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Beef not turning tender


OliverN
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Hi everyone,

I recently did the 'Sri Lankan Beef Curry' from 'Mangoes and Curry Leaves' (pg 278).

It's essentially chunks of beef browned and then simmered in a coconut milk and tamarind liquid sauce for an hour, with spices and onions.

It was seriously one of the best tasting things that has ever come from my kitchen, but I had a couple things that were nagging me and that I'm sure are due to bad technique.

A) The meat was TOUGH, I was expecting really tender meat after simmering for over an hour, but it was really tough. The recipe called for 'BONELESS BEEF such as ROUND STEAK or ROAST' and so I used what was ambiguosly named as 'Stewing Beef' at the market and it came out super tough! What should I have done?

B) There's a browning step at the beginning for the meat, but I never seem to be able to brown in my creuset. My heat setting is on 5(out of 10, if that means anything) and I have about a tablespoon of ghee, but after 30-45 seconds of cooking the color turns grey and I get nervous about drying out the meat and so I continue with the recipe. Any advice here?

Again, I'm pretty sure these are two very fundamental concepts, but I really think they would put this recipe over the edge, and I appreciate the help

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An hour simmering pretty much any cut of beef may well be insufficient time for a decent braise -- unless you were boiling it, in which case you'd have other problems.

AHhhhh, that's another thing.

The recipe calls for 'bring to the boil, and then down to a strong simmer for about an hour'

What is a strong simmer and why is it not a boil? I had it down on 2-3/10 and there were regular small bubbles coming up, but it looked under control, so I assumed that was a simmer.

Also, it was UNCOVERED simmering, which I found odd for a braise.

Would pushing the simmer for longer mess up the spices and other flavours?

Edited by OliverN (log)
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I really don't know that much about cooking with coconut milk, but I think you could simmer the meat at 250 for two hours, or more if the liquid does not break down. I also think with a short cooking time I would use a top sirloin or even a ribeye--the ones you used really need hours of simmering on a low temp.

Cooking is chemistry, baking is alchemy.

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Simmering shouldn't screw up the flavors at all. I just grabbed the book and there's nothing in there that would lessen with an additional hour. Even if that were so, you could just toss it in later in the cooking process.

Ah, Alford and Duguid. I read "hard simmer" and grow concerned.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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A) It sounds the meat just needed more time. “Stewing beef” can be made of odds and ends, so you may want to try something like chuck next time.

B) When browning the meat, you want dry meat, high heat, and an uncrowded pan. Try pre-heating your pan for a longer time, patting the meat dry with paper towels, and browning the meat in smaller batches. You want the pan to stay very hot. The meat should sizzle loudly and brown quickly.

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B) There's a browning step at the beginning for the meat, but I never seem to be able to brown in my creuset. My heat setting is on 5(out of 10, if that means anything) and I have about a tablespoon of ghee, but after 30-45 seconds of cooking the color turns grey and I get nervous about drying out the meat and so I continue with the recipe. Any advice here?

You don't have to really worry about drying the meat out--you are cooking it in liquid after all and ideally there would be a transfer of collagen from the meat and the aromatic braising liquid into the meat, as I understand the process.

josh

josh

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A) The meat was TOUGH, I was expecting really tender meat after simmering for over an hour, but it was really tough.

I just made an Indonesian beef + coconut milk dish called rendang a couple of weeks ago and it took the meat 4 hours to become tender. Just to give you an outer bound... :wink: But it was totally worth the wait.

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A) The meat was TOUGH, I was expecting really tender meat after simmering for over an hour, but it was really tough. The recipe called for 'BONELESS BEEF such as ROUND STEAK or ROAST' and so I used what was ambiguosly named as 'Stewing Beef' at the market and it came out super tough! What should I have done?

Cook's Illustrated did a great test on pot roast (which is basically braised beef). Here's their recipe. You can look at it for comparison. They recommended chuck roast for braising, and they said to cook it for a very very long time. http://www.recipezaar.com/37554 The original article is worth reading for the information, but you'll have jump thru a hoop (trial membership) to read it online. http://beef.cooksillustrated.com/login.asp...recipe&iseason=

B) There's a browning step at the beginning for the meat, but I never seem to be able to brown in my creuset. My heat setting is on 5(out of 10, if that means anything) and I have about a tablespoon of ghee, but after 30-45 seconds of cooking the color turns grey and I get nervous about drying out the meat and so I continue with the recipe. Any advice here?

I agree with C. Sapidus. Turn the heat up to high (if I were you, I'd be on 10), dry the meat between layers of paper towels before you sear, and cook the meat in small batches. When the meat turns gray that means the meat is releasing its juices and it's cooking in liquid. The heat's too low. Too much meat in the pan will keep the temperature too low for searing. Don't worry about drying out the meat. It's about to be moist-cooked for hours.

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A) The meat was TOUGH, I was expecting really tender meat after simmering for over an hour, but it was really tough. The recipe called for 'BONELESS BEEF such as ROUND STEAK or ROAST' and so I used what was ambiguosly named as 'Stewing Beef' at the market and it came out super tough! What should I have done?

Cook's Illustrated did a great test on pot roast (which is basically braised beef). Here's their recipe. You can look at it for comparison. They recommended chuck roast for braising, and they said to cook it for a very very long time. http://www.recipezaar.com/37554 The original article is worth reading for the information, but you'll have jump thru a hoop (trial membership) to read it online. http://beef.cooksillustrated.com/login.asp...recipe&iseason=

B) There's a browning step at the beginning for the meat, but I never seem to be able to brown in my creuset. My heat setting is on 5(out of 10, if that means anything) and I have about a tablespoon of ghee, but after 30-45 seconds of cooking the color turns grey and I get nervous about drying out the meat and so I continue with the recipe. Any advice here?

I agree with C. Sapidus. Turn the heat up to high (if I were you, I'd be on 10), dry the meat between layers of paper towels before you sear, and cook the meat in small batches. When the meat turns gray that means the meat is releasing its juices and it's cooking in liquid. The heat's too low. Too much meat in the pan will keep the temperature too low for searing. Don't worry about drying out the meat. It's about to be moist-cooked for hours.

Thanks for the advice everyone! The other thing with the browning is that I'm using a 'Le Creuset' enamelled dutch oven as my braising vehicle, and the instructions state that it's not too good to heat it on high.

Whenever I do crank things to 10 though, the meat just burns in 15-30 seconds. Is that normal?

And also, any differences between 'simmering' uncovered on the stovetop and braising at low temp, covered, in the oven?

I will definately try this one again next week, with some nicer meat and see how it goes.

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My experience with anything from the supermarket labeled "Stewing Meat" is tough, gristly meat remnants. Nothing short of 6 hours in a slow cooker is going to soften up the collagen in meat like that. Round, while pretty much flavorless, isn't near as tough.

A round roast should be ok, but many "roasts" are chuck, and chuck is rather gristly. That is why is gets mechanically tenderized by making it into hamburger, or gets baked in a covered liquidy pot in the oven. Don't know many people that fry a chuck steak!

One thing you could try would be to take a taste every so often and see if the meat is getting more tender until it is "tender enough".

Just some thoughts.

doc

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Thanks for the advice everyone! The other thing with the browning is that I'm using a  'Le Creuset' enamelled dutch oven as my braising vehicle, and the instructions state that it's not too good to heat it on high.

Whenever I do crank things to 10 though, the meat just burns  in 15-30 seconds. Is that normal?

And also, any differences between 'simmering' uncovered on the stovetop and braising at low temp, covered, in the oven?

I will definately try this one again next week, with some nicer meat and see how it goes.

If your meat is burning, you just have to find the proper setting (maybe 7 or 8?) that will allow you to get a nice sear without burning the meat. It should be deep brown in color. This will make your sauce darker in color and richer in flavor.

As for stovetop vs the oven, dutch ovens hold heat really well, so that if you are going to cook on the stovetop, its the best way to go. Using the oven will give you much more even heat which allows for even more stable temperatures. I usually bring my braises to a boil and immediately put them in a 300 F oven and it works. Then you don't have to worry about adjusting the heat anymore or whether your simmering looks right if you're unsure. I'm not sure what a "hard simmer" is exactly, but I usually simmer my braises gently in the 300 F oven.

If you're looking to reduce the liquid, you can do that by reducing it after the meat has cooked. You could also use a parchment lid which allows for more reduction than using the LC lid. I usually just use the LC lid and reduce later if I have to, after I've degreased.

josh

josh

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at boiling temperatures, the proteins in the meat tend to coagulate, which yields a tougher texture. If the temperature is lower (simmer means that the bubbles are tiny, just around the edges of the vessel), the proteins do not coagulate, and the connective tissue softens. This takes time. Personally, I like to brown the meat, remove from the pan, bring the liquid to a boil, add the meat, and then bring the liquid just to boiling before placing in the 300 degree oven for a couple of hours. No fussing w/ stove temperatures, or relighting the pilot, etc. And I'm much more comfortable leaving the house with something in the oven than on the stovetop.

Karen Dar Woon

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Just a quick note to say that I think the quality of stew beef depends on your market... I get it from Wegmans here and it is exceptional -- flavorful and cooks up very tender, with just the right amount of fat. But as a note, I think two hours of cooking is the minimum I've found for getting it as falling-apart tender as I like it...

Emily

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I concur with all of the advice given above (and at my supermarket, stew meat is chunks of chuck!). Good sear in a hot pan, low and slow braise with a lid.

One of the things I've learned from braising, and something that we've discussed extensively on the smoking butts and briskets (yes, I know this isn't a braise) is that you really can't predict how long it will take for the meat to achieve that fall-apart texture. It depends on the amount of connective tissue. I always allow a lot longer for a braise than the recipe indicates; sometimes it takes more time, sometimes not.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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at boiling temperatures, the proteins in the meat tend to coagulate, which yields a tougher texture. If the temperature is lower (simmer means that the bubbles are tiny, just around the edges of the vessel), the proteins do not coagulate, and the connective tissue softens. This takes time. Personally, I like to brown the meat, remove from the pan, bring the liquid to a boil, add the meat, and then bring the liquid just to boiling before placing in the 300 degree oven for a couple of hours. No fussing w/  stove temperatures, or relighting the pilot, etc. And I'm much more comfortable leaving the house with something in the oven than on the stovetop.

I'm sorry but that is plain wrong. The proteins of meat coagulate well below boiling. You mean to tell me that a well done piece of beef, at say, 180F isn't fully coagulated? Proteins (even in beef) begin to coagulate at about 120F farenheit (I'm too lazy to go look up the actual number right now).

The issue here isn't protein coagulation but collagen breaking down into gelatin. IIRC, collagen begins to break down to gelatin at about 150F (again, too lazy to go look it up in McGee). The process though can take several hours--the reason for long, slow braises.

When you cook a braise or slow roasted dish, there are several stages that the meat goes through. Essentially, you are going to overcook your meat. All braised dishes are dry and stringy. The actual protein in the meat will seize up, squeeze out most of its liquid (thats one of the reasons braises are so good is because the jus has been flavored with all of the juice from inside the meat) and become touch and chewy. In time, however, the collagen that binds the muscle tissues together will begin to break down and, in essence, release it's stranglehold on the meat, resulting in a fork tender product. The gelatin also creates a sort of unctuous mouthfeel that aids in the illusion of moistness in the meat (when in fact there is very little left--at least compared to when it started).

The searing is strictly for flavor--and recommended.

I would guess that you didn't cook the meat long enough. Meat varies, the amount of connective tissue, varies, and recipes are just guidelines...trust your senses.

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