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Q&A: Braising


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#1 eGCI Team

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 09:40 PM

Please post questions and comments about the braising seminar here. All members are welcome to post here, whether or not they have completed the labs.

If you have results related to the labs, please use the individual lab discussion threads for those.

Thanks.

#2 Boris_A

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 04:02 AM

Looks like the grandmas got it right.
Use a Dutch oven or similar equipment, make some maillard with meat and mirepoix, deglaze with wine, fill up to about 1/2 level with broth, use a slow running cooktop, braise slowly for some hours and when served rewarmed the next day, it will be even better.

Interestingly, Escoffier found this to be a difficult technique. And I remember Georges Pralus, the "inventor" of sous-vide, referring in an interview to the cooking techniques of the grandmas and their daylong simmering pots in the corner of a flat top.

Edited by Boris_A, 18 February 2005 - 04:02 AM.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

#3 Varmint

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 04:03 AM

I've always been a fan of Tom Colicchio, who has made some of the best braised dishes I've ever tasted. I believe he leaves his short ribs uncovered while in the oven, a method I use, resulting in a much "deeper" flavor with the meat than if the ribs were covered. Does anyone have comments in this regard?
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#4 jackal10

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 04:55 AM

Its all about temperature.

I think you've missed the really interesting experiments, which is to try braising at lower temperatures. At 140F/60C the meat will cook, although unless left for days the collagen will not soften much. At about 175F the collagen will soften, although I believe the so-called "collagen stall" is more to do with the fat melting rather than the collagen dissolving.

The meat in the air (or less liquid) will get hotter than that in contact withthe liquid, since the oven air temperature is higher. It will also, unless well enlosed, dry on the surface somewhat.

#5 Fat Guy

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:29 AM

Jack, you or anybody else should feel free to conduct any experiments you feel will be as or more (or even less) interesting as the ones we did this week. This topic and the lab topics will remain open indefinitely for the addition of such observations. We have a temperature lab topic open, so temperature-related experiments would go there. And if anybody wants to do a comparison of sous vide or crock pot or pressure cooker to braising at standard simmering temperatures, that's great too.

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#6 jwwai

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:35 AM

Many thanks to the eGCI for organizing this course. Even though I could only conduct Labs 1 and 2, "cooking" vicariously through the eGCI community (Labs 3 and 4) has been a good learning experience. It's given me something to look forward to every morning

(besides graduate school).

I hope that Steven can put together another course soon!

#7 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:40 AM

I've always been a fan of Tom Colicchio, who has made some of the best braised dishes I've ever tasted. I believe he leaves his short ribs uncovered while in the oven, a method I use, resulting in a much "deeper" flavor with the meat than if the ribs were covered. Does anyone have comments in this regard?



I started doing something similiar when reheating a beef daube the day following the initial cooking. After combining the defatted sauce and mea,t I put them both in a wide ovenproof serving dish, uncovered, and let them slowly reheatl together and brown in a 275 oven. When nicely browned on one side, I shifted the chunks
of meat and let them brown as well. Even the sauce darkened in color. And the flavor was as you report above "deeper"

Edited by Wolfert, 18 February 2005 - 06:41 AM.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#8 Fat Guy

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:57 AM

To add a bit more detail about the Colicchio method: First, it should be noted that when he braises he comes near to covering the meat entirely with liquid -- in his recipes he refers to this as "to not quite cover," and the braising I saw done in the kitchen in Gramercy Tavern had only the slightest bit of meat poking above the surface of the liquid. This is great if you have enough stock and wine around (as a restaurant always will) to "not quite cover" your meat even after you've reduced it by half (as he calls for in his recipes), but for most people it's just more convenient to braise in 1/2" of liquid, covered. Second, I should add that essential to the Colicchio method is that you turn the meat often enough (about every half hour) so that you're always drying one side's surface while remoistening the other.

My standard procedure for brisket, because it's so unwieldy, is to skip the stovetop browning process and just uncover it during the last hour of braising (turning it over half way through that hour). This gives a surface effect that's a dead ringer for stovetop browning.

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#9 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 07:31 AM

Tagines, those marvelous, slowly simmered Morccan braises in which the sauce is everything and the meat literally falls off the bones has endless variations.
In many Moroccan tagines a shoulder or breast of lamb is first stewed in a small amount of fat-rich sauce. Then the meat is cooled down to firm it up (it is so tender it falls easily off its bones), the fat is removed (I do that!), and finally browned in butter in a skillet. Instead of frying, I put the meat, just before serving, in a hot oven, from which it emerges crusty brown and delicious.


In many lamb tagines with smaller chunks of meat, the conical tagine top (which acts just like a doufeu filled with ice) is removed at the end of cooking and replaced with a flat earthenware plate filled with coals. This acts as a "broiler" to crisp and brown the meat and sauce.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#10 Matonski

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 12:50 PM

So the conclusion seems to be that the meat doesn't taste much different depending on how it was browned or even whether it was browned. However, do you think the sauce would be different?

#11 Smithy

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 03:01 PM

So the conclusion seems to be that the meat doesn't taste much different depending on how it was browned or even whether it was browned.  However, do you think the sauce would be different?

View Post

The sauce seemed to be different in my test. I plan a more careful series of tests to confirm this, but I thought the sauce from deglazing the stovetop steel (not nonstick) pan was richer, more complex and darker than the other sauces.

For that matter, I also thought there were some differences in the meat texture and taste - but they were admittedly minor, not as noticeable as the sauce differences. I'll know more tonight when I reheat the samples.

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#12 MobyP

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 04:04 PM

Did anyone experiment with early or late salting? I think it's Judy Rodgers who recommends salting the night before - even for braises. I wonder if anyone gave this a go.
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#13 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 05:13 PM

When I was working in Southwest France back in the late 70's and early 80's, I studied briefly with a chef named André Guillot, now gone about 10 years. He used to give cooking courses for chefs and enthusiatic cooks in Santons in Provence.
Among his most famous fans were Marc Meneau, Gerard Vie, Jean Marie Amat, Emil Jung and Richard Olney. In fact, we formed an Association of the Friends of Andre Guillot to keep his name alive, but alas he is almost forgotten today.
One of his most memorable tips for salting meat included the following:" lightly salt the meat the minute you bring it home. If you do this, you will hardly need to salt later, and in the end you’ll use half as much salt as you would normally. Lightly salted meat will tenderize and mature in flavor when stored overnight in the refrigerator. "

He also taught me that though some blood will run out, he considered it insignificant. In fact, he suggested that meat be coated lightly with grape-seed oil right after the salting to keep it from drying out; he prefered grape-seed oil, because it smoked at a much higher temperature than other oils.

Edited by Wolfert, 18 February 2005 - 05:14 PM.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#14 MobyP

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:01 PM

Thanks for that - and interesting as Rodger's training came through the Troisgros lads of that same era. Given the large amounts of liquid held by meat, I agree that any loss would be negligable. I wonder how, if at all, the early salting affects the texture of the braise.
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#15 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:15 PM

I don't think it was for a braise. This salting method was for steaks and ground meat

Edited by Wolfert, 18 February 2005 - 06:17 PM.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#16 Marlene

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:23 PM

Did anyone experiment with early or late salting? I think it's Judy Rodgers who recommends salting the night before - even for braises. I wonder if anyone gave this a go.

View Post



I ran across this in Molly Steven's braising book yesterday. Specifically for short ribs, she recommends sprinkling the ribs with salt a day or two in advance and refrigerating.
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#17 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:39 PM

Are the short ribs marinated as well?
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#18 Marlene

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:43 PM

She has two short rib recipes. The one I made using Porter Ale was not, but the one using wine was. I'll check but I don't think the one calling for marinade suggested salting the ribs in advance
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#19 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:45 PM

I think when you marinate you don't salt. I defer to Molly because she really knows her stuff. I read her all the time in Fine Cooking. I need to pull out the book.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#20 Smithy

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:52 PM

Ms. Wolfert, I was wondering today about the tagines. Are there specific cuts of meat that are generally used? You mention shoulder or breast of lamb. Is that because they benefit particularly from this treatment? Are there cuts that do not benefit from tagines?

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#21 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:59 PM

Lean meat such as leg of lamb and rack of lamb are better roasted, steamed, or grilled. The shank, the shoulder and the neck with the bone in are the ideal cuts for Moroccan tagines.

Edited by Wolfert, 18 February 2005 - 07:09 PM.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#22 lilyspence

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 09:08 AM

Many thanks to you all for your rigorous work and reporting. My question has to do with the amount of materials in the oven: do you think the results would have been any different for the foil pan in day #1 if there had not been so many other more heavy and dense containers sharing the same cooking space? Or is that the point...it was generally inferior because of it's flimsiness? I'm certainly not a scientist, but I've noticed that my new oven has an oven capacity that is greater than my old. When I use it with one pot, I have to lower the temp about 25-30 degrees, but when I have several items cooking in it, the normal temp works just fine. I monitor the actual oven temperature, and it seems to be fine (does not run hotter than the old).
What do you think?

#23 Marlene

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 09:28 AM

I think when you marinate you don't salt. I defer to Molly because she really knows her stuff. I read her all the time in Fine Cooking. I need to pull out the book.

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I checked both recipes. The ribs are not salted in the marinated rib recipe, and in the non marinated recipe they are.
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#24 Fat Guy

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 09:32 AM

Does the marinade have salt in it?

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#25 Wolfert

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 09:41 AM

I never salt the marinade. (now watch! someone will find some recipe of mine with salt in the marinade .All I can say is that some copyeditor slipped it in and I didn't notice. )

Steve: I've been following the labs and I think they were fabulous---even for those of us who just followed along as readers. I really regret that I couldn't take part as well. I had a photo shoot scheduled all last week.

Edited by Wolfert, 19 February 2005 - 09:44 AM.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#26 Marlene

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 09:53 AM

Does the marinade have salt in it?

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Yes, the marinade calls for 1 1.2 tsp of corse salt.
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#27 Wolfert

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 10:05 AM

I would love to know her reasoning.

Until then, I'm going to stick to seasoning the meat just as it goes into the pot whether I brown it or not since this method works for me.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#28 Fat Guy

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 01:15 PM

Many thanks to you all for your rigorous work and reporting.  My question has to do with the amount of materials in the oven: do you think the results would have been any different for the foil pan in day #1 if there had not been so many other more heavy and dense containers sharing the same cooking space?  Or is that the point...it was generally inferior because of it's flimsiness?  I'm certainly not a scientist, but I've noticed that my new oven has an oven capacity that is greater than my old.  When I use it with one pot, I have to lower the temp about 25-30 degrees, but when I have several items cooking in it, the normal temp works just fine.  I monitor the actual oven temperature, and it seems to be fine (does not run hotter than the old). 
What do you think?

View Post

Let me tell you what I think we learned. Rather, let me tell you my working hypothesis: greater heat capacity = better braising.

It seems at least somewhat clear from the experiments, which in all cases favored heavy metal vessels over aluminum foil and in most cases favored the heaviest vessel (Le Creuset) over others, that for whatever reason (and a few theories have been bandied about) the materials with greater heat capacity provide better braising. If you have more stuff in the oven, this will also have an effect related to heat capacity I think.

I should add, however, that weight is not the only factor in heat capacity. The nature of the material is also important. According to this list of engineering material properties the heat capacities of the materials I used are, in J/kg*°C:

Aluminum 963.00
Borosilicate glass 710.00
Iron 440.00

In other words, the borosilicate glass (which is I think the basis of the materials we call Pyrex and Corningware) has half again as much heat capacity per kilogram as iron, and aluminum has more than double the heat capacity of iron. So an aluminum pot weighing 1 kg has more heat capacity than a cast-iron pot weighing 2 kg. This is why I think my aluminum (Calphalon) and glass (Corningware) vessels, though smaller and lighter than the iron (Le Creuset) vessel, did so well at braising, such that I didn't detect any real difference in final product.

This would also tend to support the notion that, by weight, aluminum is the most desirable material for braising. It has far greater heat capacity per kilogram than any of the other commonly used cookware materials. In addition to the ones listed above, copper is 385.00 and steel runs from 419.00 to 503.00 depending on the alloy.

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#29 lilyspence

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 01:46 PM

Thanks again for this most informative workshop. I'm braising my short ribs tonight in my Calphalon dutch oven, and reheating and saucing them tomorrow, or maybe even the next day. They went in a wine marinade (Shiraz) yesterday, with the salt. If anything unexpected happens, I'll let you know.

#30 Marlene

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 01:48 PM

I would love to know her reasoning.

Until then, I'm going to stick to seasoning the meat just as it goes into the pot whether I brown it  or not since this method works for me.

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I'm not sure. As I re-read the recipe she notes that the salt should be sprinkled over the ribs then the marinade poured over top.
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Practice. Do it over. Get it right.
Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.