Short ribs two ways

As a meat-eater, one of my favorite things to cook is beef short ribs, whether oven-braised (in the winter) or in the Instant Pot (especially in hot summer weather). Various of my recipe sources touted them as a great way to test the IP. Now I’ve tried short ribs cooked in another way.

It took a while for me to decide to join the Instant Pot (IP) bandwagon. Now I’ve joined another. After some jury-rigged attempts at sous vide cooking (here and here), I’ve bought an immersion circulation heater. My attempts without that gadget were enough to make my interest serious. So after some serious research on the internet (here, here, and here, amongst others) I finally made the purchase: a Joule.

As an aid to getting you started, ChefSteps provides lots of recipes, and as usual, I had to go skulking through some cookbooks. One of the things I found suggested to really test out the new gadget was (need a drum roll here, please) beef short ribs!

The scientist in me thought that it would be interesting to compare my favorite oven and IP meat with the sous vide version. Since it’s hot and humid summer weather than has the A/C working hard, I gave the oven braise a pass and did only the IP and sous vide. The package has four homogeneous looking strips of boneless short ribs, so half in the IP and half in the sous vide pot.

As a sous vide novice I opted for the ChefSteps “fave” (from the app on my smartphone) as the recommendation for my test: 167°F for 24 hours, for a “visual doneness” somewhat like those from the IP. Wanting to focus mostly on actual differences in things like texture and flavor, I seasoned both batches alike: onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and a little black pepper for each.

The first obvious differences were time and temperature: IP about 250°F for 90 minutes vs. 167°F for 24 hours. In defense of the 24 hour cooking time, it’s hands-off time. I cooled both batches (ice water bath) with the IP pot batch transferred to a freezer bag after cooking was done.

IP (left) and sous vide (right) short ribs

For the taste test, I reheated both the IP and the sour vide in exactly the same way–as directed in the sous vide recipe: in a water bath at 140°F for about 30 minutes and pretty much just plopped them onto a plate to taste.

My efforts with keeping the seasoning very similar paid off: both were oniony, garlicky, beefy and tender. The IP batch was a bit darker and had a texture of well, braised beef (actually pretty similar to what I’d expect after hours in the oven). There was an immediately noticed difference in the texture of these: even in the photo, you can see some difference, particularly in the visible fat on the two–an obvious reflection of the difference in cooking temperatures.

In the mouth, there was an obvious feeling that the sous vided meat was moister. I’m still trying to find the best adjectives to describe the difference in the “mouth feel”–succulent, moist, juicy, tender all seem to be apt to a degree. No matter my difficulties in describing it, there was an obvious difference. Had I cooked the IP batch for a much shorter time I could duplicate the moistness and juiciness, but the ribs would have had so much “chew” that I’d have put them right back for longer cooking (been there, done that while I was getting used to the IP).

My preference? Definitely the sous vide! That said, am I going to give up cooking short ribs in the IP? Not likely because they are quick, easy, and very tasty. Will I be cooking more short ribs sous vide? You bet.

The recipe from ChefSteps for the ribs listed two other temperature possibilities: 158°F and 176°F. I had to assume that those guys have put a lot of effort into evaluating which was best, and assume that each does have so advantage but being cautious I used the “middle” one. Now I’m interested in how these ribs would be cooked at either of the other temperatures as well.

I’ve already found some cookbooks that should be reliable–one from America’s Test Kitchen titled Sous Vide for Everybody*–favorite because they explain lots of the science behind the recipes. I notice that the recommendation for short rib “pot roast” in there is 160°F. That may be the next temperature that I try for my short ribs.

While exploring, I need to remember the term “precision cooking” that is so frequently applied to sous vide–and that’s a matter of time and temperature–a son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

* Should you be prowling Amazon for books, be sure to look carefully at the author or editors as there is another book with the same title (only with 2019 appended).

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About sa.fifer

Lover of good, wholesome food and wine. Cooks for one and the cat. Likes to paint-- a frustrated botanical illustrator and amateur (photographer) and fledgling birdwatcher, beekeeper, and Kindle addict. Works as a freelance indexer.

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