Slow-Cooker Short Ribs: A Delectable Special Occasion Meal

Slow-cooker short ribs are an exquisite choice for any special occasion. Not only does the meat become incredibly tender, but the braising liquid transforms into a luscious gravy that will leave you craving for more. Pair it with mashed potatoes, and you’ll have a hearty, restaurant-worthy dinner that will impress even the most discerning palate.

What Exactly Are Short Ribs?

Short ribs are a cut of beef that comes from the plate rib section. They are known for being tough, rich in connective tissue, and high in fat. However, when cooked low and slow, these attributes combine to create meat that is both tender and flavorful. The connective tissue breaks down into collagen and releases gelatin, giving the braising liquid a delightful body and a sumptuous mouthfeel.

There are two varieties of bone-in short ribs: English-cut and flanken-cut. English-cut short ribs are cut lengthwise and contain one long rib bone per piece. They are meaty and perfect for braised dishes like slow-cooker short ribs. On the other hand, flanken-cut short ribs are thinner and cut across the rib, displaying multiple small rib bones. While you can braise flanken-cut short ribs, they are more commonly used for grilled recipes or Korean barbecue.

The Art of Cooking Short Ribs

Cooking beef short ribs may require patience, but the process itself is relatively straightforward. It all begins with searing the short ribs to achieve a caramelized flavor and a beautiful color. Next, simmer onions, garlic, and tomato paste with red wine to infuse the braising liquid with depth and acidity. Finally, transfer everything to a slow cooker and let it work its magic for six to eight hours on low heat. The end result? Ribs so tender they can be effortlessly pulled apart with a fork.

Further reading:  Mastering the Art of Cooking Extra-Thick Cut Bone-In Ribeye

Mastering the Short Rib Gravy

The braising liquid is incredibly rich, and wasting it would be criminal. Transforming the cooking juices into a delectable gravy is a breeze. Simply strain out the fat using a fat separator, one of our favorite tricks for removing excess fat from braised dishes. Bring the juices to a boil, then add a cornstarch slurry (a mixture of water and cornstarch) to thicken the liquid. Let it simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.

Ingredients for Slow-Cooker Short Ribs

To recreate this culinary masterpiece, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Bone-in beef short ribs: The bone-in variety adds flavor and body to the braising liquid, making it the preferred choice for this recipe.
  • Beef broth: A flavor-packed base for the braising liquid. Feel free to use store-bought or homemade beef broth.
  • Tomato paste: Concentrated tomato flavor that thickens the braising liquid and adds a delightful umami-richness.
  • Dry red wine: Adds depth and acidity, perfectly balancing the richness of the short ribs. If you prefer to avoid alcohol, you can substitute additional beef broth.
  • Cornstarch: A gluten-free thickening agent for the sauce. Note that cornstarch does not freeze well, so use arrowroot as a substitute if you plan to freeze any leftovers.


Follow these simple steps to create your own mouthwatering slow-cooker short ribs:

Step 1: Brown the Short Ribs

  • Sprinkle the bone-in beef short ribs with salt and pepper.
  • Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Brown the ribs on all sides in batches.
  • Transfer the browned ribs to a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker.

Step 2: Prepare the Braising Liquid

  • In the same skillet, add the cut onions and cook until tender.
  • Stir in minced garlic and tomato paste, cooking for an additional minute.
  • Add the dry red wine and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Reduce the liquid by half and then add it to the slow cooker.
Further reading:  Kung Pao Beef: A Flavourful Adventure in Sichuan Cuisine

Step 3: Slow-Cook on Low

  • Cook the short ribs, covered, on low heat for six to eight hours until they are incredibly tender.

Step 4: Simmer the Gravy

  • Remove the ribs and vegetables from the slow cooker and keep them warm.
  • Transfer the cooking juices to a small saucepan and skim off the fat.
  • Bring the juices to a boil.
  • Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth.
  • Stir the cornstarch slurry into the cooking juices and return the mixture to a boil.
  • Cook and stir for one to two minutes until the gravy thickens.
  • Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Step 5: Serve and Enjoy

  • Serve the slow-cooker short ribs with the vegetables.
  • Pour the rich gravy over the ribs for an extra burst of flavor.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs

Recipe Variations

Don’t be afraid to add your own twist to this classic dish. Here are a few variations you can try:

  • Add vegetables: Include any vegetables you would typically use in a pot roast, such as potatoes or mushrooms.
  • Finish with fresh herbs: Enhance the richness of the dish with the vibrant flavors of chopped fresh parsley, oregano, or chives.
  • Make short ribs in a Dutch oven: If you prefer to use your oven, brown the short ribs in a Dutch oven before adding the remaining ingredients. Bake, covered, in a preheated 325°F oven for 2 to 2.5 hours until the meat becomes tender.
  • Use a pressure cooker: If you’re a fan of electric pressure cookers, learn how to adapt slow cooker recipes for the Instant Pot.

Preparing Slow-Cooker Short Ribs in Advance

Feel free to prepare slow-cooker short ribs in advance. In fact, letting the ribs sit in the cooking juices overnight enhances their tenderness and allows the flavors to meld together. After the ribs become tender, transfer them to an oven-safe dish, cool, and then refrigerate. The next day, remove the solidified fat, let the dish come to room temperature as you preheat the oven, and then reheat in a 350°F oven until heated through. Proceed as directed to make the short rib gravy.

Further reading:  Explore the World of Japanese Wagyu and Kobe Beef

Storing Your Delectable Creation

Store slow-cooker short ribs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days. If you have leftover cooked ribs, you can freeze them in a freezer-safe container for up to two months. Just be sure to thaw them properly before reheating.

Tips for Perfecting Slow-Cooker Short Ribs

Slow Cooker Short Ribs

  • How long does it take to braise short ribs in a slow cooker?
    For optimal results, braise the short ribs for six to eight hours on low heat in a slow cooker. Trying to rush the cooking process may result in tough and chewy ribs.
  • What dishes pair well with slow-cooker short ribs?
    These delectable short ribs pair perfectly with mashed potatoes, garlic mashed red potatoes, mashed cauliflower, buttered noodles, or creamy polenta. For a burst of color, consider serving them with additional vegetables or a refreshing salad.
  • How do you achieve tender short ribs in the slow cooker?
    Low and slow is the key! The slow-cooking process, combined with the addition of red wine and tomato paste, tenderizes the short ribs. For more helpful slow-cooker tips, check out our article on how to perfect slow-cooker dishes.
  • Are beef ribs the same as short ribs?
    While both come from beef, beef ribs and short ribs are not the same cut of meat. Short ribs are taken from the plate rib section, just beneath the ribeye area, whereas beef ribs come from the back of the cow.
  • Is searing short ribs before slow-cooking necessary?
    While it is not a requirement, we highly recommend searing the short ribs before slow-cooking. This process not only renders some of the fat but also adds a delicious caramelized flavor and gives the ribs an enticing brown color that cannot be achieved through slow cooking alone.