They’re only short if you cut them that way.

George Pralus may not have invented/discovered sous vide cooking, but he may as well have. From the moment he wrapped that foie gras in plastic and dropped it in tepid water, modernist cooking was changed forever.  Chef Pralus’ revelation didn’t really make headlines, at least not for a while, and definitely not here in the States.

No matter, NASA and large food producers had already developed HACCP and were very focused not only on food safety, but on production efficiency. Once they realized that food could be low temp pasteurized AFTER packaging, the mere promise of huge savings was enough for them to make the switch to sous vide tech. Large companies are typically devoid of romantic notions.

Who cares? Foie gras not really a hot item in the States, it’s  banned in California because of concern about cruelty to the poor little duckies. Many people cringe at its mention. It’s not enough to slaughter a duck, let’s immobilize it and force feed it until its internal organs swell to totally unnatural size. Actually, gorging is part of the natural feeding cycle for migrating birds, and, in this case, that behavior is just greatly “encouraged.” Depending on who you talk to, of course.

Personally, I take no position, for or against. It’s delicious, I know that. It doesn’t really taste much like liver, I know that too. And you know what? This article isn’t even about foie gras, that piece is still in the hopper. The reason I mention foie gras is because it was the “Eureka” moment for Pralus and associates. For the American Sous Vide curious public, that moment was probably beef short ribs. Daniel Boulud and a number of less famous chefs built small empires on their menu versions of Sous Vide Beef Short Ribs.

They were so influential in popularizing this misnamed and extremely tough cut of meat, that the price has practically tripled in markets across the country. You can pay more for beef short ribs than numerous other cuts that are much more tender by nature. They just don’t have the cachet of this particular cut. What is a short rib anyway?

I’m almost sorry I asked.

It’s a rib, but it’s not very short.

What this picture depicts is a section from one side of the spinal section of a steer (or heifer). The wide swath of bone that you see on the right is the spine itself, split in half lengthwise. The exposed muscle is where the rib cage and the ribeye ends and the shoulder/chuck begins. With a little imagination, you can see how the meat resembles certain cuts of chuck roast, with the “eye” represented in much smaller fashion as it proceeds towards the front of the animal.

This is what would be colloquially referred to as “Tomahawk Prime Rib,” before the bones on the left had been scraped clean to create the handle of the ax. It needn’t be USDA Prime, but that is its most familiar reference term.  If you saw through the bones after they have gone 7″-8″ away from that split spine, the prime rib is on your right, and the so called “short” ribs are on your left. After that, those “short” ribs are sawed through at various lengths, to create the flanken cut short ribs, Korean short ribs, this short rib and that short rib. If you remove the bone, it’s called boneless short ribs, another curious misnomer.

Actually, it is also referred to as beef “plate.” I know, I don’t know. Why is it called plate? No idea. At least they’re not calling it boneless bone.


  • I want to say that $6.49/lb. isn’t a bad price, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve seen them as high as $8 in the same store, and as high as $12 when they attach the “grass fed” sticker to them *sigh.* These days, Beef Tri-tip is cheaper than that, even though its price has also jumped.
  • Both cuts, tri-tip AND short ribs were used in ground beef not so long ago, when ground beef was made from, well, you know, BEEF, ground. And there was a time when “grass fed” was considered a downgrade from “corn fed.” In Nebraska, of course, when I was growin’ up, and warshing mah hands down by the crick.

  • People will tell you that meat and fish with bone attached have more flavor than the boneless type. The scientific evidence contradicts this, and, honestly, I never noticed one way or the other. Do I like to gnaw on bones? Well, heck, yes! Do I need to? Am I willing to pay MORE to? No.
  • Each of these sections is approx. 2 lbs/1K.

  • The first piece I cut into 5 sections.

  • The second piece I purposely cut into larger pieces, because, well, it doesn’t matter. SV doesn’t notice these things.

  • After bagging each individual piece, I loaded them into the rack.
  • I started this project Sans Vide, so I didn’t seal the bags just yet.

  • ready to load into the vessel.

  • I lowered the rack into the preheated 140F bath–better to under fill than over fill, since the bags aren’t sealed (yet).

  • After a couple of hours, the heat has driven most of the air out of the bags, so I seal them where they sit, the racks hold them pretty tight.
  • If necessary, they can be safely lifted out, dunked and sealed in cold water, and then just lowered back in.
  • A little water in the bag won’t hurt them.

Come back in two or three days.

  • 48-72 hours.
  • Really.

When the short ribs pinch tender, they are ready to serve. Or, you can do what I do, shock cold and refrigerate. Look for upcoming recipes using this as the basic starting point.

What to look for:

Short ribs with Butternut Squash Pasta, broccolini, carrots, tomatoes and natural jus.

With Parmesan Potatosotto and Mint.

With cavatellini and Chimichurri.