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Braising Lab #1, Discussion

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Is it possible the foil is so light, so to speak, that it just sits and quivers in the thermal equivalent of a high-pitched whine whereas the heavy pots are booming at a lower and more useful radiation frequency?  Or am I just getting carried away with analogies?

How about reflection, just like with those alu-foil accident blankets or bags for roasted chickens? These are used as thin layer insulators. I was completely astonished that even Pyrex glass did better than the foil tray wrt. boiling. If true, then the alufoil sucked almost from the beginning, when it had only the adavantage of much less vessel weight to heat up and somewhat less inertia tehrefore.


Edited by Boris_A (log)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Here's my report (a day late).

3 vessels were tested:

- Nonstick aluminum mini loaf pan (3"W x 6"L x 2"D) with makeshift foil cover

- Corningware (1.75 QT) with not-so-snug-fitting pyrex lid

- LeCreuset dutch/french oven (1.75 QT) with snug-fitting lid

Meat:

3 pieces of beef short ribs approx. 1"W x 3"L x 1"D

(I don't have a food scale, so no weights were measured.)

Stock:

Frozen homemade beef stock (following eGCI recipe)

Oven was preheated at 350 degrees. My oven temperature always has to be set a little higher than what my recipes call for. Besides, I have more heat than I have time.

Meat was browned in a few tablespoons of Spanish olive oil for 4 minutes all at the same time, and then dished out into the loaf pan, corningware, and LC. A 0.25" level of the stock was put into each vessel. All three vessels fit onto one oven rack.

Temperature readings and other observations (oven still at 350 degrees):

* 20 min.

Loaf pan - 105 (stock was warming up)

Corningware - 140 (stock was simmering)

LeCreuset - 120 (stock was simmering)

* 55 min.

Loaf pan - 138

Corningware - 140

LeCreuset - 150

* 70 min. (done/overdone)

Loaf pan - 150 (some stock left)

Corningware - 155 (a little stock juice left)

LeCreuset - 160 (stock looked glued to the bottom)

Flavor/texture conclusions:

The loaf pan piece was less flavorful/meaty than the corningware and LC pieces.

Both the corningware and LC pieces were tender, falling off the bone. The caramelization of the corningware piece, plus its moist quality, made it my favorite over the LC piece. It took a lot of self-discipline to not eat the whole thing right there and then and instead, wrap it up for the upcoming reheating experiments.

However, I think I should've taken the LC piece out sooner. It was tougher and drier than the corningware piece. Maybe it would've tied for first place in my experiment had I taken it out earlier.

The loaf pan piece was least enjoyable even though I was secretly rooting for it. The meat was cooked, but it was a little too chewy and slightly less flavorful than the other two pieces.

Other notes:

Manhattan 99-cent stores sometimes sell aluminum trays that come with fitted aluminum lids. I bought a two-pack 10.5"W x 13"L x 2.5"D trays with accompanying lids for this lab (all for 99 cents!), and then realized when I came home that they were too big for Lab #1.

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I think it's great that so many eGullet Society members decided to participate in the Lab 1 experiments. This is tedious, labor-intensive stuff that doesn't have an immediate reward like a recipe would. And it's not like we're coming up with absolute conclusions -- a lot of this involves learning how much more there is to learn. I'm going to assume that jwwai is the last person who will be ringing in with Lab 1 results, and the discussion of Lab 2 has begun, so I'm going to close this topic until Friday, at which point we will open it up to comments from non-participants.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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