Ryan Adams has done an excellent series on different cuts of beef and has given permission to re-post his content here, with minor modifications for the Professional Chef audience.
If you were to do a quick Google search for short rib recipes, you’d find a little over half a million web pages, with suggestions from every corner of the world. Sporting a uniform shape, intense flavor and a fall-off-the-bone tenderness when cooked correctly, short ribs are a very popular cut of meat, largely because of their versatility. If you put a gun to my head, I’d have to pick braising as the only proper way to cook short ribs, but there are many other suitable methods.
Cuts of Beef Series: Short Ribs
Photograph by talkoftomatoes
Beef Short Ribs can be cut from three different sections of beef. The most common short rib cut is the Back Rib (NAMP 124) which comes from the thick side of the prime rib. A second source, called Plate Short Ribs (NAMP 123 series), is found in the plate primal, which is found in the animal’s forequarter right below the rib primal. The last are called Chuck Short Ribs (NAMP 130) which come from right under the chuck from the first to the fifth rib, and can also go by the name Flanken Ribs.
Other names which beef short ribs go by include: braising ribs, crosscut ribs, English short ribs, Korean short ribs.
As chefs, we can specify to our vendor which cut of short ribs we want by using the NAMP number. But in the supermarket it is sadly a different story as the section from which the beef short ribs are cut is rarely identified on supermarket labels. This is particularly frustrating as the three different kinds of short ribs have markedly different qualities. Short ribs that come from the plate primal have lots of good muscle tissue, but also a significant amount of fat. Rib primal short ribs don’t have as much meat to them as the plate variety, but are far more tender. Flanken ribs are tougher, and less fatty.
Regardless of which variety you’re dealing with, braising does a great job of breaking down the connective tissue that holds the meat to the bone. The constant contact with liquid at a higher temperature encourages the metamorphosis of collagen tissue into gelatin, which adds flavor and moisture to the muscle. Thankfully, there is more than just one way to achieve similar results: sous vide and BBQ. Sous vide is, without a doubt, the most efficient way to do achieve fork tender short ribs, but barbecuing, pressure cooking and even steaming all can provide excellent results.
Beef Short Rib Variations
Below are various cuts of beef short ribs available as specified in the Meat Buyer’s Guide which your vendor or butcher should be able to source.
Plate Short Ribs NAMP 123
This cut consists of the rib and plate sections, and will contain at least 2, but no more than 5 ribs. They are rather fatty but meaty and are also known as pony-bock ribs (British), costine de pancia (Italian), costillas cortas (Spanish), côtes de plat (French).
NAMP 123, All photo variations by NAMP Meat Buyer’s Guide
Plate Short Ribs, Trimmed NAMP 123A
Similar to the untrimmed Plate Short Ribs, this version removes the latissimus dorsi muscle, and its exterior fat cover.
Short Ribs, Lean NAMP 123B
This is just like the other varieties of Plate Short Ribs, but the layer of fat has been trimmed extensively.
Short Ribs, Boneless NAMP 123D
This is the Plate Short ribs sans bones and intercostal meat.
Chuck Short Ribs NAMP 130
Also called Asian-style chuck short ribs, this cut is more expensive than plate ribs. It comes from the Chuck Primal and is cut from ribs 1 to 5 in the shoulder section with most of the surface fat trimmed. It is a tougher, leaner cut than the plate ribs so it requires more braising time to become tender.
Back Ribs NAMP 124
Back Short Ribs are the most expensive form of short ribs and are cut from the rib primal after the rib has been removed. They are more tender but have less meat. This cut is sometimes called “Dinosaur Ribs,” costata (Italian), costillas del lomo (Spanish), côtes de basse (French).
Beef Short Rib Purchasing Considerations
The meat itself should have a bright, cherry-red color with fat speckled throughout the muscle. Check that the muscle is firm to the touch, and the container shouldn’t have excess blood loss.
When purchasing short ribs with bones, you want to consider the weight of the bone and shrinkage from cooking. Look into buying at least a whole pound for each person. For boneless short ribs, a half pound per person is generally sufficient.
Short ribs benefit greatly from low, slow braises. This is a basic braising recipe for all three short rib varieties. (Recipe from Jack Ubaldi’s Meat Book: A Butcher’s Guide to Buying, Cutting, and Cooking Meat by Jack Ubaldi, out of print.)
- 3 pounds short ribs cut into 2″ by 3″ rectangles, with any excess fat removed
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Season the flour with salt and pepper, and use the mixture to coat the short ribs. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy skillet and brown the ribs on all sides. In a flameproof casserole dish, brown the chopped onions in the butter. Once they’ve softened, add the celery and the carrots. Remove the browned ribs from the skillet and add them to the casserole dish. Cook the ribs and the vegetables for 10 minutes. Add the wine and let it reduce by half. Add the beef stock and the tomatoes. Lower the heat, cover the casserole dish and let it simmer for 2 hours. Half an hour before it’s done, add the chopped parsley.
Additional Short Rib Recipes
- Braised Short Ribs by Tom Colicchio in Food and Wine
- Braised Short Ribs with Hoisin Sauce by David Lebovitz
- Barbecue Beef Short Ribs from About.com
Special thanks to Bob del Grosso, Chef and Charcutiere of Hendricks Farms and Dairy in Telford, Pennsylvania, for consulting on this post.
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