Slow Cooker Short Ribs
These Slow Cooker Short Ribs are outrageously good. No collection of words can fully capture their glorious flavor, aroma, and tenderness, and they are really easy to make. Enjoy on its own, or pair with Saffron Rice or Rice Pilaf to soak up all the glorious sauce.
It’s almost unfair how good and easy this recipe is, but I suppose if you start with a cut of meat as magical as short ribs, it’s bound to be great. Much like Prime Rib or a cut of Beef Tenderloin, you just can’t go wrong.
As much as I sometimes rely on the simplicity of our weekly Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, what I always love about this dish is all the bells and whistles of flavor and aroma, while still being a simple slow cooker meal.
Despite using simple ingredients, the flavors are off the chart delicious. It’s the perfect sunday supper or winter meal!
Why This Recipe Is The Best
Incredible tenderness – It’s unreal how tender the beef gets when it cooks low and slow, and it shreds like a dream. It’s one of the few cuts of meat that really does seem to melt in your mouth.
It smells amazing – So much of our experience eating food is influenced by our sense of smell, and this is an incredibly aromatic dish. Getting to smell this dish cooking for 6 hours might be even better than eating it. The aroma is that incredible, and always makes me really excited to sit down for dinner.
Mostly hands off – With a little prep at the beginning, you mostly get to let all the ingredients cook together in the slow cooker, gently, and hands off. It’s easier than letting it simmer on the stove or braising in the oven.
The flavor is full and rich, with minimal ingredients – With a mirepoix flavor base of onion, carrots, and celery, a braising liquid combination of red wine and beef stock, and thyme and bay leaf for aromatics, it gives fullness of flavor without a crazy long ingredient list.
With that said, this isn’t a “throw everything in” crockpot recipe. We will take a few minutes to sear the beef first, and let me tell you, this makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Believe me, I tested it.
Taking five minutes to develop that deep caramelization and browning in a skillet on the stove really changes the end results, and using the crock pot alone does not allow for those glorious brown bits.
Searing Makes a Huge Difference
I tested a batch without searing the beef, just to see how big of a difference it makes, and it’s huge. It didn’t even taste like the same dish.
An extra bonus to this is that starting the ingredients on the stove shaves at least an hour off cook time in the slow cooker. Make sure to follow the recipe as written, and you will be rewarded.
See how tender and succulent the meat is from those glorious beef ribs:
It’s just like at the restaurant, with the best flavor and tenderness!
Any Crock Pot Will Work
Before we begin, you obviously need a slow cooker, but it need not be fancy or expensive. I bought this small Proctor-Silex one (affiliate) for $15 eight years ago, and it always worked great.
I recently upgraded to a much larger one, the BLACK+DECKER 7 Qt. Stainless Steel Electric Slow Cooker (affiliate), and it works just as well. I’ve used both regularly for things like Crockpot Chicken Breast and Slow Cooker Asian Pork Tacos, and even though the more expensive slow cookers have more bells and whistles, they aren’t required here.
Traditional vs Grass fed Beef
I’ve cooked and eaten many different types of beef, and my preference for marbling, juiciness, and flavor is definitely traditional (aka conventional) beef. I recommend Choice grade.
If you prefer grass fed beef, you can absolutely use that here, especially since short ribs tend to be a fatty cut. Just make sure you keep an eye on doneness, as grass fed beef cooks faster (check one hour earlier).
Step by Step Overview:
The process we’ll follow is simple.
First we’ll sear the short ribs to develop browning and caramelization, then place those in the slow cooker. To the same pan, we’ll add our vegetables and braising liquid, and heat them to a boil before adding to the slow cooker. This shaves an hour off cooking time!
Then, it’s just a matter of setting the crockpot and letting it cook until the meat is tender.
Prep the Vegetables
Slice up half an onion, one carrot, and one rib of celery:
Place the bowl right by the stove where you’ll be cooking.
Prep the Beef
I recommend using bone-in pieces of meat over boneless short ribs, as those bones add so much flavor and richness to the sauce. However, both will work for this short ribs recipe.
Place the meat on a paper towel-lined plate, and blot all over with paper towels.
This removes extra moisture, and makes it quicker and easier for us to get a good sear and caramelization on the outside. Remember that this is the key to great flavor!
Next, season the meat well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper:
Sear the Beef
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and brown the short ribs all over, using a little bit of ghee or other high-heat cooking fat:
This takes me about 5 minutes, but it’s important to be thorough about it and go more by color than time. Those browned bits are essential for flavor.
Heat the Braising Liquid and Vegetables:
Remove the meat temporarily to a plate, then add the vegetables to the pan. Season with dried thyme, a bay leaf, and salt, then add beef stock or bone broth, red wine, and a smidge of honey:
Bring this mixture to a boil, to get everything hot. This shaves at least an hour off cook time in the crockpot.
Recommended Types of Wine
Any dry red wine will work here, but I usually use some kind of Bordeaux or Pinot Noir. You can also use Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Combine Everything in the Crockpot
Pour all the liquid and vegetables into the crock of your slow cooker. Nestle in the seared short ribs, and know that it’s okay if they aren’t completely submerged. They don’t need to be in order to cook properly.
Cook for about 5-6 hours on high, until the meat is tender and the bones easily fall out.
You may also cook on low heat for 8 hours, if stretching the time out is more convenient for your schedule. When the time is up, just make sure that the meat on the individual ribs easily shreds with a fork.
I like to spoon the cooking liquid and vegetables as is on the plate, but if you wish to thicken the remaining sauce into a “kind of gravy,” melt together 1 tablespoon each of butter and all purpose flour in a skillet over medium heat, then add all the liquid from the slow cooker. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes, until thickened. Then serve!
How to Serve
Serve your slow cooker short ribs with the cooking juices and softened vegetables spooned over, ideally paired with a starch like Rice Pilaf to make the meal go further and soak up that delicious sauce.
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes, creamy polenta, or egg noodles also work nicely here with the slow-cooked beef.
Roasted Carrots, Brussel Sprouts with Candied Pecans and Ricotta Salata, or Sweet Potato Rice are also delicious sides to pair here. Enjoy!
Flavor Swaps and Variations
I recommend trying these braised short ribs once as written, but over time you may wish to play with other ingredients depending on your palate. Other additions to try are 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce, or 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Add these to the hot skillet before you put everything into the crock pot.
You may also substitute brown sugar for the honey, or leave the extra sweetness out altogether.
Recipe FAQ and Tips:
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Yes, in an airtight container for up to three months. To thaw, leave in the fridge overnight.
The microwave is quickest and easiest, but I recommend removing the bone first, because meat on the bone does not microwave evenly. Try 30-second intervals at 70% power until warmed through. You may also reheat gently on the stove over medium heat, until warmed through.
You can absolutely double or even triple the recipe. But, you’ll need a pretty large crockpot, and you will need to take the time to sear the beef properly. Otherwise, it works great.
While you can without affecting the cooking, the flavor will suffer greatly. The red wine is an important element for the aroma and flavor.
I’ve tried a huge range of both grass fed and conventional beef, and I recommend conventional beef for a more juicy and tender result. However, any type of beef will work.
Slow Cooker Short Ribs
For the Short Ribs:
- 2 lbs bone-in short ribs (I had 4 pieces)
- 2 tbsp ghee (or other high-heat cooking fat)
- 2 cups sliced yellow onion (about 1/2 a softball-sized onion)
- 1 cup sliced carrot (1 medium carrot)
- 3/4 cup sliced celery (1 celery rib)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup red wine (I used a French bordeaux)
- 1 cup beef stock (I actually use beef bone broth, which can be easier to find)
- 1 tbsp honey
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Then season the meat all over with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, then add the ghee. Sear the short ribs on all sides until browned and caramelized, about 5 minutes total. The browning is what you're looking for, so take the time it needs to develop that color and flavor.
- Remove the meat to a plate, then add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pan. Season with 1/4 tsp salt, and add the thyme and bay leaf. Toss for 1 minute to allow the moisture from the vegetables to deglaze the pan and incorporate the fat and juices.
- Add the wine, beef stock, and honey, and bring to a boil, which should take a few minutes. Then pour the contents of the pan into the crock of your slow cooker. Nestle the short ribs into the liquid, submerging it the best you can (but it's fine if they aren't completely submerged).
- Cook on high heat for 5 to 6 hours, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. You can test a piece with a fork by checking that the meat shreds easily. If it doesn't, cook for another hour and test again. Serve with the juices and vegetables. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in July 2021. Originally published October 2013.