Beef Ribs: Unveiling the Cuts and Variations

Beef ribs have experienced a surge in popularity within the world of barbecue in recent years. These succulent cuts, often referred to as “brisket on a stick,” offer a unique and flavorful experience. With their large amounts of meat per bone, beef ribs present an enticing alternative to their pork counterparts, leaving many unsure of which option to prefer. While Texas-style BBQ purists usually lean towards beef, there’s much to explore when it comes to the different cuts and variations of beef ribs. Join us as we unravel the world of beef ribs, discovering the key differences from pork, the best cuts for various cooking techniques, and where to find the most delectable meat.

What Sets Beef Ribs Apart from Pork Ribs?

The first question that arises is what distinguishes beef ribs from pork ribs. The most notable difference lies in their size. Beef ribs, not only longer but also featuring a substantial amount of meat on the bones, dwarf their pork counterparts. Moreover, beef ribs have marbling, which contributes to their unctuous and gelatinous fat content. This fat plays a significant role in tenderizing and enhancing the flavor of the meat during the cooking process. It’s worth noting that beef ribs contain more connective tissue than pork ribs, necessitating proper preparation and cooking techniques to ensure tender and delicious results. Unlike pork ribs, beef ribs demand a bit more attention and care.

The Different Variations of Beef Ribs

To understand the world of beef ribs, it’s essential to delve into the various cuts and their unique characteristics. The ribs of a steer extend from the breastbone to the backbone and the shoulder to the last rib, covering significant territory on the animal. Two major types of beef ribs exist: short ribs and back ribs. Although distinct from each other, both can be tender, flavorful, and truly delightful when cooked properly.

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cuts of beef ribs

Short Ribs

Short ribs have become the preferred choice for outdoor cooking due to the generous meat content on top of the bones. These ribs come from the front lower section of the steer, ranging from the 1st through 10th rib. With nearly flat ribs that can reach up to 12 inches in length, short ribs often boast 1 to 2 inches of meat on top. However, the world of short ribs can be a tad confusing due to the variety of cuts available.

Where Short Ribs Are Cut From

Short ribs originate from two distinct areas of the steer. One area lies further toward the front, while the other rests in the lower portion. Let’s break it down:

Plate Short Ribs (Also Known as “Loaded Beef Ribs”)

Plate short ribs come from the lower portion of the rib cage called the short plate. Situated between the delicious brisket and the flank steak, these ribs are often referred to as “brisket on a stick.” Plate short ribs are usually 12 inches long, boasting 2 inches of tantalizing meat on top. While these might not be readily available at your local grocery store, your friendly neighborhood butcher is your best bet. Plate short ribs excel when cooked low and slow, allowing the fat to render down while keeping the meat moist and delicious.

Chuck Short Ribs

Chuck short ribs are found closer to the front of the steer, just under the chuck. This area runs from the 1st to the 5th rib. While still meaty, chuck short ribs tend to be shorter than plate short ribs, usually measuring between 3 to 6 inches.

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Different Cuts of Short Ribs

BBQ beef short ribs

It’s important to understand that short ribs come in various cuts or styles, each offering its own advantages for different cooking methods. Here are the different variations to be aware of:

English Cut

The English cut is the most common type of short rib cut. This style involves cutting between the ribs, resulting in a thick piece of meat atop the bones. English cut short ribs can be purchased as a rack of four bones, measuring about 3 inches long and 7 to 8 inches wide. Alternatively, they can be cut individually. Plate short ribs are frequently prepared using the English cut. It’s worth noting that this cut may include a layer of fat and muscle on top, which can be left intact or removed by the butcher.

Flanken Cut

Flanken-style short ribs are thinner cuts, typically around half an inch thick, running across the bones. This results in a slender strip of meat with four to five bone pieces. Chuck short ribs are frequently cut in this fashion. Flanken cut ribs work well in Korean Kalbi-style cooking and can be found at Korean markets or customized by your local butcher.


When short ribs are untrimmed, they retain that layer of fat and muscle typically found on top. It’s a matter of personal preference whether you opt for them trimmed or untrimmed.


Opting for the trimmed cut means the butcher will remove a significant portion of the latissimus dorsi muscle and its exterior fat cover.


The lean cut follows the same pattern as the trimmed cut, with an even more extensive trimming of the fat layer.


Short rib riblets are an English-style cut where the bones are separated individually, resulting in shorter pieces of approximately 1 to 2 inches with a thick meat layer on top. Riblets are ideal for braising or use in a slow cooker.

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For a boneless option, the butcher can cut away the bones, leaving a slab of beef rib meat about 1 to 2 inches thick and approximately 8 inches long.

Back Ribs

The second type of beef ribs, back ribs, are cut from the top dorsal area of the steer, just behind the shoulder. When the delectable rib roast (Prime Rib) is removed from the bones, what remains are back ribs. As the meat primarily stays with the roast, these ribs offer less meat on top of the bones. Back ribs are smaller in size and cook faster. Measuring 6 to 8 inches in length, they feature a curved bone. Back ribs are excellent when braised or cooked on the grill over indirect heat, particularly when infused with the tantalizing aroma of wood smoke.

smoked beef ribs

Wrapping It All Up

As you can see, beef ribs encompass a wide array of cuts and variations, offering something for every preference. With a clearer understanding of the available options, you’re now equipped to approach your butcher with confidence. Remember to prioritize high-quality beef and pay attention to beef grades to ensure a truly exceptional dining experience. Be sure to check out our article on “10 Insider Tips on How to Smoke Ribs” for more valuable insights.

At Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ, we understand the art of cooking beef ribs to perfection. Our pitmasters and grillmasters have mastered the techniques, and we’re here to share our expertise with you. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice, our BBQ Champs Academy offers an all-access pass to a world of barbecuing knowledge. With stunning high-definition 4K videos, you’ll learn how to cook competition-worthy barbecue step-by-step. Plus, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest tips, insider information, and BBQ news.

So, the next time you’re craving mouthwatering beef ribs, visit Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ for an unforgettable culinary experience.

texas beef ribs