Hearty Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs
This easy recipe delivers a flavor-packed family dinner.
Those of us who are “a certain age” remember the fast food advertising catch phrase, “Where’s the beef?” Short answer: It’s in my slow-cooker, and it smells wonderful!
This recipe for beef short ribs employs a set-it-and-forget-it approach, giving you six to eight hours to go about your day, knowing in the end, you’re coming home to a delicious dinner.
I don’t know what your weather in late February is like, but in Missouri, we just emerged from the deep freeze (like so much of the country) and did a week of 50- and 60-degree days. Today, it’s drizzling and cloudy. Somehow, hearty dishes like short ribs with vegetables fit the bill right now; it’s like when you don’t know what the next day will bring, comfort food dishes like this can anchor you.
For cooks who aren’t familiar with this cut of meat, beef short ribs come from the chuck of an animal located near the breastbone. The ribs are cut into two ways: English-style (familiar to most home cooks) and barbecue-style, which are thinner. You can also purchase boneless short ribs. Either cut has a good amount of fat marbling and deep beef flavor.
Because the rib muscles get a good workout from the animal, the best way to cook the English-cut short ribs are low and slow, either by braising in the oven or, as we do here, in a slow-cooker, to ensure a tender result. And holy cow (no pun intended), this method produces amazing gravy.
It’s usually recommended when purchasing short ribs to plan for one pound per person. If you’re doing boneless, you could probably cut it down to ½ to ¾ pound per serving, but I always cook to have leftovers to freeze for another week.
And the vegetables that cook along with the ribs really make this a one-pot meal. This recipe uses onions and carrots—as most do—but I’ve also peeled and chopped a rutabaga in the past to throw in with the beef and it’s wonderful.
If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you can certainly braise the ribs in your oven. Set it at 325 degrees and get out your Dutch oven. Brown the beef, add the vegetables to start their cooking, add liquid and bring to a simmer, then cover and braise in the oven for about two hours or until the meat pulls away from the bone.
And if you use the bone-in ribs, don’t toss them. Freeze and use later to make beef stock. You’ll probably need to buy a few fresh soup bones to augment the flavor, but they can be used to make stock.
Quick food trivia: In 1971, Rival Manufacturing—a Kansas City, Missouri, company— bought the patent for the crock-pot from Irving Naxon (Nachumsohn) and successfully marketed this kitchen appliance to cooks who were looking for convenience. My mom had an avocado-green Rival crock-pot for many years.
Will this dish freeze well? Any leftovers you may have will absolutely freeze well. When you’re serving the short ribs and veggies, a classic side is creamy mashed potatoes, but polenta or wide egg noodles will work, too.
Are short ribs inexpensive to buy? Well, that depends. A quick online price search revealed this cut at Walmart to be $5.64 per pound, while a St. Louis supermarket chain came in at $7.39; I paid over $7 per pound when purchased from a local farm. The price per pound in my area is comparative to a chuck roast, but I think the ribs have more flavor.
Hearty Slow-Cooker Short Ribs
(Yield: 4–6 servings; about a 30-minute prep; cooks for 6½ hours.)
3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, about 3-inch thickness
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup beef broth
2 fresh rosemary springs
1 bay leaf
2 large onions cut into 1/2-inch wedges
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups dry red wine
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Sprinkle ribs with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. In batches (don’t crowd ribs), brown meat on all sides. Transfer to a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker.
2. Add carrots, broth, rosemary, and bay leaf to ribs.
3. In same skillet used to brown meat, add onions and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, Worcestershire, and brown sugar. Stir and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in wine.
4. Bring to a boil and cook about 8 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or until meat is fork-tender.
5. Remove ribs and vegetables and keep warm.
6. To make gravy, transfer cooking juices to a small saucepan, skimming fat. Discard rosemary and bay leaf. Bring juices to a boil. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water together into a slurry. Stir into saucepan and cook about 2 minutes until thickened.
7. Place meat and vegetables on a platter with gravy on the side.