Beef Short Rib Stew – Would You Marry Your Butcher?

Butchers are like the rest of us. There are the good ones and there are the not so good. There are some worth marrying and some that deserve a life of loneliness. When it comes to the ‘lesser joints’, some butchers play a little on the ignorance of the buying public and sell them stuff that should really be going into the off cuts. Thankfully, there are many great independent butchers selling top quality meat. I believe that most of them are at least “in a relationship”. Butchers who are keen to educate their customers and are delighted to see people like me using the lesser cuts in different and interesting ways. So, when I encourage you to try this straightforward Beef Short Rib Stew, be sure you get the right ribs from the right butcher. It could lead to a beautiful romance and a long term relationship.

There is a fairly straightforward ingredients list with no surprises. A good stew needs a good base. The base of this stew is a mirepoix – an equal mix of onion, carrot and celery chopped up like in the picture. If you fancy it, you can do a big batch of this, par-cook it and freeze it. That will give you a head start on stew-making across the winter.


  • 1.5 kilos of best quality beef short ribs
  • 4 onions
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 6 to 8 carrots
  • 1 bulb of good garlic (yes, use the bulb)
  • 1 litre of best quality beef stock. You should make your own and freeze it. Here’s a way to do it.
  • Half a bottle of good quality red wine
  • Half a tablespoon of tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper

How can you tell that the ribs are good? Look at them. Are they made up of more than 50% fat and bone? If they are, change butcher. He wants your money, not a relationship. Have a look a the ribs in the picture below. If they look like that, let’s cook a stew together and see where it leads.

Short rib stew (3 of 12)

You can tell by looking at them. These are great quality.

I trimmed off some of the thicker sinew and and parchment-like covering as shown in the picture. Don’t get rid of it all as it does help to add some flavour.

Short rib stew (4 of 12)

Give the meat plenty of seasoning. It will stand up to it.

Season the beef well and brown it in a large casserole.

Short rib stew

The ribs look really tasty as the beef browns.

Take out the browned ribs. Make up the mirepoix and cook it in the casserole, with a little of the stock and wine, until the vegetables soften a bit.

Peel the garlic bulb but don’t get fussy about peeling the cloves. Pour the balance of the stock and wine into the casserole. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Sit the beef ribs on top.

Short rib stew (9 of 12)

This is a graphic representation of layers of flavour.

Cover the casserole and cook it in a low oven (160ºC) for four and a half hours. The ribs on top will have partly steamed but also take on a lovely crust.

Short rib stew (10 of 12)

Four and a half hours in a low oven gets great results.

The bones will probably have fallen off the meat and the beef will be very tender. The sauce will be packed with flavour and goodness.

Short rib stew (12 of 12)

It’s worth spooning on more of that sauce. Delicious.

You will think of your butcher as a God. You will want to marry him/her. If you serve some of the stew to your butcher, they will want to move into your place (you can negotiate the pre-nup agreement yourself). However, if you buy from the other butcher (The one with the bad attitude), none of this can happen. In short, (That’s a play on words) get your ribs from a good butcher and live a long and happy life, possibly together.

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Latest comments
  • Short ribs are one of my favorite things in the world…looks phenomenal Conor. You certainly have a good butcher, those short ribs looks nice and meaty. I’ve noticed in my area the secret is out on this cut, and the price has been gradually climbing. Still cheap, but not like it used to be.

  • Those ribs do look good! They’re one of my favourite things but I think my various butchers’ wives might object if I made a move on their husbands and some of them know how to use a rifle. I shall content myself with a polite, other-side-of-the-counter relationship.

  • Don’t peel the cloves? Are you mad? Otherwise, the short ribs look perfect!

  • Not a bad idea, and it did cross my mind, but the trouble is they’re not my type – there must be some female butchers out there?

  • A good quality rib is a wonderful thing. Didn’t Himself Up There take one of Adam’s and turn it into the other half of the species? It’s a simple stew but the results look luscious.

      • I tend to agree. To the point, in fact, where I rarely actually follow a recipe; it’s more a question of using them as inspiration and adapting with what I have or making sensible substitutions…

  • Forget about the butcher — I’m ready to marry that pot of ribs! 🙂

  • I think I agree with Marty ! And have a throaty laugh with Kate !! But must go chat up my butcher and he can show me his goodies . . . then pretend I am making osso buco: won’t need the recipe in front of me . . . oh, shall be able to plate awhile sooner . . . . are you back from Spain or just going . . . ?

  • Mmmm, short ribs. Few things better.

  • Love this recipe, Conor. I wish I had a better relationship with a butcher…

  • Nothing is better than a simple but tasty stew on a cool fall day and your stew recipe fits that role. Luckily we have one of the good butcher shops here in town and it’s the only place we buy meat.

  • Come to Deal In Kent and go to The Black Pig – female butcher selling local organic meat!

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