I saw big slabs of short ribs like these featured at a Kansas City barbecue restaurant on a cooking show on television. The short ribs came in 4-bone slabs, and the restaurant served 2 bones per order. They were meaty and tender and huge...and I just had to try them for myself using the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
Here's a description and photos of how I cooked these bone-in beef short ribs on March 17, 2013.
As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Select & Prep The Meat
You won't find slabs of short ribs like these just laying around at the supermarket. I bought these at Restaurant Depot, a members-only, wholesale restaurant supply store with locations around the United States. If you are a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) member, you can get a free day pass by showing your KCBS membership card and a photo ID. If you don't have a Restaurant Depot near you, your best bet is to find a good butcher shop (which are few and far between these days) and ask for 3- or 4-bone slabs of whole beef short ribs. Tell the butcher you're looking for the cut of beef known as NAMP 123 (untrimmed like the ones shown here) or 123A (trimmed).
Photo 1 shows a Cryovac package of four 3-bone slabs of short ribs. The whole thing weighed about 22 pounds and cost $98. I cooked two slabs and froze the other two.
Photo 2 shows the fat side of the two slabs I cooked. Photo 3 shows the edge of one slab, where you can clearly see the three bones on the bottom, the marbling of the meat, and the thickness of the fat and meat.
The fat cap on beef short ribs does not render as nicely or as completely as it does when cooking pork. You can try leaving it on, if you like, but I prefer to remove it and the tough silverskin beneath. This allows the rub to penetrate the meat and makes for a less fatty, more enjoyable short rib to eat, in my opinion.
Photo 4 shows a slab of short ribs with the fat cap and silverskin partially removed. Photos 5-6 show the finished ribs after trimming. As you can see in Photo 6, there is still plenty of meat on the bones, and plenty of marbling to keep the short ribs moist and flavorful.
Apply The Rub
You can rub beef short ribs with whatever you like, but I went old-school Texas barbecue style...a 50/50 mix of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Three tablespoons of each, mixed together and sprinkled generously on all sides of the meat, will do the trick.
Photos 7-8 show the rubbed short ribs.
Refrigerate the rubbed short ribs overnight to give the salt a chance to penetrate the meat (Photo 9).
Fire The WSM
Fire-up the Weber Bullet using the Minion Method—fill the charcoal chamber about 1/2 full with unlit Kingsford charcoal briquettes and then spread about 30 hot coals over the unlit ones.
Smoke The Short Ribs Using The 3-2-1 Method
Place 1 large chunk of smoke wood on the hot coals. I used a chunk of pecan (Photo 10). There's no need to soak the wood in water before use.
Assemble the cooker with the water pan in place and fill it with cool water.
Take the short ribs straight from the refrigerator, place a slab on each cooking grate (Photos 11-12), and cover with the lid. Set the top vent to 100% open and leave it that way throughout the entire cooking process. Start with all 3 bottom vents 100% open. As the cooker approaches 275°F, begin to partially close all 3 bottom vents to maintain 275-300°F. Adjust the bottom vents as needed to maintain this temperature range throughout the cooking process. As you'll notice in the cooker temperature chart below, I kept the bottom vents 100% open the entire time.
Barbecue the short ribs using the 3-2-1 method: 3 hours without foil, then 2 hours wrapped in aluminum foil, then 1 more hour without foil.
After three hours of cooking, the short ribs will look something like those shown in Photo 13. Wrap each slab in aluminum foil (Photo 14) and return them to the cooker (Photo 15). Cook for another two hours, then remove the foil and cook for another hour (Photo 16).
After five hours of cooking, you'll notice that the ribs are getting very tender; in fact, the thinner edge of the slab may want to come clean off the bone. That's OK, just try to keep it all together during the last hour of cooking.
After six hours of cooking, the meat will be super-tender. It should measure about 195°F internal temp. A fork will go in and out of the meat like soft butter, and when you twist the fork, the meat will shred easily.
There's no need to turn or baste the meat during cooking, and no need to replenish the water pan, either.
Here's how the cooker temperatures and vent settings went during my cook:
Serve The Short Ribs
Photo 17 shows how the short ribs looked coming out of the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker after 6 hours of cooking using the 3-2-1 method. You can see the great smoke ring from that single chunk of pecan in Photos 18-19 and just how cleanly the meat comes off the bones in Photo 20.
This is a knife-and-fork meal, to be sure! You're not going to eat these like you do a sparerib. Here's what I wrote in my cooking log: "Nice exterior appearance, not too dark. Good smoke ring. Very tender—perfect! Nice and moist. A little fatty, like brisket point. Good beef flavor, mild smoke flavor. Not too salty or peppery."
I hope you'll give bone-in beef short ribs a try if you can find slabs like these. Your family and friends will be impressed, and you'll enjoy some really good eats, I guarantee!
More Short Rib Links On TVWB