These slow cooker short ribs are easy to prepare, fall-off-the-bone tender and packed with flavor. This is one comfort food meal you need to add to the menu soon!
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I admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for what have traditionally been considered lesser cuts. Maybe not so much things like top round, but definitely pork belly and lamb shanks.
There’s something about taking a piece of meat that you know would be a bit tough if cooked quickly and transforming it into melting tenderness.
I’ve put lamb shanks to good use in my braised lamb shanks and lamb rogan josh, both of which are favorites. Then pork belly has featured in my porchetta and crisped pork belly with whisky-soy sauce. We might not have either quite as much but still love them.
Beef short rib, however, is something I seem to more often have out rather than cook myself. I did make a short rib ragu a while back, but haven’t done much since.
That might have to change now, though, since I think I’ve cracked these slow cooker short ribs. I’ve tried making them before, as well as a more traditional braising in the oven, but I wasn’t quite happy with the flavor.
These, however, were delicious, and so incredibly tender.
The key for me was using a combination of red wine and a bit of balsamic vinegar. There’s a bit more to it than that, but I think the touch of balsamic really helps the flavor without taking over.
How to make slow cooker short ribs
This isn’t a recipe where you dump everything n the slow cooker, but the upfront prep doesn’t take long.
- Dice the onion, carrot and celery.
- Season the short ribs with salt and pepper then brown on all sides, cooking in batches. Transfer the ribs to the slow cooker as they’re done.
- Soften the onion, carrot and celery and add the garlic.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine, then add the balsamic, tomato paste, stock and herbs.
- Simmer the sauce slightly then pour over the ribs, cover and leave to cook.
Why do you sear the short ribs before putting in the slow cooker?
I know it might be tempting to just throw everything in the slow cooker and let it cook. It would be easier and quicker, I know. But there’s one big reason why you don’t:
Searing the meat first builds flavor, adding a better depth to the overall dish that you wouldn’t otherwise have. If you don’t sear the meat, while it will still come out tender, it might taste slightly bland.
Similarly, the vegetables are softened slightly first to help bring out their natural sweetness. Especially when you are pairing with the acidity from the wine and vinegar, this helps balance out the flavors of the dish.
Tips for perfect slow cooker short ribs
As I say, this is an easy meal and you really don’t want to skip the pre-cook at the beginning. But after that, it’s a wonderfully hands off meal. A couple additional tips for perfect short ribs:
- Put the ribs in the slow cooker bone side up to keep the meat in the cooking liquid.
- Ideally have the ribs in one layer, for the same reason.
- You can easily scale up or down the recipe to suit your numbers – if you double the meat, you may need slightly less than double the liquid, and if you reduce the meat, don’t reduce the liquid by quite as much to keep a good balance as the ribs cook. Cook time would be the same.
These slow cooker short ribs are such a delicious, comforting meal. Mashed potato works perfectly to soak up the gravy, and green beans or other greens are nice alongside as well. Add it to your menu soon!
Looking for more comforting meals? Try these!
- Braised lamb shanks
- Slow cooker beef massaman curry
- Bo kho – Vietnamese beef stew
- Beef bourguignon
- Plus get more comfort foods in the winter recipes archives.
Slow cooker short ribs
- 2.25 lb short ribs 1kg, 6 pieces approx weight
- 1/4 tsp salt (approx)
- 1/4 tsp pepper (approx)
- 1/2 onion
- 1 rib celery
- 1 carrot (medium)
- 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil or other flavorless oil
- 1 clove garlic crushed or finely diced
- 1/2 cup red wine 120 ml
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3/4 cup chicken broth 180 ml
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Pat the short ribs dry, if needed, and sprinkle them all over with salt and pepper.
- Finely dice the onion, celery and carrot.
- Warm half of the oil in a skillet over a medium-high heat and sear the short ribs on all sides in two batches so you don't overcrowd the skillet.
- Put the short ribs in the slow cooker once browned, ideally in one layer, with the bone on the top as far as possible.
- Add the onion, celery and carrot to the skillet along with the remaining oil. Reduce the heat slightly, as needed, so the vegetables don't burn.
- Cook the vegetables for a couple minutes then add the garlic, cook a minute more then add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping any browning from the skillet.
- As it starts to simmer, add the balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, broth, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer then pour over the short ribs.
- Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 6 - 8 hours.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline’s Cooking Amazon store.
I first shared the recipe for slow cooker short ribs on the Sunday Supper Movement site where I am a contributor.