In Praise of Braised Short Ribs
Braised short ribs, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Back in the early 2000s, when I lived in New York, braised beef short ribs were on every menu in town. The dish always felt rich and decadent (while never being the most expensive thing on the menu) — perfect for a brisk fall-turning-to-winter day, especially when served over horseradish mashed potatoes.
And then I realized I could make them at home — for what felt like pennies on the dollar.
I don’t see braised short ribs on menus much these days, but maybe that’s just because I'm living in Los Angeles, circa 2019. As soon as the temperature dips, though, I’m bringing them back into rotation. Because certain things about braised beef short ribs are trendproof. For instance...
Short ribs feel fancy. The price of beef short ribs has been inching ever higher. But while it’s no longer a rent-week dish, short ribs still aren’t as expensive as, say, steak. And even though they come out of the oven looking unctuous and uniformly brown, just add a sprinkling of chopped parsley for some color. Voila! It feels like you’re back at that quaint little bistro everyone was talking about.
Short ribs are endlessly flexible. I love braising short ribs in dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon is a great choice), but also beer and different kinds of vinegar. I like them with tomatoes and chipotle, but also star anise and ginger, and, of course, Korean-style. The magic of braised short ribs is that the meat itself is so achingly tender, the sauce so rich, it almost doesn’t matter how you riff on it. As Regina Schrambling put it in the Los Angeles Times, “You can take them around the world in 80 spices... And always, the beef in the end will still be unmistakably beef.”
Short ribs are forgiving. “Even a novice is virtually guaranteed success with short ribs,” wrote Florence Fabricant in the New York Times. The basic concept is to sear the meat (generally after a sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper), saute some aromatics, deglaze, then cook low and slow for two, three or four hours.
Still, it’s not impossible to mess them up. You might buy a cut that’s too fatty. You might cook them at too high heat. You might try to rush the process, which leads us to...
Short ribs take time. Which means you can and should take your time, too — a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, easy, especially since for much of that cooking time, the dish is unattended. You’re waiting to coax out all that collagen while not letting the meat dry out, and the secret, mostly, is to refrain from doing too much. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.
Unless noted otherwise, I am universally talking about English-cut short ribs, bone-in, and preferably the shorter two-inch cut. (I reserve the flanken cut, where the butcher magically cuts through the bones crosswise, leaving you with perfect little oblong meat handles, for Korean barbecue). And boneless short ribs? You can use them if you like (and many of these recipes call for them), but in my opinion, why miss out on whatever magic is there in the marrow?
Here are 15 recipes to have on hand once braising weather comes to your neck of the woods.
Braised Short Ribs
Ree Drummond’s enthusiasm for this braised short rib recipe is nothing less than contagious. But even better than that, she shows off how flexible the recipe can be. No bacon? No problem. Try pancetta. Fresh out of onions? Fine, use shallots. No beef broth? Chicken will do! Try to include the sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary, though; they add a lot of flavor.
Braised Short Ribs With Porcini-Port Wine Sauce
This recipe from Jennifer Olvera at Serious Eats is about building layer upon layer of flavor — not just the deeply browned short ribs (she uses medium-high heat and gets them browned all over), but porcini mushrooms and other aromatic veggies, tomato paste, garlic cloves and bay leaves, and port in addition to the traditional red wine. “Some things are simply worth time and effort,” Olvera writes.
Braised Short Ribs
The story behind this braised short ribs recipe from David Leibovitz involves a case of mistaken identity, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, chocolate, chili powder, and hoisin sauce. TLDR: It’s amazing and delicious.
Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs
While red wine is to be expected, do not turn up your nose at a recipe that uses beer in the braising liquid — especially a nice malty dark one. (For good measure, there's beef stock as well.) As with many a braising recipe, the Dutch oven is your friend here.
Braised Short Ribs With Squash and Chile
This recipe from Bon Appétit gets its smoky, rich Mexican vibe from the guajillo chile-inflected braising liquid. As with most of these recipes, you're going to start by browning the meat in vegetable oil over medium-high heat to develop some flavor before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Balsamic Braised Short Ribs
Balsamic vinegar and brown sugar is another classic flavor profile for short ribs.
Coffee-Braised Short Ribs
Yes, coffee. It took me a while to come around to the idea that my favorite beverage (next to red wine) had a purpose outside my morning cup. But I get it now: Beef and coffee is truly an underrated pairing.
Slow Cooker Red Wine Braised Ranch Short Ribs
It really doesn’t get easier than this. Short ribs + onions + olive oil + red wine + mustard + the secret ingredient: ranch dressing seasoning. Once you’ve seasoned and browned the ribs, just set it and forget it, slow cooker-style — and that’s it.
Instant Pot Stout-Braised Short Ribs
Few things take to the Instant Pot as well as braised beef short ribs. In this recipe from Williams-Sonoma Taste, what typically takes three hours in the oven takes just 45 minutes cook time in the Instant Pot, plus a little extra time — I always forget to account for this part — for the pressure to release. Here, a Guinness takes the place of red wine to give it that St. Patrick’s Day feel.
Pressure Cooker Cola-Braised Beef Short Ribs
I love it when the secret ingredient is something random and unexpected — and barely detectable in the finished product. This recipe asks for two cups of Coke (though not Diet Coke, mind you), which then comes together with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a bunch of BBQ-esque spices — including cayenne and plenty of garlic cloves — to create a sauce that’s not as sweet as you might expect. There’s some prep work involved, but thanks to the pressure cooker, this could even be a weeknight thing. (But who needs to rush things?)
Slow Cooker Galbijjim (Korean Braised Short Ribs)
I am perhaps biased, having grown up eating Korean food from my mom, grandmother, and aunties. But truly, Korean braised short ribs may be the very best kind of short ribs. There is no browning involved, which is sort of shocking for anyone who loves bistro-style braised short ribs. And in this recipe from Korean Bapsang, everything goes into the crockpot, 6 to 7 hours on high or 9 to 10 hours on low.
Asian Braised Short Ribs
This recipe from Food52 has a more broadly Asian flavor profile, featuring garlic, ginger and lemongrass, as well as cinnamon, star anise, and brown sugar, and soy sauce, hoisin and rice wine. Start by browning the short ribs and making the sauce in a Dutch oven on the stovetop; then transfer the pot to the oven until the meat is nice and tender. To be served over rice.
Braised Short Ribs
You can trust any Primal Palate recipe to be paleo, primal, and gluten-free — and this braised short ribs recipe is no different.
Paleo Balsamic Braised Short Rib Tacos
Joyful Healthy Eats shows us that braised short ribs is just barbacoa, eagerly awaiting tortillas, avocados, cilantro, lime, and onion.
Slow Braised Short Rib Poutine
You’ll see most braised short rib recipes served over mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, or egg noodles, or perhaps sauteed greens — and that’s all fine and dandy. But if you want to kick it up a notch (or take it down one, depending on your POV), try poutine. It’s meat and potatoes, just better.