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Types of Beef Ribs Explained

Depending on where you’re from or your preferred style of barbecue, when you think BBQ ribs, you probably think of pork ribs. That could be baby back ribs or St Louis ribs. However, there’s another type of rib that should be discussed, and that’s beef ribs. While pork ribs are a delicious handheld piece of BBQ pork goodness, …

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By Jeremy Pike


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Types of Beef Ribs

Depending on where you’re from or your preferred style of barbecue, when you think BBQ ribs, you probably think of pork ribs. That could be baby back ribs or St Louis ribs. However, there’s another type of rib that should be discussed, and that’s beef ribs. While pork ribs are a delicious handheld piece of BBQ pork goodness, a great beef rib is almost transcendent. Use our rib calculator to figure out how many ribs per person you will need for your next BBQ.

However, not all beef ribs are the same. Just like pork ribs, there are different types of beef ribs and even different cuts of beef ribs. We’re going to talk about the different types, where they come from, the different cuts of beef ribs, and even get into how to cook beef ribs so you know what you’re looking for when you head to your local butcher or supermarket. Let’s break it down like a butcher with a cow and get started.

What Are The Different Types Of Beef Ribs?

Beef with cuts of meat brisket

When it comes to beef ribs, there are three primals that the different beef rib types come from. Then you can break down those areas into different styles of cuts of beef rib. 

The first primal is the chuck. That’s the area where you get chuck roasts from (aka the poor man’s brisket) and flat iron steaks as well as chuck short ribs. Chuck short ribs can be cut in two different styles that we will break down further shortly. 

Second, you have beef back ribs that come from the rib primal. This is also the area where you get prime ribs and ribeyes. It’s good meat.

Thirdly and finally, you get plate short ribs from the plate, sometimes called the short plate, primal. This primal is located near the belly of the cow which gives the plate short ribs plenty of marbling. You’ll also find the skirt steak and hanger steaks in the plate primal. 

So the three main types of beef ribs are the chuck short rib, the back rib, and the short plate rib. However, both the chuck short rib and the plate short rib can be cut in either English or Flanken style. Don’t worry, we will break down what that means shortly. 

What Is A Chuck Short Rib?

As stated before, chuck short ribs are cut from the chuck primal. These are ribs that are cut from the first five ribs in the cow’s ribcage. The bones themselves are only three to six inches in length. What sticks out is the amount of meat you’ll get if you order a chuck short rib. Each bone has between one and two inches of meat on it. These ribs have a ton of marbling and a lot of beef flavor just like you’d find in a chuck roast. 

Try Meaterys Wagyu Beef Short Ribs below.

If you find chuck short ribs at the store or at the butcher, you’re likely to find them in three different versions. A typical rack of these ribs has four bones in it. You can also find these ribs pre-cut into single bones, also known as an English cut. The final version you’ll find is a flanken rib. This method is done by slicing the slab of ribs across the bones thinly rather than in between them. 

English Style Cut Ribs

English Style Cut Ribs
English: Meat is cut in Parallel to the Bone

Flanken Style Cut Ribs

Flanken Style Cut Ribs
Flanken: Notice the bones are cut perpendicular

What Is A Plate Short Rib?

Beef Plate Ribs Raw

There are a lot of similarities between the plate short rib and the chuck short rib, but if you put them side to side, you’ll see a large difference. Primarily, the plate short rib is substantially longer, checking in at somewhere around 12 inches if left untrimmed. It still has the same height of meat, one to two inches, but each rib is around double the length of a chuck short rib.

If you’ve ever heard of a dino rib or dinosaur ribs, that’s a full rack of plate short ribs. You might also see these referred to as short plate ribs. They come in slabs of three bones and can weigh around five pounds. They are also sometimes called “brisket on a stick” due to the fact they resemble the point of a brisket. This might be one of the best bites in barbecue that is unfortunately not very common. 

It’s unlikely that you’ll find a rack of plate short ribs in your local supermarket or grocery store. If there’s a high-quality butcher nearby, you’ll want to make friends with him or her and that’s your best option for sourcing plate short ribs.

Beef Plate Ribs
Plate Ribs aka Dinosaur Ribs

Just like with chuck short ribs, you might find plate short ribs at the grocery store sliced individually and cut down to size in the English cut method. If you find Flanken ribs in the beef section, they also could be from the plate short rib, but it’s more likely that it’ll be chuck short ribs.

What Is A Beef Back Rib?

Usually when you think of beef ribs, you probably are picturing a version of one of the short ribs or flanken-cut ribs. However, beef back ribs might be the most similar-looking rib to pork spare ribs. You end up with beef back ribs after the prime rib roast has been removed and you’re left with the rib bones near the cow’s spine. 

Due to the quality of the meat of the prime rib roast, beef back ribs typically have very little meat on the surface of the bones. Instead, the majority of the meat is between the bones. When you smoke these low-and-slow, you typically see the bones start to show up through the meat, not just the ends of the bones.

Even though these ribs have less meat than the other types of beef ribs, the meat is quite good due to the area where these ribs come from.

What Are The Different Cuts Of Beef Ribs And What Do I Do With Them?

As we explained in brief earlier, especially the two types of beef short ribs, can be cut three different ways. You can purchase short ribs as a rack, English cut, or flanken cut. Can you cook all three beef rib cuts the same way? What are they best for?

Short Ribs Or Beef Back Ribs Kept As Racks

Smoking Beef Short Ribs

If you pick up a slab of short ribs or beef back ribs, you’ve got ribs ready to hit the smoker. Smoking beef ribs imparts a ton of flavor and helps break down the connective tissue throughout the meat. Back ribs will smoke up much quicker than chuck short ribs or plate short ribs due to the thinness of the actual meat. 

Both types of beef short ribs potentially have a lot of exterior fat cover, so you will need to trim them to get them ready for the smoker. That top layer of fat won’t render properly if it’s left too thick, just like on a brisket. Also, just like brisket, you’ll want to wrap your short ribs in either aluminum foil or butcher paper because even short ribs can stall.

As for seasonings, you should absolutely season ribs as if they are brisket. Salt and coarse black pepper will help give your ribs some bite while still allowing the beef to remain the star of the show. You can also add some garlic powder to your rub just for a little more complexity of flavor, but the simpler the better with the short ribs. 

Now beef back ribs don’t have as much meat as short ribs so you can definitely season them like you would brisket because it’s still beef. However, you can improvise a little bit more and take these ribs in a different, perhaps sweeter direction. If that idea piques your interest, check out our recipe for a Kansas City-style brisket rub. Its brown sugar base still has a kick of black pepper, but it’ll scratch your sweeter beef itch. Just finish your ribs with your favorite  barbecue sauce and serve.

English Cut Beef Ribs

If you pick up a package of English cut short ribs at the store, you want to make sure you know the best way to cook it. You can absolutely smoke them like you would a full slab of beef ribs. Season each side liberally with salt and black pepper and let it smoke until tender. 

However, one of the more common preparations for English cut beef ribs is braising. 

What Is Braising?

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Braising is a cooking method that cooks meat using two different heating methods. First, you sear the cut of meat hot and fast with dry heat to develop a beautiful crust then finishing the cooking process low and slow in some type of liquid. The combination develops more flavor than simply stewing the meat while still giving you incredibly tender and moist meat at the end.

You can serve braised short ribs over noodles or mashed potatoes. When seasoned properly, you can even use the meat for tacos or as the beef for shepherd’s pie.

Easy Braised Short Ribs
Simple but yet delicious short rib recipe worth trying.
Check out this recipe
Braised Beef Short Ribs

Flanken Ribs

While all the other cuts of beef ribs are cooked low and slow (either smoked or braised,) flanken ribs are the exception. Due to how thin the meat is, you can grill flanken ribs hot and fast. Typically, you will soak the ribs in a marinade to add more flavor and help tenderize them since they won’t break down over time like they would on a smoker. 

If you’ve ever had galbi at a Korean restaurant, you’ve had flanken ribs. Keep that in mind as an option if you see a package in the grocery store. You can do a Korean-style marinade and then grill them on a gas or charcoal grill. You also could check out our list of the best Korean BBQ grills and make it more traditionally.

Port Marinade Beef Flanken Ribs
Try out flanken rib recipe. Great way recipe.
Check out this recipe

Wrapping It Up

Beef ribs come in all sizes and shapes. You could get a three-bone slab of dino ribs, also known as plate short ribs, or you could get thin flanken ribs cut from the chuck short rib. If you want a beef version of spare ribs, you could even go for beef back ribs.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, there’s an option for you when looking at beef ribs. Have you had dino ribs before? Korean-style flanken ribs? Let us know your favorite version of beef ribs in the comments!

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