Short ribs offer great versatility in cooking. They can be braised, cooked, slow-roasted, or grilled – which seems to be the most popular option. You’ll often find short ribs as a specialty item in restaurants, but the homemade version can be just as delicious.
However, what do you do if short ribs are sold out at your local butcher shop, or you simply want an adequate replacement? Keep on reading to find out our top choices of short rib substitutes.
The best substitutes for short ribs
Short ribs come from the beef chuck, and they consist of 5 short ribs. This part of the animal is too small for a good steak, and the meat between the ribs is less tender. However, short ribs are nothing but delicious!
There are two ways to cut short ribs: the English-style and the BBQ-style, also known as the flanken style. English-style is a more traditional way of cutting your short ribs, and it is basically cutting up the ribs into small, one-bone chunks. BBQ short ribs, on the other hand, are strips containing 3 bones, and they’re ideal for slow cooking or braising.
Short ribs are one of the preferred beef parts since they combine two flavors: the chuck and the rib. The chuck, on one hand, has that full flavor of beef meat that all lovers of beef cuts are looking for. The rib steaks, on the other hand, are covered in marbling that keeps the meat juicy and luscious.
If you prefer the meat to be so tender that it falls off the rib, you’re going to love slow-cooked or braised short ribs. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of that smoked meat aroma, nothing beats grilled ribs (but make sure to keep them in a marinade so they can soak up all the flavors).
Even though short ribs are quite unique when it comes to taste and texture, there are some exquisite alternatives that any gourmet would approve of. Let’s find the best short rib substitute for your recipe!
1. Beef plate short ribs
This substitute for short ribs is located right under the rib. Even though this beef cut may appear almost identical to short ribs, it actually has a much higher fat content. Therefore, if you find short ribs to be too dry, you’ll appreciate the natural juiciness of beef plate short ribs.
Since beef plate short ribs have a naturally high-fat content, you don’t have to worry too much about any special pre-cooking preparation such as marinade. However, make sure not to add too much fat when cooking, since most of the fat on the ribs will be reduced.
When preparing your beef plate short ribs, you’ll notice a thick fat cap on the top. Keep in mind that it doesn’t render as nicely, so you might want to remove it before cooking. Don’t worry – there’ll still be plenty of marbling, and the ribs won’t lose their juiciness.
When it comes to the most adequate substitute for beef short ribs, it is safe to say that beef plate short ribs take the win. You can use the same cooking techniques and seasoning, the only drastic difference being in fat content.
2. Beef chuck roast
Beef chuck roast is also known as the center cut chuck roast or pot roast. Unlike short ribs, it is a beef cut ideal for steaks, as it is located in the shoulder area. Beef chuck roast is a great beef short rib substitute for those of you who prefer a more tender cut but still want that unique beefy flavor.
The ideal cooking method for beef chuck roast is braising, as it preserves the tenderness and juiciness of the meat. However, this beef cut is a fantastic choice for a classic beef stew, pot pies, or shredded beef sandwich. It is neither too fatty nor too dry, which makes it extremely versatile.
Chuck roast is certainly a more affordable option than short ribs. Therefore, if you’re looking for a quality piece of meat at a lower price, it doesn’t get better than beef chuck roast.
3. Beef back ribs
Beef back ribs also referred to as beef spare ribs, are taken from the back part of the animal. You’ll notice that back ribs are much longer than short ribs, and there’s usually less meat on them.
Nevertheless, this beef short ribs substitute is a great choice for braising, roasting, and especially for a BBQ. However, keep in mind that back ribs, just like beef plate short ribs, are a fattier option than short ribs. While this may not be the healthiest option, it is certainly a flavor and texture you will remember.
And if you’re looking for a substitute for boneless beef short ribs, the most flavorful cuts such as the ribeye steak and the prime rib roast come from back ribs.
4. Flanken ribs
Flanken ribs are cut around the cow’s flank, which is very similar to the area where short ribs are taken from. You’ll notice that flanken ribs are more thinly sliced, and contain a trace of the rib bones. As opposed to the substitutes we mentioned before, this type of rib has leaner meat and lower fat content.
Since they’re thinly sliced and incredibly tender, flanken ribs don’t require much cooking. You can throw them on the grill and have some Korean-style barbecue in no time! However, if you want to preserve the tenderness of the meat, braising is the best way to prepare your flanken ribs.
5. Beef shank
Beef shank, also known as shank cross-cut, or beef hindshank, is a portion of the leg, usually cut into cross-sections. Shank usually resembles a steak with a circle of the leg bone in the middle. However, the shank is sometimes available boneless (even though the piece of marrow in the bone is edible).
This short rib substitute is not the most popular beef cut, since it has a reputation of coming out dry. However, these affordable cuts can become tender and soft when cooked properly. Cooking a beef shank does require time and patience since the best results come from slow cooking it in moist heat for a long time (at least 4-6 hours).
Shank cross-cut (with the bone) will give your soup a deep and rich flavor, and also provide important nutritional minerals.
You can always swap your beef for lamb, as it offers some high-quality, delicious cuts. You should keep an eye out for parts such as lamb leg, lamb shoulder, and thinly sliced flank. However, make sure to cook your lamb properly, as it can have an unpleasant aroma and taste if overcooked.
Of course, if you go for lamb and you want something similar to short ribs, the solution is lamb ribs. Prepare a glaze mixing soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, honey, garlic, and pour half of it on top of the ribs. Bake the ribs for 35-40 minutes at 350ºF, then turn on the broiler of your oven, add the remaining glaze on top, and cook until sticky.
When preparing your lamb ribs, you will need to cook them a bit longer to render out the fat. However, ask your butcher to separate them or prepare them at home beforehand, as this step will shorten the cooking time significantly.
7. Beef Brisket
Beef brisket can be an adequate replacement, especially if you’re looking for a substitute for ground short ribs. Brisket is taken from the lower breast of the cow, and it usually consists of two overlapping muscles: the first cut (flat cut) – being the thinner part, and the second cut (deckle point), the thicker part which also contains more fat. A full brisket can weigh up to 14 pounds, but you can usually purchase smaller cuts of brisket.
There are countless options with beef brisket, and you certainly don’t have to stick to ground brisket. Corned beef brisket and cabbage are a part of St.Patrick’s tradition for a reason, so make sure to give this dish a shot.
How to choose a short rib substitute
Short ribs are usually the star of the show, especially at BBQ parties. However, when your butcher is out of short ribs, it’s critical to find valid alternatives.
If you’re looking for other options of ribs, you can’t go wrong with beef plate short ribs, beef back ribs, flanken ribs, or lamb ribs. Each of these alternatives can be a great swap for short ribs – the main difference being the fat content.
Ground beef chuck roast and beef brisket can be an ideal substitute for ground short ribs. Go for these options if you want juicy, flavorful burgers that won’t dry out on the grill.
Beef shank and lamb may require some more time and effort, but they’re certainly worth it. Both shank and lamb are quality meats, ideal for slow cooking, stews, as well as soups. Also, you can braise them, combining them with your favorite veggies which will absorb the unique aroma and the meat juices.