Rib Rundown: Beef Ribs

Brooke Newberry
(Photo: )

American barbecue beef ribs aren’t nearly as common as their porky companions, and they don’t really get the same respect either.  Beef ribs can be a bit tougher and chewier than pork ribs, and should be cooked with slower, longer methods to break down their connective tissue and release juices.  Also, the bigger the animal, the larger the size of rib, so: beef ribs will be larger than pork.

Back Ribs:

In beef back ribs, the meat is between the bones, not on top of the bone. The back ribs are cut from the top section of the rib and contain some of the flavorful and fatty rib roast meat.  These have less meat than the beef short ribs.  Slow – roast these suckers as they can cook fairly quickly.

Short Ribs:

With short ribs, the meat is on top of the bone.  These are cut in various sizes and can actually be very large. They are a tougher cut with a complex beefy flavor, and with a little extra TLC and slow cookin’ methods, these can transform into melt off the bone ribs.  They’re cut either parallel to the bone (English-style) or across the bone.

  • Boneless Short Ribs

Fatty, moist, and tasty ribs: these are cut into thick pieces for braising or stews and can be a bit more expensive.

  • English-Cut

The most common beef short rib cut.  These are cut parallel to the bone into rectangular pieces.   Ideal for braising, you’ll see this marbled style either in long slabs, or cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces.

Here is a lovely picture of these popular ribs:

  • Flanken Style

This style is most popular in Asian and Mexican groceries.  These are cut across the bones into strips. for slow cooking. Or, ask your butcher to cut them thinly lengthwise, then marinate (they soak up marinade like champs), and grill.


Shopper Tip: Inspect the package.  Sometimes there are veins of fat running through the muscle layers of short ribs.  You want to avoid these.  As with pork ribs, you’ll probably want to estimate 3-4 ribs per person.  The amount needed will depend on how much meat is on the bone and size of the rack.


Check out beef ribs’ counterpart: pork ribs

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