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Test Kitchen Notebook

Cuts make all the difference

October 08, 2003|Donna Deane

Most cooks think of short ribs as just one thing: that chunky cut of beef with a small bone attached.

But the truth is there are at least four styles of short ribs. And each of our recipes uses a different one.

All short ribs are cut from the meatier portion of the ribs, closer to the belly (the upper ribs become spare ribs). Technically, short ribs are the ends of the standing rib roast. For the meatiest ribs, ask for ones taken from the chuck section.

One style of short rib is almost as long (8 to 10 inches) as a spare rib. These big 1-pound short ribs (which we use for the mushroom-braised short ribs) are available by order from meat counters. They are much thicker and wider than spare ribs, very solid, with a generous marbling of fat.

When these long ribs are cut into 2 or 3 shorter ribs, they become the more familiar cut known as the English-style short rib (used here for braised short ribs with Chinese flavors). Readily available at the meat counter, English-style short ribs are rectangular pieces of meat about 3 to 4 inches long with one rib attached. They will have a nice layering of lean meat and fat.

Boneless short ribs, used in the recipe for short ribs on potato cakes, are simply English-style short ribs with the meat removed from the bone. This cut usually requires ordering from a butcher.

There is also a cut of short ribs called flanken, in which the ribs are cut across the rib bones. A piece of this type of short rib will have four or five smaller, round pieces of bone held together by meat. It is used frequently in Asian-style preparations that call for grilling.

To select, look for bright red meat that is well-marbled, and for pieces with a large proportion of meat to bone.

-- Donna Deane

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