Merlot Braised Beef Short Ribs are luscious beef short ribs slowly simmered in a robust wine and tomato sauce until fork-tender. This one-pot meal is the ultimate comfort food, even better when served over mashed potatoes, creamy grits, or boiled pasta.
*This is an update on a post I wrote in January 2020. The images and text have been updated, and metric measurements included.
What does “braised” mean?
The proper way to braise something is to sear it over high heat to brown it, caramelizing the outside, then cover it in liquid and simmer it- usually in the oven- for an extended period. That’s the long and short of the technique.
You can braise foods that are tough, like briskets or ribs. Vegetables can even be braised as long as they’re very firm.
What are Merlot-Braised Beef Short Ribs?
Merlot-braised beef short ribs are seasoned beef short ribs seared at a high temperature. The pot is deglazed with merlot wine after searing to utilize the flavor from the stuck-on bits of browned food. This creates a liquid for the short ribs, which they will simmer in when you put them into the oven. A few hours later, you pull up meat that’s literally falling off the bone; it’s so tender.
What do I need to make Merlot Braised Beef Short Ribs?
To make this recipe, you need beef short ribs, white onion, canned diced tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, fresh thyme, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, fresh garlic, and good-quality merlot wine.
This is a one-pot recipe. So use a dutch oven that holds at least 7-quarts. Also, an immersion blender is highly recommended for this recipe. You can use a blender, but that will involve transferring hot liquids to it, which is kind of hazardous.
How do I buy beef short ribs?
Short ribs come from one of the most worked places on a steer, which is why they’re so tough. It’s also why they’re perfect for this recipe. Beef ribs come in many different forms.
For this recipe, buy those labeled “beef short ribs” or “English cut short ribs.” Avoid flanken-cut (style) or dinosaur ribs for this recipe. The former is too thin and the latter too long. Select short ribs that are at least 4-inches wide and 3-inches thick. Sometimes, the butcher tries to sneak in paltry ribs that cook down to a morsel of meat. Skip those.
But do not skip trimming your short ribs. Better yet, ask the butcher or someone in the meat department to do it. You have to trim beef short ribs because there’s a layer of silverskin on the underside of each piece of meat. Leaving it on the meat will result in a rubbery layer on your braised short ribs. The silverskin is on the underside of the rib, closest to the bone.
Use a boning knife to carefully slice away the layer of tough silverskin on each short rib. Next, trim off any excess fat. Trim down fat that is more than 1/4-inch to less than 1/8-inch. Leaving too much fat on your short ribs will later result in a greasy merlot sauce.
What does searing do for this recipe?
Color equals flavor in cooking. Searing short ribs is the first step in the braising cooking process. Searing browns the sugars and protein in the meat, causing the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for that flavor.
Use your fingers to combine the salt and pepper to create a blend. Season the meat with all of this spice blend. I know it seems like a lot, but you’re not going to add any additional salt and pepper to this recipe, so use it all.
Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven. Once the oil starts to shimmy in the pan, add 3 or 4 of the seasoned short ribs to the pot. It’s important not to overcrowd the pan if you want a proper sear. Press the meat down with your tongs or hand to make sure every bit of surface area comes in contact with the metal. Sear the short ribs for 2 1/2-3 minutes without moving them. You can easily lift the short ribs from the dutch oven at the end of searing because a crust has formed. Meat that sticks to the bottom of the pan needs to cook longer.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil if the bottom of the pot looks dry (unlike the image above). Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool if there’s a good amount of smoke coming from the pan. Have that exhaust fan running at full speed because searing will produce some smoke.
Remove the short ribs to a plate after searing them on top and bottom.
What kind of wine is best for Merlot-Braised Beef Short Ribs?
Add the chopped onions and garlic into the pot and use a wooden spoon to stir them while they sauté.
Sauté the aromatics for 3-4 minutes, or until golden in color and glossy.
A good merlot shouldn’t taste like vinegar or make tears come to your eyes with its acidity. Merlot is the best wine variety to use when braising beef. Merlot wine does contain tannins, which gives wines their body and their acidic taste, but it’s comparatively low. Tannins bind to the proteins in the beef and tenderize them while also mellowing out themselves. The result is fall-apart meat with a purer-tasting experience, resulting from the tannins in the merlot acting as a palate cleanser.
Good wine counts for so much, especially when concentrating it during the cooking process, so choose one that you can drink from a glass. You can replace the merlot in recipes with Cabernet, Zinfandel, or Shiraz (Syrah).
Add the wine to the pot and allow it to come to a simmer to deglaze the pot. Once it begins to simmer, use your spoon to scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pot. I use a flat-edge wooden spoon whenever I’m making anything that develops a fond. The fond is the browned bits of food that stick to the bottom of the pot during searing. It, again, is where the flavor lies. These bits of food create more body and flavor for our sauce.
Stir in the beef stock next.
How long do I cook the Merlot Braised Beef Short Ribs?
Add the diced tomatoes and their juice. You can use fresh tomatoes for this recipe, but the finished sauce might not be as flavorful. Add the dijon mustard, bay leaves, and thyme leaves.
Stir everything together and bring the mixture up to a boil.
Once the liquid begins to boil, return the short ribs to the pot. Nestle the ribs into the sauce using your tongs, so they’re partially submerged.
Cover the pot and carefully place it into a 350°F (180°C) oven. Braise the short ribs for 2 1/2 hours.
What’s the best way to make the sauce?
The braised short ribs will become fork-tender after simmering for 2 1/2 hours in the oven. They’re so tender, in fact, they might come off the bone when you try to remove them from the pot. That’s not a bad thing at all because it makes eating them even easier.
Remove the short ribs (and their bones) from the pot to a clean platter or plate. You can leave the bay leaves in the pot or remove and discard them. Try to fish out as many of the thyme stems as possible, though. They don’t add any flavor to the sauce.
An immersion blender is the safest and easiest way to blend the merlot sauce. Just pop it into the sauce and blend on low speed until the sauce is smooth.
The alternate way to blend the sauce is to carefully ladle it into a blender. Remove the plug from the center of the blender’s lid, so the heat has a way out. Place the cover on the blender, then cover the hole in the lid with a kitchen towel. Blend the sauce until smooth, then pour it back into the pot.
How do I finish the recipe?
You can serve these short ribs in three ways: whole and on the bone, boneless, or boneless and shredded. Boneless and shredded is probably the most diner-friendly way to serve them.
Just pop them back into the sauce in the pot to serve them bone-in. The bones will slide right out when you pull them with your tongs if you prefer boneless. After doing that, you can shred the meat with two forks or just leave the ribs whole. Return the meat (in whatever form) to the sauce in the pot until you’re ready to serve. Be sure to cover the pot, so you don’t lose any liquid to evaporation.
Keep the sauce warm on the stove over a low flame.
What to serve Merlot-Braised Beef Short Ribs with
Spoon the short ribs and their sauce over your bed of starch if you shredded the meat. Use tongs to nestle larger pieces of meat, then ladle the sauce over everything.
How do I store leftovers?
Transfer leftover beef short ribs and their sauce to an air-tight container and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To reheat short ribs, heat them on high in the microwave, stirring after each minute or until they are warmed through.
Can I freeze leftover short ribs?
Freeze short ribs in a freezer-safe container for up to two months. First, cool the short ribs and their sauce. Pack them into a container or freezer storage bag.
You can defrost frozen short ribs in the fridge overnight, then reheat per the above instructions.
This recipe is near and dear to my family because it was what I served when Hector came home from his deployments. It is truly a comfort meal for us, and I think it will be the same for you. Let me know what you think of it in the comments below. Don’t forget to pin it to your dinner boards and share it with your friends and family!
Merlot Braised Beef Short Ribsat Sense & Edibility
- 7-quart dutch oven
- immersion blender or blender
- 1 tablespoon (20 grams) kosher salt plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons (4 grams) black pepper plus more to taste
- 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms) beef short ribs just cooler than room temperature and trimmed of fat and silverskin
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) vegetable oil
- 1 large (2 1/2 cups or 270 grams) white onion peele dand chopped
- 4 cloves (2 tablespoons or 25 grams) garlic peeled and chopped
- 2 cups (500 milliliters) merlot
- 1 cup (250 milliliters beef stock
- 28 ounce can (794 grams) diced tomatoes or 5 large roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) dijon mustard
- 3 sprigs (1 tablespoon) thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 1 large bay leaf
- Move your oven rack to the lower half of the oven to accommodate your dutch oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Season, then Sear, the Beef Short Ribs
- Use your fingers to combine the salt and pepper in a small bowl.Season both sides of the short ribs with all of this spice blend.
- Once the oil starts to shimmy in the pan, press the short ribs into the pot with your tongs to make sure every bit of surface area comes in contact with the metal.
- Sear the short ribs for 2 1/2-3 minutes without moving them. Remove the short ribs to a plate after searing them on top and bottom. Sear the second batch this way.
Deglaze the Pot
- Add the chopped onions and garlic into the pot and use a wooden spoon to stir them while they sauté.Sauté the aromatics for 3-4 minutes, or until golden in color and glossy.
- To deglaze the pot, add the merlot to the pot and allow it to come to a simmer. Once it begins to simmer, use your spoon to scrape up the stuck-on, browned bits of food from the bottom of the pot.
Finish the Sauce, then Braise the Short Ribs
- Stir in the beef stock, diced tomatoes and their juice, the dijon mustard, thyme sprigs, and the bay leaves into the pot. Bring the mixture up to a boil.
- Once the liquid begins to boil, return the short ribs and their liquids to the pot. Nestle the ribs into the sauce using your tongs, so they're partially submerged. Cover the pot and carefully transfer it to the preheated oven.Braise the short ribs for 2 1/2 hours.
Blend the Merlot Sauce and Serve
- Remove the short ribs (and their bones) from the pot to a clean platter or plate. You can leave the bay leaves in the pot or remove and discard them. Remove the thyme stems from the pot and discard them.Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce on low speed until it is smooth. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve the short ribs bone-in, just return them to the pot after blending the sauce.For boneless short ribs, pull the bones from the center of the short ribs using your tongs, then return the meat to the sauce.For boneless, shredded short ribs, shred the meat with two forks before returning it to the sauce in the pot until you're ready to serve.
Swaps and Substitutions:
- Use chicken stock in place of beef stock if you don't have any.
- You can use a low sodium beef stock in place of regular beef stock.
- Use cabernet, zinfandel, or shiraz as a replacement for the merlot.
- Replace the canned, diced tomatoes with fresh tomatoes.
Tips and Techniques:
- Use short ribs labeled "beef short ribs" or "English cut short ribs."
- It's important not to overcrowd the pan if you want a proper sear.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil if the bottom of the pot looks dry while searing the meat.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool if there's a good amount of smoke coming from the pan make sure your exhaust fan is on high because searing produces smoke.
- You can easily lift the short ribs from the dutch oven at the end of searing because a crust has formed. Meat that sticks to the bottom of the pan needs to cook longer.
- Choose a merlot that you would drink from a glass.
- You can use a blender to blend the sauce if you don't have an immersion blender:
- Carefully ladle it into a blender. Remove the plug from the center of the blender's lid, so the steam can vent.
- Place the cover on the blender, then cover the hole in the lid with a kitchen towel.
- Blend the sauce until smooth, then pour it back into the pot.
- Transfer leftover beef short ribs and their sauce to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Reheat short ribs on high in the microwave, stirring after each minute or until they are warmed through.
- Allow the short ribs and their sauce to cool.
- Transfer the short ribs to a freezer-safe container or freezer storage bag and freeze for up to two months.
- Defrost frozen short ribs in the fridge overnight, then reheat per the above instructions.