What Are Short Ribs? – The Complete Guide

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You may have seen short ribs of beef on the menus of your favorite restaurants.

And if you don’t know much about beef cuts, you may think that these are regular ribs but short. In reality, short ribs are a specific cut of beef, just like the brisket, ribeye, and so on.

But what are short ribs? Short ribs are a cut of beef coming mainly from the chuck and plate areas of the cattle. If cooked right, short ribs turn out tender and juicy thanks to the marbled fat they have. Braising and grilling are two of the best cooking methods for short ribs. 

This article is a comprehensive guide to short ribs. Continue reading to learn where short ribs come from, what makes them different from other types of beef ribs, and how to select, cut, and cook short ribs.

You will also learn how many short ribs to serve per person, and why ribs may turn out tough! 

What Are Short Ribs Of Beef And Where Do They Come From?

Short ribs are one of the main types of beef ribs along with back ribs. They may come from the front section of the cattle or the ventral (abdominal) section. In other words, short ribs may come from the chuck and plate areas of the beef. 

The reason why short ribs don’t come from the rib section of the animal is all due to the way butchers cut the beef into sections. Part of the ribs simply remains in other sections of beef. 

So, depending on where the short ribs are coming from, you can get plate short ribs and chuck short ribs. 

Plate short ribs come from the lower part of the rib cage. Located behind the brisket, the short plate goes from the 6th to the 10th rib of the beef.

Chuck short ribs, as the name implies, come from the chuck section of the beef that is located above the brisket. Chuck short ribs run from the very first rib to the 5th. They are essentially the ends of the ribs close to the breastbone. 

As you can see, the term short ribs refers to beef. You may wonder if there is such thing as short ribs of pork. The equivalent of short ribs for pork is the spare ribs. 

Spare ribs are a cut of ribs coming from the lower portion of the pig. In comparison to the short ribs of beef,  the spare ribs of pork are smaller. Short ribs also have more meat on them. 

What Do Short Ribs Taste Like?

Short ribs are some of the most flavorful cuts of beef. They have a rich beefy flavor thanks to the combination of juicy meat and rich marbling.

For reference, the flavor of short ribs is somewhere between the flavors of the rib and chuck cuts. 

What Is The Texture Of Short Ribs?

Properly cooked short ribs have a delicate and tender texture. Braising short ribs also makes them slightly gelatinous too. 

Are Short Ribs Good For You?

Being an animal protein, short ribs are a complete source of protein, i.e. they contain all nine essential amino acids

Aside from being rich in protein, short ribs are also high in fat.

An 85-gram serving of short ribs contains 30 grams of fat, including 13 grams of saturated fat.

Due to its relatively high-fat content, it is recommended to either cook short ribs in a way that will reduce their fat content, or consume them in moderation

Additionally, think about what you will be serving with short ribs to balance out their high-fat content. 

With this said, short ribs are still rich in a range of nutrients. The vitamins and minerals short ribs contain include vitamins B-12, D, K, potassium, zinc, iron, and selenium.

So, depending on the cooking method, short ribs can easily make a part of a healthy and balanced diet.

What Are The Differences Between Beef Short Ribs And Back Ribs?

If you eat meat more often than you cook it, all ribs may look the same to you. However, as we have already noted in this article, beef ribs are divided into two main groups: back ribs and short ribs. 

Here are the differences between back ribs and short ribs. Knowing these differences will allow you to choose the right cut for your needs and meat preferences. 

  • Where they come from. The key difference between short ribs and back ribs is obviously where they come from. Back ribs come from the upper part of the cattle’s back. Short ribs, as you already know, come from the lower part of the rib cage – the areas above or behind the brisket. 
  • Fat and meat You should choose back ribs over short ribs if you like leaner cuts of meat as short ribs have a fat cap. As for the amount of meat you get with these cuts, back ribs don’t have a lot of meat. The meat on the back ribs is between the bones. Short ribs have more meat and a lot of it is on top of the bones. 
  • Length of the ribs. The length of the back ribs is typically between 6 to 8 inches. Short ribs, on the other hand, may vary in length depending on the type or cut. You will learn more about short rib cuts later in the article. 

So, back ribs and short ribs are different in many aspects. And still, they are interchangeable in many recipes. The only thing is, we recommend you add some fat into the dish when substituting short ribs with back ribs. 

How To Choose Short Ribs

As with every meat cut, you should choose short ribs carefully to make sure you are getting fresh and delicious meat. 

Color Of The Meat

The best way to determine the freshness of the meat is to inspect its color. When buying short ribs, look for a bright pinkish-red color.

The bright color is an indicator of the meat’s freshness. Never buy short ribs that have a dull color or a brown hue. 

Type Of Cut

Short ribs can be cut in two ways. You can get an English cut or a flanken cut. The English cut for short ribs is more common.

It suggests cutting the ribs parallel to the bone. You can buy a rack of bones and cut them into individual ribs, getting a thick piece of meat on each bone. 

With the flanken-style short ribs, you get thinner meat as the meat is cut across the bone. Each slice of flanken-style short ribs contains 3-4 small sections of bone. And still, you get a lot of meat on each piece. 

Flanken-style short ribs are especially good for Korean-style barbeque. 

On another note, as short ribs can be cut differently and yield pieces of different lengths, we recommend you consider the cooking method you will be using before buying short ribs. 

If you will be barbecuing or grilling short ribs, go for longer cuts. If you will be braising them, cooking in the oven, air fryer, etc, smaller cuts would work better. 

Bone-In Vs Boneless

For English cut short ribs, you can get the boneless variety. You will get a slab of meat that is around two inches thick and eight inches long. 

It is completely fine to go with the boneless variety. However, it is good to note that bone-in meat always turns out to be a lot more flavorful as a result of the marrow seeping into the meat

Additionally, when cooking bone-in short ribs, the bone helps provide slow transfer of the heat into the meat. This allows the meat to retain moisture, resulting in juicier meat. 

Fat Ratio

It is important to choose short ribs with enough fat content for ribs to be flavorful. Well-marbled short ribs also have evenly distributed fat which makes them more flavorful when cooked.

You can get short ribs either trimmed or untrimmed. Buying untrimmed short ribs means buying ribs with a layer of fat and muscle running across the ribs

If you choose to but trimmed short ribs, the butcher will remove some of the muscle and fat for you. You can also ask for lean short ribs if you want most of the fat to be removed. 

What Is The Best Way To Cook Short Ribs?

There are many ways you can cook short ribs. However, braising short ribs might be the best way to cook them. Braising tenderizes short ribs, turning them into the ultimate comfort food

Aside from braising, you can bake short ribs in a convection or Dutch oven, fry or grill short ribs, as well as cook them in a slow cooker for the most tender results. 

Short ribs are also a great choice for outdoor cooking. If you own an outdoor grill, you should certainly get some short ribs for your next BBQ party. 

The 4 Best Ways To Cook Short Ribs 

You can cook short ribs in a few different ways. Here are four of the most popular ways to cook short ribs that yield good results.

Choose a cooking method considering how your short ribs are cut and how much time you have to prepare them. 

1. In the Oven 

As we have mentioned above, one of the best ways to cook short ribs is to braise them. Braising short ribs results in heavenly tender meat and delicious gravy that everyone loves. 

Here is how to braise short ribs using the oven: 

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. 
  2. Heat some oil in a Dutch oven and brown the ribs. 
  3. When you have browned the ribs, you can remove the ribs from the pan and add some veggies into the leftover oil and cook for 5 minutes. You can use carrots, celery, and onions. Add flour and tomato paste for improved color, texture, and taste. After cooking these ingredients for a couple more minutes, add red wine into the pot. Use 25 ounces of dry red wine for every five pounds of short ribs
  4. Put the short ribs back into the Dutch oven and bring the liquids to a boil. 
  5. Lower the heat and simmer until half of the wine evaporates. 
  6. Add the stock into the pot, and herbs and garlic to taste. Use four cups of stock for every 5 pounds of meat. 
  7. When the stock comes to a boil, cover the pot and transfer it into the oven preheated to 350°F. 
  8. Cook until tender for around 2.5 hours. 

2. On The Grill

Grilling short ribs is one of the quickest ways to cook short ribs. Here’s what you should do. 

  1. Mix salt, pepper, and your favorite spices to create a spice mix for the ribs. 
  2. Rub the short ribs with the spice mix. 
  3. Grill short ribs for 4-5 minutes on each side. 
  4. When you remove the ribs from the grill, put a slice of butter on each piece to melt. Serve while hot. 

3. In A Slow Cooker 

If you want to achieve fall-off-the-bone results with your short ribs with minimum effort, then you should certainly go for the slow cooker method.

But make sure you have enough time until dinner to allow the ribs to cook in the slow cooker for as many hours as needed. Here’s what you should do.

  1. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. You can use bone-in or boneless short ribs for this recipe. 
  2. Heat a skillet and sear each side of the ribs for a minute. Though you will be cooking the ribs in the slow cooker, giving them a good sear for the start is a good idea. This will enhance the texture and flavor of the meat. 
  3. Pour three cups of beef stock for every 4 pounds of ribs into the slow cooker. You can add garlic and onion powders into the broth as well as some Worcestershire sauce for extra flavor.  
  4. Place the seared short ribs into the broth along with a sprig of rosemary. 
  5. Cook the short ribs for 6-8 hours. The long cooking time in the slow cooker will make the meat tender and juicy. 

4. In The Air Fryer 

A quick way to cook short ribs is in the air fryer. Cooking short ribs in the air fryer yields a crispy outer layer and perfectly cooked meat on the inside. Here’s how to cook short ribs in the air fryer. 

  1. Make some marinade for the short ribs. You can go with a Korean-style marinade made with vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and your favorite spices. 
  2. Marinate the short ribs for at least two hours. For this recipe, we recommend you use flanken cut short ribs. 
  3. When the ribs have absorbed all the delicious flavors from the marinade, remove them from it and preheat the air fryer. 
  4. Set the air fryer to 400°F. 
  5. Spray cooking oil on the air fryer basket and arrange the ribs in a way that they don’t overlap. 
  6. Cook for 7-8 minutes on each side or until you reach your desired level of doneness. 

Can You Boil Short Ribs?

Boiling is not the most popular method to cook short ribs. But it’s still a good cooking method to achieve tender and juicy ribs. 

You can boil short ribs and serve them as a standalone dish. Or, you can use boiled short ribs in stews, sauces, soups, etc. 

Another thing you can do is boil short ribs for a short time to tenderize the meat and continue cooking them on the grill. 

Here’s how to boil short ribs in a few easy steps. 

  1. Cut short ribs into smaller pieces and place them in a cooking pot. 
  2. Pour water into the pot making sure it covers the meat. 
  3. When the water comes to a boil, season the ribs with salt. You can also add whole black pepper, bay leaves, onions, and carrots into the pot. These ingredients will improve the flavor of the beef. 
  4. Cook the short ribs for around an hour until the meat is cooked through and tender. If you will be grilling the meat, boil the ribs for 45 minutes. 

Should You Marinate Short Ribs Before Cooking?

Marinating short ribs before cooking is optional. You don’t really need to marinate short ribs if you will be cooking them low and slow

If you will be grilling or smoking the short ribs, you can marinate them for up to 12 hours. Marinating the ribs helps infuse them with various flavors. It also helps tenderize the meat. 

What To Serve With Short Ribs

Short ribs are very versatile when it comes to side dishes. Even the plainest side dish will make a great meal served with hearty, tender, and juicy meat. 

Here are some side dish ideas for short ribs. Go with the one that would pair better with the style of the short rib dish you have. 

  • Mashed potatoes 
  • Creamy polenta
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Green beans 
  • Sautéed spinach
  • Noodles and pasta

How Many Short Ribs Should Be Serve Per Person?

When making short ribs for dinner, weigh the meat raw to decide how much of it you should cook for the number of people you have to feed. 

If you have a side dish to go with the meat, cook around 12 ounces of short ribs per person. Keep in mind that the meat shrinks as you cook it.

Also, there are bones in short ribs that add weight too. So, 12 ounces should not seem to be a lot to you. 

In case you are missing the side dish, cook a pound of meat per person. You may even cook 1.5 pounds per person if you know your family members or guests absolutely love short ribs. 

Why Are My Short Ribs Not Tender?

Many cooks suggest that you should cook short ribs either low and slow or hot and quickly. When taking the low and slow route, cook the short ribs until you get to the fall-off-the-bone state of the meat

The hot and quick method refers to grilling and barbecuing short ribs. When barbecuing short ribs, experts suggest that you should cook the meat to medium-rare, achieving an internal temperature of 130°F

When the internal temperature gets higher than 130°F, all the fat will melt and escape it, leaving the meat dry. If the meat doesn’t reach 130 degrees, the fat will remain solid and result in chewy and tough meat. 

If you are going for the low and slow method but your short ribs have turned out tough, you have either cooked them for a shorter time than you should have or you may have cooked the ribs on a higher heat than needed. 

If the slow cooking method requires more time than you have, don’t try to cut it down by raising the heat. It would be better to go for a short rib recipe with a cooking time that fits your schedule. 

With this said, overcooking short ribs is a big mistake too. Cooking short ribs long makes them tender. But cooking them for too long makes them tasteless. 

How To Cut Short Ribs

If you like flanken-style short ribs, buy them pre-cut as you won’t be able to cut across the bones at home with a knife. 

English cut short ribs, on the other hand, are easy to get at home. Here’s how to separate English-style short ribs. 

  1. Short ribs usually don’t require any trimming. If a rack of short ribs you’ve bought has a fat cap and you want to remove it, do it before separating the ribs. 
  2. Once you have your rack of ribs ready, find the middle point between the bones and cut alongside the bones. Season and cook short ribs using your preferred cooking method. 

If you’re looking for a great video covering more ways to cook short ribs, check out this awesome recipe from chef Matty Matheson!

Up Next: How Long Can You Marinate Pork?

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