Full meal on the grill/all photos by donna turner ruhlman

A few weeks ago, I made a full meal on the grill, grilled green beans, grilled vidalia onion, and some awesome grilled short ribs.  The following are three recipes, techniques really, for making barbecued beef short ribs, cooking them start to finish on the grill, pre-cooking them and finishing them on the grill, and cooking them sous vide and finishing them on the grill.  (If you don’t have a wood or charcoal grill, I really don’t recommend doing short ribs this way.) Use whatever your favorite barbecue sauce is, store bought or homemade. (I need to do a homemade barbecue sauce post! Anyone wants to make suggestions, feel free in comments.)

I recommend the first method because it results in a deeply smokey flavor, and is a good excuse to hang out around the food and fire for a long time.  The latter two methods are for convenience, if you don’t have three hours to linger on the patio.

Barbecued Beef Short Ribs (3 Ways!)

  • 3 short ribs per person (or more if you want!)
  • kosher salt
  • Barbecues sauce as needed
  1. Grill From Start To Finish (3-4 hours total prep and cook time)
  2. Season your short ribs liberally with kosher salt at least an hour before cooking them (or up to 3 days).
  3. Build a hot fire in your grill.  Spread the coals out over half your grill so that you can cook over both direct and indirect heat.  Let the grill get hot.  Sear the short ribs on all sides over direct heat.
  4. Move the ribs to the cool side of the grill and cover.  After 30 minutes, add more coals to the fire, about 50% of what you began with.  Some grills are hinged to make adding coals easy; others might require one person to lift the entire grill up while another person adds the charcoal.  Turn the ribs.  Cover the grill, and allow to cook for another hour.  Evaluate whether you need to add more coals.  If so, then do so.
  5. Baste with barbecue sauce during the last half hour.  These should cook at least 2-1/2 hours on the grill, ideally 3.  They should be pleasantly chewy but not tough.

Pre-Cook BBQ Short Ribs

  1. Season your short ribs liberally with kosher salt at least an hour before cooking them (or up to 3 days).  Wrap them tightly in foil.  Cook them in a 225 degree F. oven for 3 to 4 hours.  This can be done up to three days before finishing them, holding them in the refrigerator till the day you want to served them).
  2. Build a hot fire in your grill.  Spread the coals out over half your grill so that you can cook over both direct and indirect heat.  Let the grill get hot.  Sear the short ribs on all sides over direct heat.
  3. Move to the cool side of the grill and slather with barbecue sauce, and cover the grill.  After ten minutes, turn them and slather the uncoated sides.  Cover the grill and cook for another 10 minutes.  At this point they’re ready to serve, but give them more coatings of sauce if you wish.  These should be tender, but not falling apart tender.

Sous Vide BBQ Short Ribs

  1. Season your short ribs liberally with kosher salt at least an hour before cooking them (or up to 3 days). Vacuum seal them in whatever fashion you use.
  2. Cook them in a 140 degree F. water bath for 48 hours.
  3. Remove them to an ice bath and thoroughly chill.  (This can be done three days before you want to serve them.)
  4. Build a hot fire in your grill.  Spread the coals out over half your grill so that you can cook over both direct and indirect heat.  Let the grill get hot.  Sear the short ribs on all sides over direct heat.
  5. Move to the cool side of the grill and slather with barbecue sauce, and cover the grill.  After ten minutes, turn them and slather the uncoated sides.  Cover the grill and cook for another 10 minutes.  At this point they’re ready to serve, but give them more coatings of sauce if you wish.  This method results in the most tender ribs of all.

Green Beans & BBQ Short Rib Video:

If you liked this post on BBQ short ribs, check out these other links:


© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.




38 Wonderful responses to “Friday Grilling: BBQ Short Ribs”

  • Chris Vachon

    I’ve done the Sous Vide method several times now. Everyone gets scared by the fact that the ribs cooked on my kitchen counter for 2 days. But after trying absolutely loves them and raves about them.

    • Chris Vachon

      BTW, I’ve gone straight to the grill without chilling. I think they turn out better this way.

      • ruhlman

        Yeah, I don’t see that there’s a great reason for chilling, other than the convenience if you need it.

  • Chris

    For home made bbq, I’ve used william sonoma’s recipes for both vinegar and tomato based sauce as a good starting point. I amp up my vinegar sauce (I learned about bbq in North Carolina, and it has a special place in my heart) with extra peppers, some chipotles, and less ketchup than they call for, but it’s great stuff.

  • Kristen England

    Brilliant! What is that basket you use for the beans!?

    Also, one more way for the short ribs there Michael. The Smokinator for your grill. http://smokenator.com/ Just a plug from a guy who absolutely loves his and you can’t beat it. From a 3 hour smoke for ribs to a 16 hour smoke for pork butt. I just used it for short ribs like you have here. Nothing like short ribs with a smoke ring…

  • Chuck shaw

    Buy two concrete blocks of bricks to place you grill rack upon when adding coals. They’re obviously heat proof and sturdy. I use this method to add wood chips to my Good Eats smoker, which really does work.

  • Anthony

    Would braising the ribs for a couple of hours bring more moisture or would they become too soft to grill?

    • mattgmann

      I’ve done this and it works well, but you have to let the meat cool completely in the fridge before moving to the grill.

  • Danny Bredahl

    I would also humbly suggest adding some wood chips to the hot side of the coals as well. I’m just a home BBQ guy, not a chef like Senor Ruhlman. I’ve often found the smoke that charcoal produces isn’t as tasty as that provided by hickory, mesquite, or apple chips.

    I recommend your smoking agent be the opposite of your BBQ sauce. If you are using a sweeter sauce, hickory or mesquite are a good choice. If your sauce is more vinegar-based, apple wood seems to work well. But it’s all personal preference. I like my BBQ to be tangy so I go with hickory and Arthur Bryant’s original sauce.

    You can soak the wood chips in water to make them last longer, but it isn’t that important or that much of a game-changer. You’ll want to add new wood chips each time you add new coals or about every 45 to 60 minutes.

    The smoke should add a new dimension to the ribs and you’ll love what smoke can do for onions and vegetables.

  • eatwisconsin

    I make all kinds of homemade BBQ sauce and the best tip I have learned is to add extra flavor use a microplane and zest green apple, garlic, jalapenos, or ginger into the sauce after it is done cooking. It adds a nice layer of additional flavor.

  • Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Nooooooo!!! Michael, this is one day late. I picked up some awesome short ribs at the farmers market last week and was really struggling with how to cook them in this heat. Obviously, a braise in the oven at 275 for hours didn’t sound appealing with the heat index at 120!

    My solution was to set up my crock pot outside. I did a braise liquid of soy, honey, star anise, ginger and szechuan peppercorns, and it was fabulous.

    BUT it never occurred to me to straight grill them like your method above. Now I’m crying over the loss of all that smoky goodness I could have had….

    Maybe there’ll be more short ribs at the market this weekend. Here’s hoping!

  • Chappy

    Can I get a rough estimate of the ideal temperature for the 2-3 hours of indirect heat for cooking process #1? I’m guessing this is essentially smoking temperature–around 250 degrees (maybe +/-25). I have had very good luck using wood chips on my gas grill (per Danny Bredahl above), so I’m thinking about how to adapt the recipe above. I’m guessing with short ribs that hickory is the prefered wood chip. Seems like it goes best with brisket, which is sort of similar to short ribs. (Both make excellent pastrami!)

    • Danny Bredahl


      Most experts recommend that ribs be cooked indirectly at 225 as the sweet spot. If you are smoking, you may also want to do the searing portion at the end of the process instead of the beginning to allow the smoke to more fully penetrate the meat.

      • Chappy

        Thanks! I know you’re right about the sweet spot, but I always say 250 degrees because, even on the lowest setting, I can never seem to get my grill to go any lower than 250. I’ve still had very good results, so I guess that’s all that really matters.

  • Epicuranoid

    Hi Michael, You know short ribs always get my attention! I have sent you a FB message with a 9 gal recipe from my restaurant that you can break down if you want. I know you’ll adapt it if you like and it will be yours, of feel free to use it with credits 😀

  • Brian Peplinski

    Hi Michael, love your posts and your books, especially Charcuterie. I make a lot of pork ribs, and I suppose my sauce would work just as well with beef short ribs. I like to braise spare ribs in a spice rub and a mixture of stock/beer, stock/orange juice/ stock/wine, basically stock and something acidic. After the braising is done, I defat the liquid, add honey, ketchup, some more spices and a shot of vinegar. Then I simmer the mixture until it barely coats a spoon. This sauce is the best I have ever tasted. It is really a method more than recipe. I guess it is the meat infused liquid that makes for the great sauce. It is even better with demi glace in place of the stock. This especially works well for repeated lacquering under the broiler.

  • Sherry Bellamy

    Just curious, why would you not recommend this method for short ribs for those of us who use a gas grill? Some of us turn out some damned fine ‘que with our humble gas grills.

    • ruhlman

      a fair question, and if you can control the heat, i suppose it will do. but in order to get flavor off the gas gril, the ribs would have to drip on the flames to create smoke, but they won’t do that over indirect heat. I suppose you could put a pan of wood chips in there for smoke. It’s just trickier, but if you’re clever can certainly be done, you’re right.

      • Danny Bredahl


        There is some “science” out there that indicates that cooking over a gas grill causes the meat to create a layer that doesn’t allow the smoke to penetrate as fully as charcoal or gas. In addition, gas burns clean which means less flavor than you would impart using charcoal or wood.

        I’ve never owned a gas grill so I can’t say whether or not this is science is indeed a fact or an opinion couched in scientific language to make it sound more compelling. I do know that you never see gas grills in BBQ competitions or at highly-regarded BBQ restaurants.

        Please note that I’m not disputing that you can put out some great food using a gas grill. I’m jjust trying to point out why you always hear about wood or charcoal/smoke chips as the preferred method when cooking low and slow.

        Michael has linked to Meathead’s BBQ site up above (12 styles of BBQ sauce). There isn’t a better reference on the Internet (or in a cookbook for that matter) than his site when it comes to BBQ.

  • KBCraig

    Method three is also known as “making broth”, and is highly discouraged among aficianados. All that lovely taste and aroma in the hot water bath, is forever gone from the ribs.

    I agree with Danny Bredahl, above, about cooking with indirect heat, then searing at the end if desired. Ribs are so easy to dry out, that any high or direct heat early in the process pretty much kills them.

  • Casey LaRue

    I just recently started breifly smoking my shortys then sous vide then grill. The smoke flavor comes out far more pronounced then you’d think. Another option would be to quickly grill over wood fire then chill and sous vide.
    As far as bbq sauce goes my standby is to grill mirepoix+fennel+poblanos+garlic+good tomatoes and then puree with toasted dried chilis of your choosing. Now reduce red wine and veal stock with your puree. Maybe toss in some fresh herbs like rosemary, marjoram or parsle then cook until it has a nice consitency. Adjust seasoning with acid, salt, sugar and done.
    Also a few sticks of rosemary tied together work great as a basting brush.

  • Natalie Sztern

    See this is where I call this a barbecue rather than a grill…grill to me is gas…I only barbecue and in fact just today cooked an entire chicken slowly @200-250 F for 2 hours. My fear has always been when to know it is time to add more coals and today I conquered that fear and added more coals at the halfway mark when the ashen ones were about half their original size

  • Erin

    Ha! Oh my god, when I first saw that picture (without my glasses on) it looked like you were grilling hardboiled eggs. Grilled Vidalia onions sounds MUCH better, which is to say, delicious!

  • allen

    I just did a weekend in Victoria in search of the perfect poutine. “Poutine”: if you don’t know what it is Google it, friggin amazing and after 8 different samplings with lots of beer I’m now a poutine snob ready for some defibrillators!

    For my BBQ I like to braise the meat covered 250f 3 hrs, and use the drippings with brown sugar, tyme, cider vinegar, ketchup, orange zest, s&p maybe a little mollases or maple syrup and a splash of bourbon, reduce until thick, sear the meat over open flame: just dig a pit and put some wood and a grate over it. Baste once or twice and done. Simple and delicious.

  • Carri

    I have been making a great BBQ sauce with oven roasted cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, red chili, smoked paprika and salt. Grind in a food processor and your done…no need to cook, just eat. so good.

  • Mantonat

    Seems like almost every bbq sauce recipe I read includes powdered garlic, onions, and chile peppers. When I’ve gone that route, the sauce always comes out a little gritty. I usually make a Texas-style bbq sauce with molasses, apple cider vinegar, canned tomatoes, garlic, onions, and some sort of dried chiles (like ancho) that I reconsitute in hot water then puree and strain. I add a little brown sugar, but not too much – most of the store bought sauces are way too sweet so I try to keep the sweetness level down. I’m not a big fan of any kind of stock or drippings in the sauce because I think any meat-based sauces end up with an odd tinny quality.

  • Suzanne Florek

    Michael, I really like the way you handled the ribs straight on the grill. We have a Green Egg that I’ve been playing with and find it is amazing for smoking and cooking from start to finish. The trick is to keep the temp at 225 for 3 hours and baste with apple juice every 20 minutes. I then finish them with the sauce. They come out super tender.

    • ruhlman

      hey suzanne, a big green egg was delivered to my house yesterday. I’m eager to play. What all do you cook on it, in it.

  • allen

    A good and unique barbecue sauce that my neighbor orders from Georgia is from a place called Armstrong’s barbecue in Summerville Georgia, it has lots of peppercorns and tangy with mild heat, and like all good family owned joints the recipe is top secret, we can’t get the recipe from them but would love to know how to make it – shipping to west coast cost a fortune.


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