How to Cook Beef Ribs with the Smokin' Elk

How to Cook Beef Ribs with the Smokin' Elk

Great for beginners looking to get into low and slow smoking, beef short ribs are simpler to make but still have all the flavour, bark and tenderness of bigger cuts like brisket. The Smokin’ Elk shows us how to cook beef ribs on the BBQ, ensuring they’re perfectly juicy and tender.

Before you dive into cooking low and slow, you need to understand that cooking to temperature is very much a game changer. Certain meats like poultry are only safe once they hit a certain temperature, but others like low and slow cuts need to be taken way beyond the recommended temperature if you want them to break down and melt in the mouth.

But before you tackle the big cuts, why not try some beef short ribs? They’re cheaper, quicker and easier to cook than brisket, but the end result is just as good. Plus they’re a great way to hone your BBQ skills without breaking the bank.


Pork is safe to eat at 63°C. But if you want pulled pork, you need to take this all the way up to 93°C+. This is when all of the connective tissue has had time to break down, resulting in soft, succulent meat. The same goes for beef brisket. Forget 55°C for medium rare — brisket is no good medium rare. It takes time, love and science to take it all the way to smoky, juicy perfection. Usually this is at around 95°C.

Beef ribs

You want to cook your ribs to around 93°C before checking them for tenderness. If monitoring the temperature of your pit, you’re looking to keep this at around 150°C.

What are short ribs?
  • Beef short ribs are cut from the short plate (also known as beef plate) of the cow, which is the belly side of the prime rib roasting joint. Also considered part of the brisket in the UK, the short plate is also used for skirt and hanger steaks. Cuts from this area are usually cheap because they’re tough and fatty. But with some low and slow cooking they can become beautifully tender and delicious.
There are a few different cuts of beef ribs that you can buy:
  • JACOB’S LADDER: This is a rack of 3-6 bones.
  • ENGLISH-CUT RIBS: The ribs are cut into individual bones. These can be left full-length or halved into smaller pieces.
  • FLANKEN: The ribs are cut crossways across the bone, so that each piece contains a few small pieces of bone.
Tools required
  • For low and slow cooks like ribs, a BBQ thermometer is useful for monitoring the temperature of your pit and your meat, so you know that everything is on track without opening the lid. I used the Smoke Wireless BBQ Thermometer for this recipe. When you insert the probe into the meat, just be careful to avoid any bones or the readings might be inaccurate. Check out this guide to learn more about BBQ thermometers.
  • Whether or not you used a BBQ thermometer to monitor the temperature of your ribs as they cooked, an instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen is important for spot checking the meat throughout. Again, make sure you avoid the bones as you probe or you won’t get an accurate reading. Once your ribs have come to temperature, a Thermapen thermometer is also great for checking the tenderness of the ribs. If the probe doesn’t slide through the meat without any resistance, the ribs will need to go on for a bit longer.
For the BBQ beef short ribs
  • 3 bone beef short ribs (ask your butcher for Jacob’s ladder or beef short ribs. Try to get some with 3-4 bones in, all in one piece.)
  • Beef rub (or just plenty of salt and pepper)
  • Mustard (to act as a binder for the rub)
To cook the beef short ribs
  • Set your BBQ or smoker to 150°C / 300°F. I like to use a chunk or two of cherry wood for the smoke. Oak also works well on beef.
  • Trim the top layer of fat from the ribs, making sure you trim the tough membrane too as this will not make for pleasant eating!
  • Coat the beef all over with the mustard then liberally apply the rub.
  • Add the ribs to the BBQ and let them smoke away. I used the Smoke Wireless BBQ Thermometer to monitor the temperature of my ribs and pit as they cooked.
After a couple of hours...
  • check the temperature of the ribs. You have two choices here – if the temperature is 75°C or below, I like to wrap the ribs in butcher paper or foil to finish them off.If the temperature is above 75°C, just as in the video, then your best bet is to leave them unwrapped and just spritz them with water every half hour.
  • Once the ribs hit an internal temperature of 93°C, I like to use my Thermapen to start probing them for tenderness. If the probe slides in with no resistance, they are done! If there is still a little resistance, leave them on but keep checking every 20 minutes.
  • Once the ribs come off, wrap them in foil (if they aren’t already) then rest for at least an hour before slicing in and marvelling at that smokey, beefy delight you have created!
Products to help you achieve perfection
"I'm Elky, also known as The Smokin' Elk. I absolutely love cooking to fire and the Thermapen helps me up my game by cooking to the perfect temperature, every time. It's the one BBQ tool I wouldn't be without!"
The Smokin' Elk
Fire Cooking Fanatic, BBQ School owner
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