Easy Short Ribs?

 

I’m a sucker for cheap cuts of meat. I guess it’s a carry-over from one of those habits I had when I was in college. I would spend quite a bit of time walking around the meat section, familiarizing myself with cuts of meat and trying to pick the one that was the best bang for the buck. Then, I’ll scratch my head and figure out the best way to cook it. In fact, just a couple of days back, a door to door meat salesman (yeah, that apparently exists) came over to try to sell us some very nicely packaged cuts of meat of filet, sirloin, and rib eye. It was then that I realized how long ago it was since I bought a cut of meat like that – it must have been a year.

 

I love ‘off-cuts’ of meats such as short ribs, ox-tails and hanger steaks because I feel that they tend to be really flavorful yet cheaper than their more tender counterparts. (Unfortunately, the rising popularity and ‘coolness’ of nose-to-tail is starting to drive the prices of some of these parts up.) What makes them tricky though is the misconception that they are hard to cook. Yeah, chances are you can’t just throw it into a foreman and expect a good result but that doesn’t make it hard.

 

And so I chanced upon this concept of preparing a short-rib very simply by just seasoning it with salt, pepper and onion powder before dumping it into a crock pot. This was counter-intuitive to me. I’ve always been taught to brown your meats before stewing to add flavor the final product. Wouldn’t simply leaving the meat in a crock pot give you a grey and dull tasting mess?

Would this result in a dull and greyish mess? Apparently not.

 

But unlike caramelization, browning meat involves the interaction (Maillard reaction) of more than just sugar molecules but proteins (amino acids) as well. Unlike caramelization, you don’t necessarily need a specific strike temperature for the reaction to occur. Low moisture helps with the reaction as well. (It is also influenced by the pH level. I’m no scientist so I won’t go too deep into detail.) So technically, you could cook it low and slow in little moisture and still achieve a similar browning effect.

 

And that is what I was achieved here. After a good 8 hours, the ribs were indeed soft, tender on the inside and brown on the outside. The collagen and fat within meat prevented the meat from being overly dry but honestly it wasn’t THAT moist.  Also, taste wise, something was missing. There was too much of a ‘low note’ to this dish. It tasted one dimensional to an extent. Kind of like a water-soaked beef jerky.

 

In an attempt to spike things up, I skimmed the fat from the leftover juices and deglazed the fond (brown stuff stuck to the pot) with a tiny bit of sweet vermouth. Then I added drippings from a smoked chicken dish I made a few days ago. That made things a little more interesting.

 

Overall, I would say the dish was ok, but not anything to write home about. The sauce did it for me but there was something up with the meat.  I’m still intrigued by this method of low and slow cooking and this is definitely something that I’m going to keep experimenting with. We’ll see what transpires.

 

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2 Replies to “Easy Short Ribs?”

  1. We’ve been looking for a good Croc-Pot rib recipe, so we’ll have to try this one out. These ribs look great, but it is surprising that you can skip the browning process prior to cooking the ribs in a Croc-Pot. I thought browning both added flavor and seared in moisture for a juicier product. Thanks for the share!

    1. Thanks for visiting and glad to be able to help! Feel free to try it out and let me know what you think. I think there needs to be some more tweaks to the dish to really make it pop but for something that easy, this isn’t too bad. Perhaps instead of salt and pepper, perhaps you could season this with your favorite spice mix.

      Also, the bit about searing the meat for moisture isn’t really true. Whether seared or not, whole cuts of meats lose their moisture due to cooking time, not if it’s seared or not. But since the meat is cooked in a crock-pot, the cooking environment is pretty moist and there’s little to worry about.

      Browned meat adds a lot of flavor though, and in this case it’s done slowly in the pot while not being surrounded by a lot of liquid, unlike say a stew. I’ll have to do a head to head test to tell you if searing right before is better than the other but in this case, it’s hard to tell the difference.

      Anyway, hope you have fun with this!

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