Help ! “I need to know what cut of Beef Ribs to Tell my Butcher”

A B C’s of Beef Rib Cuts for Beginners. 

Traveling the World over the last 8 years doing BBQ Schools in the USA & Australia, it amazes me how many different names that there are for Beef ribs and the confusion it causes students in selecting the right cut of beef rib to smoke or grill.

I have complied data from different websites  in this Blog to help eliminate some of the confusion on selecting the right cuts for the desired cook.

There are several types of beef ribs you’ll encounter at the meat market. In addition,there are different methods in which they’re cut and packaged. Of course, butchers tend to call some of these cuts by several names, adding more confusion to the novice shopper.

Unlike pork ribs, beef ribs have less fat than pork. While the fat in pork ribs act as a basting method, beef ribs will need more of your attention to keep them moist and tender. Keep one thing in mind when choosing beef ribs…the toughest cuts offer the best flavor. If you love the hearty flavor that beef offers, beef ribs are well worth the extra effort. Understanding the various types of beef ribs will help guarantee a perfect succulent beef rib.

Basically, there are two types of beef ribs, back ribs and short ribs. A steer has 13 ribs on each side. Starting at the front of the cow (see above illustration), the first 5 ribs are in the chuck cut. The next 7 ribs are part of the rib section and extend down into the short plate. The remaining rib is in the loin cut. As you might imagine, these cuts vary quite a bit from one end of the steer to the other. They vary not only in flavor, but in texture as well.

Back ribs are what you get when a rib roast (Prime Rib) is removed from its bones. That rib roast meat fetches top dollar, so it makes sense that most of the meat stays with the roast or steaks, and very little is left on the ribs, but they do have some great stuff between the bones. Back ribs make excellent barbecue.

 Short Plate ribs or Loaded beef ribs, which are cut from the lower portion of the rib cage and often have a nice layer of fat-laced meat sitting on top. The challenge is finding ones that would live up to the beef rib expectations. More often than not, the short ribs I came across were cut into small, individual bone portions, with wildly varying amounts of meat on them. I have found that you will not find the loaded beef ribs at the standard grocery or big box store but I can always rely on the local specialty butcher to get me the cut.

Chuck Short Ribs 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.

Short Beef Ribs: 

This is most common cut that you will see at a big box store or grocery store, not ideal for smoking great for braising.

Plate Short Ribs,  Un-Trimmed

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).

Plate Short Ribs, Trimmed 

Similar to the untrimmed Plate Short Ribs, this version removes the latissimus dorsi muscle, and its exterior fat cover.

Short Ribs, Lean 

This is just like the other varieties of Plate Short Ribs, but the layer of fat has been trimmed extensively.

Short Ribs, Boneless

This is the Plate Short ribs sans bones and intercostal meat.

Back Ribs 

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).

More information on beef cuts check Chefs-resources Website 

Video On Trimming Beef Ribs for Smoker or Grill     

Texas-Style Beef Short Rib Recipe

        (Brisket on a Stick)

  • Begin by removing the fat and the very tough silver skin from the top of the meat.
  • Remove the membrane from the exposed side of the bones.
  • After stripping the membrane from the back of the beef ribs, layer Three Little Pig’s Texas Beef Rub & Memphis rub  on Top of the beef ribs and using a Jaccard tenderizer, drive the rub down into the beef rib, flip rib over and tenderize between each bone.
  • Setup your Good-One Smoker/Grill to 250-275 degrees.
  • Put the beef ribs on, bone side down, and add your choice of wood, I prefer wild cherry and pecan for beef ribs.
  • You will not need to add more wood and you will not need to turn the meat over. Cook bone down all the way. The exact length of the cook depends on variables such as the composition of the meat and fuels being used.

Estimated Cooking times:

1″ thick meat should hit 205°F – 210°F   in about 4 hours.

1.5″ thick meat should hit 205°F – 210°F in about 6 hours.

2″ thick meat should hit 205°F – 210°F in about 8 hours.

Chris Marks (CBBQE) Cheif BBQ Expert Three Little Pig’s BBQ Rubs/Sauces & Good-One Manufacturing.

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28 Responses to Help ! “I need to know what cut of Beef Ribs to Tell my Butcher”

  1. Max Jones says:

    I liked your article talking about the different cuts that come from the steer, and how good back ribs are for barbecue! I’ve always loved ribs, and I would love to start practicing on how to make some really great ones for myself. I’ll have to get some back ribs from the meat market, and talk to some local restaurants about what types of ribs they use and how they cook them. Hopefully I can figure out what kind of ribs are best for me, and find a great way to barbecue them that my wife and I will love!

  2. Lee says:

    What are the ribs that are cooked in the picture above. Those are the ones that i am looking to make. We have such a hard time telling the butcher what kind of beef ribs we are looking for too. Great article.

  3. Mike says:

    Chris, I presume you prefer the plate ribs, and as you mentioned, these come with a different number of actual rib bones, based on the butcher. Regardless, do you prefer to smoke the entire plate as one piece, or section them into smaller pieces, like 2-3 bones?

  4. chris says:

    Mike, thanks for your response, I prefer to smoke 3-4 bones. Very manageable for the smokers . Always save the center bone for me.


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  6. Michele says:

    We are looking for long beef ribs-is it back ribs we want?

  7. Douglas Cook says:

    So what style would be best to put on a smoker.

  8. Jeff Angove says:

    I’m looking for boneless beef short ribs, which I’m told are not true beef short ribs, where exactly are these located on the cow?
    What other names for beef boneless short ribs?
    Thank You

  9. KenS says:

    Hi. It is a little disappointing that you don’t say anything about chuck short ribs other than just acknowledging that they exist. IMO, these are far and away the best value beef ribs that you will typically find.

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    • chris says:

      Cooking time depends of where you get the beef ribs at. The thicker ribs take up to 5-6 hours @ 250 degress or until they feel soft. Cook to 210 internal for best product.

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    • chris says:

      Diffrent Cuts from the Cow, the ribs with less meat are called Beef Back ribs usally cut off the Prime Rib. For the
      bigger thick ribs they come from the plate or behind the brisket, think of them like Beef Belly.

  12. David Payne says:


    Great information. I have become a big fan of what my butcher calls dinosaur ribs. I have been told they only come in three ribs to the plate but I think I saw a plate of 6. Can you clarify that for me?
    Also, can you tell me if these “dino” ribs come from the short plate or from another location?

    • chris says:

      David, the plate of 6 is Beef Back ribs uuseally very thin cut, theses are the bones cut off the prime rib, best used a appitizer.

  13. Fred Schenker says:

    My butcher can only get chuck ribs or short ribs. I’m looking to make Texas style beef ribs. Which do I use??

    • chris says:

      You can use either, Chuckk Beef ribs will have 4 bones and Plate Ribs will have 3 Bones.

      • Michael Simpson says:

        I thought chuck beef ribs had 5 bones (“chuck” section) and that beef plate ribs had 7 bones that extended down into the “short plate” from the “rib” section.

        When you refer to chuck beef ribs having 4 bones and plate ribs having 3 bones above, does that mean bones 6-9 and 10-12?

        That is based on bones 1-5 in the chuck section, 6-12 in the short plate section and the 13th in the loin section.

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  15. Michael F Rodgers says:

    Ribs, Ribs and more Ribs. HEB package says “Finger Ribs”. Are Finger Ribs the same as Beef Back Ribs? or do they fall under another category?

  16. Rick Jackson says:

    Hello Chris, found out today not all butchers know what plate ribs are. One pointed under his armpit just calling them short ribs. Did find some I think, but will the plate ribs have to have cartilage trimmed out on backside between bones like the chuck ribs?

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