Sous Vide: Beef Short Ribs, Flanken Cut

Thin sliced "Flanken" ribs are frequently quick grilled for Korean "Kalbi," but sous vide creates a product that is more moist and tender.


Service for two

Flanken cut beef short ribs, 1 lb./450 g.
Kosher salt, as needed 2 teaspoons per lb./450 g.
Ground black pepper, as needed, a pinch per lb./450 g.
Vegetable oil, as needed.

Barley, Assorted Root Vegetables and Spinach

Barley, 0.5 cups/100 ml.
Water, 1.5 cups/300 ml.
Garlic, 1 head, or granulated garlic, 1 Tablespoon.

Carrot, one each, peeled and diced.
Celery, two stalks, small dice.
Onions, 1/2 each, peeled, small dice.

Tomato paste, 1 oz/30 g.
Flour, 2 Tablespoons/20 g.
Chicken or beef bouillon, 1 can, 12 oz/300 ml.
Cilantro, fresh, chopped, 0.25 cup/50 ml.
Spinach, fresh, 2 oz/60 g.

Fresh tomatoes cut into large pieces for garnish.
Fresh mint, chopped for garnish.
Extra virgin olive oil, a few drops.

Equipment requirements

Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Heat rated container, minimum of 2 gallons/8 liters.
Heat rated sous vide bags or Ziploc freezer bags (Foodsaver, etc.)
Channel or chamber vacuum device–unnecessary if you use Ziploc freezer bags.
12″/300 mm skillet.
Wooden spoon.

Level of difficulty: 1.5

Processing the short ribs

Vacuum seal the ribs in single layers so that the transference of heat will be uniform. Flanken cut short ribs are long and thin, so care should be taken to make sure the pouches are not taller than the water line.

Make sure you use racks to separate each package of ribs so that water can circulate freely between them.

You can fill Lipavi containers full enough so that the lid comes in contact with the water in the vessel. This save heat and prevents pouches from floating or otherwise protruding from the surface of the water.

After vacuum sealing the ribs, process at

140 F/60 C for 60 hours.


Once the short ribs have been processed, they are pasteurized/preserved. This gives you the choice of finishing and serving immediately or storing under refrigeration for later use. If you decide to save the ribs for later, submerge the unopened package(s) in iced water until 70 F/21 C is achieved. The ribs can then be safely refrigerated at 40 F/4 C for at least a week–much like a carton of milk. Do not put the hot packages in the refrigerator! Not only will they spend too long in the temperature danger zone between 125 F and 40 F (52 C and 4 C), the heat from the pouches will compromise the safety of other foods in the vicinity.

Let sous vide work for you!

Let’s assume you want to serve the ribs as soon as they are fully processed. There is no need to calculate in advance what time they must be started in order to be ready at the exact moment of service. This is a common misconception about sous vide.

There is no “moment” before which the ribs are not ready and after which they are overcooked. A package of flanken short ribs processed at 140 F/60 C for 66 hours will not be noticeably different than one that was processed for 54 hours. This is because the rate of collagen conversion is extremely slow at temperatures at or below 140 F/60 C.

The holding period can be extended even longer by reducing the heat to 128 F/53 C after the initial processing interval. At this temperature the short ribs can be held for at least another 12-18 hours without compromising safety, quality or wholesomeness. In this way, sous vide is one of the most convenient forms of cooking proteins–no other method of cooking gives the cook so much flexibility in the timing of service.

While the ribs are processing, there is plenty of time to prepare the other components of your meal. Once the ribs have been removed from the sous vide bath, they can be ready for service within one hour if that is your preference.

Using sous vide to cook barley

In the traditional model, dried legumes and grains tend to settle to the bottom of the pot and must be stirred frequently to prevent scorching. As a result, people become accustomed to a certain amount of the beans/grains breaking apart.

If sous vide processing is used to hydrate and cook, the beans/grains remain intact–there is no breakage. This is because there is no friction applied during the cooking process.

Procedure for the barley and root vegetables:

Preheat the sous vide bath to

183 F/84 C.

Stage the 0.5 cup/100 ml pearl barley into a Ziploc 1 quart freezer bag and add 1.5 cups/300 ml water. Lower the bag into the bath and the pressure will force the air out of the bag. Seal at the last moment or just drape over the edge of the container and secure with the lid. Process for 1 hour at the same time that you process the root vegetables (see below). Serve at the end of the process or shock in iced water until 70 F/21 C is achieved. Refrigerate at 40 F/4 C.

Root vegetable procedure:

Vacuum seal the carrots, celery and onions and process in the same bath with the barley at

183 F/84 C

for one hour. Serve at the end of the process or shock in iced water until 70 F/21 C is achieved. Refrigerate at 40 F/4 C.

Cured spinach:

Sprinkle the spinach with a pinch of salt and toss roughly. Wait ten minutes and the spinach will start to weep. Wrap the spinach in a towel and vacuum seal. Wait another thirty minutes and utilize or refrigerate until needed.

Finishing the Short Ribs

Cut the short ribs to create pieces with one bone each. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the skillet to 275 F/135 C and add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Brown the short ribs on both sides–do not crowd the pan.

Make sure there is a little space between each piece of meat. You should hear sizzling–if you hear hissing, the pan is too cool. If you hear popping, the pan is too hot. Adjust accordingly.

Add a few drops of oil per batch as needed. Remove the pieces of meat after you brown them and set aside.

There should be a little oil and a crust visible in the bottom of the pan. Add enough oil to make 2 Tablespoons worth.

Reduce heat to medium and add the tomato paste to the pan. Spread with a wooden spoon and fry for approximately 2 minutes until the tomato paste has browned somewhat.


Add enough flour to absorb the visible oil and tomato paste in the pan–approximately 2 Tablespoons.

Stir with the wooden spoon or a fork until the flour is no longer visible.

Return to medium heat and add half of the bouillon. Stir with the wooden spoon and the sauce will thicken and begin to bubble immediately.

Add the rest of the bouillon and return to a simmer.

Add the carrots, celery and onions.

Return to a slow simmer and add the meat to the stew.

Remove the spinach from the bag, remove from the towel and cut the spinach coarsely, not fine.

Add the spinach to the stew, stir once and taste for seasoning. Add the cilantro and do not boil again.

Remove the barley from the bag and add a little melted butter and the garlic powder. If you refrigerated the barley, it can be tossed in a hot pan with a little butter or heated in a microwave oven (remove it from the bag first). Spoon some of the barley into the center of a flat bowl and put some stew on top of it.

Combine the tomatoes with the mint and drizzle withe the olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper.

Use this to garnish the stew.

Dishes like this bring excitement to the table when they are served en casserole.

Norm King



Beef short ribs are among the toughest cuts on a steer. These muscles work with the brisket and shanks to support 60% of the animal's weight. Tenderization by traditional methods can be especially difficult. By the time the high levels of collagen have been converted to gelatin, the short ribs are usually falling apart.
Sous vide processing allows us to apply heat, time, and moisture without jostling the ribs unnecessarily. This assures an intact and attractive outcome.
The processing itself is extraordinarily simple, but the styles of presentation of this versatile cut vary widely. We will create a peasant style stew with barley and spinach.

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