Food Matters: Short ribs, short solution

by America's Test Kitchen
This undated photo provided by America's Test Kitchen in November 2018 shows a short rib “pot roast” paired with mashed potatoes in Boston. (Steve Klise/America's Test Kitchen via AP)
AP | America's Test Kithen


“Short ribs are a staple in European cooking. Ours are long braised over 12 hours and then pulled apart and served with a gastrique sauce (gastrique is a sweet-and-sour sauce at its simplest. You caramelize sugar, combine it with equal parts vinegar (we use sherry), and reduce it slightly to make a tart, slightly thickened syrup). We serve it over risotto with roasted red peppers and a light horseradish cream. It is a best seller on our menu.”

-Rob Ittner, owner, Rustique Bistro

Beef short ribs are a prime example of how the precise control of time and temperature afforded by sous vide cooking can affect a piece of meat.

Short ribs are a tougher cut, with a good amount of collagen and intramuscular fat so they are traditionally braised to a fall-apart texture. But with sous vide, you can achieve short ribs that have a texture similar to a medium-rare steak or you can deliver a more traditional flaky, braised texture — or land almost anywhere in between.

For this recipe, we were looking for a fall-apart tender, pot roast-style texture, so we decided on a higher-temperature water bath (160 F) while keeping the cooking time under 24 hours.

This cooking time and temperature combination allowed us to break down this tough cut’s intramuscular collagen, tenderizing the meat while keeping it moist and preserving a rosy interior from edge to edge.

To make things even easier, we frontloaded the work. We quickly seared the short ribs, and then we built a sauce with traditional pot roast ingredients: mirepoix, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, and herbs. We bagged up the beef and sauce together for their sous vide bath.

Afterward, we strained the sauce and briefly reduced it on the stovetop, we poured it over the tender short ribs and finished the dish with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Easy pot roast, no pot or roasting required. Make sure that the ribs are at least 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. Be sure to double-bag the ribs to protect against seam failure.


Servings: 4

Sous vide time: 20-24 hours (Active time: 1 hour)

31/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup beef broth

8 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Using sous vide circulator, bring water to 160 F in 7-quart container.

Pat ribs dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of ribs on all sides, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to plate. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and ribs.

Add onion, celery, carrot, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to fat left in pot and cook over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in broth and simmer for 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to blender and process until smooth, about 1 minute.

Divide ribs, sauce, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves between two 1-gallon zipper-lock freezer bags and toss to coat. Arrange ribs in single layer and seal bags, pressing out as much air as possible. Place each bag in second 1-gallon zipper-lock freezer bag and seal bags. Gently lower bags into prepared water bath until ribs are fully submerged, and then clip top corner of each bag to side of water bath container, allowing remaining air bubbles to rise to top of bag. Reopen 1 corner of each zipper, release remaining air bubbles, and reseal bags. Cover and cook for at least 20 hours or up to 24 hours.

Using tongs, transfer ribs to serving dish. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest while finishing sauce. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced to 2 cups, 4 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over ribs, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Editor’s Note: Amanda Rae is traipsing across the globe in search of new fodder for Food Matters (and a well-deserved escape before high season is in full swing). She’ll be back next week to share new stories.

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