Braised beef short ribs are one of my favorite slow-cooked meals! This cut of meat is affordable and absolutely succulent when cooked so the meat falls off the bone. Here are a few chef secrets for how to cook them, and a crowd-pleasing short rib recipe that's keto, paleo and GAPS diet friendly. And yes, there's wine.
The Best Cuts
Braising is a great cooking technique for tough cuts of meat. When cooked low and slow, the fibrous meat breaks down and the ample fat content gives you a tender, succulent bite. The cuts of meat that take best to a braise are the cheaper ones.
- shoulder (with beef, often called chuck)
- pork butt or picnic (actually a shoulder cut)
- short ribs
- stew meat
- loin and leg cuts (like lamb)
- beef cheeks (don't knock 'em until you try em).
These cuts are overall less expensive than leaner, tender steak cuts, and truthfully bring more flavor to your plate. As long as you possess the braising know-how.
Below I've boiled down the braising technique to six steps. These are the ones chefs live by when braising out-of-this-world oxtails for you. And if you retain even half of them, you'll be well on your way to succulent, falling-off-the-bone beef. It's well worth the effort for a restaurant-quality meal, and after a few rounds the process becomes simple and mindless.
Season well & sear it right. Be generous with your salt and pepper - you should be able to see ample seasoning on all sides. First searing the meat over high heat is standard practice in a restaurant kitchen, and adds a rich flavor to the dish you can't get anywhere else.
Choose your liquid wisely. When braising or cooking a stew, your best bet is a low salt, high quality boxed stock, or homemade. But let's be honest, not many of us have the time or desire to long simmer stock at home.
A dry red wine like Merlot, Zinfandel or any Spanish red can add beautiful dimension to braised short ribs. And is my personal favorite. Any combination of wine, stock, broth or even beer gets the job done.
Low temperature, long time. Cover the seared meat with wine and stock about three-quarters up, and cook at a low, steady temperature. The oven is your friend here, no higher than 325° F. If you own a slow cooker, by all means put it to work. I personally find oven-braising to result in the most intense flavors.
Braising meat in the oven ensures the temperature is steady. Because often with the stove when it gets too hot, you turn it down. Then it's not hot enough, so you crank the heat back up. Frequent temperature changes can leave your meat throwing tantrums and toughening up.
So when braising, it's best to go with the Goldilocks approach. And the oven can give you that just right temperature the whole time.
Let it be and let it rest. Check on the meat occasionally, but do not disturb it with so much as one single flip. Once it is almost falling off the bone, pull the meat gently out of the liquid, and cool it overnight.
This allows the meat to retain moisture, structure and that succulence (from broken down fatty tissue) you just spent hours creating. Braised dishes are best if served the day after cooking, but I've never regretted enjoying the meat immediately.
Strain and simmer. The braising liquid is gold! Full of flavor it's taken on from the meat and aromatic vegetables, it becomes one amazing sauce. Simmer the liquid and another good dose of beef stock over medium-high heat, until it reduces by about half. Strain out the vegetables for a smooth, silky glaze.
Warm and serve. Heat your braised short ribs (or other braise) in the oven, doused in plenty of the sauce and covered. If sent in alone, the long-cooked meat will dry out before you can say braise.
Foil works just as fine. I often reheat braised meats in the shallow (heat-safe) food storage container I chill them in. Tightly-sealed foil is a great make-shift lid.
Side Dish Ideas
Braised short ribs and stews are primed for serving over a nice helping of mashed potatoes, or for a low-carb/grain-free option, a celeriac or parsnip purée.
My personal favorite is a cheesy polenta, and the hassle-free recipe is below. Because we just spent three hours nurturing short ribs to perfect tenderness, there's no need to overcomplicate the rest.
Yours in cooking with wine,
Tender, savory, succulent short ribs! Braising is the only way to tenderize tough cuts of meat, and a low and slow simmer pays off big in flavor. This method is for oven-braising, but see the notes for slow cooker and stovetop short ribs.
- 3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
- avocado oil or ghee, for searing ribs
- 2 carrots, peeled and rough chopped
- 1 yellow onion, rough chopped
- 2 stalks celery, rough chopped
- 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- beef stock, low-salt and organic recommended
- dry red wine, such as Merlot, Zinfandel or Syrah/Shiraz
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 star anise
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup course ground corn meal (polenta)
- 1 Roma tomato, seeds removed, small diced
- ¼ cup Parmesan, grated or shredded
- 1 tablespoon sour cream or créme frâiche
- ¼ cup green onions, sliced thin on a bias
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 325° F. In a large pot or dutch oven with a lid, sear meat on all sides over medium-high heat until dark brown. Set aside.
- In same pot, add celery, onions and carrots and cook over medium heat in same oil until golden brown.
- Add about a cup of wine or beef stock, and reduce by half scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
- Add short ribs back to pot, and more wine and/or stock to come three-quarters of the way up the meat.
- Bring to a simmer, cover and cook in the oven until ribs are fork tender, and almost falling off the bone. Anywhere between 2 and 4 hours. Add more wine/stock as necessary to keep the level at least halfway up the sides of the meat.
- Take short ribs out of the pot and set aside. Remove bones, if desired.
- Simmer braising liquid until it reduces in volume by half, and begins to thicken slightly.
- Serve immediately, or chill overnight before reheating and serving.
For ultimate short ribs
Braised meats are prime for eating once they've been cooled, chilled overnight and then reheated in their cooking liquid. The connective tissue broken down during the initial cooking is given a chance to rest, ad once reheated allows for an even better bite.
- Remove excess congealed fat from short ribs.
- Place ribs in a shallow pan or pot, and cover with the reduced cooking liquid.
- Reheat until hot in a 350° F oven.
- Serve over mashed potatoes, polenta or parsnip purée, drizzled with the glaze.
- Whisk course ground cornmeal into 4 cups of salted, boiling water or chicken/vegetable stock. Simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring often. Add more water or stock as needed.
- To finish polenta, stir in Parmesan, sour cream, diced tomato, green onions and plenty of salt and pepper.
All the steps are the same, except instead of placing the covered pot in the oven, you simmer on the stovetop. Use a medium-low heat until the meat is nearly falling off the bone, 2-3 hours. Try to keep the heat steady, and not turn it up or down too much.
For Slow Cooker
Follow steps 1-3 for the short ribs above, then transfer seared ribs, aromatic vegetables, wine and stock to slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours, the proceed with steps 6-8.
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