Cheap and Meaty: How To Make Oven-Braised Short Ribs

When it's this cold, sometimes we really, really want a bite or two of meat with our evening meal. And in the fall and winter, our top pick for inexpensive, easy, and absolutely succulent meat is short ribs. Have you ever made short ribs? They're cheap and easy. Here's a quick guide to cooking them.

Short ribs have felt like a hot item this past year. In fact, we went to three (THREE!) grocery stores over the New Year's holiday weekend, looking for short ribs, and none of them had them! They were all sold out. Well, except for one measly pound at a Whole Foods.

The reason for this is simple. Short ribs are relatively inexpensive (they come in around the same price as stew beef or other braising cuts) and yet they are foolproof and extra-delicious.

When you go to buy short ribs at your meat counter, you will usually have to ask the butcher for them. We try to buy our beef from a local farm, but when we do buy short ribs at the grocery store, they are almost never in the case with the other meats. We always have to ask at the counter for them.

You can buy short ribs with the bone still attached, which is usually cheaper. The more expensive boneless cuts are convenient, though, and nice for serving.

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How to braise short ribs
You really don't need a recipe to make short ribs. All you need to do is season them, brown them well, and then slap them in a covered dish in a slow oven for a few hours. Ta-da! Falling off the bone meat that melts in your mouth. (See why they are so popular?)

Here's how we make our short ribs. First we get about 1/2 pound for each dinner guest (the bones add a little extra weight to each portion). We pat them dry, then season them liberally with salt and pepper.

Then we heat up a little oil in a deep Dutch oven and brown those ribs. You want them dark and even a little charred around the edges. This is where all the flavor comes from!

Then pour in a few cups of liquid. Beer, wine, and broth all work well. We like to use about 2 cups of red wine plus 1 cup of chicken or beef broth. Deglaze the pan a little, then toss in a sliced onion and a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme.

Put the lid on and slide into a 325°F oven. Cook for about 2 1/2 hours, then take out and let the ribs rest for about half an hour before serving. Serve with rice, pasta, noodles, or polenta. We love a big pile of polenta with some shredded short ribs in their juices on top!

That's the basic method that we use for braising short ribs. You can get much fancier, with yummy rubs and sauces, but this is a good place to start if you need a simple evening meal. It takes awhile for these to cook, but they just get better over the next few days.

Do you have a favorite short rib recipe?

More short ribs:
Good Recipe for a Crowd: Beer-Braised Short Ribs
Anne's Braised Hoisin Beer Short Ribs

(Images: Faith Durand)