Short ribs: What is it? And how do you cook it?

Short ribs are also called the beef spare ribs. Cooking short ribs is on top of the list of many barbecue lovers. This is due to the size of the piece, the low and slow cooking that goes with it, but also the incredibly intense taste.

However, the short ribs need some attention when cooking them. In this article we will discuss where short ribs come from, what you should pay attention to when buying them and how they are best cooked.

But first, what kinds of beef ribs are there?

The confusing thing about short ribs is that there are different names for it worldwide. In addition, they can be cut from different parts of the cow, which also creates other names. To understand it all a bit better, we will first discuss what the rib part consists of.

A bull has 13 ribs on each side. The first five ribs start from the neck. The next 7 run from the lower rib and thick rib to the fine rib. From there they run down towards the chest. The last rib is in the loin.

Backribs vs short ribs
beef basically has two beef ribs: back ribs and short ribs. Back ribs are the thick and fine rib in the prime rib. They consist of a rack of seven ribs. The bones are slightly curved and 15 to 20 cm long. There is little meat on the top of the bones. The real meat is between the bones. Examples of steaks from this section are: sirloin steakprime rib and rib eye steak.

Short ribs vlees op bot

With short ribs, on the other hand, the meat is not between the bones, but on top. There are two types of short ribs: chuck short ribs and plate short ribs. The chuck is cut from the neck and the plates come from the abdomen. The meat of these cuts is located in the thin brisket. The short rib therefore only concerns the meat. With ribs on it, they are flap ribs, or short ribs.

What are short ribs?

The short ribs are the flap ribs of the beef, or the beef spare ribs. Short ribs consist of short, straight but thick ribs with 2.5 to 5 cm of meat on them. They’re the largest beef ribs out there.

These ribs come from the lower part of the rib cage that’s located on the ventral side of the cow. This part is called short tale, hence the name short ribs. This part is located behind the brisket and in front of the flank steak.

The ribs have an intense flavor. This is partly due to the bone in the meat. This ensures that part of the meat remains closed during cooking, making the meat juicier.

Dividing the short ribs
To make it even easier, short ribs are also sold in parts. Below is a description of the different parts.

Short ribs met vet en vlies
Plate short ribs

Plate short ribs
Even though there’s a difference in chuck and plate, plate short ribs is the common name for the piece as a whole. Also called flat ribs in some countries. It usually consists of four ribs that are 7.5 cm long, 17.5 to 20 cm wide, and 2.5 to 5 cm thick.

English cut short ribs
As English cut short ribs, they are sold per piece, usually with a length of 15 cm. These loose ribs are versatile. They can be used for stewing or low & slow cooking on the barbecue.

Flanken cut short ribs
When the short ribs are cut in flank style, three separate parts (strips) with a thickness of 2.5 to 5 cm are created. It’s then cut right through the bones. Each strip that results from this then consists of three bones surrounded by meat.

Meat lollipops
So-called meat lollipops can also be made from a short rib. You create this by cutting out the middle bone on the fleece.

What should you pay attention to when buying short ribs?

Short ribs contain a lot of intramuscular fat. You can recognize this by the white veins that run through the meat. The fat varies from 2.5 to 10 cm in thickness. The fat is important for the tenderness and intense flavor of the ribs. The more fat, the more tender and juicier the meat will be. 

The amount of intramuscular fat depends, among other things, on the breed, diet and lifestyle of the cow. The meat of grain-fed cattle contains more fat than grass-fed cattle. 

When buying short ribs, make sure that the meat has a nice fat marbling that comes from grain-fed beef.

Short ribs bbq
Grilled short ribs

How to cook short ribs?

Short ribs can be cooked fast and hot as well as low and slow. Our preference is of course low and slow, because we can cook the meat through and through with a delicious smoky flavor.

Did you freeze the meat? Then keep in mind that it is best to thaw the meat in the refrigerator two or three days before you cook it. It’s a large piece of meat that needs time to thaw.

Important to know: the “stall”
During the cooking process of the short ribs, the temperature will continue to stagnate at some point. It may even go down. This process is called the “stall” and can take a while.

During the “stall” moisture is formed on the top of the meat due to the evaporation. You may even start to see a puddle of moisture. The meat will then sweat. This evaporation allows the meat to cool down.

Don’t be scared of the stall. You can speed it up by applying the Texas Crutch method, as described below. But you can also just be patient and keep waiting. The temperature will automatically rise again.


  1. First of all, we’re going to remove the fat and membrane from the top of the meat. Normally we always say that you should leave the fat, because fat gives flavor to the meat. In this case, the fat on the top is too thick and will not melt and penetrate the meat.In addition, the herbs can better penetrate the meat. It is not a problem if some grease remains in some places.
  2. Next we remove the membrane from the hollow side. This only needs to be removed from the parts where the meat is. You can leave the membrane on the bones.
  3. We are now going to brine the meat. That means we’re going to salt the meat. Brining the short ribs prevents discoloration. In addition, the meat becomes more tender and has a more intense flavor.Note: This step is optional. Are you going to make short ribs for the first time? Then don’t brine them. Try it without brining it first and taste it as it is. Are you going to make short ribs more often? Then vary by brining it. This way you can also taste the difference between brining and not brining.
  4. Season the short ribs with a dry rub two hours before grilling. A basic BBQ rub is just enough. The meat and the smoke are the biggest determining elements for the taste.
Short rib met dry rub
Rubbed short ribs

Grilling the short ribs on the BBQ

5. Prepare the barbecue for indirect grilling. Maintain a working temperature of about 115℃. That is hot enough to remove bacteria, but not too hot so that all the moisture evaporates.

Don’t have a ceramic barbecue? Then fill an aluminum foil container with water and place it under the grid on which you will smoke the short ribs. Then add charcoal. Oak or hickory flavor is often used for this, but cherries are also fine. Smoke the ribs for about two to three hours. After this you don’t have to add charcoal anymore.

6. Place the meat with the fatty side up on the grid and close the lid. It’s not necessary to turn the meat. The short ribs can smoke for 8-10 hours, depending on the thickness of the meat.

Texas Crutch

7. Now we’re going to talk about the Texas Crutch. This means that the beef ribs are wrapped in aluminum foil or butcher paper during the stall. They’re then wrapped and further cooked on the barbecue. Texas Crutch is said to make the meat more tender and juicy. In addition, the preparation is accelerated.

The downside to wrapping the meat in aluminum foil is that the crust can get damaged and a crispy outside made with smoke and rub is exactly what we want to achieve. The fact is that the preparation is accelerated enormously.

But what do we recommend? Try both methods and see what works best for you. If you’re cooking short ribs for the first time, pack it. First put some butter on the meat, then wrap it up and put it back on the barbecue. It then needs to cook for about another two hours or until a temperature of about 90℃ is reached.

Checking the doneness

8. Remove the meat from the barbecue when it has reached a temperature of 90 ℃. In any case, they’re ready when they’re dark brown on the outside and nice and tender on the inside.

The doneness of the short ribs can be checked in several ways:

  • You can test the doneness by inserting a wooden skewer into the largest rib. Do this through the end and parallel to the bone. It should go through the meat easily.
  • Insert a meat thermometer into the meat. Do this also parallel to the bone, but without touching it.
  • When the ribs are cooked, the meat will have receded 2.5-5 cm from the bone ends.

Letting the short ribs rest

9. This is an important process. Keep in mind that resting will take at least another hour. Let the short ribs rest at room temperature. Double wrap the ribs with aluminum foil. Then cover it with some towels.