Smoked beef back ribs with optional hoisin barbecue sauce to use as a glaze or for dipping.
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Read on for recipe relevant information and step-by-step pictures (2 mins)
About This Beef Back Rib Recipe
Smoking beef back ribs is by far superior to any other method of cooking them.
The texture of what starts as tough meat is transformed into tender, literally fall-off-the-bone perfection. The taste is unapologetically beefy and only enhanced by a simple, less is more salt and pepper seasoning. A dry rub is not even needed – the bark that forms is simply perfect.
And of course – there is the infusion of intense aromatic notes from the smoking wood.
Finally, if your idea of smoked beef nirvana includes a barbecue sauce – worry not. Our favorite hoisin based concoction does a superb job as a finishing touch for the beef back ribs. You will be impressed.
What Are Beef Back Ribs?
Beef back ribs come from the rib primal cut, the same one from which prime rib and ribeye steaks are derived.
They sit towards the back of the animal, on top of the rib cage and comprise the dorsal (upper) portion of ribs six to twelve.
When they are carved they are removed from the ribeye roll (think rich flavor) and the chine bone. The meat they include is primarily intercostal (which means in between the rib bones). See picture below.
Similarly to short ribs, they are best cooked low and slow, by way of methods such as braising, slow roasting and the highlight of this post – smoking.
Where to Buy Beef Back Ribs?
We buy our racks at the well-stocked meat department of our local grocer. They are a very common cut and chances are you will be able to easily find them at your local store. You can always ask the meat department to special order them for you or you can buy them at online meat vendors.
What Wood is Best for Smoking Beef Back Ribs?
We recommend (affiliate links follow) hickory wood for the powerful, slightly spicy flavor it imparts on foods. It also has the ability to add a darker color to meats, resulting in an easily discernible smoke ring in the case of beef back ribs. In addition, hickory burns longer, allowing you to take a break from tending the smoking set up to maintain temperature.
Hickory is less intense than mesquite so if you really want a potent smokey flare, then opt for mesquite wood.
Fruit smoking woods such as apple wood and cherry wood are less suitable in the case of beef ribs – the smoke they produce is too subtle to match the strong taste of beef. Pecan wood is an alternative with its more pungent flavor – you may use it in a combination with a fruit wood. Oak wood is a great middle ground between mesquite/hickory and fruit woods.
How to Smoke Beef Back Ribs?
Prep work. Prepare the back ribs as shown above and your smoker as needed.
- Ribs. Turn over the rack(s) and identify the membrane that runs its length and holds the ribs. Lift it on one side and using a paper towel peel it off. Pat dry the rack(s) and season both sides liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Smoker. Set up your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place a disposable aluminum pan full of water underneath the rack on which you will be smoking or beneath the grill grates for a side firebox smoker. (If your smoker already has a water pan, fill it about 2-3 inches deep). Get the temperature of the chamber up to the 300-325 F range.
Smoking. Place the seasoned, room temperature rib racks directly onto the grill grates or smoker rack, bone-side down. Smoke them until the internal temperature reaches 205-210 F. The meat thermometer should enter the meat effortlessly. Measure in the center, away from bones.
Rest. Next, wrap the rack(s) in butcher paper and allow them to rest for up to an hour while still in the smoking chamber with the lid closed. They will continue to cook and become even more tender, but you do not need to maintain temperature any more.
Tips for Smoking Beef Back Ribs
- If using a smoker with a firebox on one side turn the racks 180 degrees a couple of times to help them cook more evenly.
- Another great way to test doneness for the ribs is to observe that the meat has pulled away from the bones about 1 to 2 inches.
- If you normally use foil to wrap your smoked meats, by all means do that instead of buying butcher paper. Both methods work just fine.
How Long do Beef Back Ribs Take to Smoke?
It depends on the smoker temperature you maintain. Very low temperature hot smoking at around 225-250 F will take considerably longer, about 5 hours or more.
Because we usually smoke beef back ribs at 300-325 F the time it takes is less, between 2 and 3 hours plus another half an hour to an hour of butcher paper wrapped rest. The results are comparable.
Simply plan on smoking the ribs until they are tender and to your satisfaction. You cannot rush the process.
What Happens in the Smoking Chamber?
- The low heat produced by the hot smoke gradually melts the collagen rich connective tissue that holds the rib meat to the bones and the fat covering the ribs. Both the liquefied collagen and melting fat seep into the meat and flavor it.
- The outside forms a nice bark which has the combined, concentrated flavor of salt, pepper and smoke.
- A pinkish-red smoke ring develops around the outer surfaces just below the crust. This is in result of carbon dioxide and nitrogen monoxide from the smoke reacting with myoglobin in the meat.
Serve Smoked Beef Back Ribs
Once the ribs have rested and you unwrap them they should be tender and juicy, just like you see below.
Enjoying them without any further flavor additions is an absolute pleasure. You taste the unadulterated smokiness in every bite of beef. A great beer pairing is a barrel aged brown ale, or a Belgian quad.
If you would rather include bbq sauce in the feast either use your favorite or try the hoisin one shown below. It comes together relatively fast, you can prepare it while the ribs are resting in the paper.
You can brush the sauce like a glaze over the ribs first and let the meat absorb it, then brush them again right before serving. Alternatively serve some sauce in a bowl for dipping.
Another well suited, flavorful concoction you can consider if Asian flavors are not on your radar is our bourbon glaze. It balances an array of flavors – savory aromatics, earthy sweetness and the unmistakable notes of bourbon and you can prepare it while the ribs are cooking. Here is the recipe with a short video.
Does the 3 2 1 Method Work for Beef Ribs?
Yes, it does and if you are smoking several racks and have all day you can use it. Normally it is used for pork ribs but you can apply it in the case of beef back ribs. It is a different approach.
In short, you will smoke the ribs unwrapped at 225 F for 3 hours. You will then wrap them in aluminum foil, brushed with a bit of liquid like apple juice and cook them for 2 hours at 225 F. Finally, you will unwrap them, brush them with barbecue sauce and cook them for 1 hour at 250-275 F. Six hours later they should be done.
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SMOKED BEEF BACK RIBS
- 2 racks beef back ribs
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste*
Hoisin BBQ Sauce
- 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp shaoxing wine or sake
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
- 2 tbsp green onion, finely chopped
Beef Back Ribs
Pat the racks dry with paper towels. Turn each with the meaty side down, identify the membrane that runs across the length of the bone side and peel it off.
Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Set up your smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add your smoking wood of choice (see post for suggestions). Fill an aluminum foil pan with water and place it underneath where you will be placing the ribs.**
Once the temperature reaches the 300-325 F range put the seasoned back ribs directly onto the smoking racks or grill grates if using a smoker with a side firebox. Close the lid.
Smoke for 2 to 3 hours, maintaining the temperature, until the meat pulls away from the bones and reaches 205-210 F when measured with meat thermometer in the center and away from the bones. The thermometer should enter easily.
Wrap the ribs in butcher paper and let them sit near the heat or even inside the smoking chamber for another 30 minutes to one hour before you serve them. In the meantime make the sauce.
Combine all the ingredients in sauce pan. Mix well and birng to simmer. Simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the sauce thickens to your liking. Keep warm.
*You can use your favorite dry rub instead.
**If your smoker comes with a water pan use that and fill about 2-3 inches deep with water.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 254Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 883mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 15gProtein: 10g
Calories include the entirety of the hoising barbecue sauce.