October/November 2011

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Rich, fork-tender short ribs usually need an overnight rest to get rid of the grease. We wanted the fat gone by dinnertime—no bones about it.

Why This Recipe Works

To develop a short ribs recipe with fork-tender meat and a silky, grease-free sauce in just a few hours, we chose boneless ribs, which are significantly less fatty than ribs with bones. We missed the body that the bones’ connective tissue added, so we sprinkled some gelatin into the sauce for suppleness. To ramp up the richness of our relatively quick beef short ribs recipe, we reduced wine with some browned aromatics before using it to cook the meat.


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Serves 6


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3 ½ pounds boneless short ribs, trimmed of excess fat (see note and technique below)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups red wine (see note)
1 cup beef broth
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
¼ cup cold water

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Serves 6

Make sure that the ribs are at least 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. If boneless ribs are unavailable, substitute 7 pounds of bone-in beef short ribs at least 4 inches long with 1 inch of meat above the bone. To remove the meat from the bone, see the illustrations below. We recommend a bold red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Côtes du Rhône. The test kitchen’s preferred brand of beef broth is Pacific. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or roasted potatoes.

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook, without moving, until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn beef and continue to cook on second side until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes longer, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke. Transfer beef to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and meat.

2. Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. (If onions begin to darken too quickly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to pan.) Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it browns on sides and bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high, add wine and simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth, carrots, thyme, and bay leaf. Add beef and any accumulated juices to pot; cover and bring to simmer. Transfer pot to oven and cook, using tongs to turn meat twice during cooking, until fork slips easily in and out of meat, 2 to 2½ hours.

3. Place water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top; let stand at least 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer meat and carrots to serving platter and tent with foil. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator or bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Allow liquid to settle about 5 minutes and strain off fat. Return cooking liquid to Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

Make ahead: Ribs and sauce can be refrigerated separately for up to 3 days. To serve, heat sauce and ribs together over medium heat until ribs are heated through, about 10 minutes.


Make Your Own Boneless Ribs

If you can't find boneless ribs, make them yourself from bone-in English-style ribs. All it takes is a few minutes and a sharp chef's knife. Position the knife as close to the bone as possible, then carefully slice away the meat. Trim and discard the hard fat and silverskin from both sides of the meat.

Recipe Testing

Secret Ingredient: Powdered Gelatin

By using boneless ribs, we can make short ribs without the usual fattiness (read: grease). But we pay a price. Boneless ribs lack bone marrow, which normally gives sauce extra flavor and body. We restore the texture by stirring in gelatin.


Twelve Steps to Braising Short Ribs

1. HEAT OVEN Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.

WHY? We like to braise in a moderate oven, which provides more even heat than the stovetop can.

2. BROWN IN BATCHES Sear the ribs in two (or more) batches until they’re well browned.

WHY? Caramelizing the crust will mean a more flavorful braise. If you crowd the pot, the ribs will steam instead of browning.

3. SAUTE AROMATICS Brown the onions and then add the tomato paste. Finally, add the garlic cloves.

WHY? Sautéing onions, tomato paste, and garlic in the rendered beef fat creates a rich base of flavor for the braising liquid.

4. ADD WINE, THEN BROTH Pour in the wine and reduce it by half, scraping up the browned bits (fond) in the pot. Then add the broth.

WHY? Reducing cooks some of the alcohol out of the wine and concentrates its flavor.

5. COVER AND BRAISE Place the lid on the pot and braise the ribs for two hours or more, until they’re fork-tender.

WHY? The lid traps heat and steam and prevents evaporation, letting the ribs slowly simmer and tenderize.

6. TURN RIBS TWICE During cooking, turn the meat in the braising liquid twice.

WHY? Turning ensures that the ribs will cook evenly in the simmering liquid.

7. PIERCE WITH FORK After two hours, test the ribs for tenderness by sticking a fork into the meat.

WHY? To see if it’s done. If the fork is difficult to remove, cook the meat longer.

8. REMOVE AND REST Using tongs, move the meat and carrots to a platter and let them rest.

WHY? So the meat juices, squeezed outward during cooking, can redistribute, ensuring juicy ribs.

9. STRAIN SAUCE Strain the contents of the pot into a large bowl.

WHY? To turn the vegetable-studded braising liquid into a smooth sauce. By this time, the onions are spent.


10. DEFAT SAUCE Pour the sauce into a fat separator. Let it settle for five minutes and then return the liquid to the pan, leaving the fat behind in the separator. 

WHY? So the strained sauce isn’t greasy.

11. REDUCE SAUCE Reduce the strained, defatted sauce on the stovetop for five to 10 minutes.

WHY? To thicken the sauce slightly and concentrate its flavor.

12. ADD GELATIN Dissolve the gelatin in a small bowl of cold water and then stir it into the pot.

WHY? The gelatin makes the sauce silken and full-bodied (even though you used boneless ribs).

Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB