How to cook beef short ribs

How to cook beef short ribs

by GBC Kitchen 15 September 2022
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Beef short ribs, also known as Jacob's ladder, is a meaty cut that needs long, gentle cooking. Read our in depth guide to cooking beef short ribs, and find plenty of recipe inspiration, from slow braised beef ribs with a sweet and sour glaze, to smoky BBQ ribs cooked low and slow.

How to cook beef short ribs

Not yet rated

Beef short ribs, also known as Jacob's ladder, is a meaty cut that needs long, gentle cooking. Read our in depth guide to cooking beef short ribs, and find plenty of recipe inspiration, from slow braised beef ribs with a sweet and sour glaze, to smoky BBQ ribs cooked low and slow.

Beef short ribs are cut from the cow’s belly or mid-section and are sometimes called the Jacob’s ladder. These ribs are chunky, with plenty of meat surrounding the bones and dense fat marbling throughout. This flavoursome fat and connective tissue means that beef short ribs need long, slow cooking in order to become tender. Once fully cooked, however, they are particularly soft - the meat can be easily pulled away from the bones with little effort and cut through with a spoon. The ribs may be served with their bones, or the bones may be removed and the meat shredded.

What to look for when buying beef short ribs

Although some supermarkets may stock beef short ribs, they generally need to be ordered from a butcher. This also means that your butcher can prepare them as needed for a specific recipe, for example they may need to be separated into individual ribs, or the ribs may need to be cut into shorter lengths. 

As with all meat, we recommend buying free-range where possible and the highest quality you can afford, as it really does make a huge difference to the final flavour (in addition to it being more ethically and environmentally sound). Generally speaking, 1kg of beef short ribs will feed 4 people providing the meat is served in a sauce or with a side dish - remember, quite a large part of the weight of beef short ribs comes from the bones. 

How to braise beef short ribs

Beef short ribs are often braised as the liquid helps them to cook through, while the fat slowly melts, leaving behind a rich sauce that’s full of flavour. Short ribs will release a lot of fat during the cooking process, and you will probably want to skim some off; this can be done gently using a spoon while still hot. If you have time, however, it’s easiest to let the ribs chill overnight in their liquid and fat, then remove the fat as a solid layer the next day before reheating. This resting time will also intensify the flavour of the meat, so it’s well worth doing.

How to sous vide short ribs

If you have a water bath at home, the sous vide technique can help take the guess work out of slowly cooking beef short ribs. 

An advantage to the sous vide method of cooking short ribs is that you can control the cooking process at a precise temperature, which means you can cook the short ribs even more slowly over an even longer period. The short ribs should be sealed in a vacuum bag before cooking in a water bath at a low temperature for an extended period - usually 24 to 48 hours.

How to roast beef short ribs

Beef short ribs can also be roasted without any braising liquid. The ribs will release all of their fat into the pan and essentially confit in it as they cook. Follow our simple method below for roasted beef short ribs. 


Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5


Place the short ribs bone side down into a small roasting dish - you want them to sit snugly alongside one another


Season the ribs with salt and pepper and cover tightly with two layers of foil


Cook the ribs for 3 hours, or until very tender

How to BBQ beef short ribs

Beef short ribs are perfect for smoking on the BBQ, as there’s plenty of time for them to take on smoke flavour and develop a good bark (outer crust) while they cook at a low temperature. If you have a smoker or a ceramic BBQ, this is the time to use it, although you could also cook your ribs offset in a regular (e.g. kettle) BBQ.

Bear in mind that if you do decide to cook them in a regular kettle or other non-ceramic BBQ, they will be in there for a long time, so you will use a fair bit of fuel along the way. If you want some smoke flavour on your ribs without burning through a whole bag of charcoal, start your ribs on the BBQ with some wood or wood chips for about an hour, then transfer them to the oven to finish cooking.

How to brine beef short ribs

You may want to brine your beef short ribs first if you’re cooking them on the BBQ. The purpose of brining is to keep the meat juicy and season it beyond just the surface layer. It's important to use the correct ratio of salt to liquid when brining, so make sure to read our guide below before giving it a go. You can also try adding different flavourings to your brine, such as spices, woody herbs, aromatics like garlic and ginger or different liquids, such as beer


There are so many options for flavouring beef short ribs at various stages of cooking them. For example, flavourings such as dried chillies or whole spices can be added to a brine or braising liquid. There’s also the option to glaze your ribs after cooking, which works particularly well if they’ve been cooked on a BBQ. And don’t forget that the rib meat can be shredded off the bone once cooked and used to make a rich chilli or pie filling. Try substituting short ribs where you’d usually use minced beef if you have the time, and you will reap the rewards with a much greater depth of flavour. 

How to make a pie with beef short ribs

Try using beef short ribs where you would usually use a stewing cut and you will be rewarded with a rich, gelatinous sauce and bags of flavour from the tender rib meat and fat. Once the ribs are tender, simply pull the meat away from the bones and use to fill pies, pasties, empanadas, cheese toasties and so much more! 

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