“What’s for dinner?”
Oh that dreaded question, am I right? Well today I surprised the kids with my answer (okay, in reality, they had no idea what I was talking about). My answer? Short ribs. Yep, I have some amazing-smelling braised short ribs cooking in the dutch oven as we speak.
Not a typical meal, for sure, but there’s just nothing like a from-scratch meal that’s made with meat raised on your own homestead. And this meal doesn’t get the good press it deserves. Until today.
Remember way back when, when we started this series together about Cooking Through the Cow? A few fun projects later—after publishing my cookbook and releasing my Heritage Cooking Crash Course and my Canning ebook and videos–and lots of blog posts later, and we’re back to this great series.
The Cooking Through the Cow Series
In case you missed them, here are the first two posts about the unappreciated cuts of meat that you may have lurking in the corner of your freezer:
The goal of this series from the beginning has been to help you and I figure out how to best use the cuts of beef that aren’t as common as t-bone or sirloin. These are those cuts that I’m left with after using all my favorites from the latest steer we butchered.
These are the cuts that, while they offer all sorts of wonderful attributes, stay buried in the freezer because most folks have no idea what the heck to do with them.
My hope is that these wonderful options won’t be lingering in the deep freeze anymore. Because we’re gonna turn them into something delicious y’all. Together.
What are Short Ribs?
Short ribs can come from several different places on the cow, including the chuck, plate, and rib areas. (The term “short ribs” only refers to the fact that the rib is cut– not that it’s from one particular location.)
Butcher shops usually don’t provide any sort of clue to the exact location of a particular package of short ribs, although ribs from the plate area of the cow are usually the cheapest option.
(Beef short ribs are the equivalent to spare ribs in pork, in case you were wondering.)
Because of the connective tissue in this cut, short ribs are less tender than other cuts of meat. However, short ribs also have great flavor because of the ratio of fat, bone, and meat. And as long as you cook them right, the taste and tenderness of short ribs is heavenly.
Other Names for Short Ribs
Short ribs are cut in two main ways, so you might find them under these other two names at the store:
English-Cut: These specific cuts are cut parallel to the bone, with one bone per piece. They are pretty pieces of meat and are perfect for braising, because they hold their shape.
BBQ-Style or Flanken-Style: These specific cuts are cut across the bone. Each piece contains 3-4 sections of bone. The cooked meat will fall right off the bone, making it perfect for slow cooker meals.
Since the bones impart wonderful flavor as the meat cooks, I’d avoid buying boneless short ribs.
Are Short Ribs Easy to Find?
Short ribs have become more popular in recent years, so they’re relatively easy to find at local grocery stores. On the other hand, you’ll want to know how to recognize this cut, because butchers will take random pieces of meat and label them ‘short ribs’ to sell them faster.
Are Short Ribs Tough or Tender?
Short ribs fall in the middle of the tough-to-tender range. While a bit tougher than premium pieces of meat, if they’re cooked correctly, short ribs can be rather tender. And, bonus—short ribs have a high fat content, making them incredibly rich in flavor and difficult to overcook.
Are Short Ribs Expensive?
Short ribs used to be quite cheap, however, recently they have gotten more attention from celebrity chefs, cooking shows, and cookbooks, so they have become more trendy, and the prices have gone up.
Versatility of Short Ribs
You can choose the cut of short ribs based on how you plan to prepare the meat. If you want meat that will fall right off the bone, for a perfect crock pot meal, try BBQ-Style or Flanken-Style short ribs. If you want a chunk of meat that braises well, try English-cut short ribs like I’m having tonight.
However you prepare them, be sure to slice your cooked short ribs thinly, against the grain, to help with the tender factor.
How to Handle the Fat on Short Ribs
When you trim short ribs for cooking, only remove the thickest layers of external fat. Don’t remove the internal layers, unless of course you want flavorless meat that falls apart before you even cook it. (Which I’m guessing you probably don’t…)
Braising Short Ribs
Honestly, there aren’t many exciting details to give you about the cooking process, because basically there’s only ONE way to cook short ribs: braising.
Braising is a kinda fancy term for a simple, old-fashioned way to prepare meat. It’s a combination of dry and moist cooking methods where you sear the meat and then cook it in a liquid. While braising short ribs is a traditional technique that requires patience and time, thankfully, we live in the age of slow cookers and instant pots, so cooking short ribs can be much easier than it used to be.
Amen. And yum. Am I right?
How to Cook & Serve Short Ribs
For the best flavor, you may want to rub short ribs with a blend of spices the day before you braise them. Because they gain a lot of tenderness and flavor when they’re marinated, you can marinate them in wine overnight, after rubbing on the spices. Both things can lead to a very flavorful, tender meat for dinner.
After preparing the short ribs with spices and marinade, you can sear the meat–right in the same dutch oven you’re going to cook them in–then add a braising liquid. One great option is a combination of sautéed onion and garlic, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and a little dried rosemary. After covering the meat with your liquid, place the dutch oven on a long, slow simmer either on your stovetop or inside your oven.
Braised short ribs are delicious served with roasted veggies, mashed potatoes, and gravy made from the braising liquid.
Here are some basic braising tips:
- Use a dutch oven (or similar heavy pot with a lid) if you’d like to cook this meat the most traditional way possible. This cast iron dutch oven is great because the lid serves double duty. (aff link)
- Or choose a modern way to prepare short ribs, using a slow cooker or even an instant pot. (aff links)
- Brown the meat over medium heat. Don’t use high heat because it could scorch the meat and the pan, and don’t use low heat because it can dry out your meat.
- Have patience. Give your sauce/liquid plenty of time to reduce in order to perfect the flavor.
Short Ribs Recipes
- Instant Pot Short Ribs
- Instant Pot Korean Short Ribs
- Red Wine Short Ribs
- Beef Short Ribs with Gravy
- Braised Beef Short Ribs with Gnocchi
- Short Ribs with Garlic and Rosemary
- Savory Short Ribs with Vegetables and Artichoke Hearts
- Slow Cooked Short Rib Ragu
- Slow Cooker Beer Braised Short Ribs
Short Ribs Quick Rankings
- Sourcing Difficulty: 3 (1= available everywhere, 10= very difficult to find)
- Versatility: 7 (1= very versatile, 10= very limited uses)
- Price: 4 (1= cheap as it gets, 10= special occasions only!)
- Toughness: 5 (1= spoon tender, 10= shoe leather)
What are YOUR favorite ways to cook short ribs? Please share in the comments below!
More From-Scratch Cooking Tips
- How I Grocery Shop for Organic Foods
- 5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without
- How to Can Homemade Stock or Broth
- How to Use a Fermenting Crock
- 30+ Ways to Cook a Whole Chicken
- My Heritage Cooking Crash Course