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Braising in Alcohol? Is it Worth a Try?


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I have recently taken to braising meat in beer, and I enjoyed great success with pork tenderloin. I have not yet tried it with chicken (as I was too busy stewing the thighs in a Hungarian paprika sauce or the breasts in various Indian-style sauces). I find myself pondering whether I can use whisky in braising meat? And on a slightly different note, what about cognac?

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Note that "whisky" encompasses a handful of flavor profiles.    Bourbon (and unrelated cognac) will lend a "sweet" note.    Scotch, smokey.   Rye, peppery.   

 

Not whisky, but I've had wonderful success with this Mary Berry recipe for beef stew with Guinness (and divine horseradish dumpling) recipe.

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Despte being Scottish and a whisky lover, I wouldn't go there. What kind of whisky?

 

Whisky sauce with venison is a winner, but I wouldn't use it for braising.

 

On 11/16/2021 at 10:14 AM, Margaret Pilgrim said:

Scotch, smokey

 

Not all 'scotches' are smokey.

 

Guinness and beef stew is an Irish classic. Yes, delicious. I often make it here. Not that particular recipe, though.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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23 minutes ago, heidih said:

My mind walked away at braising a pork tenderloin. What straw did that result in with a lean mneat  with no connective tissue. Maybe the term braising  is mis stated.

I could see pork loin being braised,but not tenderloin.

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  • 6 months later...

Sometimes I make steak balmoral, which consists basically of steak braised in whisly (or rather what remains of it after setting it on fire). It has a nice color, good flavor and a tender texture and, like most such preparations, you can keep it on the stove for a while if you are not ready to serve the meal (it's useful for when I'm not sure at what time the missus is going to be back from work, so I can have it ready to serve at a moments notice).

 

For this recipe, you need a lean cut of meat (it can be pork or beef, and maybe chicken, although I'm not a fan of it), mushrooms, honey, whiskey, pepper, butter, stock and cream in undetermined quantities. You should mix the honey and the whiskey in advance.

 

First, sautee the mushrooms with butter on a pan or a wok with crushed peppercorns. Once they are done, set aside and cook the meat. Sometimes, if I want the result to be less oily, instead of sauteeing the meat with cooking oil, I use the fat of the meat itself to coat the wok. It might be more carcinogenic, but it's less oily. Once the meat is cooked, toss in the mushrooms, pour the mixture of whiskey and honey and set it ablaze while stirring. This is the perfect time to take a picture for Instagram, but be careful not to drop the phone on the pan. After the flames die out, add the stock and cream, and stir until the texture looks good. Usually I season it with rosemary and tarragon, and maybe fresh parsley if I have it.

 

So there you have an example of a recipe that includes whiskey and meat. Maybe it's not technically braising, since the meat is cooked before tossing whiskey on it, but it's tasty nontheless.

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  • 1 month later...
On 6/2/2022 at 11:53 PM, themistocles said:

Sometimes I make steak balmoral, which consists basically of steak braised in whisly (or rather what remains of it after setting it on fire). It has a nice color, good flavor and a tender texture and, like most such preparations, you can keep it on the stove for a while if you are not ready to serve the meal (it's useful for when I'm not sure at what time the missus is going to be back from work, so I can have it ready to serve at a moments notice).

 

For this recipe, you need a lean cut of meat (it can be pork or beef, and maybe chicken, although I'm not a fan of it), mushrooms, honey, whiskey, pepper, butter, stock and cream in undetermined quantities. You should mix the honey and the whiskey in advance.

 

First, sautee the mushrooms with butter on a pan or a wok with crushed peppercorns. Once they are done, set aside and cook the meat. Sometimes, if I want the result to be less oily, instead of sauteeing the meat with cooking oil, I use the fat of the meat itself to coat the wok. It might be more carcinogenic, but it's less oily. Once the meat is cooked, toss in the mushrooms, pour the mixture of whiskey and honey and set it ablaze while stirring. This is the perfect time to take a picture for Instagram, but be careful not to drop the phone on the pan. After the flames die out, add the stock and cream, and stir until the texture looks good. Usually I season it with rosemary and tarragon, and maybe fresh parsley if I have it.

 

So there you have an example of a recipe that includes whiskey and meat. Maybe it's not technically braising, since the meat is cooked before tossing whiskey on it, but it's tasty nontheless.

 

Yeah, this is a sauté that you've finished with some flamed booze. Nothing like a braise, and doesn't require the silly quantities of whisky that you'd probably need with a braise. Your technique is traditional for pan sauces. More commonly done with cognac.

 

Regarding the meat being oily, this doesn't have to be a thing. Meat can't absorb oil from the pan; it stays on the surface. So there shouldn't be a difference in meat oiliness if you use a little oil or a lot. But you'll get the best browning results if you use plenty of oil; its purpose is to fill in all the gaps and conduct heat to the meat. Once the meat's cooked (before you make the pan sauce), pour the excess oil out of the pan. Assuming the pan drippings are properly browned and stuck to the pan, you won't lose them. If you want to reduce oil farther, just blot off the surface of the meat with a paper towel.

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Notes from the underbelly

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Posted (edited)

I do remember a really good recipe from a chef that marinated pork in bourbon whiskey overnight that worked really 

 

I did the same recipe without the bourbon at another time and the taste wasn't as good 

 

so I believe that alcohol does add something 

 

I read further that alcohol gives a taste to the meal - like penne vodka (where alcohol does make a difference) 

 

but I can't really place or be introspective enough about what alcohol adds to the dish 

 

I might have read one author say that it enhances the flavors that the food already has??? 

 

not sure if anyone has any idea about how alcohol adds to the meal? would be nice to hear it if you know. thanx

Edited by eugenep (log)
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On 7/6/2022 at 2:36 PM, eugenep said:

I do remember a really good recipe from a chef that marinated pork in bourbon whiskey overnight that worked really 

 

I did the same recipe without the bourbon at another time and the taste wasn't as good 

 

so I believe that alcohol does add something 

 

I read further that alcohol gives a taste to the meal - like penne vodka (where alcohol does make a difference) 

 

but I can't really place or be introspective enough about what alcohol adds to the dish 

 

I might have read one author say that it enhances the flavors that the food already has??? 

 

not sure if anyone has any idea about how alcohol adds to the meal? would be nice to hear it if you know. thanx

Can't see why myself.

 

Wine, brandy, etc. add flavours from either fermentation or maturation in barrels that remain when the alcohol (mostly) disappears.

 

Anyone who says don't put anything other than superior wine in your food is someone who is not used to balancing flavours in cooking. Put a reasonable drinking wine in the food by all means -- keep the good ones for drinking.

 

Pure alcohol, suitably diluted with water, is basically vodka and is mostly tasteless: It, is a sweet, volatile, non-descript flavour. I can't see what it would add to food.

 

Bourbon has cask flavours and sweetness -- the alcohol basically adds zip.

 

I'm definitely open to persuasion on this one but, prove it. Someone expressing it as an opinion is less than convincing. I'm sorry, I don't believe.

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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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15 minutes ago, nickrey said:

Can't see why myself.

 

Wine, brandy, etc. add flavours from either fermentation or maturation in barrels that remain when the alcohol (mostly) disappears.

 

Anyone who says don't put anything other than superior wine in your food is someone who is not used to balancing flavours in cooking. Put a reasonable drinking wine in the food by all means -- keep the good ones for drinking.

 

Pure alcohol, suitably diluted with water, is basically vodka and is mostly tasteless: It, is a sweet, volatile, non-descript flavour. I can't see what it would add to food.

 

Bourbon has cask flavours and sweetness -- the alcohol basically adds zip.

 

I'm definitely open to persuasion on this one but, prove it. Someone expressing it as an opinion is less than convincing. I'm sorry, I don't believe.

 

Pretty much what I think as well, Nick. It's a show!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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alcohol boils off at ~173F

but that "when cooked" all the alcohol disappears is not true.

putting alcohol/distilled spirits into boiling water - about 85% of the alcohol will remain.

a heated flambe' - about 75% of the alcohol remains.

 

so first off there's the non-alcohol 'flavors' of whisky/whiskey/rye/bourbon/cognac/etc - some, but not all, of those 'aromatics' boil off / evaporate at temps below alcohol.  they will without question leave a mark on the flavor of the dish.

 

the remaining alcohol is a pretty decent "solvent" - which can / will extract flavors from stuff in the dish - ala' vodka sauce.

or the protein, or the onion family, or the spices, or the herbs . . .

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52 minutes ago, AlaMoi said:

alcohol boils off at ~173F

but that "when cooked" all the alcohol disappears is not true.

putting alcohol/distilled spirits into boiling water - about 85% of the alcohol will remain.

a heated flambe' - about 75% of the alcohol remains.

 

so first off there's the non-alcohol 'flavors' of whisky/whiskey/rye/bourbon/cognac/etc - some, but not all, of those 'aromatics' boil off / evaporate at temps below alcohol.  they will without question leave a mark on the flavor of the dish.

 

the remaining alcohol is a pretty decent "solvent" - which can / will extract flavors from stuff in the dish - ala' vodka sauce.

or the protein, or the onion family, or the spices, or the herbs . . .

I was trying to find a way to say something along these lines but as I read through the posts I couldn’t determine if people were talking about alcohol or alcoholic concoctions. I decided that not being a scientist it was best if I shut up. The use of wine/beer/spirits to marinate/flambé/braise has a long history and I could not wrap my mind around the idea that it had no value whatsoever beyond theatre. Thanks. 

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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James Peterson, a cookbook writer who studied chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley, stated in his encyclopedic cookbook called Sauces:

You need to cook a sauce for at least 20 to 30 seconds after adding wine to it to allow the alcohol to evaporate.  Since alcohol evaporates at 172°F (78°C), any sauce or stew that is simmering or boiling is certainly hot enough to evaporate the alcohol.

 

Quote

 

Can You Get Drunk Off of Wine in Cooked Foods?

The idea that you will get intoxicated from alcohol used in say, a vodka sauce for pasta, or some dish with wine in it, is poppycock! Why? First of all, let’s look at what the research says. If you add wine, or any other source of alcohol to a boiling liquid, and then stop cooking it by removing it from the heat, 85% of the alcohol will remain. This is the point where most people seem to stop recounting the facts. However, if you continue simmering for 15 minutes, 40% of the alcohol will remain. That means that 60% of the alcohol is gone (this counts as most, in my book). After around half an hour, 35% will remain. After one hour, 25%. One and a half hours, 20%. Two hours, 10%. Two and a half, 5%. As you continue simmering, there are diminishing returns on the alcohol removal, but after 3 hours it is safe to say that most of the alcohol is gone. Different methods of cooking, and when, precisely, you add the alcohol, will change the amount lost and the time it takes.

 

 

Alcohol Burn-Off Chart from USDA

The USDA actually gives this data in chart form. 2Note that various other conditions are given. Most noticeable is that different values are given for baked items where alcohol is used but not stirred into the mixture. Also, you’ll notice that the alcohol evaporation for flamed dishes is lower than you might expect. You find out below why this is so.

 

Typically, to make a Marsala, the wine is added to a pan that something else has been sauteed in, such as chicken, onions, mushrooms, etc. and used to deglaze the pan, whereupon chicken broth or other broth is added. Even if you were to make a large volume of sauce for four people, you’d probably not use more than 3/4 cup of wine. Let’s be generous and say you use a cup of wine. And let’s also say your Marsala wine is 20% ABV, meaning the wine you use in the dish contains 1.6 ounces of alcohol. This means that one ounce of it contains 0.2 ounces of alcohol. You would then, typically, add the same volume of broth, if not a bit more. So we have two cups of liquid, plus whatever other moisture is already in the pan. This means that the alcohol is diluted by the same amount of liquid. One ounce of this mixture would contain 0.1 ounce of alcohol.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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well, bananas Foster would not be much theater without the flambe, eh?

(g)

 

beer is a special case in that it may have enzymes that act as 'meat tenderizer'

"may" because it depends on the brew - dark/bock/etc...  stuff like Bud Lite is pretty devoid of those enzymes.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/7/2022 at 5:09 PM, weinoo said:

James Peterson, a cookbook writer who studied chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley, stated in his encyclopedic cookbook called Sauces:

You need to cook a sauce for at least 20 to 30 seconds after adding wine to it to allow the alcohol to evaporate.  Since alcohol evaporates at 172°F (78°C), any sauce or stew that is simmering or boiling is certainly hot enough to evaporate the alcohol.

 

 

Alcohol Burn-Off Chart from USDA

The USDA actually gives this data in chart form. 2Note that various other conditions are given. Most noticeable is that different values are given for baked items where alcohol is used but not stirred into the mixture. Also, you’ll notice that the alcohol evaporation for flamed dishes is lower than you might expect. You find out below why this is so.

 

Typically, to make a Marsala, the wine is added to a pan that something else has been sauteed in, such as chicken, onions, mushrooms, etc. and used to deglaze the pan, whereupon chicken broth or other broth is added. Even if you were to make a large volume of sauce for four people, you’d probably not use more than 3/4 cup of wine. Let’s be generous and say you use a cup of wine. And let’s also say your Marsala wine is 20% ABV, meaning the wine you use in the dish contains 1.6 ounces of alcohol. This means that one ounce of it contains 0.2 ounces of alcohol. You would then, typically, add the same volume of broth, if not a bit more. So we have two cups of liquid, plus whatever other moisture is already in the pan. This means that the alcohol is diluted by the same amount of liquid. One ounce of this mixture would contain 0.1 ounce of alcohol.

 

Right ... things will only flame if the alcohol percentage is high enough to create the right blend of alcohol vapor and oxygen above the food. Once the alcohol level gets too low to provide this, the fire goes out. It's a little more complicated than this—a flamed sauce will keep burning past the point where you'd be able to reignite it, because heat from the fire will boil the surface and liberate more alcohol vapor. But you're still not coming close to burning off all the booze. 

 

The USDA chart is super useful. It's just rough guidance, though. The shape of the pot will make a big difference in evaporation rate. 

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