Friday, 13 November 2015

Braised Ox Cheeks in a Rich Red Wine Sauce (includes Instant Pot Pressure Cooker method)

Moist, tender beef with a really rich, dark and delicious sauce

Although you don't have to cook this in a pressure cooker (you can slow cook it instead), it will shave a few hours off the process and give you the same meltingly tender results from the meat from just 30 minutes cooking at high pressure.

Ox cheeks are becoming easier to get hold of, now that they've become popular again - although the downside of this is that any surge in popularity means a surge in the price too. However, they're well worth it, as they are one of the tastiest, most tender cuts of beef, when cooked properly. They are practically the beefy embodiment of the word 'unctious'. If you can't get hold of ox cheeks, then beef shin will give you a similarly tender, gelatinous result.

One thing to note about cooking ox cheeks in this way is that they do shrink quite considerably during cooking, so if you want to cut them into single portions, I'd probably go for about 250g each which may seem like a large piece of raw meat, but not once it's shrunk after cooking! I cut it into large chunks about 125g each (so if buying in portions of around 500g, cut into four portions) to cater for my family, where people can choose whether to have one, two or three pieces each that way, according to their appetites (naming no names!). One piece is enough for me and the kids for a small portion, but I think most people would go for two (or three for larger appetites!). If you don't have access to a good butcher to buy your ox cheeks from, they can be found in some Waitrose and Morrisons stores (UK).

Serves from six to eight. Approximately 206 calories per 125g (raw weight) piece of ox cheek with sauce, therefore 412 calories for a serving of two pieces with sauce.

  • 1.5kg ox cheeks (or shin of beef, braising steaks etc.) [1,845]
  • 1 bottle red wine [268 *See Notes below]
  • 2 onions
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 stick celery
  • Handful dried porcini mushrooms (10g)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Small handful flat leaf parsley(plus a little extra to garnish, if desired)
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • Beef stock concentrate / cube to make up 500ml stock (I use Knorr 'Touch of Taste' beef bouillon, which comes in a small brown bottle) [20]
  • 1 tsp molasses, black treacle or dark brown sugar (optional)[16]
  • Olive oil (about 2 tbsp) [247]
  • Cornflour (optional - 2 level x 15ml tbsp) [72]

1. Reduce the red wine to approximately half its volume over a high heat (Instant Pot: Sautee on high for 10 minutes, then reserve so you can use the pot to brown ingredients on high). Meanwhile, in a small bowl, put the dried mushrooms to soak into 200ml warm water, while you prepare the other ingredients (as in stage 3).

2. Cut each ox cheek into portions of approximately 125g each (you should end up with around twelve pieces of equal size), season, and brown in the oil. You may need to do this in two or three batches.

3. Peel the carrots and onions. Cut each carrot into 3 lengths, cut the onions in half, and cut the celery into 4 lengths. Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid, gently squeezing out any excess and reserving the liquid. Sautee the vegetables in the pan adding another tbsp oil if necessary (Instant Pot: use the sautee function on high) until turning golden and add the garlic, thyme and bay leaves for the last minute or so.

4. Add all of the ingredients to the pressure cooker (beef at the bottom) with 300ml water, make sure that all of the beef is submerged, and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, then allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. N.B. If cooking in an oven, add an extra 3-500ml water to ensure everything is covered, bring to a simmer, and cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours on a low temperature.

5. Carefully remove the meat and set aside, covered with foil to keep warm. Strain (and reserve) the liquid through a sieve and discard all of the solids. You will have approximately 1,400 ml of liquid. Add the molasses/brown sugar if using, and reduce this to just less than half - about 600ml (Instant Pot: Put the 1,400ml of liquid into the bowl on Sautee, high for the full 30 minutes which will reduce it down to around 600ml - just under the 2 cup line).

6. If you wish to thicken up the sauce, mix the cornflour with a little cold water to make a runny paste, and incorporate slowly into the sauce whilst stirring over heat until it reaches the desired thickness (maybe add just half first, then more if desired). Taste, and season further if necessary.

7. Add the beef cheeks back to the sauce and warm through for five or ten minutes, then serve with the sauce (Instant Pot: You can use the keep warm function, and put the lid on - you can keep them as long as you need to once they've heated through - just turn occasionally if keeping warm for more than half an hour). Enjoy with creamy mash, or roasted potatoes and the statutory two veg!

I try to ensure that the calorie counts on my recipes are as accurate as possible. This is one of the few recipes where the calorie count has to be taken as an approximation owing to a) the reduction of calories in the red wine from evaporation of the alcohol, and b) the fact that the sauce is flavoured by various vegetables, herbs and seasonings which are removed and discarded, but will have a small impact on the calorific value of the sauce. I hope it is helpful as a guide, nevertheless!

*Red wine calorie calculation for those who really want to know: One 750ml bottle at approximately 645 calories, less calories excluding alcohol, less percentage 'cooked off' is 645 - 143 = 502. 502 x 25% = 125 calories remaining, plus 143 calories from non-alcoholic components, equals 268 calories remaining after cooking. See here for more information.


  1. Andrea:
    These look so delicious! How would you do it if you to sous vide them for two light eaters?

  2. Hi CharlesR, and thank you!

    I wouldn't advise cooking meat in alcohol sous vide, as it doesn't give it a good flavour, so you would need to cook the beef cheeks on their own (and the sauce separately). For best results with a cut like this with lots of connective tissue a long period is advised, at least 1-2 days depending on how well-cooked you would like it.

    So, you would seal your cheeks in bags (preferably one to each bag, and as many as you want - they will shrink a bit - I would probably go for 500g for two of you to make sure there is enough - you might have a bit leftover, but it will freeze well, or keep in the fridge for a few days).

    Then, to cook, you can either go for a traditional 'braised' texture (well done) at 71ºC / 160ºF for 1 to 2 Days, or you could go for:
    Medium: 65ºC / 149ºF for 2 to 3 Days, or
    Medium Rare: 55ºC / 131ºF for 2 to 3 Days

    After this, you can reserve the juices to add to the sauce, pat the ox cheeks dry, rub a little oil on them, then season them and sear them in a hot pan until just browned to add flavour. I would probably warm them through in the sauce before serving.

    To make the sauce, you could half all of the ingredients for the two of you, soak the mushrooms in stage 1, and then go from stage 3 (frying off the vegetables) - if you have seared your ox cheeks in a pan, then use this pan to collect more flavour from the caramelised juices.

    Deglaze the pan with the red wine, and reduce by half, and add the beef stock cube made up with hot water (don't forget to half everything if you're making a small quantity, and cook out until you're happy with the flavour, then atrain out the solds and add a cornflour paste / slurry to thicken the sauce to your liking.

    It's probably easier and definitely quicker to cook it in the oven traditionally, though! :)

  3. hi - i really want to thank you for this recipe - its now one of my all time favorites - ive done it about five times and it always turns out yummy!

  4. Hi, thank you so much for this lovely recipe. I used the braised vegetables and some stock for a scrumptious soup as well!


Related Recipes

If you liked this recipe, you may also like these...