The Best Type Of Ribs To Buy For Braising

Fall-off-the-bone braised short ribs are a work of art. A long cook allows the meat to become tender, moist, and bursting with flavor. To achieve a successful braise, however, cooks need to choose the right cut of short rib for low-and-slow heat.

Butchers typically sell English-style and flanken-style ribs. For this type of dish, you're looking for English-cut short ribs. These are individual rib bones cut into long segments. You'll see a thick layer of meat, a bone in the center, and another layer of tissue underneath. They may look large at the store, but they tend to shrink as they stew, so even mammoth pieces will produce a manageable meal.

Flanken-cut ribs, in contrast, are cut crosswise into thin ribbons of meat with multiple rib bones dotting the slices. These are ideal for a quick, hot sear, and they shine when used for kalbi, Korean BBQ short ribs. They're less likely to hold up against a lengthy Dutch oven braise, though, so opt for the heftier bone-in portions.

Shopping for short ribs

Unlike St. Louis-cut and baby back ribs, which are made from pork, short ribs come from cows. The large beef bones are marbled and fatty, insulating the meat from the drying effects of the oven and continued reheating as you enjoy leftovers. They're cut from the bottom of the ribcage, near where butchers cut brisket, another braise-friendly cut.

Like brisket, the meat is no longer the budget cut it once was. Short ribs are increasingly popular among home cooks, and a commonplace menu item at restaurants and elegant events like weddings. The cheap meat now has an air of luxury — though home cooks can still find other affordable beef portions to braise.

Chefs typically recommend purchasing about 3/4 pound to 1 pound of meat per person. A nice aspect of shopping for the thick ribs is that you can see the layers of fat and tissue, which means it's easier to spot and purchase the heftiest, thickest portions with plenty of meat. The bone helps keep the meat tender, but you'll still end up with a delicious dish if you opt for boneless ribs.

Tips for a delicious braised rib

These hefty hunks of beef take well to a variety of seasonings and sides, which means cooks have their pick of recipes. Cultures around the world have their style for treating short ribs, tapping into spicy peppers, acidic wine, and salty soy sauce to bring out the meat's rich flavors. As with any braise, a fantastic way to kick off the cooking process is to brown the meat in batches to encourage plenty of sweet, nutty caramelization before adding liquids.

Not every braise starts the same, however. Another approach is to make saucy birria tacos and infuse spice by marinating the beef in a warming blend of garlic, spices, and smoky peppers. After some time in the oven, the tender meat will be ready to shred and you'll also get a broth perfect for dipping tortillas.

Cooks can also take a page from Italian cuisine, tapping robust red wine and herbs to stew the meat in before serving atop a polenta. The versatile beef holds up equally well against the dark, bitter flavors of coffee and brown spirits, or the sweet, salty punch of honey and soy sauce. A finishing splash of vinegar or citrus lightens the heavy meal, cutting through the fat and engaging the palate. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or another favorite starch to enjoy the umami-rich sauce.