This one didn’t work out as well as I hoped it would. And I’ve made great short ribs before. I love Molly Stevens’ All About Braising, and that’s been a great go-to resource for all things meaty, braised, and delicious. It still is. But I had to go and change things because I’ve been reading.
I know, why change things that work? Well, I’ve been reading about really slow cooked short ribs: 24 hours (Ideas in Food) at 149 degrees, and 48 hours (Momofuku) at 140 degrees. These are both sous vide techniques that take time (and plenty of it) to break down the connective tissue in the rib. Keeping the meat in a moist cooking environment, and by keeping the temp low (less than 176 degrees) leads to more complete conversion of collagen into gelatin, which produces a surprisingly tender rib without drying out the meat. But as David Chang says in the Momofuku cookbook,
“This recipe is not a reasonable proposition for the home cook unless you’re willing to buy a vacuum-sealing machine and fabricate a water circulator situation. And even then, 48 hours is a world of time to cook something. There’s almost always someone a couple of feet away from the ribs at the restaurant to keep an eye on things and make sure that the circulators don’t die or anything, but there probably isn’t (and probably shouldn’t be) in most homes. But here’s how to do it anyway…”
I don’t have an immersion circulator, and I can’t use the cooler technique to keep the temperature in that range for so long with hot tap water (which works great for hanger steak or lamb chops). And I’m not as patient (or committed!) as these guys. But I’ve found out that my oven can be set as low as 170 degrees, which I think might be the key: dutch oven, braising liquid, and a really low oven. I also know now that 8 hours at 170 and an hour of reheating before dinner wasn’t enough. I got stuck, because I had to go to work and I didn’t want to leave the oven on all day, and I had a friend coming for dinner. The flavor was great. These have huge potential. But they were still a shade tough, and they weren’t the melting short ribs that I imagined would come out of my oven after cooking them for 8 hours. Three more hours at 175 (two days later) got me closer, and I can see that this is going to work. There are no pictures because I ate the evidence, so that’s saying something.
Does anyone have suggestions for really slow and low cooking without vacuum bags and simmering water? Or for cooking times in this temp range? I mean, if it takes 48 hours at 140, and 24 hours at 149, how many hours at 165-170 degrees do I need to make a great short rib? I’ll be working on the answer, but if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.