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How long does it really take to braise short ribs?

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I attempted the Zuni Cafe's short ribs braised in Chimay ale yesterday. The recipe calls for braising at low heat for 2-2 1/4 hours. I have a hard time getting my stove low enough, so cooked it in a 300 degree oven (which the recipe blesses). I had to take it out after 2 hours due to poor planning on my part, and the short ribs were not even close to fork tender. I think that they needed at least another hour of cooking to get there, probably more. While I'm usually pretty good with a braise, I have had the same issue every time I have made short ribs. I cook them for 2-3 hours, but they never have the fall-apart tenderness that they have when I order them out.

Is it just a cooking time issue, or am I doing something else wrong (possibly not browning enough)?

For disclosure purposes, I will say that I had them sliced an inch thick across the bone, when the recipe called for slicing them 2 inches thick.

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  1. You can increase your oven temp to 350 F. The meat needs to have an internal temp of around 200 for at least 30+ min or so for the collagen to break down. I do mine at 325 to 350 in a covered dutch oven with enough liquid to just cover. They come out falling off the bone in 2-3 hours

    1 Reply
    1. re: scubadoo97

      As a follow up to scuba's post, I would suggest you get an oven thermometer -- it's possible your oven wasn't as hot as you thought it was. If you can count on the reliability of your oven, then it's probable that you didn't cook them long enough.

      I did the Zuni Cafe Cookbook short ribs for my dad for Christmas a few years ago, but mine cooked longer than the recipe called for, because of timing issues. They were great, especially with the gremolata. I'd try the recipe again and cook them longer. Short ribs are a cut that is forgiving to longer cooking. In fact, I'd do them the day before and reheat them before I would try to rush them the day I'm planning to serve them.

    2. It also depends on the temperature of the meat and liquid upon entry into the oven. Most braises jfood does has the liquid close to or at simmer and the meat already in the cooking mode. Likewise it depends on how much is in the baise. Jfood normally braises short ribs 3-5 hours at 275-300. Also found that if you cool them and then bring them back to temperature the cool-cooking process really tenders them up.

      1. Did you brown the ribs before braising?

        4 Replies
        1. re: mrbozo

          yes, brown the ribs on all side, saute veggies, deglaze with wine and stock, bring to hard simmer, cover and into oven.

          1. re: mrbozo

            I did brown the ribs. The whole thing was at a simmer before I put it in the oven.

            1. re: Megiac

              Yes but you mentioned in the OP that you took them out after 2 hours when they need 3-5 (jfood likes them closer to 5). jfood does not buy into short ribs getting fork tender after 2.5 hours in the oven and straight to the plate.

              The problem was probably a combination of the length in the oven plus directly to the plate. Those puppies wanted more time in the sauna, a simple cool down and then a reheat..

              Likewise the place you normally eat them may cook them in the morning, then cool down-reheat process lcloser to meal time.

              Next time try the braise on Saturday, into the fridge and reheat for a Sunday dinner. The best way to end a weekend with some polenta and short ribs.

              1. re: jfood

                I am wondering why the recipe called for cooking them only 2-2.25 hours for fork tender (and I've seen other recipes that have a similarly short cooking time that have had similar not tender results). So far, I've never been able to get them close to where they should be in that time period, so I am not sure what sort of magical meat these cookbook writers are buying (mine was from a very nice butcher shop, so I'm confident it wasn't a meat quality issue).

                Last night, I had forgotten that we had concert tickets until the afternoon. I knew that I wouldn't have time to cook them on a weekday and had presalted them the day before, so I forged ahead. In retrospect, I should have cooked them for two hours, taken them out of the oven when we left, cooked them for another couple of hours after I got home, and eaten them tonight instead (I actually did do this with the leftovers). But since the cookbook gave me a 2 -2.25 hour time frame for cooking, I figured I'd be OK. Lesson learned, I guess.

                They weren't bad. The flavors were actually terrific. I was just hoping for something more tender than what I ended up with.

          2. Megiac -
            I slow cook mine in a heavy LeCrueset dutch oven - in the oven at low heat for prob. a min. of 4 hours (usually longer).....but, that's a lot of time to be home especially on a weekday - ( I won't go off and leave ANYTHING in the oven - personal rule) - - so you might want to give a pressure cooker a try. I have used my pressure cooker for a lot of other purposes - but not with short ribs. I think I'll give it a try and see if it can replicate that long cooking process that breaks everything down so nicely - I'm always skeptical about taking shortcuts, but I have heard of people having good luck with the PC. Just an idea.

            Oh - and I have also found that letting them sit a while before serving helps - or the already suggested idea of cooling and then slowly bringing them back up to temp.

            1. i've done this recipe once, to rave reviews from my dining group, and didn't have too much an issue with the tenderness although it wasn't totally fork tender. but, i did keep cooking the ribs, covered tightly with foil in a roasting pan, until they more or less passed the fork test. the ribs had shrunk considerably on the bone too. i think this was more 3+ hrs in the oven...

              pic: http://allyoucanupload.webshots.com/v...

              my issue with the zuni recipe is i couldn't figure out how to get the braising liquid to reduce correctly. i think i added way too much liquid. it was nowhere near what i'd call a sauce even after 20 min of reducing. oh well.

              i just tried boneless short ribs braised in guinness last week, which turned out great. i will say that if you leave the ribs in the fridge overnight and reheat them the next day, they are fork-tender and flavors are incredibly focused. maybe the "rest and reheat" period is the key, as jfood mentions below.

              pic: http://allyoucanupload.webshots.com/v...

              2 Replies
              1. re: lawrence

                Lawrence,

                I've made a beer-based carbonadde (but not with shortribs) many times and the thin broth rather than a sauce is par for the course with this version (a savory version with onions). I make it straight from a Belgian Provencial cookbook, so I am fairly confident that the thinner broth is par for the course. There is another version of carbonadde I've had in restaurants that is sweeter, thicker and I think has prunes in it, but that doesn't seem to be what the Zuni Cafe recipe is after.

                1. re: Megiac

                  thanks megiac. good to know. i now know i prefer a thick sauce over thin broth. =)

              2. Two things - short ribs are best cooked a day (at least) in advance. After the two to three-hour braise, let them cool completely and refrigerate them overnight. You will see a marked difference in the quality and texture.

                Secondly, try hard not to judge your home attempts with those in restaurants; 80%+ of the restaurants that are serving short ribs have prepared them "sous vide" which cannot be duplicated at home and makes short ribs especially fork tender.

                1. The recipe that I use calls for a 350 degree oven and cooking for 2 hours (1 hour covered, 1 hour uncovered). I'm pretty certain that I cook them for longer, maybe 2 1/2-3 hours total. They come out great. I always make them the day ahead and re-heat, which also helps.

                  1. All ribs are not created equal. Some are tougher, some are more tender, some have more connective tissue, some less and some are just going to take longer than others to get to where you want them to go. If you have the time start cooking long in advance of when you want to serve the meal. That way if you need an extra half hour or so you'll have it. The ribs won't go bad if you gently keep them warm while you wait to serve. Me, I like my pressure cooker for going through long braises at warp speed.

                    1. Where can I get the Zuni cafe recipe ?

                      1. I've made short ribs and oxtail in the pressure cooker before with the same process: brown, saute vegetables, deglaze, except then I put the lid on and bring it up to pressure. It takes about 40 minutes this way, though I always check it around 25 -30 minutes to make sure that the liquid hasn't al boiled away or that it isn't going to get overcooked. It is a total mess when you run out of liquid,because the bottom will scorch and ruin the whole meal. So if you are trying this out it is better to add a liberal amount of water and then boil extra liquid away with the lid off if it is too much. I'm making some right now, if you check my blog in a few day's you'll can see the picture.

                        http://dinner-bell.blogspot.com

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: dinnerbell

                          So the pressure cooker worked very well again. After about 40 minutes, the ribs were pretty tender, and I opened the lid and simmered for another 20 minutes to let the sauce reduce and the ribs finish tenderizing. They were fall of the bone tender and didn't suffer too much in terms of flavor compared to the longer method. I think when you really want to go all out then the slow braise is the way to go, but the pressure cooker is definitely not to be snubbed.

                          http://dinner-bell.blogspot.com

                          1. re: dinnerbell

                            I agree with you about the wisdom of a pressure cooker for short ribs. Some other factors to consider are the grade of beef, amount of liquid, type of liquid (wine v. beer), aount of beef broth, degree of immersion of the ribs (completely covered, half covered, etc), oven temp, pre-cooking marinate time (if marinated). I been doing them a long time, and it just takes experience to get the hang of it. Boneless are becoming more popular, and that is a factor. They really are getting popular...watch for a price jump.

                          2. re: dinnerbell

                            When cooking short ribs or anything with wine in the pressure cooker I like to simmer the wine a bit first to diminish the raw alcohol flavour. In the sealed pressure cooker alcohol cannot evaporate and escape the same way it can when you simmer in a open or partially open pot. There is not always time for that, if there was I might not be using the pressure cooker in the first place, but when I can, it makes the dish a little better.

                          3. I'm amazed at the high temp recommendations. I just did short rib in my dutch oven at 200F for about 3 1/2 hrs. They're fork tender now, and I'm going to refrigerate them and heat them back up tomorrow.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jmunn

                              I do mine at 325 for three hours, based on the Balthazar recipe.

                              1. re: jmunn

                                This is what I do too; low and slow. I cooked them for the first time a couple months ago and cooked them for 4 hours. They were very tender and way tasty.

                              2. Have spent several days in this 100 degree heat reading short ribs recipes. Forgot why I suddenly wanted them. Checked recipes from Babbo, Zuni, The Minimalist, cooks.com, Chowhound, whatever. Totally conflicting information.

                                Here's what I did, today and it is fantastic and very simple:

                                2+ lbs bone-in short ribs from local Albertson's. $2.99 per lb., package was $6.94 for 4 ribs.
                                (Amazingly it was one of their larger packages -most were 1 lb.)
                                1 stalk celery from the Reddi-Salad thing - 11 cents
                                2 loose carrots, 36 cents
                                1 yellow onion, 63 cents
                                4 cloves of garlic, on hand
                                1 bottle Columbia Crest Merlot-Cab, $6.99

                                Preheated older Rival Crockpot. Stay with me, it's 107 degrees here today.

                                Sprinkled small amount of olive oil in cast iron Dutch oven, turned on high. When hot, added two of the ribs. Sprinkled with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Pan kept smoking, so I pulled it off the heat several times and lowered the temp. After 7 mins ribs were dark brown all over. Removed them, put in the remaining two. Same thing, oil is smoking badly, but ribs are browining, not burning.

                                While browning ribs I chopped carrots, onion, 4 cloves garlic, celery. When ribs were done, I swear just 5-7 minutes for each batch, removed them. Put in veggies, stirred a bit until they softened, maybe 3-5 mins.

                                Put veggies in crockpot, added the 4 ribs, 1/3 bottle merlot-cab (all that was left from last night), and equal amount of water (forgot to buy beef broth). Sprinkled with more salt and pepper.

                                Turned on high at 9:30 am. Turned to low about 3:00 pm. Looked done, but I wasn't taking chances. At 6 pm I removed ribs, strained liquid into saucepan. Added about 6 cups of ice cubes to saucepan to solidify fat. And there was a LOT of it.

                                Served two ribs to myself with mashed potatoes. Am reducing liquid as we speak. Will use it to reheat remaining ribs tomorrow.

                                Stupendous! Moist, fatty, flavorful. This is now going to be my lazy day meal from now on. Forgot to take photo, but they looked darn nice also.