I’m sure Braised Beef Short Ribs were invented for cold rainy days where all you want to do is hunker down indoors with a warming hearty meal full of satisfyingly rich flavours. If you’re here looking at this now, I bet you are in the same boat I was last weekend. I tell you what, it didn’t half make my weekend better – and I hoping it does the same for you.
Since you’re here already looking at this recipe, I don’t need to sell you on the fact that just how ridiculously tender and fall apart this meat can be if cooked low and slow. I don’t need to tell you it’s one of the best pieces of meat for braising, because you’re already looking to do that. What I can tell you that it’s one of the cheaper cuts of beef, and arguably the best ‘bang for buck’ you’re going to get. In the UK you’re looking at around £4 for two decent sized ribs. Perfect for two people. However making enough for two and making enough for four requires no more effort and totally worth doing even for the leftovers – who h reminds me, you need to check out our leftover Beef Short rib melt, it’s a revelation.
What is Braising?
In short, Braising is a cookery term used to describe a method of cooking meat in a liquid. It is possible to braise just about any meat, but it is often used to cook tougher cuts of meat that require a longer cooking time to become fork tender.
For example, if you were to cook these Beef Short Ribs like a piece of steak they would be as tough as old boots. It would be a catastrophic culinary disaster! However, if you were to cook it like a steak at first and then submerge in liquid and cook slow for a few hours, you would be looking at one of the most buttery soft and tender pieces of meat you’ve ever had.
Think of Braising as a two stage process. The first stage is to sear the meat fast and high, which kicks off the Maillard reaction and produces a more full bodied, intense meaty flavour. The second stage is to cook low and slow in a flavoured liquid such as Beef stock. This can be cooked in the oven or on the hob, although oven based would be the preference as it’s less of a direct heat on the bottom of the pan.
The pan you use also has a contributing factor. It’s always best to invest in a good casserole dish because if you buy the right one it will produce excellent quality food and last a lifetime. Our recommendation would be to buy a heavy duty cast iron pot with an enamel coating as they are bulletproof, easy to clean and retain heat so very well. A good quality stainless steel pot would be another great choice.
Top tips for making the best sauce
So now you know how to braise we’re halfway there to making an incredible sauce to go with the meat. The sauce itself is created using the braising liquor, which itself is enhanced with various vegetables and aromatics. This recipe will teach you how to make a sauce that is rich, full bodied and thick without using a thickening agent. Follow some key steps and you will be making one of the best sauces of your life.
- Use bone-in-ribs. The bone has a lot of flavour to add to the liquid as well as collagen. If you don’t know the health benefits of collagen do have a research. In culinary terms, collagen is what make liquids turn into jelly when you refrigerate them. Ever put the juice from the roast chicken in the fridge after cooking? That would be the collagen turning the liquid into jelly. The collagen will help to thicken the sauce towards the end of the cooking process as well as adding the flavour.
- Sear the meat first. Very important you do this, as it not only flavours the meat it intensifies the braising liquor. The brown bits stuck to the pan are crucial in developing the flavour of the sauce to the next level. Scrap them up and incorporate them when cooking the vegetables.
- Sweat the vegetables down until soft. No need to brown them here as it can make the sauce a little bitter.
- Use wine. Wine adds that acid so desperately needed by this type of sauce. It’s so rich that it needs some acid to cut through it and balance it out. It’s also a well known fact that acid is what makes our mouth water. Remember to add the wine and reduce it down until syrupy to remove the alcohol and intensify the flavour.
- Use proper stock, not stock cubes or jelly stock pots. Buy a ready made beef stock from your local butcher or supermarket, or even better make a batch yourself, freeze it and use part for this dish. The sauce will not be the same without proper stock.
- Flavour the liquid with vegetables and aromatics. Carrots, onion and celery are a good base. Then star anise, bay leaf and woody herbs will add to the overall flavour.
- Sieve the liquid. Often overlooked, this is a crucial step to create a beautiful sauce. The vegetables by now have done their job. They’ll be mushy and unpleasant to eat, get rid of them. Strain this liquid into a saucepan, turn up the heat and reduce down until it’s a nice thick, syrupy sauce with an intense beefy flavour. With the recipe measurements below there will be plenty of gravy for 4 people to enjoy.
- Once you have what looks like a nice rich sauce, finish it off with a generous knob of unsalted good quality butter. It will polish off the sauce perfectly and add that caught ofter shine they look for on Masterchef.
Follow these steps and I guarantee you will be eating one of the best sauces you’ve ever made. Do remember though, the quality of the stock will determine how good it is. Buy the best you can.
Check out our set by set video below to help you through the recipe card below:
Ridiculously Tender Braised Beef Short Ribs
- Good quality casserole dish
- Wooden Spoon
- Sharpened knife
- Fine mesh sieve
- Glass jug
- Medium sized saucepan
- 4 Good sized Beef Short Ribs trimmed of fat
- 1 litre Beef stock proper stock, not jelly pots or stock cubes
- 1 Large Onion diced
- 2 Medium Carrots peeled and diced small
- 2 Medium Celery sticks washed and diced small
- 75 g Mushrooms diced small
- 250 ml Red wine use one you'd be willing to drink
- 1 tbsp Tomato puree
- 1 tsp Marmite option, but adds to the meatiness
- 1 Star anise
- 2-3 tbsp Oil use one with a high smoking point like groundnut oil, avoid olive oil
- 2 tbsp Plain flour
- 2 tbsp Skimmed milk powder
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 Sprigs Rosemary for the boquet garni
- 2 Sprigs Thyme for the boquet garni
- 10 g Unsalted Butter
- 1 Piece of string for the boquet garni
- Trim the as much excess fat off the top /sides of each rib. Try and avoid slicing into the meat as much as you can, and try to remove as much "silver skin" as possible, as this will not break down easily during cooking.
- Dice the vegetables small and equal sized so they cook fast and evenly.
- Measure the wine, tomato paste, marmite and beef stock.
- Prepare the herbs and star anise - tie the rosemary and thyme up with some string (this is the boquet garni)
- Weigh the butter and combine the flour and milk powder together in a dish.
- At the last stage cover the ribs with the flour/milk powder combo. Shake off the excess by banging them together.
Cooking on the hob
- First stage is to sear the meat in a hot pan. Get a casserole dish with a heavy bottom (important to ensure we don't burn the meat) and put on a medium high heat. It should be hot but not so much that you can easily burn meat.
- Add some oil to the pan after heating for around 30 seconds. The oil should fully coat the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking.
- Immediately after adding oil, add the beef ribs. Place them face down on the meat side (not the bone side). Make sure they are not on top of each other and they are fully touching the bottom of the pan. Sear in batches if needs be.
- Sear on three sides - the top, and each side of the rib. No need to sear the bottom of the bone. Remove from the pan when each side has a nice golden sear. Place in a bowl and keep to the side.NOTE - Don't worry if they stick to the pan, use tongs to wiggle them free. If they don't come off, it means they are not ready. Leave them for another minute or so until done - turn down the heat if you feel it's burning. Don't worry if there are bits stuck to the pan when you pry them free, this is what we want! Flavour.
- Remove any black charred bits on the bottom of the pan as these are bitter. Add the onions and star anise to the pan now. Turn the heat down to a medium - low heat and stir well. Now we want to 'sweat' the vegetables - this means to remove their liquid and allow them to go soft. Cook for about 5 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan until all the sticky brown bits come up too. If they don't all come off, wait until the wine reduction step.NOTE - Don't allow the onion to brown otherwise it will add a slight bitter flavour profile.
- Next add the celery, carrot and mushrooms and sweat down for around 10 minutes or until nice and soft. Stir well.
- Remove the star anise (best to use a whole one so it's easier to remove) and add the red wine. Turn the heat up to high and reduce down until thick and syrupy or almost evaporated.
- Next add tomato purée and marmite. Stir well. Cook for 1 minute on a medium low heat.
- Add the beef ribs back now. Stir well and coat them in the vegetable mix.
- Add the stock to the pot now - remember, use proper stock or this recipe will not work towards the end (i.e. thickening). Ensure the ribs are submerged - add a splash of water if you need. Bring the stock to the boil on the hob. Stir well to ensure the vegetables are not stuck to the bottom.
- Once the stock is boiling, add the bay leaf and boquet garni ensuring the string is hanging just out of the pot.
- Place a lid on the pot, make sure the tip of the string is hanging outside. Place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for around 4 hours. The longer the better.
- Remove from the oven 4 hours - be carefull it will be hot. Check the tenderness of the ribs with a fork, if it begins to pull apart they are ready. If ready, place to one side.NOTE - if they are not ready resume the cooking process for another 30-45 mintues and check aghain. If they are good quality ribs they should be done within 4 hours.
Finishing the sauce
- Remove the ribs carefully from the pot, ensuring the meat stays attached to the bone. Place each rib in foil and wrap well. Put on a baking tray, cover with a tea towel and place in a warm area to retain the heat whilst finishing the sauce.
- Strain the liquid through a sieve into a large pourable glass jug. Strain once more into a medium sized heavy bottom saucepan. NOTE - discard the vegetable mush, use for comopost!
- Put the saucepan on a high heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat down to medium and simmer - stir with a whisk occasionally to make sure it is not sticking (or catching) on the bottom. If it is, reduce the heat slightly and whisk more often.
- Reduce the liquid down to around about 1/3 of the original volume. This should take around 15-20 minutes. The sauce should be thick and no longer emmulate the consistency of water. To check, take a tablespoon and dip it fully into the sauce. Remove the spoon and turn so the back of the spoon is facing you. Run your finger across the spoon to create a line, if the line remains and the sauce holds its shape it's done. If most of the sauce sticks to the spoon whilst upside down this is another good indicator of the correct consistency.NOTE - it depends on your preference. The most decadent sauce is reduced until thick and glossy. It should have an almost sticky mouth feel (this is the colagen) and have a lovely intense beef flavour. As a guide you should have around 375ml of liquid after reducing about 1000ml.
- Finish with the butter - whisk it into the sauce until fully dissolved. The saiuce will now become glossy, lovely and rich.
- Serve in deep, wide edged bowls on a bed of buttery mash and vegetables of choice. Place the rib on top of the mash and drizzle over the sauce. Serve extra on the side in a pot for the guest (or yourself!) to add whilst eating.
- Trim the as much excess fat off the top /sides of each rib. Important step as this may not break down during cooking.
- Dicing vegetables small and evenly ensure quick, even cooking.
- Milk powder and flour add the the browning of the meat, this is a Heston technique adapted from his Chicken gravy.
- Sear the meat well - this stage generates depth of flavour. Browning the meat does not lock in the juices, but instead adds flavour. The brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan are absolutely key to the flavour of the final sauce too. Make sure these are scraped off the bottom during the cooking of the vegetables / wine reduction. Remove any burn bits of flour first.
- Reduce the wine well. If not, you risk not cooking out the alcohol and having a bit too much tang.
- USE REAL STOCK. Either buy it from the chilled isle in the supermarket, butchers or make it yourself. Do not use stock cubes or jelly pots as they will not work. It's worth spending an extra £2/3.
- Make sure the liquid is boiling before going in the oven, otherwise it will not come to temp.
- You don't have to sieve the sauce twice (or even at all) but a really decadent and smooth sauce is created at this stage - The vegetables have done their job already. They will be like mush and unpleasant to eat.
- Reduce that sauces down until nice and thick - to the consistency you want as a gravy. The thicker the sauce the more intense. Keep tasting until you're happy.
- Finish the sauce with butter to add the glossy finish and an incredibly rich mouth feel.