Each week this summer, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hookis 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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, Yummy-Books.com, 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.