Smoked Beef Back Ribs: Turn a Simple Cut of Meat Into a Masterpiece

December 15, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

For beautifully caramelized succulent smoked beef back ribs, start by massaging your ribs with a dry rub before smoking them at 275 degrees for 3 hours. Next, wrap them and put them back in the smoker for another 2 hours until they attain a temp of 202 degrees. Unwrap and glaze them in BBQ sauce before finally cranking up the heat to 300 degrees for a final 30 minutes.

This is one recipe I have had an insane amount of time to perfect. I smoked my first rack of back ribs in culinary school and I have been perfecting this recipe since then. It doesn't get any better. Let me show you how it's done.

In this post, I share my smoked beef back rib recipe and tell you how to serve it. I will also tell you how to store your smoked ribs before we take a sneak peek into the best woods for the job. Join me:

smoked beef back ribs

Easy Flavorful Smoked Beef Back Ribs

These spicy smoked beef back ribs are nothing short of a mouth-watering treat for barbecue lovers. Let's start by gathering ingredients for our ribs and the spritz:

Beef Ingredients

  • 1 rack of beef back ribs
  • 4 tbsp dry rub
  • 3 tbsp yellow mustard

Spritz Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup Cola
  • 1/2 cup barbecue Sauce
Raw Beef Ribs with Cooking Ingredients

Method

With everything now at arm's length, let's get into it:

Prepare the Meat

  • Prep your meat by letting it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before working on it.
  • Lay your rack bone side up on your work surface and use a clean paper towel to pat it dry.
  • Using a butter knife, loosen the thin layer of membrane that covers your ribs and toss it. The best way to do this is to grab it with a paper towel and gently peel it back. Please resist the urge to rip it off. It will tear and make your job much harder.
  • Coat your beef rack ribs with yellow mustard. Make sure to get it all over the surface of your rack including the underside and the edges.
  • Sprinkle the meat rub generously throughout the rack and use the palm of your hand to pat it down. This makes the rub adhere to the meat even more. Set it aside for at least an hour before cooking. For a more pronounced flavor, let it sit overnight in the fridge.

Prepare the Smoker/ Grill

Next is the cooking gear. You can either use your smoker or grill.

Smoker

If you are working with a smoker, get it ready for indirect heat cooking. I do this by piling the fuel to one side of the smoker and lighting it using my Kingsford Chimney Starter. You can also use fire starter cubes. If that's what you prefer, consider Sarivo Fire Starters. They are effective and come with a handy pair of tongs. I love a good bonus.

Top off your fuel with a few chunks of your favorite flavoring wood chips. I like Mr. Bar-B-Q Hickory Smoking Wood Chips for smoked meats.

Once the cooking temperature gets to 275 degrees, your wood chunks should have started producing a wonderful aroma. This is the best time to introduce your seasoned rack of beef back ribs.

Place your rack on a baking sheet, bone side down, meat side up, and place it on the cooler side of the smoker.

Grill

If you are working with a pellet grill, just set the temperature to 275 degrees and let it preheat. As for a gas grill, turn on half the burners leaving the other side to only get cool. Adjust the grill temperature to 275 degrees and let it come to temp.

Meanwhile, let's make a foil pouch for our wood chips in these 5 simple steps:

  • Cut a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and lay it flat on your working surface.
  • Place 2 handfuls of your flavoring wood chips in the middle of the foil. Try to spread them out evenly.
  • Fold the foil to cover the wood chips. Crimp the edges to seal the foil.
  • Now grab a fork and poke a few holes on top of the foil. This will release the flavoring smoke as the chips smolder.
  • Place the foil right next to the heat source of your grill.
Grilled Beef Ribs on the Outdoor Grill

Get Smoking

Let your beef back ribs smoke for 3 hours, spritzing every 30-40 minutes to keep your meat supple and moist throughout the cooking process.

At the 3-hour mark, the internal temperature of your ribs should be at around 165 degrees. No eyeballing here. Use a meat thermometer or a digital probe to confirm the temp. I use Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer. It gives quick, accurate readings and is very affordable.

Drive the probe into the meatier section of the rack making sure to avoid the bone. Bones normally get hotter than the surrounding meat and thus can give you false readings. At 165 degrees, it is time to wrap your back ribs.

Wrapping

Roll out a large sheet of butcher paper onto your work surface and then lay your hot smoked beef back ribs on top. Spritz and wrap the ribs. Return them to the smoker.

Finish

Cook your beef back ribs to temperature. We are aiming for an internal temperature of 202 degrees. This should take approximately 2 hours. At this point, the probe of your thermometer should glide right through, and appear on the other side of your rack without much resistance.

I like to finish my ribs by slathering them with my favorite BBQ sauce and cranking up the heat to around 300 degrees for a maximum of 30 minutes. Of late, I am addicted to the hickory notes of Kraft Slow Simmered BBQ Sauce.

Rest

Rest your beef ribs for around 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Resting allows the meat to redistribute its moisture throughout the rack making sure each bite is as juicy as the next.

About the Ingredients

Each of these ingredients brings unmatched value that elevates this back ribs recipe. Let's look into them:

Beef Back Ribs

These beef ribs are the star of the show. They are cut from the rib primal cut of a cow's carcass near the prized ribeye steaks.

Beef back ribs do not have as much meat on the bones as dino ribs but these bad boys more than make up for that in intercoastal meat (meat between bones).

A rack of beef back ribs usually includes 7-12 individual ribs and weighs anywhere from 2.5-4 lbs depending on how the butcher said 'Nice to meat you'. Get it?

Back ribs have a rich fatty and beefy flavor that pairs perfectly with a variety of ribs, sauces, and in our case, rubs.

Meat Rub

Our recipe will be nothing without a meat rub to enhance the bold beef flavors of your smoked back ribs. However, I have long said the best recipes are those that keep it short and sweet. With that in mind, my go-to rub is Traeger Garlic & Chili Pepper Rub. It pairs divinely with smoked beef ribs.

Mustard

Yellow mustard acts as a binder that keeps the rub on the meat. Without it, a lot of your rub would fall off the ribs instead of sticking to it. Solid options for yellow mustard include olive oil, mustard slather, and mayonnaise.

Delicious Barbecued Ribs

Worcestershire Sauce & Cola

These two stars make the spritz which serves 4 purposes:

Adds Flavor

A spritz adds flavor to your back ribs depending on the ingredients you choose to include. Popular options include herbs, vinegar, spices, juice, and sauces. Additionally, they help the rub stick to the rack better.

Adds Moisture

A spritz introduces much-needed moisture into the cooking chamber. This keeps the smoked beef back ribs from drying out or charring as they cook.

Enhances Colour

A spritz enrichens the mouthwatering dark color of smoked beef back ribs again, depending on the ingredients.

For example, if your spritz contains a sweetener like brown sugar or maple syrup, you can expect the brown color of the bark to be more pronounced. These props go to the Maillard reaction. A chemical reaction between amino acids in the meat and the sugar in your spritz.

Acts as a Tenderizer

A spritz can tenderize your meat especially if it has acidic ingredients like vinegar, salt, and lemon.

BBQ Sauce

The barbecue sauce enhances the flavor of your beef back ribs when your ribs are done smoking. It is the last line of defense.

How Do I Serve Smoked Beef Back Ribs?

The best way to serve smoked beef back ribs is to slice them into individual ribs and serve them with extra barbecue sauce. Side dish options include corn, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw, or you could just keep things simple with toasted bread.

Storage and Reheating Smoked Beef Back Ribs

To store any leftovers, first divide them into portion sizes. This step makes it a lot easier to reheat only what you need when you need it. Next, pour each portion into an airtight container or a Ziploc bag and store it in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 4-12 months.

Reheat your ribs by grilling them in the oven at 275 degrees until they hit an internal temp of at least 165 degrees.

Which Are the Best Woods for Smoking Beef Back Ribs?

The best wood for smoking your beef back ribs is simple. The one you like. At the end of the day, it is your palate's opinion that counts. That said, here are a few guidelines to help you pick the best one:

Beef is bold, unapologetic, and versatile. For an intense flavor, think mesquite or hickory. Mesquite has a very strong flavor and can easily overpower any type of meat. Use it sparingly. Hickory on the other hand is more balanced with a signature bacon taste that was just meant for smoked meat.

If you would rather go easy on the flavor, go for oak, pecan, alder, or fruitwood trees like cherry, apple, and peach.

That said, nothing is set in stone. If you are feeling experimental, you can always try mixing two or three different flavors until you nail your signature wood-smoking flavor for beef ribs.

Delicious Beef Ribs Cooking on an Open BBQ

FAQs

1. How Long Do You Smoke Beef Back Ribs at 225?

Smoking your beef back ribs at 225 degrees could take anywhere between 6-8 hours depending on a couple of factors. Most importantly, how much your beef rack weighs and how tender you like your beef back ribs.

My advice? Go by temperature. Not by time. Smoking beef back ribs for a specific duration leaves too much room for error. However, keeping your eye open for a done temp of 202 degrees is foolproof regardless of the size of your rib rack.

2. What is the Difference Between Beef Ribs and Beef Back Ribs?

'Beef ribs' is an umbrella term for the different types of ribs cut from the carcass of a cow. This includes both short ribs and back ribs. Beef back ribs are specifically cut from the rib area at the back of the carcass, right behind the shoulders.

This is the area where we find the prized ribeye steaks and prime rib cuts. Butchers usually remove the prime rib roast first leaving a little meat still attached to the rib bones. Those are your beef back ribs.

It is a Wrap

So if you are looking for a delicious, easy way to enjoy some wood-fired flavor on beef, think smoked beef back ribs. With plenty of intercoastal meat to enjoy, these guys do not skimp on tenderness and flavor.

Generously coat a rack with your rub of choice and smoke it at 275 degrees for 3 hours. Spritz around every 30 minutes. At an internal temperature of about 165 degrees, wrap it and put it back in the smoker till its internal temperature gets to 202 degrees. That's approximately another 2 hours.

Slather with sauce and finish your ribs at 300 degrees for half an hour till beautifully caramelized and sticky. Chef's kiss!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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