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Published January 1, 2009. From Cook”s Illustrated.
Serves 6.
To develop a short ribs recipe with fork-tender meat and a silky, grease-free sauce in just a few hours, we chose boneless ribs, which are significantly less fatty than ribs with bones. We missed the body that the bones’ connective tissue added, so we sprinkled some gelatin into the sauce for suppleness. To ramp up the richness of our relatively quick beef short ribs recipe, we reduced wine with some browned aromatics before using it to cook the meat.

Make sure that the ribs are at least 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. If boneless ribs are unavailable, substitute 7 pounds of bone-in beef short ribs at least 4 inches long with 1 inch of meat above the bone. To remove the meat from the bone, see the illustrations below. We recommend Guinness here, but any other full-flavored porter or stout will do. The test kitchen’s preferred brand of beef broth is Pacific. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or roasted potatoes.

3 1/2pounds boneless short ribs , trimmed of excess fat (see note and step-by-step)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2tablespoons vegetable oil
2large onions , peeled and sliced thin from pole to pole (about 4 cups)
1tablespoon tomato paste
6medium garlic cloves , peeled
1cup Guinness Draught (see note)
1cup beef broth
1/3cup pitted prunes
4 large carrots , peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
4sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4cup cold water
1/2teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook, without moving, until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn beef and continue to cook on second side until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes longer, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke. Transfer beef to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and meat.

2. Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. (If onions begin to darken too quickly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to pan.) Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it browns on sides and bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high and add Guinness. Add broth, prunes, carrots, thyme, and bay leaf. Add beef and any accumulated juices to pot; cover and bring to simmer. Transfer pot to oven and cook, using tongs to turn meat twice during cooking, until fork slips easily in and out of meat, 2 to 2½ hours.

3. Place water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top; let stand at least 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer meat and carrots to serving platter and tent with foil. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator or bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Allow liquid to settle about 5 minutes and strain off fat. Return cooking liquid to Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

A Real Melting Pot

Although we expected that bone-in short ribs would exude more fat than their boneless counterparts, we were shocked by the dramatic difference—a quarter-cup versus 11/2 cups (six times as much)! No wonder most short rib recipes call for letting the fat solidify overnight in the fridge.

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