Oven Busters

in the pink

December 7th, 2010

Oven Busters are actually short ribs of beef, the bones and meat above a regular rib of beef roast – also known as a Boxheater and in America they are called a Jacob’s ladder. The name Oven Buster comes from the fact that these short ribs are normally cooked for a long time at a very low heat and during the cooking they swell up, looking bigger when you take them out of the oven, than when you put them in. These are a cheap and delicious, old fashioned, cut of beef. You may have trouble finding them outside of a traditional butcher’s shop. They can come as a full ladder of ribs or individually. They taste a bit like the meat on an ox tail.

Oven Buster recipe:

Several oven busters or a “ladder” (rack of short ribs)
2 carrots (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
4 pieces of streaky bacon (chopped)
a bouquet garni
a small squeeze of anchovy paste
sea salt and cracked black pepper
half a dessertspoon of plain flour
2 glasses of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar
some goose or duck fat for frying

browning version

Chop and fry your vegetables in a cast iron casserole with the bacon, until they have taken some colour. In the meantime, brown your Oven Busters in a large cast iron frying pan. When browned, remove the Oven Busters to the casserole along with half a dessert spoonful of flour. Deglaze the frying pan with a glass of red wine and a splash of red wine vinegar. Add the deglaze to the casserole, along with the second glass of wine, a squirt of anchovy paste and the bouquet garni. Season with some black pepper, but hold back on the salt until it has cooked for a while, since the anchovy paste is quite salty.


Bring the casserole nearly to a simmering temperature, put the lid on and place it in a preheated oven at 100º C for about 2 hours. You could cook this for 4-5 hours at 72º C if you want to slow cook it while out (make sure it’s simmering first and give it half an hour or so at 100º C  – you can’t do it from cold). After 2 hours, remove from the oven and season to taste. Serve with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts. On cold days like today, add a little crushed chilli when frying the vegetables to add some extra heat to the dish.

N.B. if you have a large “ladder” of short ribs, you could cook them in a heavy oven dish or tray, on top of the vegetables and covered with some foil, though the cooking this way might be better at 72º C, since more heat will penetrate the foil more easily than with a cast iron lid.


About Mad Dog

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2 Responses to Oven Busters

  1. Fantastic! My grandmother perfected the art of cooking oven buster in London during food rationing in the second world war. She used to turn out a delicious, affordable Sunday roast ever after.

    When she moved to the the Sussex coast, she made sure to live near a local butcher who knew what oven buster was 🙂

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