Types of Beef Ribs Explained (How To Tell Them Apart)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: June 19, 2024

I invited friends for bbq and I wanted to prepare beef ribs. I went to a grocery store but the butcher started asking me too many questions.

Luckily for me, he had time to explain that there are various types of beef ribs and that I have to select the right one for the meal I want to prepare.

Following that experience, I’ve done a ton of research over a few months to make this guide so you can select the ones that will work for you. Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary

  • The main types of beef ribs are chuck ribs and plate short ribs in the category of beef short ribs, and back ribs which belong to longer beef back ribs.
  • Chuck short ribs are meaty and suitable for grilling, BBQ, or smoking, while plate short ribs are known for their rich flavor and tenderness. Back ribs are juicy and more tender, requiring less preparation time.
  • A 1994 PubMed study examined the tissue composition variations across different sections of beef ribs, revealing significant differences in fat content, particularly noting the concentration of kernel fat in certain rib sections, which influences the fat content of ribeyes by approximately 46% upon specific butchering techniques [1].
  • Different cutting styles like Flanken cut, English cut, untrimmed, riblets, and boneless offer various options for cooking and presentation.

What are Beef Ribs?

3 types of beef ribs

Beef ribs are located next to the ribeye, one of the most famous beef cuts. They are meaty, fat right as much as one rib needs to be, and full of marbling.

All these make them ideal for low and slow cooking or grilling ribs on BBQ.

According to a 2011 study published in the National Library of Medicine, apart from their specific flavor, back ribs also have a high nutritional value [2].

Their meat contains many essential amino acids, fats, minerals, and vitamins like vitamins B, E, and B12, linoleic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids.

This makes beef ribs a favorite choice for those who care about their health. There are many types of ribs and methods that butchers are using to make different cuts, like a prime rib.

What is the Main Difference Between Beef Ribs Types?

Ribs cover a big part of the cow’s body. There are different types of beef short ribs and each rib section has its characteristics.

Depending on the section of the body from which ribs are cut, differences are also in the quantity of the meat, texture, fat, and size.

At first, all these will create confusion, especially if you are a novice shopper. But, this will play an important role, especially in the cooking technique you will have to use to prepare them.

There are two major types of beef ribs:

  • beef back ribs
  • beef short ribs

Differences between these two types are very obvious so you can differentiate them even if you are not an expert.

“There are two different things: there's grilling, and there's barbecue. Grilling is when people say, 'We're going to turn up the heat, make it really hot and sear a steak, sear a burger, cook a chicken.' Barbecue is going low and slow.”

- Guy Fieri, Businessman

The first difference is in their size. Back ribs are cut from the top dorsal area of the cow, next to the shoulder. You get these ribs when you remove rib roast from its bone.

Back ribs are larger than short ribs, so it may be challenging to prepare and eat them if you are not used to them. The best way to cook them is low and slow as they will keep their unique taste, without getting dry.

On the other hand, short ribs are smaller in size, but with more rib meat and less fat.

They are a very good choice for outdoor cooking as they are placed between brisket cut and flank steak cut which affects their flavor.

Since the part of the cow where short ribs are placed is smaller, they are more expensive than back ribs.

Main Types of Beef Ribs

Cooked beef ribs dishes

As we have mentioned above, there are a lot of varieties of beef ribs.

In order not to get confused, we are going to describe each type of beef ribs so you can have an understanding of how you can use them to cook a nice meal.

The main types of beef ribs are Chuck ribs and Plate Short Ribs in the category of beef short ribs, and Back Ribs which belong to longer beef back ribs.

Chuck Short Ribs

Chuck Short Ribs come from the cow’s chuck area, more precisely from the first to the fifth rib on the rib cage. Chuck ribs are one the most common types of beef short ribs.

We love Chuck Ribs because they are meaty. Chuck Short Ribs are short in length and their high meat content and rich flavor make them one of the favorite beef ribs in many cuisines, especially Korean.

You can easily marinate Chuck ribs before grilling, bbq, or smoking, to make them taste even better.

What we love about Chuck ribs is the nice ratio of meat and fat and the fact that you can easily remove the meat from the bone. If you like Texas-style barbecue, Chuck Short Ribs can be a good choice.

Plate Short Ribs

The Plate Short Ribs, also called “Loaded Beef Ribs”, are one of the favorite choices of meat lovers because they contain even more meat than Chuck Short Ribs.

Plate ribs originate from the lower section of the cow’s body, in the middle of the rib cage and they are ideal for smoking. Because of their size, they are also known as “brisket on a stick”.

According to a 1984 study published in the National Library of Medicine, one thing that makes plate ribs a preferred choice for meat lovers is the fat they contain [3]. Fat makes them flavor-rich and tender, which you will not find in any other type of beef ribs.

Also, fat helps Plate Short Ribs to stay moist, without drying out the meat, especially during smoking. You feel like you are eating brisket and steak in the same bite.

The downside of the Plate Short Ribs is that it is a bit difficult to find them, especially in grocery stores. You need to find a good butcher that will cut them correctly.

Plate Short Ribs have a very strong flavor, which makes them suitable for people who can carry them, so we can say that plate ribs are not for everyone.

Back Ribs

Back ribs originate from the back section of the cow, towards the spine. We are getting this cut when we remove ribeye steak or ribeye roasts from bones.

Back ribs are juicy and if you cook them right they will be more tender than any other beef cut.

They are slightly curved and long which may be unusual for some people, mainly for those used to short ribs. Also, back ribs don’t have as much meat as short ribs, but they play on the meat’s quality.

Back ribs require less time for preparation as all their meat is between the bones.  They are great for cooking on the grill or for adding beef flavor to soups and other cooked meals.

Main Short Ribs Cuts

Different ways to cut short ribs

Flanken Cut

Flanken is a thinner cutting style that butchers mostly use for short beef ribs. These cut butchers are used for the rib bones between the brisket and the flank steak.

With this technique, they cut ribs across the bone instead of parallel, resulting in a thinner meat section with up to five pieces of bone.

This cut makes short ribs even shorter and up to half-inch wide.

Flanken ribs contain a lot of hard fat and that’s why we prefer to grill them. The fatty part decreases during grilling, making the rest of the meat tender and juicy.

Flanken cut is commonly used in the Korean style of cooking.

English Cut

English Cut is the most common cut of beef ribs. It looks like a short rack of about 4 bones about 3 inches long and 8 inches wide. You will find both short and plate ribs cut in this technique.

Butchers often leave a layer of fat on top, as well as a membrane, which you should remove before you start to cook. If you prefer a trimmed English Cut then the butcher will remove the latissimus dorsi muscle and its fatty cover.


If you like the English cut but not the layer of fat on top of the meat, then you will ask your butcher to cut beef ribs untrimmed. Getting ribs untrimmed means that the butcher will leave only the meaty layer on the rib and remove the fatty layer from the top.


Riblets cut is a simple technique not used very often, where we are leaving only a single rib. Original rib riblets should be a few inches long.

There is also English-style riblets cut, where the butcher cuts ribs apart first and then makes them shorter up to 2 inches long, leaving the meat on top.

This cutting style is excellent for braising or for preparing ribs in a slow cooker.


A boneless cut means that your butcher will remove bones and intercostal meat from ribs. The meat that has left will be long and thick but without a bone.

Related: How to Best Prepare Braised Short Rib Beef Stew

Difference between Beef and Pork Ribs

Close up photo of a sliced meat

A beef rib and a pork rib are specific pieces of meat derived from cows and pigs. If we talk about size, beef ribs are much larger than pork ribs.

Pork ribs are smaller and therefore these cuts are more convenient for eating. Beef ribs have a specific taste while the taste of the ribs from pigs is more tender.

Also, pork ribs contain fat which acts as a basting method, meaning that this meat will cook in its juices.

Ribs from beef need a bit more attention and preparation if you want to get the same soft and juicy results.

Because of the valuable nutrients it contains, beef rib is a good choice for those who take care of their health.

They are known for their high nutritional value and contain many essential amino acids, fats, minerals, and vitamins.

There is a difference in cost between a beef rib and a pork ribs. Beef short ribs are among the most expensive as they are not too easy to find.

Baby ribs are one of the most common, so you will find them in every supermarket.

Feel free to check out the following link for a more detailed comparison of beef ribs vs pork ribs.

Tips for Preparing BBQ Beef Ribs

There are many recipes that you can use to prepare beef ribs, but especially tasty is when you prepare ribs on the barbecue.

We think that bbq is by far the best technique to prepare these little bones, especially if you add bbq sauce, salt, or garlic powder, or prepare them Texas-style.

On the barbecue, variations of fat cover and fat layer that ribs have will make the meat so tasty, and you will be so happy to share it with folks.

Variations in beef ribs are of course making confusion about which method to use to get the best results.

Since they contain a large amount of connective tissue, you should cook them slowly and over low heat.

Connective tissue will make the meat hard and if you don’t use a proper method to get them soft, you won’t get the tasty bbq meal on your plate.

If you like wood smoke on, instead of barbecue you can use a smoker. Use kosher salt for additional taste, especially if you are using ribs from rib roast and other prime rib sections.

Read More:


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8138507/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22844741/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22054706/
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About the author

Iva Carter
Associate Editor
Iva Carter is a FBP certified foodie and influencer who loves to share delicious yet quick dinner recipes. When she's not in the kitchen concocting meaty delights, you'll find her playing with her dog, Sylvie.
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