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Why Simmer a Meat Sauce for Hours


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I made a simple meat sauce last night, and while I was enjoying it over some spaghetti, I started thinking of how the sauce could be improved.  I remembered that sauces like Bolognese and Sunday Gravy tend to be cooked for a long time, sometimes hours.

 

What does long simmering bring to the table?  More tender meat?  Melding of flavors (although it would seem to me that some items may be overcooked)?  Anything else that long simmering may contribute?

 

Thanks!

Edited by Shel_B (log)

 ... Shel


 

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My first thoughts are as you said, melding of flavors but then why does a long all day simmering chili or baked beans taste better the next day?

 

Also, with Bolognese you use ground beef and ground beef doesnt need to cook all day to be tender.

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I know when my sauce is getting close.. when you get those glisening fat droplets on top of gravy..

 

I always say it the little Retzyn crystals forming  :

 

http://hsionline.com/2005/03/24/what-the-heck-is-retsyn/

 

Otherwise I use short ribs, and other bone meat.. that needs that braise  ( loosely used ) time

Its good to have Morels

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Ragu type sauces that are thick, dense and smooth are slowly cooked for longer periods of time while Puttanesca type sauces that are cooked over higher heat for shorter periods of time (with fresh, not canned tomatoes for example) tend to produce more tomatoey, lighter, summery  type sauces.

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Flavour and texture is the reason I do it,   ground meat  becomes smoother when it cooked for 1-2 hour.

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Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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I also wonder if some of it has to do with flavor extraction. Depending on how small the meat is cut/ground, the extraction of flavor from meat to sauce can take quite a long time. I think about how long it takes to make a good stock... the sauce is basically doing the same thing...

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Yet simmering a meat sauce for hours and hours achieves not much more than simmering for a few hours, IMO.  Breaking down the tissues (even with ground beef or veal) does not require more than a few hours.  Leaving it on the stove for an extraordinary number of hours may not necessarily have the imagined benefit that is accorded to it, other than "tradition"? Just wondering.  I make ragu-like sauces with a simmer of maybe an hour or so at most - and I must say (for myself, of course) that they are entirely satisfactory.  At the same time, I would say that for myself sauces that resemble baby food, where all texture is lost, is a VERY ILL RECEIVED sauce.

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It's all in your mind.

 

You smell the aroma, aroma permeating in the air, your anticipation builds up. You wait, and you smell more, you get more hungry.

 

Still you wait. You are starving, you are salivating-------------.

 

10 hours later ------- THE BEST MEAT SAUCE EVER!!

 

dcarch :-)

Edited by dcarch (log)
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As with a stew, tomato sauce flavors become more concentrated as the sauce thickens and like a stew, the flavors marry and mature, usually tasting better still the next day.  Quicker cooked tomato sauces (with in season fresh tomatoes) have a lighter, fresher taste.  

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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Yet simmering a meat sauce for hours and hours achieves not much more than simmering for a few hours, IMO.  Breaking down the tissues (even with ground beef or veal) does not require more than a few hours.  Leaving it on the stove for an extraordinary number of hours may not necessarily have the imagined benefit that is accorded to it, other than "tradition"? Just wondering.  I make ragu-like sauces with a simmer of maybe an hour or so at most - and I must say (for myself, of course) that they are entirely satisfactory.  At the same time, I would say that for myself sauces that resemble baby food, where all texture is lost, is a VERY ILL RECEIVED sauce.

 

While I've made numerous meat sauces over the years, all with ground meats (beef, pork, turkey mostly), I've not attempted long simmering times - more than an hour or two.  The meat has always had some texture and offered a little bit of tooth.  Would a long simmer, say five or more hours, really get to a point that's similar to baby food?

 ... Shel


 

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When I cook my longer sauce tomato (  type sauce )  ie Gravy stuff.. my meat sauce example

 

I always drain the juice for the can of San Marzano whole tomatoes.  .For example

 

Cook the sauce the extended period..  I usually do a cook -- cool -- cook method.

 

But I will add back in the fresh juice of the tomato ( in the re-cook )..  you tend to mute the flavor in a longer sauce and I think it needs brighting up a bit

 

Paul

Edited by Paul Bacino (log)
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Its good to have Morels

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My experience with Sunday gravy growing up which I now call my own is that an all day gravy is there and ready to eat -- it sits and sits because it can -- Our family tradition was a fairly simple one - ground pork, parsley, tomatoes, paste, garlic, sat and pepper -- and then basil in the last 10 minutes before you eat to brighten it up.  I think it is more tradition than necessity -- but I like the tradition.   I have not had the baby food experience, but could see where that would be gross. 

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Serious Eats has a nice suggestion for a long slow baked tomato sauce. The recipe is just for the tomato sauce but you could add meatballs or ground meat at the end. Their reason for the long bake/simmer is that it concentrates the sauce and the caramelization gives complexity. A bit of reserved crushed tomato at the end gives freshness (as Paul Bacino suggests). This doesn't really answer your question directly, but it does give a suggestion for an alternative (and maybe improved) sauce overall, if you did want to try a slightly different approach.   :smile:

Edited by FauxPas (log)
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Serious Eats has a nice suggestion for a long slow baked tomato sauce. The recipe is just for the tomato sauce but you could add meatballs or ground meat at the end. Their reason for the long bake/simmer is that it concentrates the sauce and the caramelization gives complexity. A bit of reserved crushed tomato at the end gives freshness (as Paul Bacino suggests). This doesn't really answer your question directly, but it does give a suggestion for an alternative (and maybe improved) sauce overall, if you did want to try a slightly different approach.   :smile:

 

Actually, it answers my questions pretty well.  I like the recipe and technique described in your link.  I was making another batch of tomato sauce when I started reading the article at Serious Eats, and I incorporated some of the ideas put forth in the article.  Thanks!

Edited by Shel_B (log)
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 ... Shel


 

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Not a fan of long simmered ground meats - well have not purchased or cooked any in forever. Seems like all the flavor gone and the "meat" is just boring texture. I think the long slow thing has validity with braising cuts.

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Not a fan of long simmered ground meats - well have not purchased or cooked any in forever. Seems like all the flavor gone and the "meat" is just boring texture. I think the long slow thing has validity with braising cuts.

This. Every dish/recipe that calls for ground beef i will cook it in a pot and keep stiring till most of the pink is gone and remove, drain and set aside. I then add itback when the dish is done. Otherwise its like eating ground card board.

 

With prices of ground beef costing $3-$5usd per pound for 80/20 its much cheaper to buy scrap beef/bones from a local butcher and make a rich stock to add beef flavor to a dish.

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I think the really long cooks are designed not for ground meat, but pork spareribs, beef ribs and tough chuck cuts where you'll be rendering flavor from bones and collagen from your meats. To me, these are the really flavorful "gravies".

 

I don't cook a ground meat sauce over an hour, but many do, including Marcella, with her recommendation in her Bolagnese sauce recipe to cook for a minimum of 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

 

I love the ideas for freshening up a long cooked gravy at the end of cooking. That would be great on top of those long renderings of tough cut, bone-in meat.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Serious Eats has a nice suggestion for a long slow baked tomato sauce. The recipe is just for the tomato sauce but you could add meatballs or ground meat at the end. Their reason for the long bake/simmer is that it concentrates the sauce and the caramelization gives complexity. A bit of reserved crushed tomato at the end gives freshness (as Paul Bacino suggests). This doesn't really answer your question directly, but it does give a suggestion for an alternative (and maybe improved) sauce overall, if you did want to try a slightly different approach.   :smile:

 

So, I made this (fish sauce included) and threw in some meatballs I'd cooked 90% of the way through while the sauce reheated and served it with some pasta. Workable. Good, even--and I'm sure it'd be better with San Marzanos--but to go all Devil's advocate I was somewhat let down. Maybe I just dropped the ball on the choice of tomato brand or something but it wasn't anything special. That being said, I could maybe see this working better with something with something like eggplant/chicken/veal Parmaigana than pasta.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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Reduction.  I always cook a Bolognese for at least two or three hours- I prefer a "dry" sauce that clings to pasta.  I've never had a problem with a cardboard/baby food flavour, and over a low heat you don't have to worry about it scorching so much.

 

I hate sauces like that which leave you with a pool of bland water at the bottom of the bowl.

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So, I made this (fish sauce included) and threw in some meatballs I'd cooked 90% of the way through while the sauce reheated and served it with some pasta. Workable. Good, even--and I'm sure it'd be better with San Marzanos--but to go all Devil's advocate I was somewhat let down. Maybe I just dropped the ball on the choice of tomato brand or something but it wasn't anything special. That being said, I could maybe see this working better with something with something like eggplant/chicken/veal Parmaigana than pasta.

 

You need meat  ( possible find some real Italian sausage.. meat..with bone marrow  of beef..)    I use things like Pork spareribs, country style ribs  --feather bones ( spinious processes of the vertebrata )    chicken back bones  

 

Heck the next time im headed to little Mexico and buy for back bone of pork

Its good to have Morels

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