Short ribs are a delicious braised beef dish that often taste even better after a night in the refrigerator. The flavors have more time to meld and the meat becomes fall-off-the-bone tender. There are some definite advantages to making short ribs ahead of time and enjoying the leftovers. Here’s a look at why short ribs can be better the next day.
More Tender and Succulent Meat
One of the biggest benefits of short ribs the next day is that the meat has had more time to become incredibly tender. Short ribs are a tough cut of beef that benefits greatly from long, slow braising. As the meat simmers for hours in liquid, the collagen breaks down into gelatin which helps make the meat juicy and succulent. After refrigerating the cooked short ribs overnight, the meat reabsorbs some of the braising liquid and the connective tissues break down even further. This makes the short ribs practically melt-in-your-mouth tender. If you serve them right after cooking, the meat will still be tender but will likely have a bit more chew to it. Allowing the short ribs to sit overnight gives you fork-tender beef that is soft and practically falls off the bone.
More Concentrated Flavor
Another advantage to short ribs the next day is they develop a deeper, more concentrated flavor. As the short ribs sit in the braising liquid overnight, the meat soaks up more of the seasoned cooking juices. The meat takes on more flavor from spices, herbs, onions, garlic, wine, and other ingredients used in the braise. The sauce also reduces down further as some liquid evaporates in the fridge, concentrating the flavors. This amps up the overall flavor impact of the dish. The first day, the flavors will still need time to meld together during cooking. But after resting overnight, the ingredients have mingled into a cohesive, intensely flavored sauce that seeps into every bite of meat.
Thicker, Richer Sauce
Speaking of the sauce, it also improves after a night in the fridge. As the sauce chills, the fat congeals on top forming a thicker layer. This fatty layer makes the sauce richer and helps reinforce the tender texture of the meat. The sauce itself will also thicken up and coat the meat with more luscious flavor. Depending on the recipe, the sauce might even form into a jelly-like texture that clings to each bite. This adds even more richness and moisture to the dish. Refrigeration helps intensify the unctuous mouthfeel of the sauce.
Easier to Remove Fat
When short ribs are freshly cooked, the fat is still emulsified into the braising liquid. Chilling the dish makes it easier to remove some of the excess fat. Solidified fat will accumulate on the top and sides of the container. You can simply skim off and discard the hardened fat before reheating. This allows you to serve a healthier version of the dish without compromising richness and flavor. If you want an even leaner version, you can also refrigerate the short ribs in the braising liquid but transfer them to a fresh pan before reheating. This leaves any separated fat behind in the original braising pan.
More Time to Skim Impurities
Refrigeration also provides an opportunity to skim away any impurities for a cleaner finished dish. In the initial cooking process, proteins and sediment from the meat can cloud the cooking liquid. After cooling, these particles coagulate into solids that you can remove. Simply scrape off the solidified bits and you’ll have a clearer, cleaner sauce. This is especially helpful for short rib recipes with red wine braising liquid which can take on a cloudy appearance. An overnight rest allows you to skim away anything undesirable from the sauce.
Make Ahead Simplicity
Preparing short ribs ahead takes the stress out of serving a warm, home-cooked meal. You can braise a big batch of short ribs the day before and simply reheat what you need for dinner. This makes the dish more convenient for busy home cooks. Short ribs also tend to taste better as leftovers, so you can ensure delicious beef any night of the week. Cook once, eat multiple times! Making short ribs in advance allows you to serve up fork-tender, fall-apart meat and rich sauce with minimal effort on a busy weeknight.
More Time to Reduce Liquid
For a short rib recipe with a lot of braising liquid, an overnight rest gives you the chance to reduce the sauce down further. If the initial braise results in a thinner, soupier sauce, the extra time in the fridge helps intensify flavors. As the liquid cools, some of it will evaporate. You can also simmer the sauce for a bit to condense it before serving. The refrigeration step prevents over-reducing the sauce during the initial braising. Getting the right sauce consistency can be tricky, so allowing extra reduction time gives you more control over the final thickness and flavor.
While short ribs are usually better after refrigerating overnight, there can be some potential downsides:
- The texture may become too soft. Really tender, fall-off-the-bone meat could border on mushy for some preferences.
- The sauce can get too gelatinous. A strongly gelled sauce may be off-putting in texture.
- The fat congeals into a thick layer that some find unappetizing.
- The flavor can become heavy and dense after reduction and absorption.
- Food safety with perishable ingredients like dairy or fresh herbs.
To avoid these issues, you can reserve some of the short ribs and sauce to enjoy freshly cooked. Refrigerate the amount that you want to save for later reheating. Taste and adjust seasoning of the reheated ribs before serving as well.
Serving Tips for the Best Next Day Short Ribs
Here are some tips to get the most out of your leftover short ribs:
- Skim hardened fat from the top and sides of the sauce.
- Transfer the short ribs to a fresh dish or plate before reheating for a leaner presentation.
- Degrease the sauce by stirring in a few ice cubes before reheating.
- Simmer the sauce for 5-10 minutes to reduce and concentrate flavors.
- Add a splash of fresh wine, stock or demi-glace to brighten the flavors.
- Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, or acid like vinegar or lemon juice to taste.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with crusty bread to offset a dense sauce.
- Cut ribs into smaller pieces so the tender meat is easier to eat.
- Pair with lighter sides like a fresh salad or roasted vegetables to balance the richness.
How to Store and Reheat Short Ribs
Proper storage and reheating are important when saving short ribs for later.
- Let short ribs cool completely before refrigerating.
- Store in an airtight container to prevent drying out.
- Keep for up to 4 days refrigerated.
- The sauce may thicken to a gel-like consistency when chilled.
- If reheating only a portion, reserve ribs and sauce separately.
- On the stovetop over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, adding liquid as needed.
- In a 300°F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.
- In the microwave, adding sauce to meat in 30 second intervals.
- The meat may be very tender, so handle gently when transferring.
The short rib meat may fall apart, so be careful when moving them. Baste the ribs with sauce frequently when reheating to keep moist. Add a dash of beef broth or water if the sauce seems too thick. Warm through until hot and bubbly for serving.
Best Short Rib Recipes for Leftovers
Almost any braised short rib recipe improves after a overnight rest. Here are some especially delicious options:
|What Makes It Great Next Day
|Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
|Intensified red wine flavor in meat and sauce
|Guinness Brown Sugar Short Ribs
|Sticky sweet and savory glazed meat
|Asian Short Ribs
|Tender ribs coated in rich ginger-soy sauce
|Beef Short Rib Ragu
|Fork-tender beef and meaty sauce for pasta
|Maple Whiskey Short Ribs
|Boozy, maple glazed ribs with melt-in-your-mouth meat
|Barbecue Short Ribs
|Fall-off-the-bone ribs smothered in sticky barbecue sauce
The long braising time gives short rib recipes plenty of opportunity for flavor to develop. Allowing them to rest overnight before serving brings out their best qualities. Meat so tender it practically melts, fall-apart texture, and rich, concentrated sauce make short ribs a perfect make-ahead meal.
Short ribs achieve maximum tenderness and flavor when allowed to rest overnight after cooking. The meat becomes fall-apart tender after the collagen has broken down even further. The sauce reduces down for more concentrated beefy flavor and thick, rich texture. Overall, the ingredients have more time to meld into cohesive, intense flavors. While you can certainly enjoy short ribs right after cooking, letting them rest in the fridge elevates the dish to new levels of deliciousness. For easy weeknight dinners, cook short ribs ahead of time and reheat for a quick fix of fork-tender meat and hearty sauce.