrate the meat more thoroughly. For this chore we have used all kinds of "pokey" things like a paring knife, or something similar. Get under it lift the membrane until you can get a grip on it this slippery devil (we use a paper towel). Pull it all off.

  4. Rinse again, pat dry with a paper towel.

Our barbecue beef ribs recipe starts with a rub!

Short Ribs with Our Rub

The beef ribs are first "rubbed" with a simple, dry, spice accented rub, and then smoked slow, with low heat. All for that unforgettable tender, perfectly seasoned eating experience!

Do not let the simplicity of this basic rub fool you. It works great, and you can adjust the recipe (as the "pros" do) to make it "yours". Look at our Rubs page for other great recipes, and ideas.

Barbecue Beef Rib Recipe Rub

Mix together thoroughly the following:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed). We prefer "turbinado" sugar for ease of use, and a higher caramelization temperature. But either will work fine.
  • 1/4 cup coarse Kosher or sea salt.
  • 1/4 cup chil1 powder
  • 3 tblsp ground pepper (fresh peppercorns recently ground!)
  • 1 tblsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (no, it will not be "hot")

This recipe is enough for 3 to 4 racks of ribs and can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

O.K., you have a "known-good" rub recipe for smoking beef ribs, now...

For "short ribs", just generously apply the rub all over the meat, and skip to "Get that Smoker Ready"


  • Slather the meat with a thin coat of any common yellow table mustard (not mandatory, but a cool method many top contenders use) before applying the dry rub. This will not impart a mustard flavor (as that cooks out) but holds the spices close to the ribs, keeps the meat moist, does not block the smoke, and leaves a nice thin seasoned coating.
  • Sprinkle the rub on the ribs, and if you chose not to use the mustard, gently rub it in the meat.

Prepare a "Mop"?

Do you really need a mop for a great barbecue beef ribs recipe? We use a "wet pan smoker" and do not find it necessary for "Short Ribs", but do like it for "Slabs-O-Ribs".

A long time favorite with many experienced barbecuers who use dry smokers, is to apply a mop (baste sauce), during the cooking cycle, to flavor and keep the meat moist. Mops are usually a watery mixture of vinegar, water and spices applied with a "basting mop".

Notice the spices in the baste are similar to the rub? You want to compliment the flavors of your rub, and it is OK to use just the basic spices of the rub (with vinegar and water). Experiment and have fun!

Here is a simple barbecue beef ribs recipe favorite:

Beef Ribs Mop

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive or peanut oil
  • 1 tblsp garlic powder
  • 1 tblsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne

Mix well and put mop sauce in a bowl, to be applied with a mop tool or...you can use just the water, vinegar and oil, in a spray bottle. If using the mop tool, stir each time before mopping. Never save mop sauce left in the bowl (it is tainted with the meat's raw juices), otherwise the sauce will last a long time in the refrigerator. Look at our Rubs page for more fun mop recipes.

For maximum flavor and moisture when smoking beef ribs, you can marinade them with the mop a few hours (up to a day) before cooking time. Just put the ribs in plastic bag, or a covered glass/plastic container, cover them with the mop, and put them into the refrigerator.

Get that Smoker Ready...

Our barbecue beef ribs recipe is written for the vertical 'box", or "bullet", wet-pan type smokers, regardless of the heat source so...

  • Fill the water pan to within an inch of the top (or at least 2/3 full). Use hot water to help avoid wasting fuel.
  • For gas or electric smokers, place the chips (pre-soaked in water 20 min. to an hour) in the wood chip box. One full box of chips will last for several hours, which will be sufficient for the whole cooking time.
  • Fire-up the cooker and get the temperature to about 225°F/107°C), and prepare to keep that temperature as steady as you can! Maintain the temperature between 200-225°F/93-107°C for the ideal ribs.

NOTE: If you are using a charcoal fired smoker, soak 3 - 4 cups of (dry) chips/chunks for about an hour, drain and place them directly on the coals, once the smoker has reached temperature. This will be sufficient for the entire cooking period, regardless of the addition of more coals. Too much smoke= bitter and nasty!

Control the temperature using the bottom vents only. The top vent should always remain open and not used to control oxygen intake. Each cooker is different so, when smoking beef ribs, experience rules!

Let's Cook 'Em

Short ribs can be placed on the racks in any manner you wish but slabs...

  • Place the slabs on the racks, bone side down. If a full slab will not fit on a rack, cut in half. For best heat and smoke distribution, stagger them.
  • Close the cooker (did you remember to put the oven thermometer on a rack with the meat?) Let the smoker recover the heat loss and keep it at about 200-225°F/93-107°C.
  • Resist peeking! You're loosing precious heat. Open the lid/door only far enough to do the job, and don't tarry. Check the ribs for the first time, in about 20 minutes, to make sure the temperature is holding. Let them cook for about 2-3 hours, Turn them over, and then check about every half hour to mop, and check temperature. When smoking beef ribs, apply the mop sparingly (but thoroughly).
  • You have time! If you have judiciously maintained the cooking temperature, peeked and mopped the ribs quickly, you can leave your station several times before the ribs are done. When smoking ribs think 30 minutes between mopping/temperature checks, and 5-6 hours 'til end-of-shift. When the meat starts to pull away from the bones, grab the tongs and "wiggle" a bone. If the meat separates from the bone, you're done!

This barbecue beef ribs recipe will produce a wonderful, natural flavor, so we emphasize the need to season lightly. If you wish, you can now bring out your favorite barbecue sauce and baste during the last half hour of cooking. We do not barbecue ribs with barbecue sauce, as this interferes with smoke absorption...and there goes your fame!

NOTE: If you cannot serve them immediately, wrap in aluminum foil, place in a brown paper bag and set aside. This gives you some time to get the meal together, and really helps make the meat tender!

Time to Serve Em!...

...warm, cut individually, and for the "Cookin' Cousin's" taste, eat 'em just as they are, but...Many folks like a "finishing sauce". This is nothing more than a barbecue sauce, of your choice, served as a side dish, for the folks who would like to put something more on their ribs. 

Lets eat!

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