How to Buy and Use Beef Ribs

August  8, 2014

Each week this summer, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better – and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.

Today: Beef ribs sub in for the usual pork, and the results are Korean-inspired deliciousness.

Korean BBQ Ribs

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In the summertime, it’s hard for us to keep pork ribs in stock at The Meat Hook. Because they’re small in size and big in flavor, spare and babyback pork ribs are a popular choice for grilling and barbecueing -- and they're always gone by the weekend’s end.

For some reason, though, their beef counterparts sell more slowly during the warmer months. It could be that beef short ribs are often associated with slow winter braises, so that people don’t consider them when planning their grilling menu. However, beef ribs are actually one of the most versatile cuts on the animal’s body. Here are three types of beef ribs to get acquainted with, plus the best ways to prepare them -- all year long. 

Beef Ribs

Short Ribs:

First up is the most traditional cut: square-cut, bone-in short ribs. Because of its location on the animal’s body, rib meat from the short plate can be tough if it isn’t cooked properly. This is both because the muscles there work hard, and also because the ribs contain a good deal of connective tissue. This is why the meat is so well suited for slow-braising: After spending a few hours over low heat, short ribs transform from chewy and stringy to melt-in-your-mouth tender. I like preparing them in a classic braise, or slow-cooking them in a nice acidic barbecue sauce and pulling the meat for sandwiches. Or, if the summer mood grabs you, tuck the shredded meat in a taco

Dino Ribs

Dino Ribs:

If you’re a big-time barbecue fan, you’re probably pretty familiar with the next style of ribs. We call these “dino ribs,” but they can also be called tomahawk ribs or barbecue ribs. Even if you haven't cooked them yourself, you’ve most likey gnawed on them, dipped in a smoky sauce, at your favorite barbecue joint. Dino ribs' size and heft can be intimidating, but with a nice dry rub and a few hours of low-heat smoking or grilling, they're pretty hard to beat. Try adding some coffee to your rub, or brushing them with a sticky, smoky-sweet barbecue sauce while they cook. I recommend having some napkins on hand when you chow down.

More: If you're really anticipating a mess, tie on a lobster bib. Then have at it. 

Short Ribs


Lastly, we have the kalbi or Korean barbecue-style ribs, which are long, thin strips of cross-cut shortribs. They're my favorite cut of beef ribs to cook in the summer, because they can be cooked quickly over a hot grill and still remain moderately tender. Leave them overnight in a marinade with a good dose of salt and acid -- I've shared one of my favorites below -- to help break down the tough muscle fibers. 

More: If you don't feel like mixing up your own marinade, we've got you covered.

Korean BBQ Ribs

Kalbi-style Beef Ribs

1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 cup minced scallions
5 pounds kalbi-style beef short ribs

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here. 

When if comes to beef ribs, do you prefer low and slow, or a quick grill? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mr_Vittles
  • Guy
  • Twyla
  • Cara Nicoletti
    Cara Nicoletti
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog,, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.


Mr_Vittles August 12, 2014
Flanken cut ribs are my go to beef rib. I like how easy they are to marinade or just cook with salt and pepper. Generally, the ones I buy are so well marbled they do not need to be tenderized with harsh vinegars. If I do marinate them I will use fruit like Koreans do. Asian pear, kiwi, or a little pineapple, work fine for me. The Hawaiians developed an interesting preparation of flanken cut ribs that is like a hybridization of Korean and Polynesian techniques. They call it pipi kaula and it is seriously good.
Guy August 12, 2014
I already do that. Just trying to correct some misleading info you presented.It would be nice if you had an answer for how much vinegar is too much,rather than 'it should be fine'.
Cara N. August 12, 2014
1/4-1/2 cup of acid per 5 pounds of meat is what I have found, through much trial and error, to work.
Guy August 12, 2014
What benefit is there to adding the acid the night before? You should try this recipe and add the acid once the food is in the pot.I too was unaware of this till I tried eliminating all acid from marinades and noticed the protein is much more intact when adding the acid at cooking time.
Cara N. August 12, 2014
Feel free to do that then!
Cara N. August 12, 2014
I find that this amount of acid on this amount of tough meat helps to tenderize it, it will not cook it or make it mushy, but if you're more comfortable adding it right before that's fine.
Guy August 12, 2014
From Serious Eat's website:

"Acids like lemon juice or vinegar will "cook" meats, so the longer they marinate, the more they cook and result in a dry and mushy texture once grilled. For heavily acidic marinades, I make sure not to go over four or five hours marinating time to avoid those downsides."
Guy August 12, 2014
Acid overnight? That is not good advice.

The marinade will be just as effective if you leave out the acid till you're ready to cook it. Otherwise,you are technically cooking/curing the protein in the marinade,which is not what you want to do with meat.Any acidic marinade needs to be quick,never overnight.
Cara N. August 12, 2014
The amount of acid is small enough in comparison to the amount of meat that it won't cook the meat. You're right that this can happen if the acid levels are high, but this marinade is fine overnight for 5 pounds of meat. Feel free to do it for as short a time as you want though.
Twyla August 8, 2014
In the south, we call dino ribs 'country style'.