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What are Short Ribs? Where do They Come From, How to Cook Them

Short ribs - They are beefy, moist, unctuous and full of flavor, as well as being relatively easy to cook and get right. Learn all about them in our look at this delicious cut.

Emma Braby

Last Updated: August 12, 2020 | 7 min read

smoked and sliced beef short ribs on a wooden cutting board

Hmmm, ribs. Everyone loves them, and if they don’t, we probably can’t be friends with them.

You’ve seen all sorts of ribs in recipes, stumbled across beef ribs, thought they looked incredible, and now find yourself asking, ‘What are short ribs?’

In this article, you’ll learn why they’re called short ribs, the different types, how they are butchered, along with details of where they come from on the cow.

Then we will cover where the best place is to get some, how to prepare them for cooking and of course our pointers on how to cook them to tender perfection.

Because slow-cooked or slow-smoked, barbecued or plain, big, or small, we just don’t care. We can’t get enough of them and you can’t either, that’s probably why you’re here?

This sharp short rib report is ready – let’s go.

What are Beef Short Ribs?

Here’s a quick overview video from Crowd Cow on the basics of beef short ribs:

Despite the name, traditional beef short ribs come up anything but short. They are probably the rib with the most meat on when compared with any other rack of ribs.

Served in two distinct styles; English cut or Flanken, short ribs can be taken from the brisket, chuck, plate, or rib areas of the cow. Containing a short portion of the rib bone surrounded by meat.

English cut is usually cut parallel to the bone, and it is anywhere between 4 to 6 inches in length.

The Flanken cut is cut across multiple rib bones at around an inch thick, for both the bone and the slab of meat attached.

For other types of beef ribs, be sure to check out or extensive guide to all the different cuts of beef.

Where Do Short Ribs Come from on the Cow?

Diagram showing the chuck primal on a cow

Funnily enough, not from the rib primal as would be expected. The best and most classic cut comes from the chuck primal, which is where the ribs start.

Ribs 1 to 5 are located in the chuck primal, and it’s also where the serratus ventralis muscle starts. This muscle is the prime target for short ribs, thick, fatty, and full of flavor.

The serratus ventralis originates near the second rib, and although it covers most of the rib cage, it’s at its thickest in the chuck, primarily through ribs 2 to 5, which coincidentally are the best ones for short ribs.

Moving toward the rump, the serratus ventralis gets thinner and not as dense, so less meat and fat means less flavor. This muscle protracts and retracts the shoulder and flexes the neck when acting unilaterally.

It’s a busy muscle, so it is tough, full of connective tissue, and when render out over a low and slow cook is what makes the beef rib so melt in the mouth tender and moist.

Other Names for Short Ribs

Although the chuck primal is best for beef short ribs, many shops and supermarkets class those cut from the brisket, chuck, plate, and rib section as short ribs too. That way, they can sell cheaper versions.

We recommend sticking to the chuck ribs. Just be sure to ask your butcher that they are from the chuck primal so that you get the most meat and flavor.

Short ribs can go by many names; here are the most common.

Crosscut short rib is known as ‘Flanken cut’, where they are cut across the bones. They can also be referred to as crosscut ribs, Hawaiian-style ribs, Jewish ribs, Korean-style ribs, or kosher ribs.

‘English’ cut ribs cut between the bones may also go by the name barbecue ribs, braising ribs, or fancy cut ribs due to the thick slab of meat that sits atop the bone.

Flavor, Texture, Fat Content and Tenderness

four individually sliced beef short ribs on butcher paper

Short ribs are full of flavor since they are effectively alternate layers of meat and fat.

The muscle itself is a well-worked and tough cut. But cooked correctly it will result in very tender meat with an easy chew.

When slow-cooked, the fat released will baste and moisten the meat as it cooks, making it fall off the bone with a really beefy flavor that is buttery and intense.

Coming from the chuck and rib intersection, the short rib has flavor characteristics of both – abundant marbling with a deep beefy flavor, making them a joyful comfort food.

Typical Uses

Beef ribs in the Western world are typically served barbecued and stand alone. Elsewhere they have been a part of traditional meals for centuries, particularly popular in Chinese, Jewish, and Korean cooking.

The origins of the Flanken rib are Eastern European Jewish. The short rib is boiled in a rich broth with onions and herbs until tender and then served with grated horseradish on top.

Maui ribs are traditional Hawaiian fare. Flanken cut are usually marinated in soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger, and then flash grilled instead of slow-cooked. A little firmer on the chew, but tasty, nonetheless.

Nutritional Information

NutritionAmount (Based on 3oz Serving)% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Calories20410%
Saturated Fat6.9 g35%
Sodium63.8mg3%
Protein14.6g29%
Iron2mg11%
Zinc6.1mg55%

* Data collected from USDA approved myfooddata.com

Buying Short Ribs

They are available pretty much everywhere you go, they are popular, and excellent value for money with the range of quality and grades available.

If you aren’t fussy about what primal they come from, you will find them easily in supermarkets. If you want the classic cut, your best bet is to head to your local butcher or an online meat market.

That way, you can confirm what cut of short rib they are and place your order, ensuring you get what you want.

Where to Buy Short Ribs Online

side view of a rack of beef short ribs showing the marbling

Online meat markets and gourmet butchers will stock various quality cuts of meat, ranging from good, to great, to the sublime.

Once you hit the website, you’ll find plenty of choice with the origins and ethos of each meat detailed for your perusal, along with pictures of what you can expect. Simply place your order, and wait for their arrival on the doorstep.

Here are three online outlets that sell some of the best beef short ribs available:

Average Price

In terms of price per pound, those cut from the lower plate primal are usually the cheapest. Followed by medium-priced from the brisket and the premium ribs from the chuck.

At the time of writing, the cost per pound varies from $14.50 to $19 per lb. across online outlets.

Portion Size: How Many Short Ribs Per Person?

Four smoked beef short ribs, sliced on cutting board with knife

How many you serve per person depends on the size you buy.

Some 1.5 lb. offerings will provide four ribs, whereas some gourmet offerings will only provide two supersized ribs.

But for ease of reference, aim for around 12oz. of short rib uncooked per person if they accompany other meats and sides.

If not, aim for a 1- ½ lb. per person, if they are the main event.

This might sound a lot, but they will shrink some 25%+ during cooking, and some of that weight is inedible bone.

How to Prepare Short Ribs for Grilling or Smoking

Depending on what style you ask for, the preparation will vary.

The thick English cut doesn’t necessarily need any preparation. They can be placed straight in sauce, broth, or smothered in a good rub before smoking to perfection.

Flanken style ribs are usually sliced thinner at around 0.5-1 inch thick. If cooking Korean or Hawaiian style, they will need at least 24 hours in a marinade to get that authentic flavor before you flash fry them.

Best done over an open flame, be wary of the fat and the flashback.

Neither rib cut should require any trimming, they’re usually ready to go. We recommend smoking for the best results, especially when finished in homemade barbecue sauce.

How to Cook Them on a Grill or Smoker

As you might have already picked up on, short ribs are best cooked low-n-slow by either smoking or braising. We favor smoking because of fire and flavor, but the best results come from using both techniques combined.

You can smoke with as little wood or as much as you like, plus you can add flavor with the choice of wood you use. Cherry, pear, whiskey oak, maple, hickory, mesquite, the list is endless.

Here’s our guide to smoking your ribs to absolute perfection; the key is finishing them off by braising them. It keeps them moist and helps to break down the chewy collagen:

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225f and add your favored wood (we recommend oak).
  2. Remove your ribs from the fridge and allow them to come up to room temperature. Coat lightly in oil or yellow mustard as a binder, then cover them in your choice of dry rub.
  3. Place them into the smoker directly on the grate.
  4. At about the 4-hour mark, remove them from the smoker and place into a baking dish or aluminum tray along with a cup of beef stock, dark ale, or a strong beer, then wrap very tightly with foil.
  5. When the internal temperature of the meat between the bones reaches the sweet spot of 200 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, remove, rest for 20 minutes plus and then serve.
  6. Stare at the ribs, mouth agog before tucking in and devouring.

Three Best Short Rib Recipes from Around the Web

flanken cut beef short ribs, cooked with a marinade and rosemary

So, there it is, you know the difference between good and average short ribs. Plus, you can tell the difference between an English cut and a Flanken cut. All there is to do now is order as many as possible and get grilling!

For some rib-based inspiration look no further than these recipes that will show you how to cook both styles of the fabulous short rib:

Food Fire Friends Smoked Beef Ribs Recipe

Our very own smoked then braised short rib recipe, they are cooked low n slow until the meat falls off the bone.

Beef short ribs are one of the cuts that got Mark Jenner, the owner of this site, obsessed with barbecue. So you know this recipe is gonna be good.

Thanks to a simple black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper rub, smoked for 4 hours and then braised in a dark beer for a further 3 hours or so – for a 7 hour total time – this recipe is rich and incredibly tender.

Check them out here:

https://www.foodfirefriends.com/smoked-beef-ribs-recipe/

All Recipes Quick Fire-Grilled BBQ Short Ribs

Marinade the ribs with this recipe, wrap them up in foil with ice cubes inside, and it’ll create some of the best ribs you’ve ever had.

The steam from the cubes is the key here. It reduces the cooking time to just 1 ½-2hrs.

The marinade is BBQ sauce, with added sugar and spice and all things nice. Get it here:

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/238139/grilled-bbq-short-ribs-with-dry-rub/

Sweet C’s Korean Style Flanken Ribs

Super tasty, quick to cook, and versatile for many different dinners.

The trick to these rapid ribs is not overcooking them. Just 3-4 minutes a side and then serve. Plate them on the bone or slice them up for tacos. The choice is yours.

Head here for the recipe:

https://sweetcsdesigns.com/korean-grilled-flanken-ribs/

Conclusion

Short of asking these short ribs to marry us, we feel we’ve made it abundantly clear how good they can be. Amazingly tender with plenty of meat per bite, these ribs deliver on every level.

They are fantastic smoked, braised, roasted, or quick grilled Korean style. They take well to a good marinade, a tasty rub, or even as plain as they come. So, we know you’ll love them as much as we do.

Prove us right – go get some, and then come back and tell us how they rocked your world in the comments below. We’ll meet you there.

Happy grilling!

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