Smoked Beef Back Ribs

5 from 2 votes

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Sensationally slathered, spiced, and slow-smoked, these beef back ribs are the most heavenly hunks of meat you have ever encountered. With a few accessible ingredients and my prescribed method, you will soon be serving breathtakingly tender beef that is bursting with intense smoky flavor.

closeup: on the bone beef back ribs with a crispy exterior on a piece of parchment paper

Feast your eyes (and bellies) on this savory, succulent recipe for beef back ribs. We start with magnificently marbled beef back ribs that are slathered in a lively yellow mustard before being seasoned to deep, smoky, spicy perfection. While the mustard slather and spice rub are essential, the real magic happens on the smoker. 

Follow the simple instructions I have outlined to transform a tough, fatty piece of meat into the most flavorful, moist, and tender piece of beef you have ever tasted. Be sure to keep a close eye on the cook time and temperature of your ribs, however. Low and slow is the way to go, but too much time in the smoker may backfire on you. A bit of attention is all it takes!

a plate of crispy smoked beef back ribs smothered in barbecue sauce

For more unbeatable beef recipes, check out these recipes for Smoked Corned Beef, Braised Beef Brisket, and this Coconut Beef Curry.

overhead: ingredients needed for beef back ribs on a wooden cutting board: ribs, yellow mustard, seasonings

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Ribs – Get a total of about 3 pounds of beef ribs for this recipe. I was able to use 2 double ribs racks, but you will often find them in racks of 3-4 ribs. Talk to your butcher and choose the best option. 
  • Yellow Mustard – This zingy, tangy, vinegary sauce adds pizzazz and gently tenderizes the meat while giving the spice rub something to stick to. 
  • Espresso Powder Adds an unparalleled, deeply complex and smoky flavor to the spice rub. Choose espresso powder or a finely ground black coffee. 
  • Ancho Chili Powder Offers a smoky, peppery, and slightly fruity flavor to the rub without an overwhelming amount of heat.
  • Granulated Garlic – If needed, one teaspoon of granulated garlic can be replaced with ½ teaspoon of garlic powder. 4 cloves of freshly minced garlic will also work, but try to stick with powdered spices to maximize the flavor of the spice rub. 
  • Onion Powder – Adds a slightly sweet, pungent flavor to the mix. 
  • Cayenne Pepper Perks up the recipe with a dash of fiery, hot flavor.
overhead: seasoned beef back ribs on a wooden cutting board before smoking

How to Make Smoked Beef Back Ribs

  1. Prepare the Smoker. Set the smoker to 275 degrees F to preheat. You can use a Traeger smoker (like me) or you can use wood. Just be sure to do indirect smoking if using a wood smoker. 
  2. Mix the Rub. Combine the coffee, chili powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic granules, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. 
  3. Remove the Membrane. Use a sharp knife to loosen the white membrane attached to the back of the ribs. Use a paper towel to fully separate and discard it. Sometimes the butcher will remove this for you. If so, simply skip this step and move on.   
  4. Slather & Spice. Cover the ribs with yellow mustard on all sides, followed by an even coat of the ancho coffee spice blend. 
  5. Transfer Ribs to the Smoker. Place the freshly seasoned ribs, bone side down, in the preheated smoker. Close the lid and let the ribs smoke for about 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. 
crispy and charred beef back ribs on a piece of parchment paper
  1. Remove & Wrap. Carefully remove the ribs from the smoker and use butcher’s paper to wrap them tightly. You can use foil if that’s what you have available, just note that it may soften the bark. 
  2. Continue Smoking the Meat. Return the wrapped ribs to the smoker, close the lid, and smoke for an additional 2 hours. After 90 minutes, go ahead and start checking the temperature. The ribs are done cooking when they reach an internal temperature of 202 degrees F. 
  3. Remove & Rest. Remove the ribs from the smoker. Transfer them to the countertop and allow them to rest for 30 minutes. 
  4. Slice & Serve. Remove the butcher paper and slice the rib rack into individual ribs. Serve as is or with BBQ sauce, like my Master BBQ Sauce Recipe (Sweet Heat).
on the bone beef back ribs with a crispy exterior on a piece of parchment paper

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overhead: smoked beef back ribs slathered in barbecue sauce

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my smoked beef back ribs tough?

If your ribs come out tough, there are a few easy ways to troubleshoot the issue. 

Ensure your smoker is properly calibrated. Beef back ribs should be smoked at a low temperature (no higher than 275 degrees F) for several hours.
Wrap your beef ribs in butcher paper or foil after the first round of smoking to lock in moisture and maximize tenderness. 
Be sure not to overcook. The meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 202 degrees F. Contrary to popular belief, leaving them on for longer will only make the meat dry and tough.

Are beef back ribs the same as baby back ribs?

No. The biggest difference is that beef back ribs are from cows while baby back ribs come from pigs. 

Furthermore, this cut of ribs is harvested from the dorsal area of cattle, right behind the shoulder, whereas pork baby back ribs are cut from the upper loin area of the pig. 

Beef ribs, in general, will typically have a higher ratio of fat and connective tissue to meat than their leaner, meatier, pork rib cousins. 

However, prepared correctly, both pork and beef back ribs can be insanely tender and delicious. If you prefer pork, check out this exceptional recipe for BBQ Baby Back Ribs.

What to serve with smoked beef back ribs?

Serve these smoked beef back ribs with any of your favorite side dishes. Here are a few of my top suggestions.

Potato Salad or Pesto Potato Salad
Street Corn or this Sweet Potato and Corn Salad
Broccoli Salad, Thunderbird Salad, or a Classic Caesar Salad
Dirty Rice or this Wild Rice Pilaf
Roasted Vegetables or Grilled Cauliflower

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Smoked Beef Back Ribs

5 from 2 votes
This recipe for smoked beef back ribs is easy to make and delivers tender, succulent, and perfectly seasoned meat each and every time.
Servings: 2
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 5 hours
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total: 5 hours 45 minutes





  • Preheat your smoker to 275°F. I use a Traeger smoker, but if using wood, do indirect smoking. Mix together the rub, set aside.

Prep Ribs

  • If your butcher has already removed the back membrane, go to Step 2. Otherwise loosen the white membrane attached to the back of the ribs using a knife. Then with a paper towel, pull the membrane away and discard.
  • Slather the ribs with the yellow mustard and then season on all sides with coffee ancho rub mixture.


  • Place the ribs bone side down on the smoker grates, close the lid, and smoke for about 3 hours. The internal temperature should be near 165°F.
  • Remove the ribs from the smoker and wrap them tightly in butcher paper (foil can be substituted, but it will soften the bark).
  • Return the wrapped ribs package to the smoker and continue cooking for another 2 hours, but check the ribs after 90 minutes. We're looking for a finished, internal temperature of around 202°F (See Note 2).
  • Remove the beef back ribs from the smoker and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Remove from butcher paper wrap and slice into individual ribs and serve.
  • Serve as is or with BBQ sauce, like my Master BBQ Sauce Recipe (Sweet Heat).

Oven or Grill (No Smoker)

  • Prep ribs as detailed above then place each beef back rib rack on a sheet of foil. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar over each rack. Fold the foil up and around the ribs to secure a tight package.
  • Place onto a baking tray and into a 300°F preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. We're looking for a finished, internal temperature of around 202°F (See Note 2)
  • Remove ribs from oven, keep covered with foil and let rest 30 minutes. Serve as is or with BBQ sauce, like my Master BBQ Sauce Recipe (Sweet Heat).
  • If you want a lacquered glaze: Using an oven, brush rib racks meat side up with sauce and broil until the sauce is thickened, bubbly and shiny, a few minutes. If grilling, brush rib racks meat side up with sauce, cover lid and grill until the sauce is thickened, bubbly and shiny, a few minutes.


  1. I was able to use two 2-rib racks as shown. Some come in 3-4 ribs racks.
  2. Ribs should be pretty tender at this point and the meat will have pulled back from the end of the bones.


Calories: 1140kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 100g | Fat: 79g | Saturated Fat: 39g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 308mg | Sodium: 2225mg | Potassium: 255mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1311IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 543mg | Iron: 14mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Dinners
Cuisine: American, Southern
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): smoked beef back ribs


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 5 stars
    Made these and they turned out so good!!! Got them again yesterday to make for today’s 4th of July grub fest. Thanks and we love your BBQ sauce, too.

  2. 5 stars
    We’re not big pork rib folks, but these beef ribs were perfection! Thanks for the new recipe and its a keeper.

    1. I have not tried that, but I would go High setting for 4 hours and see. Baste with sauce and pop under the broiler for a glaze.

  3. Is there a way to cook beef back ribs with these ingredients that doesn’t involve a smoker?
    Like using your oven or BBQ without smoking???
    Thanks Kevin.