Ball Dont Lie Food Don't Lie

72 Hour Sous Vide Short Ribs

Good, but 66 hours too long.

72 Hour Sous Vide Short Ribs

In some ways ‘72 Hour Short Ribs’ is one of the crowning achievements of the amateur sous vide world. It has a similar mystique to a dish like the beef wellington in that it’s commonly viewed with an air of impressiveness, but it differs from beef wellington in that there’s not any complexity of process or technique that makes it distinctly more challenging to prepare. You literally just let it cook longer.

A lot longer.

I’m not going to lie, this was a mild disappointment. The payoff to everything I’ve prepared via sous vide has been awesome so far, but those dishes (steak, duck breast) were prepared in a matter of 1-3 hours. I made the logical-to-me extrapolation that a 24x cooktime would result in a 24x more delicious product.

Don’t get me wrong, it was good. But not nearly as good as I was expecting, especially after 72 hours of not knowing if my apartment was burning down when I was at work.

This machine is magic.

For the unacquainted, “sous vide” is french for “under vacuum” and a cooking technique that uses tightly regulated water temperature to cook ingredients within a submerged plastic bag.

Sous vide allows the cooking of meat/vegetables to precise and uniform temperatures, which is particularly great for preparing meats. For example, by cooking a steak at a given water temperature (130F according to this amazing primer by Kenji at Serious Eats) you can cook an entire steak, from end to end, precisely medium rare. It’s a foolproof way to avoid the temperature gradient that cooking meat on a grill/skillet creates. The crust can’t be more well done than the center because the entire steak increases in temperature at the same time.

Plug the slow cooker into the DSV and the DSV into the wall. Put the temperature sensor into the slow cooker.

But sous vide does take some gear, as regulating water temperature for hours is a tedious (but not impossible) thing to do yourself.

In my case, I bought a Dorkfood Sous-Vide Temperature Controller on Amazon about a year ago. It’s not the sexiest new-hotness on the market, and it doesn’t circulate water like some of its competitors. But it’s worked really well for me. It works by using an embedded temperature probe to turn the power on/off to a heating vessel that it’s plugged into – in my case a slow cooker.

Here’s the process:

  • Take the plug from the slow cooker and plug its plug into the plug for the DSV;
  • Place the temperature probe from the DSV into the slow cooker;
  • Set the slow cooker on high;
  • Plug the DSV into the wall;
  • Set the desired temperature on the DSV to the desired cooking temperature (144F for short ribs);
  • Place the bagged short ribs into the slow cooker;
  • Fill the slow cooker with water hot enough to be in the final cooking temperature’s general ballpark;
  • Cover the slow cooker and let the DSV run for the desired time period.

For shorter cook times (<= 4 hours) I typically don’t bother breaking out the food saver as I’ve found ziploc freezer bags to be more than adequate. As long as you press out the air they’ll sink, but sometimes I’ll keep a plate on top of the bag to keep it fully submerged.

But I read that ziploc bags can’t hold up to 72 hour cook times, so it was our first opportunity to use the food saver we got from our wedding registry.

Vacuum sealing is badass.

Setting the temperature to 144F.

This was immediately after I started the cooking process. At this point the water was still getting up to temperature.

Since the functionality of the DSV is limited to turning on/off the slow cooker, it’s better at regulating an existing water temperature than heating to a target temperature. As a result it’s best to preheat the water.

As a point of reference, water boils at 212F.

48 hours in.

Finally after 72 hours. The ribs were definitely fully cooked at this point.

There was a lot more liquid here than I was expecting.

Mushroom risotto: wrong consistency, right flavors.

Interestingly enough my favorite part of this meal was the mushroom risotto I made to go with the ribs. I’ve never made a risotto before, and this was admittedly a bit undercooked because I got home later from work than I expected to. But it turns out risotto is a super interesting and flavorful way to eat rice. I’m a big fan.

The keys to the risotto were slicing a lot of mushrooms really thin, reducing white wine within the rice (super key) and adding chicken broth a half cup at a time until the consistency of the rice became “mushier.”

I went with the general gist of the serious eats recipe I linked above with various modifications due to dining preferences/convenience. Eunice hates cheese so I nixed the parmesan, I didn’t have a shallot so I minced an onion, and I didn’t have dried mushrooms to soak so I just sauteed a higher volume of minced button mushrooms.

I didn’t bother taking photos of the risotto prep frankly because I expected it to be an afterthought. I’ll definitely be making it again.

These thinly sliced green onions went from a what-do-I-have-in-the-fridge type of garnish to a surprisingly tasty addition. It brought some oomph.

The ribs were fork tender.

Again, the ribs weren’t bad; in fact, they were pretty damn good. But I remain unconvinced that the same or better result couldn’t have been achieved with a six hour braise in the oven. It’s just annoying to have to wait so long for a payoff that isn’t really, really mindblowing.

If I could do things over I would’ve prepared some sort of pan sauce to put over the ribs and maybe done more to marinate them within the bag. I didn’t know how a marinade would jive with a super long cooking time so I didn’t bother, but stronger flavors would’ve been an asset here.