The two most popular ways to cook beef short ribs are braising and grilling. My favorite way, though, is to cook short ribs in a slow cooker. Slow cooking has a couple of very important advantages over the other two cooking methods – it’s simple and requires very little hands-on time. I would say it’s practically effortless. Getting similar results from grilled or even braised short ribs is not nearly as easy. And the best part is that these slow cooker beef short ribs are succulent and exceptionally tender – the meat literally falls off the bone – and they taste really, really well because of the amazing, gravy-like sauce they cook in!
Some recipes suggest placing all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and let it do the job. Now, this is effortless! It sounds very tempting but a few minutes spent on browning the meat to get that delightful flavor and deep brown color seems well worth the time. One way to brown short ribs is to season them with salt and pepper and dredge in flour before browning. Another one is to season and brown first, then add the flour to thicken the sauce. I use the latter because it seems that this way you brown the meat and not the flour that covers the beef. The flour will be browned later when making a roux.
I like browning beef in my vintage copper pan which is anything but non-stick and gives me a lot of brown bits stuck to the bottom. It’s what I want! They help making a really flavorful sauce or gravy after de-glazing the pan with beef broth or red wine. To get the best out of browning, I like using rendered bacon fat. If you don’t have it on hand, plain butter will suffice.
- 3 lbs beef short ribs (cut into 2-3-inch pieces crosswise, fat trimmed off)
- 4 bacon strips
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 yellow onion (large, diced or sliced)
- 4 garlic cloves (pressed)
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp honey (or brown sugar)
- 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- In a large skillet, fry the bacon strips until most of the fat has rendered out. Remove the bacon and reserve for other uses, or snack on it.
- Season the ribs with salt and pepper and brown over medium-high heat on all sides, about 4 minutes per side, until deep golden brown. If they brown too fast, reduce heat to medium-high.
- Transfer short ribs to a slow cooker. For three pounds of beef short ribs a 4-quart slow cooker would be sufficient but you can go as high as 6 quarts.
- In the same skillet, saute the onion over medium-high heat, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for another 20 seconds.
- Once the garlic is fragrant, add the butter to the skillet and let it melt. Add the flour and stir well. Keep cooking, continuously stirring, until the flour is brown and has a nutty flavor.
- Add the beef broth and stir well. Add the vinegar, honey and dark soy sauce. Using a wooden spoon, keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to scrape off all the tasty brown bits.
- Taste the sauce and adjust as needed. It should taste just right. If you want more sweetness, add more honey.
- Once the sauce starts to bubble, transfer it to the slow cooker. The sauce should cover the ribs at least 3/4 way.
- Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or 3-4 hours on high. You can cook longer but more fat will be rendered out and the meat won't taste as succulent.
- Stir well, but be careful to not break the meat pieces. Serve hot over mashed potatoes, pasta, etc.