Braising Techniques for Ribs
From the French word ‘braiser’, braising is a combination-cooking method that uses both moist and dry heats and is typically reserved for meats from the front end of the beast. Tougher cuts like chuck, brisket, short ribs, and shank are all ideal for the ‘low and slow’ cooking method of braising, and colder months are the perfect time to amp up your menu with braised kinds of beef. With a complexity in its style, braising can be altered to cater to a variety of styles and desires, making it a versatile cooking method.
Also known as ‘pot roasting’, braising typically involves searing the meat first and then allowing it to cook at a low temperature in a covered pot with liquid and spices for a long period of time. Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue (collagen) that binds together the muscle fibers collectively called meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher, more affordable cuts. A successful braise will compound the flavors of the meat with the added flavors of the braising liquid for a balanced combination!
Meaty beef short ribs, in particular, are a great choice for braising, and most customers will probably already have an idea of what they’re in for! Because of its perfect lean: fat ratio, the ribs will typically stay juicy rather than stringy in a braising pan. This also gives the cook a bit more leeway, as many cuts of meat will dry out if not tended to or braised properly. Also, the bones in ribs add to the flavor, enhancing the dish. The best part about braised ribs is that they can be fully cooked and then refrigerated overnight, ready for a quick reheat the next day. Fats that accumulate at the top of the liquid can simply be dredged and discarded. The extra time sitting in the braising juices tends to pack a bigger flavor punch when the ribs are reheated!
Ribs are also extremely versatile and can be altered with spices and braising liquids. Karsten Moran with The New York Times describes his take on braised ribs:
Here, a fragrant Chinese-inspired marinade featuring star anise, cinnamon, five-spice powder, and tangerine makes them anything but ordinary. I always add a handful of dried Chinese chile peppers to render the braise both sweet and hot, and some Sichuan peppercorns to provide a subtle earthy dimension. Daikon radish, simmered along with the beef, absorbs the perfumed juices, too. The sauce is dark and savory.
The trick is to get creative and take a few swings at some different flavor combinations. You can start with a theme - perhaps French bistro - and design your braising juices based on that theme. A pot-au-feu is a great French-themed take on short ribs and pot roasting! Whatever you decide to do, just be sure to not overcook your ribs. Simply test it with a paring knife to make sure they easily fall off the bone.