Flavorful, easy-to-prep boneless short ribs aren’t actually cut from the rib section of the cow, as their name implies. They are cut from the chuck, or shoulder, of the animal. For that reason, chuck roast is the best substitute when boneless short ribs are unavailable. Purveyors can get away with this nomenclature because, as Boston-area butcher Joe Kinnealey explained, a boneless short rib “is actually the same muscle (Serratus ventralis) as a true short rib . . . [however,] the muscle changes in texture as it gets up into the shoulder.”
Why not just buy a less expensive chuck roast and cut it into chunks? When we purchased near-equal weights of boneless short ribs and chuck roast and then trimmed both, the former took half as much time to trim and the difference in cost of edible trimmed meat per pound didn’t even add up to $0.50. We’ll spend the extra pocket change and save time.
And what about bone-in short ribs? We don’t recommend them as a substitute for boneless short ribs. They are cut from a different part of the cow—the plate, or front belly—and they cost significantly more per edible pound.