Ribs are a popular sight on summer BBQ menus, whether you're at a restaurant or firing up the grill in your own backyard. But there's a wide spectrum of meat cuts that fall within the "ribs" category, so it's important to figure out which style of ribs best suits your preferences (and those of your friends/family/cookout guests). To help accomplish that goal, we're here to provide you with a full breakdown of short ribs (a particularly beloved rib variety): what they are, where they come from, and how to cook them to perfection.
What Animal Do Short Ribs Come From?
When you see the phrase "short ribs" at a butcher shop or on a restaurant menu, they're always talking about cuts of beef (i.e. ribs from a cow). That said, not all beef ribs are short ribs. Executive chef Matt Fisher of The Porch in New York City explains it like this: "Just as there are two [major] types of pork ribs (spare ribs and baby back), there are two types of beef ribs: back ribs and short ribs. The short ribs are bigger and meatier (like how pork spare ribs are meatier than baby back ribs)."
Where Are Short Ribs Found on the Animal?
If you're not a professional butcher, then you might wonder where exactly the short ribs come from on a cow. Chef Aris Tuazon of Gugu Room in New York City tells us that, "Short ribs come from the beef chuck of the cow and consist of the ends of the ribs near the breastbone, usually cut 3-4 inches." Executive chef Matthew Dolan of 25 Lusk in San Francisco, California gets even more granular by explaining that short ribs "...ideally originate from the 8-10th ribs of the cow, cut from the plate or near their chest."
What is Special About Short Ribs in Terms of fFavor and Texture?
Now that you know the technical difference between short ribs and other types of ribs, it's time to delve into what makes short ribs unique and why chefs love them so much. "Short ribs are the ultimate comfort food. They are the Cadillac of pot roasts. Tender, succulent meat on a bone— plus they're easy to cook! " is Chicagoland chef and restaurateur (of FoxFire and Copper Fox) K.C. Gulbro's elevator pitch for short ribs.
Executive chef Oscar Cabezas of Teleferic Barcelona in Spain and in the California Bay Area says that, "The short rib is a cut with an intense flavor of beef, marbled and predestined for real meat lovers. It doesn't have the tenderness of a steak, but although it's a tougher cut, the amount of fat and long cooking techniques applied to it make it a successful candidate for any occasion."
What are the Best Ways to Prepare Short Ribs?
One of the greatest benefits of short ribs involves their flexibility; they can yield tender, juicy meat after undergoing a number of different cooking methods. Gulbro tells us, "I like baking/roasting my short ribs. It brings you home, and gives so much flavor. Cooking low and slow for 6-8 hours does not require much effort, but gives you a tender piece of meat."
Tuazon agrees that "low and slow" is the name of the game for short ribs. However, he says that,"for me, the best way to cook short ribs is either smoked or braised. It's easy to prepare all the ingredients and do all the cooking while doing other things. The tendons and fats between the meat of short ribs give so much flavor when you cook them under low fire."
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