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posted April 21, 2020

Smoked Beef Back Ribs

Juicy and tender, smoked beef back ribs are a BBQ bucket list, must-try item. Beef back ribs are best smoked low and slow until they melt in your mouth.

Individually sliced smoked beef back ribs stacked on top of each other with decorative text

What are Beef Back Ribs?

Beef back ribs come from the rib primal cut on a cow. The exact same area where you find delicious and fatty rib eyes or prime rib. In fact, beef back ribs are just the bones that have been removed during the trimming process for boneless rib eye steaks or boneless prime rib roasts. They have all the fatty marbling and flavor that those same cuts are known for, which makes them perfect to cook on the smoker. A typical rack of back ribs can include anywhere from 7-12 bones and weigh between 2.5-4 pounds. 

Now, back ribs are different from the giant beef ribs and short ribs we have posted recipes about before, so make sure you’ve got the right cut for this cook.

Where to Buy Beef Back Ribs?

Butchers can get more money per pound selling the high value rib eye meat on top of the bones than they can selling the meat as back ribs. They trim back ribs down, leaving little meat above the bone. This aggressive trimming means you can see some of the bones peeking through the meat. Try and find back ribs with as much meat on them as you can and look for good fat marbling.

Beef back ribs are pretty affordable, since they tend to be cast offs from the rib eye production process. Look in the beef section of your grocery store or go right up to the counter and ask. A good butcher will be more than willing to sell you the back ribs and earn some money on a cut that often gets discarded. If you can’t find them in a store near you, we have ordered them from Felton Angus Beef with great success. 

Rack of beef back ribs on a metal baking sheet, slathered in mustard and seasoned with Beef Seasoning

Smoked Beef Back Ribs

Now that we know what beef ribs are and how to buy them, let’s talk about the best method for cooking them. Beef ribs absolutely shine cooked on the smoker. Low and slow heat breaks down the tight connective tissues between the ribs. Smoke adds the perfect BBQ flavor while simultaneously creating that coveted mahogany bark on the exterior. There is nothing like salty, juicy, tender, smoky beef.

Rack of beef back ribs on a smoker.

How to Smoke Beef Back Ribs

I’ve got full, detailed instructions in the recipe card below. This section will give an overview of what to expect with this smoke. 

  1. Preheat your smoker. I like running my smoker a little hotter for this cook. 275 degrees F gives me plenty of smoke on these thin ribs and keeps them super moist.
  2. Slather and season. A light coating of classic yellow mustard acts as a binder for our seasoning. I recommend using my Signature Beef Seasoning (it just won the NBBQA 2020 Award of Excellence 1st place in their Beef Seasoning category)
  3. Smoke. Set those ribs bone side down on the grates, close the lid, and leave it closed for the next three hours (no peeking).
  4. Wrap your ribs. Your ribs are now a nice dark color, your bark is fairly set, and the internal temperature reading is at about 165 degrees F. Use a nice instant read thermometer to check those temperatures. It is time to wrap your ribs in pink butcher paper to help keep them moist, encourage a darker bark, and speed along the cooking process.
  5. Finish smoking. Return the wrapped ribs to the smoker and close the lid. You’ll want to start checking your ribs after 90 minutes in the smoker. You are looking for texture/feel and temperature. You want your ribs to be very flexible and the meat to have pulled back significantly from the end of the bones. When you insert your meat thermometer, you want it to glide into the meat like it is softened butter. A good temperature to look for is around 202 degrees.
  6. Rest, slice and serve. Pull your finished ribs out of the smoker and allow them to rest for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour, before slicing and serving. 

Rack of beef back ribs wrapped in butcher paper on a smoker.

How Long to Smoke Beef Back Ribs

The whole smoking, wrapping, resting process, takes about five and a half hours. However, I always recommend cooking to temperature and texture instead of just setting a timer. The timelines with BBQ are always just loose suggestions to keep you on track with your cooks. These ribs could be done in as little as 4 hours or they could take closer to 6, depending on how thick your ribs are, the temperature in your smoker, and other factors. Enjoy the process!

Smoked Beef Back Rib FAQ’s:

Any time I share a recipe for a low and slow BBQ recipe, I have a few common questions that rise to the surface. Hopefully, I cover them all here for you so that your beef rib cook turns out perfect the first time. If you have a question I didn’t answer, leave it in the comments section below!

Can I cook beef back ribs in the oven or on a regular grill?

Technically, yes. You can cook beef back ribs in the oven. However, they won’t be smoked beef back ribs. You will miss out on a lot of the flavor and color you get from the smoker. If you have a gas grill, I have some simple tips for smoking on a gas grill that could help you out!

Can I wrap with foil instead of butcher paper?

Yep! The ribs may cook more quickly in foil, so keep an eye out for that. It is also likely that you’ll see a softer bark that isn’t as dark since butcher paper allows the ribs to breathe and foil creates more of a steaming effect. 

Do I need to use the mustard slather?

Nope! I love to use mustard as a slather for ribs (and briskets, and pork shoulders) because it acts as both a binder and a surface tenderizer. This helps create a really nice bark on the outside of smoked meats. You won’t actually taste the mustard when all is said and done. If you are allergic to mustard, I have had success with using hot sauces or viniagrette dressings to get similar results. 

What wood should I smoke with?

Oak and cherry is my favorite combo. Oak is an amazing flavor complement to beef and cherry gives me that coveted dark red color. My husband Todd loves Texas BBQ, so when we are doing beef, we keep it simple with a salt and pepper rub and post oak in the pit.

Rack of smoked beef back ribs on a crumpled piece of pink butcher paper.

More Beef Ribs Recipes

I love beef ribs! Check out these recipes for more tasty beef ribs.

Perfect Smoked Beef Chuck Ribs
Smoked Beef Short Ribs

Recipe for Smoked Beef Back Ribs

Individually sliced smoked beef back ribs stacked on top of each other.

Smoked Beef Back Ribs

Susie Bulloch (
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time : 15 mins
Cook Time : 5 hrs
Resting Time : 30 mins
Total Time : 5 hrs 45 mins
Servings : 2
Calories : 125kcal




  • Turn on the smoker. Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees F for indirect smoking using oak wood.
  • Prep the ribs. Remove your ribs from the package and place them bone side up on a large work surface. Use a butter knife to loosen the membrane attached to the ribs and then pull the membrane away with a paper towel. If the membrane is already removed by your butcher, move on to seasoning.
  • Season the beef ribs. Slather the ribs with yellow mustard and then season liberally on all sides with the Beef Seasoning. This step will help the rub adhere to the ribs and create a nice dark bark. If you don't have any beef seasoning on hand, equal parts salt and pepper will do fine.
  • Smoke! Place your ribs bone side down on the smoker grates, close the lid and smoke for about 3 hours.
  • Wrap the ribs. At this point, you want the exterior of your ribs to have darkened and the bark to have set. If you take a read of the temperature with an internal thermometer, it should be near 165 degrees F. Once the ribs hit this temperature, they are ready to be wrapped. On a large work surface, roll out a large piece of peach butcher paper (foil will also work, but it will soften the bark in the end).
  • Smoke again. Place the ribs on the butcher paper and wrap tightly. Return the wrapped ribs to the smoker and continue cooking for approximately 2 hours, but start checking your ribs after 90 minutes of being wrapped (you will be going by temperature and feel, not by time).
  • Cook to temperature. You want your ribs to be very flexible and the meat to have pulled back significantly from the end of the bones. When you insert your meat thermometer, you want it to glide into the meat like it is softened butter. A good temperature to look for is around 202 degrees.
  • Rest, slice, and serve. At this point, you can remove your ribs from the smoker and allow to rest for 30 minutes before slicing into individual ribs and serving.


Calories: 125kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 257mg | Potassium: 58mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 105IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg
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