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Bone-in beef short ribs - not worth the effort or did I mess them up?

This weekend I wanted to make bone-in beef ribs, specifically a certain recipe where the braising liquid is cooked down to a dense sauce.

I invited our great "eater" friend for dinner, he is always up for anything, and I set to cooking.

The short version is they were rather awful. The liquid would not reduce or thicken and the meat fell off the bone yet was full of connective tissue.

Mr. CB and friend assured me that dinner was more than edible and not to worry about it.

After we were finished and relaxing with more wine, Friend said he also tried to make them once with similar not-so-great results. Further, his mother's family raised beef cattle and had a butcher shop for 3 generations and he said his mom thinks of this cut as garbage meat that isn't worth the effort.

Thoughts and opinions? Maybe I just didn't do it right? Or are bone-in beef ribs overrated?

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  1. I'm not trying to take the easy way out (well, maybe I am) but if you search here for beef short ribs you'll get a ton of great info. And, no, they're not "garbage meat" in the least. They get a lot of CH-love and deservingly so.

    1. They are fantastic when cooked properly. They need to be cooked for a LONG time. Not all shortribs are created equal, Ive bought them and had them be almost nothing but fat. You have to be selective with the ones you buy.

      1. I personally love braised short ribs, and I love oxtail, too, which is a similarly unctuous cut with a lot of fat and a lot of connective tissue and gelatin. I don't think it's a crap cut of meat, but if you like a very high muscle content, it may not be the cut for you.

        That said, if you bought particularly fatty short ribs (you can actually see that there's a lot of marbling), you would likely have ended up with a very low meat to fat/connective tissue ratio when cooked. You can find short rib that is visibly leaner and should result in more meat for you to eat at the end.

        As to the sauce, if it didn't thicken properly, the recipe may have called for too much liquid to begin with.

        Would you mind sharing the recipe?

        3 Replies
        1. re: inaplasticcup

          Hmmm...quality of the ribs was likely an issue. These ribs were incredibly fatty. 3 had a couple of small bites of meat on them. The other 12-15 were at least 75% fat. These ribs came from the half we bought so I didn't have a choice like looking in the butcher case. Friend had the same thought, that the particular ribs weren't the choicest.

          Will post the recipe tomorrow.

          I have the recipe bookmarked at the office and am at home right now. It called for browning then cooking in the oven for 3.5 hours at 350 degrees, cooling and overnight in the fridge, skim off all the fat, return to stove top for an hour to reduce the sauce.

          Yes, the amount of liquid may have been an issue.

          1. re: cleobeach

            soooooooooooooooo... you roasted them for 3.5 hours? meat like this needs a long slow braise in liquid.

            brown the meat.

            remove from pan.

            brown veggies and aromatics.

            add wine/beer/stock. get to boiling.

            add meat back to pan. theer should be enough liquid to cover the meat at least 1/2 way.

            bring liquid to simmer.

            cover and put in low oven (like 200-250) or on low stove top. for HOURS. till meat is falling apart melting tender. tunr the meat several times during cooking.

            you can then chill entire contents overnight to remove fat easily the next day, plus get extra marinade time. then remove fat layer, remove meat, strain out veggies and reduce stock for sauce.

            this kind of thing is very easy. it just takes a long long time.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              soooooooooooooooo... you roasted them for 3.5 hours? meat like this needs a long slow braise in liquid.

              No, I mis-typed. I browned them first them put them into the oven, covered with my wine/stock liquid, completely covering the ribs, for 3.5 hours.

        2. Koreans would disagree with that. They love short ribs stewed and grilled and is considered the most primo of all cuts on the cow.

          1. Actually bought some today to make Korean BBQ short ribs an absolute killer way to do short ribs. Google a recipe for Korean BBQ short ribs, all will be relatively similar. Make sure you use the proper thin cut, and gey some well marbled with fat. BBQ them for 7-8 minutes a side. A bit chewy, but marvelous.

            If you want tyo use the thicker cut, abouit 2 1/2 inches, Google Short Rib Ragu with Pappardelle. We have friends who, when we invite them for dinner, beg us to make this.

            1. Try Zuni's recipe/method. Zuni is a restaurant in San Francisco.

              I have substituted pale ale for the chimay ale, didn't notice a difference. If your short ribs are fatty, trim the fat before cooking

              1. I have been cooking bone-in ribs for years. And it depends how you cooked them, which it appears you did not post. If you post the recipe and the technique, maybe you will receive some input on how to do better next time. And after trying both bone and no-bone short ribs I only cook with-bones these days.

                2 Replies
                1. re: nobadfoodplz

                  I think you are missing out by snubbing the bone out shortribs! This recipe is always a massive hit whenever I make it, it really is one of my favorite things to make. fantastic result and very very easy to make.


                  1. re: twyst


                    Not snubbing, but with the red wine based braise, I like the added, deeper flavors that the bones give off, plus the thickening agent from the bone's interior.

                    I agree that the recipe you referenced would do better with a non-bone varirety due to the sherry-stock based braise. The additional flavors and gellatin from the bones would override the sherry-chicken based braise, probably make for a bit of a mess.

                    Now her caramelized onions I disagree with completely. Those are fried onions, not caramelized. For caramelized you need time to extrude the sugars from the onions before caramelizing. Those may be good for a quick burger, but I would not place them in the caramelized category.

                    Thanks for the new recipe.

                2. We don't know what recipe you've used so it's hard to say if it went wrong, if it was the cut, or what happened. However, to answer your question, short ribs are DEFINITELY worth the effort in my book! One of my favorite cuts to cook! Maybe you cooked it with too high of heat? Maybe you didn't have a chance to skim off the fat and when you tried to reduce and boil the braising liquid, it emulsified into the sauce? ... or maybe, it's just not for you :/.

                  Definitely let us know what recipe you've used, and maybe we can see where to go from there.

                  1. did you mean short ribs, or did you cook those giant flintstone ribs?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bbqboy

                      Definately the short ribs! I wouldn't go near those flintstone ribs.

                    2. in my opinion, the short ribs today in the grocery store are nothing like the short ribs of 30 years ago. they are MUCH fattier with much less meat. i used to love them, usually simply pressure-braised, as my mom made them. these days, i won't buy them -- they are not worth the price, in my opinion. if i came across some that looked leaner than the fat bombs i've seen in the past few years, i'd go for them, but usually at the per-pound price, i'd go for a different cut and get a new york strip instead. ;-).

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal

                        Me too. They have to look meaty and be on sale. Otherwise, there are better bangs for the buck.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          "... nothing like the short ribs of 30 years ago. they are MUCH fattier with much less meat."

                          Funny, the same thing has happened to me over the past 30 years as well. :-)

                            1. re: alkapal

                              I would totally agree with you here, ap...I don't buy short ribs often but when I do they HAVE to be on sale and I HAVE to find decent meat on them...OR be able to cut away outer fat...any ribs with a big slab of it between meaty parts, no way and I usually stand there turning and twisting the package of ribs to SEE them....this particular cut of beef really makes my knees weak...I just *love* the primal earthiness of the meat and they must also be bone-in...and that bone always falls away after I've cooked the meat but ohhh...it is just the best WHEN you can find decent ribs, that is.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Hmm. I don't usually have a problem finding nice beef short ribs. The better branches of the local supermarkets (usually Marsh) often have good stuff, while the local Mexican supermercado places (Guanajuato) almost always have nice meaty ones w/ great marbling at CHEAP prices; and the local mega "international foods" supermarket (Saraga) is a good source of good/decent stuff too. I've never paid more than, say, 4.99/lb for them - with lots of meat on them.

                          2. Ok, this is how I cooked them:

                            browned in pan

                            removed from pan, did the veggies, removed the veggies

                            added a bottle of red wine to the pan, reduced that down by 3/4

                            put the meat back in the pan, added 8 cups of stock and brought it up to a boil (wine is also in pan)

                            put the meat/stock pan into the oven and cooked for 3.5 hours at 350 degrees. FYI - the meat was completely covered by the wine/stock liquid. maybe this was a problem?

                            This all cooked for at least 3.5 hours. I took it out to cool and then put it in the fridge overnight and skimmed off the fat. At this point, I also scrapped all the extra fat off the outsides of each individual rib.

                            Put the veggies back into the pan along with ribs and the liquid.

                            Put the pan back on the stove and medium boiled for at least two hours. At this point, the meat had completely fallen of the bone but the connective tissue was still present on most of the ribs.

                            I put the ribs in a different pan, covered them with foil and put back into the oven to keep warm, 200 degrees.

                            I strained the liquid and boiled the heck of it for another hour. It never got saucey. I ended up using cornstarch and water to make a gravy. We put the rib meat back into the pan and topped our egg noddles with the mess.

                            It wasn't that it tasted that bad, it was just a ton of work for so-so meat.

                            My question -

                            Could it be that I put too much liquid in the pan for the braising? The ribs were completely covered.

                            I do think the quality of the ribs were an issue too.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: cleobeach

                              Was just looking at your OP - is your main complaint about the meat that there was too much connective tissue?

                              As to the amount of liquid you used, I don't know how many pounds you cooked, but it's not uncommon use enough liquid to cover the meat you're braising. However, 8 cups does sound like a lot for, say, a 4 serving recipe, and you might not have enough gelatin from the meat/bones or pectin from the veg to thicken up the remaining liquid sufficiently without a roux or starch (as you ended up doing).

                              But if the main complaint is the ratio of connective tissue to meat, bone-in short ribs will always have connective tissue and a goodly amount of it, and it will not go away no matter how you cook it. It may shrink and soften, but it won't disintegrate. And a particularly fatty cut is going to reduce the amount of edible meat considerably.

                              Maybe you might like shanks better?

                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                You used the right words to describe my feelings - ratio of meat to connective tissue disappointed me. I was expecting more tender meat tastyness, more pieces of meaty, savory delicousness then the dish produced.

                                How many pounds? I am not sure. There were three large packs, it was all the short ribs from our lastest half of beef.

                                The guys had seconds and thirds so it must have tasted good!

                                Over the past few years, we have been buying our beef the half and it has been a really interesting lesson in learning to cook different cuts of meat. Before, I would just pop into the butcher and buy whatever I was hungry for that night. I rarely went outside my comfort zone.

                                This weekend's "effort" aside, I am really enjoying researching and cooking different cuts.

                                Now, if anyone has suggestions for using all that ground beef.........I am running out of ideas.

                                1. re: cleobeach

                                  I think it's awesome how buying the side is challenging you as a cook! My parents used to do that with beef and pork for their restaurants, and I miss those drives to the slaughterhouse in a way. Makes you feel a little more connected to and aware of the origins of your food. :)

                                  Ground beef - howzabout some moussaka with beef instead of lamb?

                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                    Short ribs = gelatinous, meat flavored connective tissue, yum. Agreed. Nature of the beast. ever try making a ground beef tacos but its cooked in a deep, rich, homemade ancho chile sauce...now that is sexy.

                                    1. re: FoodExpression

                                      I'm gonna keep that idea in mind. The Man loves Mexican flavors...

                                    2. re: cleobeach

                                      Cincinatti chili, Kofta kebobs, tourtiere (mix with pork), Australian meat pies, Shepherds pie (with lamb and mushrooms), sliders.

                                      Winning 10 pounds of ground beef in a "Meat Draw" makes one search.

                                  2. re: cleobeach

                                    answer is your oven was too high a heat. Braising should never be done in >300 degree oven. Since you oven was baking versus braising the connective tissue siezed and that was the toughness of the meat. try again with a 275 degree oven

                                    1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                      "the connective tissue siezed "

                                      I'm not familiar with that expression.

                                      1. re: c oliver


                                        Spelled "seized" not siezed. The tissue reacts like a muscle cramp. Does not have time to slowly release from the meat. That's why it was still there when the dish was served.

                                    2. re: cleobeach

                                      too high of heat, for starters, and likele not enough cooking time. last time i did just about 3 pounds (with bone) and that took about 5 hours or so.

                                      no need to reduce the wine before cooking. strain out all the aromatics and reduce the cooking liquid afterwards. boil it hard and it goes pretty quickly, becoming nicely viscous. it is fatty meat, regardless, which my not be your cup of tea.

                                      i like braises because they are so hands-off.

                                    3. I'm including a recipe that I've been making for 15-20 years I'm guessing.

                                      Jalapeno Beer Baked Short Ribs


                                      You'll see that there's not a whole lot of liquid and that it's cooked at a REALLY high temp for QUITE awhile. They are falling off the bone tender. But those pans must be very tightly covered with foil. Very.

                                      1. Put me squarely in the category of short ribs are totally worth the effort. One of my favorites.

                                        A couple things jumped out in your post. As others have said, thicker, meatier ribs are better than the thin ones. The thin ones are mostly all fat and gristle. I won't buy short ribs at the local Stop & Shop because they are not meaty at all. I get them at a better store. They're thick and luscious.

                                        You didn't mention herbs, spices or garlic... I trust there was some (I braise in wine and stock and keep it simple but flavorful with salt, pepper, garlic and thyme).

                                        I season everything as I go along. Season the ribs before browning. Season the veggies before adding them, and season the braising liquid.

                                        You didn't mention whether you covered them when cooking. I use a Staub round casserole pan with a tight covering lid and the steam recirculates keeping the ribs moist. I also stir them up every now and again.

                                        If your lid isn't tight fitting, put a piece of parchment paper between the lid and pan to help form a tighter sale. It's not pretty but it works.

                                        I reduce not only the wine (in my case burgundy) but the stock as well before assembling for the oven. It helps concentrate the flavors. Before baking throw a small can of diced petite tomatoes in as well to give the sauce more depth.

                                        I bake between 300 and 325 degrees for three hours. After initial baking around 20 minutes, I check the ribs to see if they are boiling or simmering. I don't want an all out boil, so I adjust the temp. accordingly. If they aren't simmering, crank it up a little.

                                        When I strain my liquid, I put it through a Chinois and mush up the carrots, garlic, celery, and tomatoes. It thickens the sauce nicely and adds flavor.

                                        Good luck next time!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                          Ribs came from our half of beef so it was one of those work with what you got things. My cattle-raising, former butcher connection said, as did other posters, that not all ribs are equal.

                                          Yes, I used lots of seasoning. I rubbed the ribs with olive oil and sprinkled liberally with fresh ground pepper and salt.

                                          My veggie portion was fresh carrots, onions and garlic. I added a dried spice blend (a gift, can't remember all the ingredients) to the braising liquid, it was tasty.

                                          The lid brings up an interesting point. I was completely out of aluminum foil so I put a baking sheet, with a lip, on top of the pan. It appeared to make a decent seal but maybe it wasn't tight enough?

                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                            another tip in addition to the great ones above--i usually make short ribs the day or two before I'm planning to serve them. I find it helps thicken the sauce, deepen the flavors, and also makes it easy to remove excess fat.

                                        2. Definitely worth it. They're probably my favorite cut of beef. However, you DO need to get short ribs with lots of meat on them, preferably with some fat streaked through it, and preferably cut into no more than 3 inch lengths across the bone. If you can't inspect them and select meaty ones, THEN don't bother. The ribs you described getting were definitely sub-par and sounds like something I would pass by.

                                          A lot of posters (and you) describe the "oven method" of braising them and reducing the liquid during or after the process. My preferred method is to do it on the stove top, with the dish heading for either a "reduced final liquid" type of dish; or a soup (yes, a soup) or stew with the short ribs as the meat, with the gelatin that the connective tissue provides and the bone stock contributing to the mouth feel of the end result. YUM.

                                          1. The butcher at my market blade-cuts them thin with maybe 3 rib bone pieces per slice. I brown them and then braise them in my Le Creuset with onions in soy, ginger, garlic and white wine. They are still slightly chewy between the bones but have such a great beef flavor that we don't care. Served with white or fried rice and a green veg it's a nice week day meal.

                                            1. I like short ribs but I can't justify the price anymore. At least at my store, they are usually around $6 per pound.

                                              They are a braising meat with lots of connective tissue.

                                              I can get that in a chuck roast that either doesn't have a bone or has less per pound of meat. And I can get it cheaper than $6/lb.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                Truth-I keep wanting to love short ribs, braising some today (I only picked them up because they were marked down, $6.17/lb to $4.63), lovely veg base, red wine, smelled wonderful, but they're so fatty, w/ very little meat.

                                                I guess I've just gotten used to leaner, cheaper cuts, & that's what I prefer. If I want fatty, I would also go w/ chuck or a pork butt.

                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  Yep, they have become ridiculously expensive...$5.49/lb at Publix; in a way, that's good for me since I hardly eat red meat at all anymore...but *this* particular rib is my weakness...I keep checking to see if they are on sale...nope...haven't been for a very long time. And I like the Publix bone-in ribs because they are meaty enough to not be a total chunk of saturated fat. Maybe after high season here in FL, they'll have a sale on them.