Sous Vide Short Ribs

Dining date: 7/6/12

cut short ribs

Sous vide cooking seems to have a countless number of possible applications, but I think it has the most profound effect on things that need to cooked for extended periods of time. Sure, it can produce a perfect medium-rare steak, but a grill/stovetop/oven can do a pretty good job too. For tougher beef cuts such as short ribs or chuck, sous vide cooking provides the ability to break down muscle fibers over a prolonged period of time at a precise temperature. Short ribs are a perfect example of this; traditionally these are simmered for a couple of hours in a rich braising liquid. The effect is a tender piece of meat, albeit overcooked. The accompanying braising liquid imparts a lot of the flavor and moisture back into the meat. When cooking in a vacuum at a controlled temperature, the muscle fibers can be broken down with much less heat, yielding tender meat that’s perfectly cooked and juicy. Of course, since it’s a lower heat, it also takes a lot longer to cook too. Between the two methods, it’s hard to say one is better than the other; they’re just different.

There are a number of recipes out there for sous vide short ribs – David Chang has a popular one for 48-hour short ribs in an Asian braising liquid. However, Thomas Keller cooks his a whole day longer – 72 hours. It’s something I’ve been wanting to make ever since I got my sous vide machine. However, it took me a while to get comfortable enough to leave the machine on for a straight 72 hours…something that sounds kind of ridiculous.

Given that it would take so long to prepare, I figured I’d cook a large batch. I found 6 pounds of bone-in short ribs at my local market. For some reason, the bone-in short ribs at the market always appear to have better marbling than the boneless, so I went with those.

raw short ribs

raw short ribs

I experimented a little bit with flavors; for half of the short ribs, I seasoned with simple salt and pepper. For the other half, I sauteed a mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery and reduced red wine. After freezing this mixture, I added this to the other bags with the short ribs in order to mimic a more traditional braise. After the bags were vacuum sealed, they were put into the 57.0C (134.6F) water bath for a full three days.

sealed short ribs

Seriously, patience was probably the hardest ingredient in this recipe.

After 72 hours I was ready to dig in. The bags were full of juice, and the first thing I noticed about the short ribs was that they hadn’t shrunk much at all. When braised on the stovetop or oven, they always shrink quite a bit, but I could see there was relatively little shrinkage when compared to the bone size.

cooked, bagged short ribs

de-bagged short ribs

seared whole short ribs

I sliced off the bottom bones and seared the exterior with a torch. They were finally ready to eat!

seared short ribs

Sous vide short ribs

These were fantastic. Luscious, tender and very juicy, these were some of the best short ribs I’ve had. Much of the muscle fiber and collagen had broken down, leaving the meat easily fork-tender, but not at all mushy.  Pretty much as good as they looked. As for the two different types, I didn’t notice a significant difference between the salt & pepper short ribs and the celery/onion/carrots/red wine variation. Not sure why.

The next step for me is making a sauce out of the juices…I’ve had difficulty with this. When heated, most of the juices coagulated into a gross-looking, brown form; I believe I need to heat the juices then strain to get a ‘clean’ final product for sauce-making. Any tips on this would be appreciated!


    1. Yep! Boil and strain or skim. Just like if you were skimming the scum off a stock or consomme. The scum appears quickly after it boils but that liquid is pure gold! Don’t throw it out!

    1. Yeah I did in this case. Figured the bone would provide additional flavor into the cooking liquid over the 72 hours…hard to say for sure whether it did or not, but it couldn’t have hurt.

  1. I’m about to start my first batch – trying to figure out whether to salt, go 36-48-72, temp, etc. Found a lot of articles (including yours), but regarding your difficulty with making a sauce with the juices, I remember seeing this:
    “It is fine to substitute beef stock for the jus, but we don’t recommend using the juice from the ribs. That juice doesn’t taste very good after being cooked sous vide for so long.”

    1. Hi Scott – would love to hear about your results. I’ve also read that article on the beef stock; one would think the juices would be great for it, but perhaps not. I’ve had a friend serve it with a homemade demi-glace, and that turned out fantastic.

  2. Thanks Darin. It worked out well; I liked it, and my picky eaters came back for seconds, so that’s a rave review in my book (6 year olds are so pedestrian).

    I split the difference with 42 hours at 140 and finish in the oven with a one hour braise in wine/beef stock reduction. Went with whipped potatoes and roasted carrots with honey & rosemary.

  3. Try sealing the short ribs with some veal stock and butter.
    The butter can be recaptured with the fats released when you chill the ribs. Butter is great for roux, and the cooking liquid can be reduced and strained

  4. The juices from sous vide are not stable to high heating so treat as if you were adding cream or yogurt to a sauce. If you don’t want the juices to coagulate make your sauce base and add the warm juices in at the end just before serving. Don’t boil or simmer your sauce once you have added the juice in.

    1. Thanks for the advice Marv. Lately I’ve been heating the juices, then separating out the proteins through a very fine filter. I’ll have to try this, as it looks like a slightly less time-consuming approach.

  5. Hi, I learnt to make up the sauce, as usual, using the juice and then, to blitz it with an immersion blender. Works very well and no sign of the gross coagulated juice. Regards from Johannesburg, South Africa, where the spring buds are out…

      1. The juice is very thin, think it’s like very diluted blood or plasma which is why reducing it causes that gross coagulation….Can’t see how it can be effectively strained or blitzed, I just dump it even though it seems like such waste. Your short ribs look awesome, will try out soon!

  6. The juice may be the best bit – chill it and add it as a jelly, it’s got a fantastic flavour.

    If you want a braise-type sauce, you’re on the right track. Use a mirepoix and herbs; cut a rib or other cheap flavourful cut into thin pieces, brown these hard. Pancetta, bacon or pork also if you wish. Deglaze with wine, and add to the sous-vide bag.

    You’ll get a delicious sauce.

    This approach of separating the sauce and browning from cooking the meat works well for stews such as a coq au vin which can be deconstructed to achieve a more full-flavoured sauce without toughening the meat. Render the fat, separate the skin and carcase, brown the skin separately then the carcase and make the sauce at a low temperature, adding meat later.

    Add the breasts at low temperature for a few minutes before serving.

  7. dear lord… please do some more of these.. i am trying this tomorrow! I was on and read some of their reviews and selected a sous vide gadget.. it arrived yesterday! Your short rib will be breaking my sous vide virginity! Thanks again

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