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Help! Stew Beef Boiled to Leather


Mjx
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Made a peposo today, which involves simmering the beef for a couple of hours in tomatoes, followed by another hour's simmer with a glass of wine added to the mix. I've made it a million times, and thought it was pretty much impossible to mess up.

These days, I'm sharing a kitchen, and the only burner I could use for the stew runs very hot, so a simmer isn't possible; I pushed the pot to one side of the burner, but although it reduced the temperature, it wasn't enough. I had a bad feeling about this, but hoped for the best.

At the two hour mark, the beef was dry and rubbery. I added the wine anyway, and gave it another hour. Still dry and chewy, not good at all.

Do any of you know of some way that this can be saved, or is boiling it from the outset simply a recipe for irreversible ruin?

Worst case scenario, I guess I'll shred or hack up the beef, turning the stew to a sauce, since the tomato base around it still tastes really good, but I have to admit that breaking down about a kilo and a half of beef wasn't how I'd planned to spend tomorrow morning... I wanted to break in my new food mill :sad:

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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What cut is it?

Danish cuts don't entirely overlap US cuts, but it's more or less shank meat (I've often used this this cut).

How does the beef taste? Has it given its all to the sauce like a stock and become boring or is there still some beefiness worth rescuing?

It's dry and tasteless. The sauce tastes fantastic though (I got my hands on a great recipe). I think it'd make a good sauce, if I can face all the dicing involved. I tried shredding a piece and it resisted my efforts completely.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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If it is tasteless then I can not see bothering to add the bits to the sauce. Perhaps let it go just a bit more to completely give everything to the sauce and pitch the meat. The sauce tossed with pasta and topped with a poached egg? I have had shank behave oddly before- sometimes as gelatinous and rich as veal in an osso bucco style prep and the next time - jaw exerciser.

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If it is tasteless then I can not see bothering to add the bits to the sauce. Perhaps let it go just a bit more to completely give everything to the sauce and pitch the meat.

You must have a friend who has a grateful dog. No tough meat goes to waste in this household. :wink:

Darienne

 

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If it is tasteless then I can not see bothering to add the bits to the sauce. Perhaps let it go just a bit more to completely give everything to the sauce and pitch the meat.

My thought too. Though if the sauce tastes good now, maybe stop now.

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Sorry to hear about your beef, and I don't have a suggestion, but I do have a question for the group. Is it really high heat that would cause this problem? It seems to me that ultimately high heat or not, when cooked in liquid, its the cut of meat that will determine whether it eventually starts to break down -- I thought this break down was a property of the amount of fat / collagen in the meat. Can someone explain the science to me of why moist highish heat for three hours would be a problem, but moist low heat would not?

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Ironically, a gentle simmer - once the pot has reached it on the stovetop - is very conveniently maintained in an oven at 170C. It even frees you from stirring.

If you don't have a PC, you *could* still go to the trouble of going on cooking conventionally till the meat's tender.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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If it is tasteless then I can not see bothering to add the bits to the sauce. Perhaps let it go just a bit more to completely give everything to the sauce and pitch the meat. The sauce tossed with pasta and topped with a poached egg? I have had shank behave oddly before- sometimes as gelatinous and rich as veal in an osso bucco style prep and the next time - jaw exerciser.

Grrr. I forgot to mention one crucial point: I don't have the option of ditching the meat, because it isn't mine, but my boyfriend's mother's contribution: this isn't even regarded as an option. Which means I feel doubly bad about the situation. I've been taking on an increasing amount of the cooking, to the relief of both myself and my boyfriend's mother, and now I'm dreading future screw-ups like this.

On the bright side, she doesn't actually see a problem with the meat. And the sauce actually would be great with those suggestions, thanks!

Care to share your recipe? :)

. . . .

Sure! This is the basic recipe I keep in mind (but I inevitably deviate), although it's been a long time since I looked at the book from which I got it: Cut a kilo (a little over 2 lbs) of beef shin or shank into cubes, toss into a large, deep pan, add 5 minced garlic cloves, three teaspoons coarsely ground pepper, 700 g (about 25 ounces: if I'm using tinned tomatoes, I use two tins) crushed tomatoes, a half teaspoon of salt, and enough water to pretty much cover the beef. Bring to a simmer, and simmer covered for two hours. Add a glass of red wine, and simmer for an hour more, or a bit longer, to reduce the sauce to a consistency you're happy with.

You'll notice there is no mention of browning the meat: traditionally, you don't, and it still doesn't get that wet dog smell, but is delicious! However, unless I'm feeling unusually lazy, I do brown the meat very briefly over very high heat. I also usually add rosemary/bay leaf.

The proportions of the ingredients can vary tremendously, and the results are still great, because the recipe is a very forgiving one.

Pressure cooker for 45 minutes will probably amke that very good eating.

dcarch

No pressure cooker, alas :hmmm:

. . . I do have a question for the group. Is it really high heat that would cause this problem? It seems to me that ultimately high heat or not, when cooked in liquid, its the cut of meat that will determine whether it eventually starts to break down -- I thought this break down was a property of the amount of fat / collagen in the meat. Can someone explain the science to me of why moist highish heat for three hours would be a problem, but moist low heat would not?

I recall reading about this when I first began cooking meat, and have some recollection of excessive heat causing rapid shortening of the fibres, dissolving and squeezing out the collagen (?) to an extent that is not reversible, whereas low temperatures cause this to occur more slowly, so the collagen is dissolved but not wrung out of the meat by rapid shrinkage.

I'm hoping I'm remembering this incorrectly (it's been over a decade since I read up on this), and that it's actually something more... reversible.

I've found that shank-like meat tends to get get more soft after initial toughness if it's cooked longer

Seriously? Perhaps it's worth giving it another couple of hours, then.

Ironically, a gentle simmer - once the pot has reached it on the stovetop - is very conveniently maintained in an oven at 170C. It even frees you from stirring.

If you don't have a PC, you *could* still go to the trouble of going on cooking conventionally till the meat's tender.

I'm kicking myself for not thinking of that, but unfortunately, I wasted so much energy feeling aggravated about the overheated burner, I didn't do anything actually intelligent about it. Just moaned to myself about it and probably did some fuming and pouting. Fortunately, with food, there's usually a 'next time'.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I've found that shank-like meat tends to get get more soft after initial toughness if it's cooked longer

That is how most braises/stews work. You over cook a tough cut the meat until the connective tissue, such as collagen, starts to break down and re-lubricate the dried out meat.

Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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I've found that shank-like meat tends to get get more soft after initial toughness if it's cooked longer

That is how most braises/stews work. You over cook a tough cut the meat until the connective tissue, such as collagen, starts to break down and re-lubricate the dried out meat.

But if the starting temperature is too high, doesn't that accelerate the collagen breakdown, while simultaneously causing the muscle fibres to contract more rapidly, essentially wringing out the collagen, in a way that doesn't happen when you go low and slow? I'm wanting to be wrong about this, by the way.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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You are correct that you can over-braise meat and dry it out, and boiling is bad. Notes from McGee's On Food and Cooking:

Meats with a lot of connective tissue must be cooked to a minimum of 160-180F/70-80C to dissolve their collagen into gelatin, but that is above the range (140-150F/60-65C) at which the muscle fibers lose their juices. The key is to cook slowly, at or just above the collagen dissolving minimum, to minimize the drying out of fibers. The most important rule: never let the meat interior get anywhere near the boil. It only takes moments at the boil to dry out a good stew.

Low and slow is the way to go.

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You are correct that you can over-braise meat and dry it out, and boiling is bad. Notes from McGee's On Food and Cooking:

Meats with a lot of connective tissue must be cooked to a minimum of 160-180F/70-80C to dissolve their collagen into gelatin, but that is above the range (140-150F/60-65C) at which the muscle fibers lose their juices. The key is to cook slowly, at or just above the collagen dissolving minimum, to minimize the drying out of fibers. The most important rule: never let the meat interior get anywhere near the boil. It only takes moments at the boil to dry out a good stew.

Low and slow is the way to go.

Aaaaaaaah, I wanted to be wrong! But I was fairly certain I remembered that from McGee :sad:

On the up side of this debacle, my boyfriend's parents thought it was fine, and couldn't see what I thought was wrong. My boyfriend had to kick me under the table to get me to wipe the stunned look off my face. And I still couldn't eat the damn stuff.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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For next time, when I've been faced with using a burner which is running too hot, even on the lowest setting, I have set my cooking pan over a skillet or griddle on the burner.

Karen Dar Woon

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If it's dry, that means it's cooked at too high a temperature but if it's tough, that can't mean anything else except that all the connective tissue hasn't fully dissolved yet. Badly overcooked will be as dry as sawdust but will crumble at the lightest touch as there's no connective tissue left. If it's still tough, it could still benefit from further cooking.

PS: I am a guy.

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When I moved into this house I ran into much the same problem: the burners, even on the lowest settings, were too hot to maintain a simmer. Forget about leaving a pot of stock or ragu or whatever to tick away for a few hours. I start the preparation on the stovetop (browning the meat, cooking the sofrito, etc) before moving the whole lot into the oven for as long as need be. Does create a bit of an issue when you want a sauce to gradually reduce as it cooks (sure, it does that in the oven, but nowhere near as well as it does on a stovetop).

Chris Taylor

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Meanwhile I own a single-burner butane-canister stove that ages ago I spent maybe 40 bucks on, and today in the store I noticed single-burner IH plates (set heat level or temp to hold) between 60 bucks and 100 bucks.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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On the up side of this debacle, my boyfriend's parents thought it was fine, and couldn't see what I thought was wrong. My boyfriend had to kick me under the table to get me to wipe the stunned look off my face.

Mjx, the only direction from here is up. :wink:

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Mjx -- I so know that feeling of being stunned when other people happily eat something I'm dissatisfied with... I almost want them to hate it as much as I do, but then have to slap myself and remember to be glad that they're at last enjoying the meal!

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