December 8, 2011

Hanukkah Short Ribs

The holiday season is upon us and, above all, that means spending time with family, reflecting on the blessings of years past, and enduring the horrors of dry, tough, stringy meat. Although I am fortunate to have great cooks as parents, many of my childhood memories of holiday potlucks were punctuated by the disappointment of a perfectly good beef brisket or plate of short ribs that had been annihilated into shoe leather at the hands of a well-intentioned friend or relative. The only saving grace was my high tolerance for the spicy, sinus-clearing power of horseradish sauce, which made the beef possible to gnash down, quickly chased by a cup of grape juice (or a clandestine glass of Manischewitz).

As is commonly the pitfall with Thanksgiving turkey, cuts of meat that are only cooked once a year often lack the care and improvement that come from frequent iteration. And although I’m perfectly happy to eat beef short ribs and brisket year-round (especially when barbecued), many family traditions reserve this cut for holidays and special occasions. The trick to preparing a tender, succulent piece of beef is to break down the significant connective tissue without overcooking the meat so much that it dries out; the physics at play are involved, and are often overlooked in the chaos of holiday preparations.

Sous vide techniques, however, make it easy to cook beef perfectly, every time. By holding the cut at a low, precisely controlled temperature for a very long cooking time, you can achieve both perfect doneness and fork-tenderness with no need for basting or fastidious thermometry. And, cooking sous vide leaves your ovens empty, so Aunt Jeannie has space to warm her casserole before the family buffet line forms.

At your next family gathering, up the ante by bringing a beef brisket or plate full of short ribs cooked perfectly sous vide. And don’t forget the wine, for the kids’ sake.

—Scott Heimendinger, Director of Applied Research

Recipe Tags

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When cooking temperatures can be precisely controlled, braised beef short ribs will yield textures ranging from steak-like to flaky. While great on its own, we like to serve this dish with latkes from Seattle Food Geek.

Tips and Substitutions

  • This recipe is inspired by traditional Jewish fare, but is not meant as a replacement for an Orthodox meal, as according to Kosher laws, meat and dairy should not be mixed. If you are looking for a stricter Kosher variation, try serving the ribs with our Constructed Veal "Cream" (see page 5·33) or Crispy Beef and Shallot Salad (see pages 6·108 and 5·47).
  • We are fortunate in Seattle to be able to buy fresh wasabi root at local markets. If you can't find fresh wasabi, try using our recipe for horseradish foam (see page 4·284). Alternatively, substitute wasabi paste for fresh wasabi.
  • Make sure to trim any silverskin and excess fat from the meat before vacuum sealing it.
  • When cooking sous vide meat for days, as in this recipe, we double-bag the meat to provide extra protection against leaks. Vacuum-seal the meat as usual, and then place the sealed bag inside a second bag and vacuum seal again.
  • The ribs will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. To reheat them, place them in a bath set to the original cooking temperature and let them come to equilibirum.
  • Because these ribs keep so well, we like to make enough that we have leftovers. We used some of the leftovers from our video shoot to make an impromptu beef stroganoff.
  • To carve, turn the slab of ribs on its side, run the knife down the bones, and then trim off any undesired fat.
  • 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.
  • If you can't find Manischewitz, you can spike the jus with a red port.
  • A handheld immersion blender works if a rotor-stator homogenizer is not available.
  • Agitating the wasabi with metal activates its intensely hot flavor and aroma. We use a metal microplane to grate it.
  • Take care to hydrate the xanthan gum fully before you place the mixture in the siphon. If the gum is hydrated incompletely, the texture will not be as silky as it should be.
  • If you do not have a whipping siphon, you can make the whipped cream with a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
  • We like to serve this dish with Seattle Food Geek's latkes.

Discussion

  1. Sean September 25, 2012 Reply

    When I tried these 72 hour short ribs, it came out tasting like a dry pot roast; it was tender but not juicy at all. I used a zip loc bag with the air forced out using the water displacement method, and I don’t believe any leaks sprung over the 3 days. Clearly this recipe should produce juicy as well as tender meat, so I’m trying to figure out where I went wrong. Since there were no other variables like marinade, cook time, or temperature that were different compared to this recipe, I’m wondering if it’s the zip loc bag. I hypothesize that either the pressure or absence of air keeps the fluids in the meat, rather than leaking out into the bag. Does anyone at Modernist Cuisine have experience comparing zip loc sealing meats vs vacuum sealing them, both for short cooking (1-2 hours) and extended cooking periods (24-72 hours)? If no one has done significant testing on this, I think it’d make a great blog article, as many people (including myself) would love to know if it’s worth the $100+ to get a good vacuum sealer vs just using zip loc bags.

  2. Duda December 2, 2012 Reply

    One thing is for sure, whenever your are preparing ribs (or any kind of tough meats) is strongly recommended that you brine your meat before cooking. It definitely will improve the moisture of the final product.

  3. Adam December 17, 2012 Reply

    Many other recipes for 72 hour ribs specify a cook temperature of 55C. I’m sure the additional 5 degrees did not help with Sean’s dryness problem… I’ve love some insight on why this recipe is done at 60C.

    Duda: Brining is generally used to help ensure a moist result when prepping leaner cuts, e.g. white poultry meat or pork chops. I’ve only seen it recommended for one SV short rib recipe, the one mentioned on the “Ideas in Food” blog. I don’t think it should be necessary if temperature is properly controlled…

    Anyone from the MC team care to chime in here?? ’tis the season for cooking short ribs.

  4. Andy December 31, 2012 Reply

    I Agree. I have also done short ribs at 60C for 72 hours and while tender, I found the short ribs dry. I also use zip log bags with water displacement method.

    In the new MC for Home they recommend even higher temperatures at 144F and 149F for 72 hours! Why did they change the recommended temperatures?

    Lots of blogger recommend around 133F for only 48 hours. Can MC team chime in here?

    • s January 10, 2013 Reply

      i remove the bone and save for stock then portion my shortribs out and make a spice rub with a touch of evoo. and cook at 57.2c for 48 hr. then sear. they come out tender and juicy everytime!

  5. Adam January 21, 2013 Reply

    Well I just came back to see if anyone from the MC team would bother with more input. Guess not. I also tried Scott’s personal blog, but comments are broken there. So I tried him via e-mail, and tried him on Twitter. No response from either of those attempts either. This is the first time I’ve ever encountered an author who absolutely refuses to respond to a question from a reader (and in this case, readers). That really sucks.

    But I digress. After listening to one of Dave Arnold’s Cooking Issues podcasts, in which he went into quite a bit of depth on this topic. I became convinced that 57C for 60 hours would be just right. Lo and behold, it worked amazingly well. The ribs were not dry at all — moist, succulent, tender, and a nice shade of pink. I am not sure what’s up with MC ratcheting up the temperature so much, but it seems like a dangerous game at best. Unless you’re looking for the nostalgia of the overcooked meat from your childhood. (Well, mine at least. A memory I’d just as soon forget, thank you very much.)

  6. michbill January 22, 2013 Reply

    Jason Logsdon recommends 131Ffor 48 to 72 hours (for medium rare) and this time/temp has worked very well for me. Always nice and juicy and tender.

  7. Vijay January 25, 2013 Reply

    I just tried the basic 72 hour recipe from MC at home last night. Cooked at 144. The meat smelled terrible after I broke the seal and tasted almost as bad. The texture was great, but it smelled spoiled. Thoughts on why? Did I not remove enough fat? The meat smelled good going in, but could it have spoiled while submerged?

    • Sam Fahey-Burke March 5, 2013 Reply

      Hi Vijay,

      Someone on our forum also asked about this. Here is what I said to them:

      Ribs must have gone off (rancid???) during cooking. This can happen if the meat isn’t fresh or has been handled improperly. If food smells bad coming out of the bag it should be discarded.

  8. Franklin February 19, 2013 Reply

    I just tried this, but based on the comments here (thanks!) and some other research, cooked the short ribs for 72 hours at 133F. The ribs were vacuum sealed using a Food Saver sealer with just salt, pepper, garlic powder and a thyme sprig. The sous vide setup is a Polyscience “Creative Series” immersion circulator and a 24L clear lexan tub. The meat came out perfectly medium rare, with great texture and very good flavor. Finished with a simple demi glace based pan sauce. Definitely a unique short rib experience.

    Now, I’m a huge fan of sous vide for many, many things, and I know we’re all about Modernist techniques here, but on a qualitative basis, I actually prefer the more traditional braising method for this particular cut. I’ve made probably a dozen variations of this recipe (http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipes/korean-braised-short-rib-with-edamame-scallion-puree-and-hon-shimeji-mushrooms) and the results have been consistently fantastic. This was an interesting experiment, but I will be sticking to the old school method for short ribs in the future.

  9. tony March 19, 2013 Reply

    Hi

    Fantastic Book. Completely changed my whole view on food and the way I cook.

    A question on long time-period sous vide.

    Is there a negative effect on food such as the short ribs here, or the lamb curry in the book which requires lamb shank cooked sous vide for 48 hours, that has been cooked sous vide in ‘periods’.
    For example cooked for 12 hours, then taken our and put in the fridge (while i’m at work!) then cooked for another 12 hour stint and so forth.

    Does the stop/start process have a bad effect on the end results?

    • Sam Fahey-Burke March 26, 2013 Reply

      You need to account for it slowly warming back up, so for every chill cycle you need to add at least an hour to the cooking time. But I wouldn’t recommend it from a food-safety standpoint .

  10. jaka June 11, 2014 Reply

    A trick seems to be to using vacuum sealing for the longer cooking periods rather than water-displacement and ziplok bags. MC seems to regard updating recipes or customer support as unnecessary. http://modcuisine.wpengine.com/recipes/72-hour-braised-short-ribs/

  11. Vanish David January 23, 2016 Reply

    This dish are my very favourite food of all time. Yours look amazing! YUM! Thanks for sharing this tasty recipe! I cant wait to try it!

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