Sous Vide Short Ribs

Sometimes I get overly appropriately excited and take on a big culinary project, like homemade English muffins or home-ground burgers.  Ev is a great sport and doesn’t even roll her eyes (in front of me).  Recently I came across an amazing website called Chef Steps, which puts together extremely high quality videos and guides for some seriously impressive recipes.   I decided to leverage my recent fascination with sous vide cooking and one of their fantastic videos for sous vide beef short ribs, and an idea was born.

Short Rib on board

After hours of research I finally kind of settled on a plan.  Perhaps maybe cooking them at 133° 146° 140° 135° 140° 135°… or maybe 185°… no, 135° for 72 straight hours!  With a “plan” in mind, I promptly committed to it by inviting Jeff and Travis over for dinner on Saturday.

To start, on Wednesday Ev, Wes, and I grabbed lunch at Salt & Time and then picked up some monster short ribs.  They separated the 3-rib “plate” and wrapped them up for me.  Total weight for three ribs: 3 pounds 14 ounces.

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From what I read, the ribs should be seared or briefly cooked in a hot water bath.  For me the choice was clear.

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Once seared I vacuumed sealed them and placed them into the preheated 135° pot of water.  After 24 hours some doubt started to creep in and I upped the temperature to 140°.  Then, afraid it was too hot (it wasn’t) I dropped it back down to 135° after 48 hours.

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And so we waited.  The Sansaire clicked on and off every few seconds maintaining the temperature for 70 straight hours.  Jeff and Travis arrived right on time and we took a few pictures of the meat before sitting down to dig in.  The ribs pulled out of the meat without any effort, but I noticed a lot of unrendered and excess fat everywhere.  The largest of the three ribs was definitely more than half fat, even after cooking.

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As dinner time finally approached I threw together some easy broiled asparagus and some simple, but tasty, mashed potatoes, and an impressive peach tart.

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So how were they?  Disappointing.  For me there was a noticeable “charred” flavor from the searing that persisted throughout the entire cooking time.  But that hardly mattered because the ribs were so fatty.  Like well beyond anything appetizing.  The meat had the texture of an incredibly tender steak, but each bite was almost greasy from inherent fat within.  I wish I had weighed the amount of edible meat once it was sliced up, but I’d guess it was maybe 25% of the original 3.9 pounds.  And unfortunately, that’s ok, because it just wasn’t worth eating.  Ouch.

What would I do differently?

A lot.  First off, I think I was blinded by the “fun” of cooking the ribs for 72 hours.  Based on the Chef Steps video showing different time and temperature combinations, I think I’d try the other end of the spectrum and cook them much hotter (185°) for 24 hours.  I’d skip the searing all together, especially if going with high temp cooking.  And to add flavor I’d salt the meat before sealing them in the bags.  I skipped the salt this time for fear that it would dry out the meat over three days.  And honestly, I was a bit disappointed with the amount of fat on the ribs from Salt and Time.  The quality of the meat is exceptional, but the fat-to-meat ratio was notably disproportionate.  Maybe I need to specify to them to clean them up more, or I should do it myself, but this time there was just a lot of fat on those bones.

Overall it was a fun experiment.  Of course I wish the results were divinely delicious, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  To be honest I probably won’t try this again anytime soon.  Simply too many other things to cook, too little time.  But still, it was fun to try and share with friends.

Thoughts? Leave a comment!