March 28, 2013

72-Hour Braised Short Ribs

Collagen determines, to a large extent, whether cooked meat ends up tender or tough. It is also the determining factor in how long you should cook a given cut of meat. Collagen fibers are the biological equivalent of steel cabling, forming a mesh that holds bundles of meat fibers together. Proper cooking unravels the cable-like structure of collagen fibers and dissolves them into juices, transforming the tough collagen into tender gelatin.

In order to unravel collagen fibers, you must heat them. Heat causes the fibers to shrink, and the contracting mesh squeezes juices out of the meat. The hotter the cooking temperature, the more collagen mesh contracts, and the more juices are lost. If you cook the meat at lower temperatures, fewer of the collagen fibers shorten at any given point in the cooking process, so the mesh constricts the meat less. This is why meats retain more of their juices when cooked sous vide. But at lower temperatures, more time is needed to shrink, unravel, and dissolve enough of the collagen fibers to make the meat pleasantly tender.

—Adapted from Modernist Cuisine

Recipe Tags

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Braised_Short_Ribs_Recipe

ribs, vacuum seal

Though zip-top bags can often be used when cooking meat sous vide, long periods of cooking, such as what is called for here, require vacuum sealing.

Step 3 Slice from Bone

Cook the meat on the bone, and then slice it into 2-inch pieces just before serving.

ribs, final

We love serving these ribs with our red wine glaze on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes.

Tips & Substitutions

  • We love cooking tough cuts of meat sous vide, like short ribs, brisket, and pork belly. For our Best Bets for Cooking Tough Cuts of Meat table, see page 228 of Modernist Cuisine at Home or page 3·109 of Modernist Cuisine.
  • We prefer bone-in ribs, but you can use boneless ribs as well.
  • While you can use a zip-top bag when cooking many sous vide recipes, longer cooking times, such as what is called for here, require using a vacuum sealer. Vacuum sealing is safer, more reliable, and will prevent oxidation and off-flavors.
  • In fact, when cooking sous vide for such extended periods, we often double vacuum seal the meat.
  • Cooking  the ribs at 62 °C / 144 °F for 72 hours will result in a tender, flaky meat with a pink hue, but you may prefer a different color or texture. By varying the cooking time and temperature, you can produce dramatically different textures. For example, to achieve the color and texture of medium-rare steak, cook the ribs for 72 hours. For something in between, cook the ribs at 60 °C / 140 °F, as we did in this recipe. For a very flaky temperature similar to a traditional braise, cook them at 88 °C / 190 °F for just 7 hours.
  • You can also make these ribs in a pressure cooker. Try cooking bone-in short ribs at 15 psi for 50 minutes.
  • If you are making the ribs in advance, immediately plunge the vacuum-sealed pouch into an ice bath when the ribs are done cooking, and then refrigerate them. Just before serving, slice the meat from the bones and then reheat the slices of meat in a sous vide bath, about 30 minutes.
  • To serve, cut the rib meat off the bone, and slice it into 2-inch cubes.
  • We like to serve these ribs with our Red Wine Glaze and Potato Puree from Modernist Cuisine at Home. We've also served them with a Wasabi Foam and Manischewitz Beef Jus, and we've smoked and cooked them sous vide and served them with our East Texas Barbecue Sauce (see page 5·79 of Modernist Cuisine).

Discussion

  1. PeterJ March 28, 2013 Reply

    What effect if any will salting the meat before cooking have?

  2. guy March 28, 2013 Reply

    @PeterJ: It will make the ribs more salty.

  3. vijay April 12, 2013 Reply

    After getting a sous vide supreme in December, 72 hour short ribs was the first recipe I tried and the results were terrible. The texture of the meat was superlative, but the taste and smell were unbearable.

    Thoughts on why? I think it could have been a number of things: quality of meat, excess fat and gristle on meat; pouch was not properly sealed. But I’m not sure

    I have since had a lot of success with smaller cook times, but have yet to try a long braise again.

    • Judy April 12, 2013 Reply

      Hi Vijay,

      As you say, a lot of variables could have contributed to your outcome. We recommend double-sealing the ribs since the cook time is so long. You may want to try again with better quality meat and try double-sealing it.

      • vijay April 12, 2013 Reply

        thanks!

  4. Chandra May 23, 2013 Reply

    two questions:

    1. For long-period SV cooking, does the type of vacuum sealing matter – specifically, chamber vac vs. Foodsaver-style?

    2. Any further help on helping meat keep a particular shape by pre-wrapping it in plastic wrap before sealing? I don’t seem to understand how that works, on a basic level. Would that layer of shape-keeping plastic wrap, combined with a single vacuum bag, serve as a jury-rigged “double seal?”

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