Short ribs are the quintessential caveman cut, straight out of Fred Flinstone's larder, with their hunks of rich meat on the bone, looking primal and carnivore-ready. They're a rich winter meal, too, easy and forgiving to cook under their sleek caps of fat, melting into tender chunks of pull-apart beef in the oven.
If you're feeling like a hibernating caveman and want a delicious, comforting, beefy meal, here's a step-by-step recipe to help you take short ribs and turn them into a dinner with almost no work. Hunting not required.
Buying Short Ribs
In the past, short ribs have been a favorite meal of mine for another reason, besides their incredibly rich taste: they are inexpensive. Well, that may have changed a bit in the last few years. This formerly cheap cut, found with the stew beef and other tough braising meats, has become so trendy and spotlighted that prices (at least in my grocery stores) have risen accordingly. Have you noticed this too?
But they're still a deal compared to a steak or tenderloin, and perhaps your butcher isn't as sensitive to trends. The tradeoff in this price hike is that it's easier to find them. A few years ago I would always have to ask at the butcher counter for short ribs; these days I often find them in the meat case with other cuts of beef.
I usually buy short ribs with the bone still attached, which is cheaper. The more expensive boneless cuts are convenient, though, and easier for serving, but I think the bone adds flavor in cooking, too. Sometimes the short ribs will be chopped into short chunks, with one or two bones apiece. It really doesn't matter either way since the meat is going to fall off the bone after it is cooked, and the meat becomes so tender that it's easy to separate into individual servings.
The Method: Oven Braising
This method is very straightforward — it's the way that I nearly always cook short ribs. Season and brown the ribs, then add some onion and aromatics plus liquid to the pot, and cook low and slow. It's Braising 101.
For the low and slow step, I prefer the oven as it is more forgiving (no checking to make sure the bottom doesn't scorch) and I think it cooks more evenly.
However, you can also do these in the slow cooker or on the stovetop — just refer to the instructions at the end of the recipe below.
To Chill or Not to Chill?
Short ribs usually come with quite a bit of fat, and while you can trim some of this off before cooking I prefer not to, since it insulates the meat and keeps it moist and tender while cooking.
But all that fat, melted off during cooking, can give a pronounced greasy feel to the meat. So I prefer to chill short ribs overnight and remove the chilled fat before reheating and serving. They reheat easily on the stove or in the oven and usually taste even better with this overnight rest.
This step is also why I think short ribs are such a convenient dinner party dish! You can do all the work the day before then just reheat and serve.
How To Make Braised Short Ribs in the Oven
What You Need
bone-in beef short ribs
vegetable or high smoking point oil
Freshly ground black pepper
large onion, sliced
liquid, such as beer, wine, or low-sodium broth
2 to 4 sprigs
fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme
Pastry or basting brush
Dutch oven or deep sauté pan with a lid
Heat the oven and season the meat. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven, remove the racks above it, and heat to 325°F. Brush each short rib with the oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Brown the short ribs. Heat a deep, wide Dutch oven or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the short ribs in one layer, leaving room between each and working in batches if necessary. Now would be a good moment to turn on your hood vent or fan, if you have one! Sear the short ribs without moving for several minutes on each side, letting them brown deeply. Use tongs to turn and sear all sides. This will take about 15 minutes total.
Cook the onions. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and garlic around the browned short ribs. Let the onions cook until they soften, about 5 minutes.
Add liquid. Add the liquid — beer, wine, or broth — and bring to a simmer.
Braise in the oven. After the liquid comes to a simmer, add the herb sprigs. Cover and place in the oven. (Alternately, this is the point where you can transfer to the slow cooker for 8 hours on the LOW setting, or continue cooking on very low heat on the stovetop.) Braise in the oven until the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bone, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Rest the meat. When the meat is done, rest in a covered pan for 20 minutes before serving. Serve by gently tugging the chunks of meat away from the bone and spooning the saucy onions over top.
OPTIONAL STEP — Refrigerate overnight. While short ribs can be served immediately, they are a very fatty cut, which makes the dish very rich and even greasy. I prefer to let the ribs sit in the sauce and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate them overnight. At this point, you can scrape away the hardened layer of fat from the top before reheating. They will also improve in flavor and tenderness while resting overnight.
Reheat. To reheat, cover and warm over low heat on the stove for 15 to 20 minutes.
Slow cooker instructions: To cook in the slow cooker, progress through step 4, then transfer the meat, onions, and liquid to a slow cooker insert. Cook on the LOW setting for 8 hours.
Stovetop instructions: Instead of transferring the pan to the oven, you can also cook the short ribs on the stovetop. Keep the pan covered and cook over low heat for 2 to 3 hours, checking liquid levels intermittently and making sure the bottom isn't scorching.
Flavor variations: This is of course just the most basic method. You can get creative by using a spice rub, different kinds of beer (I like the slight bitterness an IPA provides) or red wine, or sherry. You can use a splash of soy sauce and mirin with Chinese five-spice; you could go Spanish with smoked paprika and Rioja.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
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