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Braising Lab #2, Discussion

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Please use this topic to share your results from Braising Lab #2. All are free to read along, but please post here only if you participated in Lab #2. Thank you!

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Fat Guy   

Here are all my browned samples and liquids ready for assembly:

gallery_1_773_22067.jpg

After preparation, from top right, going clockwise, we have shallow stock, shallow water-with-mirepoix, deep stock, shallow wine:

gallery_1_773_63093.jpg

The nice thing about this arrangement was that everything fit in the oven on one shelf, nicely spaced:

gallery_1_773_56541.jpg

I didn't take a ton of temperature readings, because I wanted to preserve that nice seal. But the readings I did take were within a 2 degree margin of error, which I attribute to thermometer placement. I started with hot stock (it started out frozen and I microwaved it to almost simmering), though I imagine if I didn't it would have taken a little longer for the deep-stock sample to come up to temperature.

gallery_1_773_59157.jpg

I was very pleased with the efficacy of the foil covers. I used a double layer this time and really pinched the covers tight around the lips of the mini loaf pans. Moisture loss, as you can see, was minimal and in the case of the sample with mirepoix I think the liquid level actually went higher as the meat and vegetables gave up some liquid.

gallery_1_773_14985.jpg

I first tasted with no liquid. Nonetheless, and not just on a surface level, the type of liquid made a difference. The liquids also seemed to have different properties. For example, only the sample with wine fell off the bone and yet it was “tighter” in texture. It had an identifiable wine taste, which was nice, that permeated the meat pretty far into the interior. The samples with stock were mellower, richer and meatier than the wine sample. Surprisingly, the sample that was only partially covered with stock was more tender than the fully submerged sample. Cosmetically, though you can barely tell this from the photo, the appearance of the browning held up better on the shallow sample than on the submerged one. The submerged one, however, had more meaty flavor farther in to the sample. The sample with water was bland, but equally tender to the stock sample.

gallery_1_773_18717.jpg

I put the pans back into the oven at a higher temperature in order to let the liquids reduce by about half, and then I spooned a bit over each corresponding sample. Tasting again, the differences among the liquids was more pronounced. The wine, even as a very thin sauce, was almost overwhelmingly winey. The shallow stock sauce was the closest to ideal. The deep stock sauce wasn't as flavorful. The sauce from the mirepoix tasted like a thinner version of the stock sauce.

gallery_1_773_37109.jpg

I then figured out that it would be interesting to dip each sample in a different sauce. So, for example, I dipped a piece of the stock-braised short rib in the wine sauce. This was to me maybe slightly less harmonious than a sample sauced with its own braising liquid, but it was hard to tell. I didn't have the discipline to do a blind comparison, but informally I would say that the sauce has much more effect on flavor than the choice of liquid in which you braise. When I put a little bit of the stock sauce on the water-with-mirepoix sample, it was almost indistinguishable from the sample that had been braised in stock.

I have some more observations to share, including some thoughts on reheating and a recipe, and I also have some weights and measures I can contribute if the conversation goes that way, but I'd like to get things started with the above notes on the basic comparison for Lab 2 and give the other seminar participants a chance to speak. And I'm hoping we'll see some new people today, who maybe didn't do Lab 1 but had the time and inclination to do Lab 2.

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jwwai   

Based on my Corningware success in Lab #1, I wanted to use similar ceramic vessels for Lab #2. Since I only have one 1.75-quart Corningware pot, I used oven-safe pasta bowls with oven-safe plates as lids.

Vessels:

3 ceramic pasta bowls (9" diameter x 3"H)

3 ceramic plates (10" diameter)

Meat:

3 pieces of beef short ribs (approx. 0.5" x 0.25" x 2.25")

Braising solutions:

Canyon Road cabernet sauvignon (1 cup)

Frozen homemade beef stock (5 cubes = 1 cup)

Water plus 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, large onion half

I didn't do the submerged-in-stock experiment.

Oven preheated and kept at 350 degrees.

Browned three samples in iron skillet in Chinese soupspoonful of Spanish olive oil (5 min.)

Put one sample in each ceramic bowl.

But only two bowls would fit in my oven - darn!

So I braised (1) meat in cabernet and (2) meat in beef stock first.

Observations for (1) and (2):

* 20 min.

(1) 105 degrees; (2) 95 degrees

* 55 min.

(1) 135 degrees; (2) 150 degrees

* 105 min. (done)

(1) 150 degrees; (2) 150 degrees

Observations for (3) meat in mirepoix:

* 20 min.

130 degrees

* 50 min.

145 degrees

* 80 min. (done)

150 degrees

Conclusions on taste/texture:

Cabernet sample was very fruity/winey. I felt like adding salt. Succulent morsel though.

Stock sample was less tasty/beefy than cabernet sample. Tiny bit drier than cabernet sample but still good.

Mirepoix sample was practically tasteless. It was also too tough to chew.

Braising solutions for (1) and (2) were reduced to a couple of tablespoons of syrupy sauce. I didn't have time to reduce the braising solution for (3). I added two pinches of ground rock salt as each solution was being reduced.

Post-reduction observations:

Cabernet sample still tasted too strongly of fruit/wine. At least the texture was still good.

Stock sample was perfect: taste and texture.

I wonder if I should've used a different wine. The label says, "This Cabernet reveals ripe plum and berry fruit flavors with hints of sweet vanillin American oak. Accompanied best by barbequed meats and hearty pasta dishes."

Also, I wonder if I used too many pieces of celery and carrot, or if 350 degrees was too high for this. Eating the mirepoix sample was like eating meat with the flavor boiled out of it...like the meat leftover from making the beef stock -- flavorless.

As for the stock sample, I am so glad I reduced the stock. The syrupy version with a bit of salt added intensified the flavor of an otherwise well-textured piece of meat.

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Question: Does the use of wine, water with mire poix, and stock create substantially different results in the flavor, and texture of the finished product? Does complete immersion create substantially different results from leaving the top of the meat uncovered?

Braising Experiment day 2 2-15-2005

Due to a lack of four equally heating pans, I’ll be conducting my experiment in two batches. I will compile the results and present them in a single format. The pans I’ll be using today are Pyrex dishes covered tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil. I was unhappy with my results yesterday from Pyrex, but I believe that may have been due to evaporation, as the Pyrex lid did not create a tight fitting seal. While my dishes are not the same size, I will use the smaller one for the wine and complete stock immersion phases, and the larger one for the water with mire poix and partial stock immersion phases.

The cut of meat I’m using is cross cut beef shanks, with a half moon bone attached to each piece. I shall begin by dredging each piece in all purpose flour seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper. Each piece will be browned in olive oil over a medium high electric range for 5 minutes, and then placed into its respective dish and into the oven, which I will preheat to 350ºF and then turn down to 325ºF when the steaks go in. I will be measuring fluid after braising today, and comparing it with fluid in pan when the experiment started, to determine loss during cooking.

gallery_24918_797_35021.jpg

At this point I’ve got to say, I really wish I had a professional kitchen to conduct these experiments in, doing this at home just creates too many inconsistencies. As I said yesterday, my scale only gives me 2 oz increments, so the variance with that could be substantial.

I also wanted to learn more about the initial temperature changes, so I will be taking measurements every 15 minutes for the first hour, followed by half hour increments thereafter.

I will also be re-heating the three pieces from yesterday’s experiment, and tasting the one that was cooked in and aluminum foil pan, and stored without cooking liquid. For re-heating I’ll be using the very small Pyrex bowls I stored them in, covered in aluminum foil.

gallery_24918_797_113055.jpg

All pieces measured at 40ºF upon removal from my refrigerator. Temperature before entering oven is taken as 0:00

A. Braised in water with mire poix – larger Pyrex casserole dish

Mire poix consisted of 1 yellow onion (4 oz), 1 carrot (2 oz), 3 ribs celery (3 oz)

Liquid measured 13 fl oz, ½” from bottom of pan at center

8 oz steak

0:00 68ºF –Placed on upper rack of oven

0:15 102ºF – Not simmering

0:30 138ºF – Smells great!

0:45 164ºF – Still not simmering, adjusted oven to 350ºF

1:00 190ºF – Gently simmering, I adjusted oven back to 325ºF

1:30 184ºF – Gently simmering, placement and temperature seem very good

2:00 184ºF – looks very good, smells even better, simmering

2:30 184ºF – Done, a little pale

6 oz steak yield

Amount of liquid left / % of loss – 5 fl oz / 62% loss

Taste and texture w/o braising liquid – Slightly dry, tasted good, but needed salt

Taste and texture with braising liquid reduction – Great, I didn’t think the braising liquid would have enough gelatin to have consistency, but as you can see in the picture, it thickened very nicely when reduced to 1 fl oz.. The fresh vegetables had a slightly different tenor (fresher) than they do with a sautéed mire poix, and I preferred it, I’m sure the fact that I’d just finished the reduction, after just finishing cooking, helped accentuate the fresh vegetable flavors. I think that’s one area of this experiment which has changed the way I will braise from here on out. I also tasted this one with the wine reduction that I’d used for braising, and the strong acid bite filled out the one aspect of the taste which had been absent, acid, also very, very good.

B. Braised in Red Wine (Talus Merlot) – smaller Pyrex casserole dish

Liquid measured 7.5 fl oz, ½” from bottom of pan at center

8 oz steak

0:00 80ºF – Placed on upper rack of oven

0:15 118ºF – Not simmering

0:30 164ºF – Simmering, moved this pan to the lower rack

0:45 184ºF – Not simmering, adjusted oven up to 350ºF

1:00 184ºF – Simmering, very attractive color, deep red, adjusted oven to 325ºF

1:30 184ºF – Looks much more done than it’s current counterpart

2:00 184ºF – looks good, gentle simmer

2:30 190ºF – Done, almost all the liquid evaporated

6 oz steak yield

Amount of liquid left / % of loss – 1.5 fl oz / 80% loss

Taste and texture w/o braising liquid – slightly dry, very acidic, salt and pepper didn’t help to mask the taste. It was not as tender as the piece that had been braised in mire poix.

Taste and texture with braising liquid reduction – With how far I’d taken the reduction down during cooking, I didn’t bother to go any further. The reduction just made the acid stronger, edible, but certainly not enjoyable. I also tasted this piece with the braising liquid reduction from the first test (A), and although this was a marked improvement, I still would not use this method again. I was hopeful that this one would provide me a new braising alternative, but to no avail.

gallery_24918_797_140741.jpg

gallery_24918_797_311783.jpg

C. Braised fully immersed in stock – smaller Pyrex casserole dish

Liquid measured 23 fl oz, 1¾” from bottom of pan at center

6 oz steak

0:00 88ºF

0:15 98ºF – Not simmering

0:30 120ºF – Not simmering

0:45 198ºF – Simmering, turned the oven down to 300ºF

1:00 190ºF – Simmering, shrinkage visible, order of these events seems to have been reversed by immersion in stock

1:30 182ºF – Simmering

2:00 184ºF – Simmering, almost done

2:15 184ºF – Done

4 oz steak yield

Amount of liquid left / % of loss –18 oz / 22% loss

Taste and texture w/o braising liquid – My Fiancée and I shared the last two pieces for dinner and discussed them in the various stages. Talking and tasting helped me solidify what I thought, and another set of taste buds is a great asset in my mind. This piece was dry, but what I noticed this time is that the meat seems moist when it enters my mouth, and then it sucks all the moisture right out of my cheeks. It was tender, but not as tender as the other three. It did not need seasoning.

Taste and texture with braising liquid reduction – I used the same sauce for both of the last two pieces, combining 14 fl oz of stock and then reducing it to 2 fl oz, it was way too salty though, so I added 2 fl oz of water to it. It still seemed dry, even when soaking wet. Again, it’s as if it takes moisture out of my mouth. The meat seemed poached, even though it had been browned first. The color was not nearly as appealing as the final test, or the previous two.

D. Braised partially immersed in stock – larger Pyrex casserole dish

Liquid measure 15 fl oz, ½” from bottom of pan at center

6 oz steak

0:00 102ºF

0:15 120ºF – Not simmering

0:30 170ºF – Simmering, visible shrinkage

0:45 188ºF – Simmering, turned oven down to 300ºF

1:00 190ºF – Simmering

1:30 182ºF – Simmering

2:00 184ºF – Simmering, almost done

2:15 184ºF – Done

4 oz steak yield

Amount of liquid left / % of loss – 6 oz / 60% loss

Taste and texture w/o braising liquid – Great. It was tender and moist, didn’t need additional seasoning. It was a much more attractive piece than the one which had been completely submerged.

Taste and texture with braising liquid reduction – As I stated, both of the last two used the same sauce. When sauced, this steak come in second to the one which had been cooked in mire poix for flavor, apparently the use of fresh vegetables to round out the flavor is more important to my palate than stock is. This piece was delicious.

I tasted the piece that I’d braised yesterday in aluminum foil, and it was excellent. This piece was the one which I was the happiest with yesterday. Is the importance of vessel important for re-heating braised items? I’d never thought it was, but I’d like to hear some responses to that question.

After today’s work I’ve come up with better markers in my mind for the points of progress in the braising method. I do agree with Mr. Shaw’s point however, I don’t think I’d be losing liquid at this rate were it not for the on and off motion of the top in order to do temperature testing.

1. Raw meat

2. Browned meat, going into oven

3. Shrunken meat, prior to simmer

4. Initial simmer, tough meat

5. Midpoint of process, liquid reduced by 20%

6. Late in process, meat becoming tender, liquid reduced by 40-50%

7. Done

To answer the question I started my post with – Yes, one’s choice of braising liquid does create substantially different results, which was plainly visible with the first two tests I conducted. To the second question – Yes, immersing completely in braising liquid does make a difference as well, and it’s not a positive one.

Even more importantly I fell I’ve refined my methodology for doing tests in the kitchen, and thanks to everyone else’s postings yesterday, I feel I’ve improved my presentation of my results.

Wow, that was a lot of work. :biggrin:

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Fat Guy   

Thanks for the exhaustive report, Dan. I don't wish to play favorites, but you get a gold star. One question, though: do you have comments on the Lab 1 reheat other than that it was excellent? Specifically, did it taste different today than yesterday, and if so how and was it better or worse?

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Smithy   

Tonight's braises are still in progress, so I'll report in the meantime on the reheating experiment.

Background: I actually did the first lab twice, the second time with fewer dishes so they'd all sit on one rack. As a result I had 6 sets of meat and juice (stored separately) from Sunday and 3 sets of meat and juice (that's a lot of refrigerator space and containers) from Monday. It was too many samples. The labels fell off a couple, so I couldn't use them, and some others turned up in the back of the refrigerator after I'd finished. So, some of the cooking methods had 2 days' worth of meat and others didn't. The Corning Ware-cooked sample didn't get reheated tonight because I discovered it too late.

I was careful to put the juice and meat from a single cookpot together, so that (say) the juice from the foil pan didn't go with the All-Clad braised meat. I loaded everything into ovenproof containers and put them all on the top rack to reheat. The meat and juice from the Egyptian clay pot went back into that pot. Everything else went into a Corning Ware or steel bowl - whatever was available.

First, I noticed that all the juices had gelled heavily, and all had a skim of fat that hadn't been obvious while the juices were hot. I removed the fat before adding the juice to the meat for reheating.

The Le Creuset on Sunday night had had heavily caramelized juices, but Monday had left more liquids. Those were mixed together. Otherwise, the LC sample would had very little liquid.

There was very little juice from the clay pot sample. I didn't supplement it with anything.

The original reheating instructions said to test one piece of meat and simply reheat the others. As it happens, I cooked a lot of extras, so I was able to taste them all tonight and leave plenty for successful reheatings.

The results in a nutshell were that everything except the foil-cooked sample improved dramatically in taste and texture. Last night and Sunday night I was disappointed in them all - too dry and chewy. Tonight, even after a fine meal of a successful braise beyond the scope of this lab, two of the dishes tasted great. I'm glad there are more pieces with which to continue testing during the week.

Le Creuset, with the heavily caramelized juice from Sunday and the more ample juice from Monday, won hands-down in flavor and texture. It was definitely more tender than before, and the flavor was complex.

The clay pot sample was my other favorite. Again, the meat was more tender. It may have been a touch drier, but it's hard to tell. It was interesting to me to note that the flavor had improved. On Sunday night I thought the meat tasted too much of the pot. Tonight the pot flavor added only a slight accent, barely noticeable, and quite nice. Looked cool, too, in a low-tech way:

gallery_17034_808_26136.jpg

The samples braised in All-Clad were chewy, a bit dry.

The Ovenshire (also uncoated metal) samples were chewy, not quite as dry as the All-Clad.

The foil-cooked samples were unrepentantly chewy and dry, and may not have improved from last night. I don't expect improvement during the week but I certainly plan to test it, since the other samples surprised me tonight.


Edited by Smithy (log)

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Fat Guy   

Thanks for that report. A little later tonight I will start a topic on what to do with leftover braised meat.

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To answer your question - Yes. It was superior to the first day. I've seen from past experience that re-heating braises seems to make the meat more tender and juicy than the initial cooking, and this piece was no exception. It seems to me that the remaining connective tissues are softened and/or eliminated by the cooling and re-heating process, I'm not sure about the science, enlighten me if you know the answer, please!

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Smithy   

Lab 2: Effects of braising liquid

The braising vessels were 4 identical ceramic "individual gratin" dishes that fit snugly onto a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven.

Bottom round steaks, approx. 1" thick, were cut to make 4 pieces, approx. 3"x2". Each piece was browned in 1 T canola oil in an All-Clad SS sauce pan. After browning the meat was removed to its dish and the pan was deglazed with braising liquid, then the liquid was poured in the cooking vessel around the meat. The pan was wiped dry after each batch to prevent cross-contamination of residual braising liquids or fats. The dishes were covered tightly with aluminum foil and placed in the bottom rack of my oven, which had been preheated to 300F in light of apparent overheating at 325 on the previous nights.

The braising liquids:

A - 1/2" beef broth made this weekend

B - 1" (nearly to cover, nearly overflowing the vessel) of the same broth

C - Inexpensive red wine Folie a Deux Menage a Trois, a nice blend of zinfandel, merlot and cabernet out of the Napa Valley

D - Water, with chopped carrot, celery and onion

The batches, and their notes:

A & B - temp after browning 86F. Nothing untoward about the browning or deglazing.

C - temp after browning 88 F. Deglazing was very different with the wine: it bubbled quickly, reduced rapidly, almost to a syrupy consistency, while I was stirring. The wine and meat juices made a rich dark red braising liquid.

D - temp after browning 84F. Sauteed roughly half of the mirepoix before deglazing the pan, and added the rest of the mirepoix raw to the braising vessel.

Started all dishes, covered with foil, on the bottom rack at 8 p.m. Sorry, but due to dinner I still didn't get a reading during the first half-hour. However, at 8:42 p.m. there still didn't seem to be any simmering happening.

Temperatures and times:

Batch 8:00 8:42 9:26 9:50 10:28

A 86 142 174 176 163

B 86 154 183 176 172

C 88 154 165 165 174 (actually seemed done at 9:50)

D 84 145 169 178 185

The pan was rotated 180* each time temperatures were taken, to eliminate oven position as a variable. At 8:45 the oven temperature was increased to 325 because nothing seemed to be simmering. At 9:25 (2nd reading) simmering could be heard but wasn't visible. At 9:50 the wine sample seemed noticeably more tender than the others, and ready to come out. For some reason I left it in anyway. At 10:28 I removed everything.

Observations:

Batch Initial Wt Cooked Wt Notes

A 3-3/8 oz 1-3/4 oz Tender, meaty, good flavor. Slightly dry?

B 3-3/8 oz 1-7/8 oz Meaty, good flavor, slightly dry?

C 3-3/8 oz 1-7/8 oz Deep red beautiful crust, pink inside, moist. This was by far the best-looking and -textured of the samples. Unfortunately it tasted too acidic. I'd like to get that red wine look and tenderizing with a better taste. Maybe mix wine and broth?

D 3 oz 1-5/8 oz Tasted like watery mirepoix.

The photo shows the color differences. In the back are the shallow broth and high broth. Front left is wine, front right is water and mirepoix. The closeup shows the wine braise with its striking color contrast. Lovely stuff.

gallery_17034_808_10053.jpggallery_17034_808_13437.jpg

I didn't try reducing anything to improve the sauce, beyond what had already happened in the oven. I agree with an earlier post suggesting that the mirepoix had given up some of its juices to the braising liquid, but I didn't measure liquid quantities before or after, so I can't be sure.

Edited to add photos, and later for spelling.


Edited by Smithy (log)

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Fat Guy   

It does seem that there are some desirable characteristics to both wine and stock, and maybe there is a combination (3:1 stock:wine maybe?) that would give us the best of both. Add another experiment to the list for future extra credit.

I also wanted to mention, Smithy, that if you are able to get good results out of bottom round in a straight braise you are well on your way to being one of the world's great cooks. Bottom round is an extremely difficult cut to work with, and the cookbooks I trust tend to recommend lengthy marinating and even larding before braising. I'm particularly glad that you got some improvements after reheating -- it may very well be that bottom round is never quite right on day 1 but can be delicious on day 2.

I was interested to see just how much flavor developed in the water when braising just with water and aromatic vegetables. When you think about it, you realize you have a piece of meat and bone in there with water and aromatic vegetables for a couple of hours, so you are essentially making a stock. A weak stock, but a stock nonetheless, and when you reduce it you do see some stocklike characteristics. I imagine that if you pack a big braiser full with 20 short ribs you will see a more pronounced version of this effect.

I wanted to make a quick comment on my experience with reheating, and also give a visual on how the short ribs and braising liquid look after a night in the refrigerator:

gallery_1_773_49159.jpg

That's a lot of fat -- the layer must have been 1/4" thick, which is the thickness of the layer I'd expect on an entire large stockpot. So one observation about reheating is that overnight refrigeration is a great way to get a lot of fat out of your braising liquid. I can't imagine that just skimming would get it all out. And while there are uses for fat in saucemaking, I like to have control over it.

Once I got the fat out I reheated the batch at 275 degrees for about 45 minutes and tasted bites from several ribs. I found that storing them all together and reheating them together really evened out whatever differences there might have been from Lab 1 -- the foil-cooked ribs, which were lousy on day 1 -- were in there, and there was no way to identify them by tasting after reheating.

Overall, I thought the reheated meat was better in every way than the meat from the day before. It even looked better. The striations in the meat came apart beautifully with a fork and juices and steam issued forth from the interiors of each piece. The meat still had structure but it was luscious and, to abuse an adjective, meaty.

I'm looking forward to re-reheating tomorrow. I wonder how many reheats you can do before you wreck the stuff.

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tamiam   

OK, the West coast-er just pulled the meat from oven. Since I did not have four identical or similar vessels, my experiment was done with varying pots. And I did not keep the kind of detailed notes that earns an "A" in this class. But my experience is very similar.

1/2" mire poix: I would say it is cooked fine, but has no real flavor. Someone above said tastes like meat after it has beenused in stock, and I think that applies here.

Full cover mire poix: The surprise. I expected this one to have the best texture of the bunch, which only shows that I do not understand the science involved. Unattractive appearance because the effect of browning is nearly gone and replaced by a dullness bordering on gray. Rubbery texture. No flavor to speak of, though the poor texture is the most noticeable aspect. Basically sucks--and this a good bit of learning although I dont quite understand it yet. Have a few ideas, and would like to hear more.

1/2" stock: Better browned and shiny appearance. Flavor can be detected through most of the meat. Still wouldn't serve it for dinner. A bit greasy tasting.

1/2" wine: Definitely the prettiest of the bunch. This is partly due to the color of the wine, and partly (I suspect) because this was cooked in my smallest diameter pot. The wine reduced into a thick shiny sauce. The crust on the outside makes an attractive contrast with the light colored meat on the inside. It wants for flavor beyond just wine, but the flavor runs all the way through. I also think it is more tender than the 1/2" stock experiment but this may be my imagination talking. Could the acidity of the wine have worked as a tenderizer?

This is fun, and, I would like to know---do I need to go to the store for any surprise materials manana?

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Fat Guy   

Just more meat!

I too was surprised that the fully immersed sample was not as tender as the partly immersed one. Yet another mystery of braising.

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There has to be a reason that only going half-way up the meat is the advised procedure for braising. I looked first in Escoffier, to see what he had to say. He gives no advice as to the quantity of liquid used in braising, except to say "add sufficient brown stock to cover the meat (it being understood that the meat only just conveniently fills up the pan), cover the braising pan, set to boil, and then put in a moderate oven." As well as late in the process, "the braising-liquor is found to be considerably reduced and no longer covers the meat, the operation is nearing it's end."

One other point of note, he begins the area on braising by saying,” Of all the various culinary operations, braisings are the most expensive and the most difficult."

My understanding is that braisings effect is to replace the collagen in the meat with water, and to me it makes sense to keep the top of the meat uncovered so that evaporation of water will be occurring upward through the meat, encouraging the replacement of connective tissues with braising liquid.

Larousse Gastronomique has nothing to say about the science of braising, although there are a couple of recipes, and advisements to use white wine for chicken, and red wine for beef.

The Art and Science of Culinary preparation (Jerald W. Chesser, CEC, CCE) provides more useful information, "The moist heat is drawn completely into the piece of meat. It is allowed to stay there until the connective tissue that holds the muscle fibers together dissolves." It also states that the cooking liquid is only to come 1/4th of the way up the piece of meat being braised.

I also found it interesting that both Art and Science and Escoffier state that braises are to be taken out of their sauces three quarters of the way through the cooking process, and glazed with the reduced cooking liquid for the last quarter of the cooking time (is that news to everyone else too?).

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Smithy   

I also wanted to mention, Smithy, that if you are able to get good results out of bottom round in a straight braise you are well on your way to being one of the world's great cooks. Bottom round is an extremely difficult cut to work with, and the cookbooks I trust tend to recommend lengthy marinating and even larding before braising. I'm particularly glad that you got some improvements after reheating -- it may very well be that bottom round is never quite right on day 1 but can be delicious on day 2.

Thanks for that insight. I'd been wondering how much the meat choice was a factor in my disappointment. It certainly was better the second night. We'll see how it does tonight. I'm especially interested in the idea that the clay pot stuff might improve most dramatically although it was among my least favorites the first night.

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Smithy   
I also found it interesting that both Art and Science and Escoffier state that braises are to be taken out of their sauces three quarters of the way through the cooking process, and glazed with the reduced cooking liquid for the last quarter of the cooking time (is that news to everyone else too?).

My Le Creuset sample of Sunday night supports that assertion. As noted above it seemed overcooked, along with all its counterparts, but it absolutely had the best flavor. The sauce had reduced down to a molasses consistency, the flavor hinted of caramel, and it glazed the meat beautifully. In last night's reheat, that meat and sauce, mixed with the more liquid sauce from Monday night's LC braise, had the best flavor, with much more depth and complexity than the others. (This is all news to me! :laugh: )

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Fat Guy   
There has to be a reason that only going half-way up the meat is the advised procedure for braising. 

I was thinking the same thing on the bus this morning. But then I thought, even if there is a reason, the reason could be wrong. Then again, so far, our experiments have confirmed that fully submerged (is that redundant?) works better, at least under our test conditions.

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Smithy   
There has to be a reason that only going half-way up the meat is the advised procedure for braising. 

I was thinking the same thing on the bus this morning. But then I thought, even if there is a reason, the reason could be wrong. Then again, so far, our experiments have confirmed that fully submerged (is that redundant?) works better, at least under our test conditions.

Uhm, haven't most of the posts said the fully submerged pieces had less flavor and poorer appearance than the ones partially submerged with the same liquid? Don't mean to be argumentative, but I do want to understand what you mean by "works better".

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I'm with Smithy on that one, I'm perplexed by your last post Mr. Shaw, as it disagrees with not just other people's posts, but your own as well.

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The only four matching vessels suitable for braising that I had were 1qt all-clad saucepans, which I used tightly covered in a double layer of aluminum foil. I began the experiment with 4 bone-in short ribs of the following weights:

Red Wine 5oz

Stock 6oz

Water 5oz

Submerge 6oz

I browned all of the ribs at the same time in a large cast iron skillet and then took the following temperatures:

Red Wine 71

Stock 66

Water 68

Sub 70

I had a mishap when I went back into the kitchen to check my temperatures 15 minutes later and the quality of my scientific data is extremely questionable from this point on.

I had been a little messy when trying to get it all in the oven in a hurry and I unknowingly got some of the stock from the submerged sample on the kitchen floor. When I came back into the kitchen 15 minutes later I managed to perform a spectacular slip and fall. It was a real beauty. My foot actually kicked my knife block off the counter and as I fell I reached out and grabbed a 12 qt plastic container that had 6 or so quarts of cold veal stock that I had planned to use the rest of the week. I dumped the gelatinous goo all over me and the floor, but all I could think about was whether I might have damaged one of my knives. Luckily I didn’t. But the debacle substantially altered the tone of my evening.

After clean up, a shower, and change of wardrobe I proceeded to my couch where I planned to conduct careful science. I decided to monitor the progress of braising with my remote barbecue thermometer while nursing myself back to health with a Guinness.

Instead, I fell asleep. The samples had gone into the oven at 8:58 pm. I awoke at 1:40 am to the delicious smells of braising meat and the sound of one of my thermometers going off.

I was very surprised to find that none of the samples had burned.

In the water/mirepoix sample, all of the moisture had been absorbed by the vegetables (or evaporated) and the meat was darkly caramelized on all sides. The wine sample and pan were entirely glazed over with the wine and the meat was also darkly caramelized. The stock sample was sitting in a pool of very reduced, thick stock. The submerged sample still had more than half the liquid and had not changed appreciably in color.

The submerged sample read 206 degrees. The wine sample was at 210.

I completely forgot to weigh anything.

All of the meat was overcooked, but none of it was inedible. Some pieces were very caramelized and looked completely dried out, but they still had enough moisture that I could have eaten them without a sauce. The submerged sample actually turned out pretty well this way. It was completely plump and stood in stark contrast to the other ribs, which all looked quite desiccated by comparison. It had not picked up any additional color through the braising, unfortunately, and had a grey boiled look accented by what remained of my browning.

The wine sample was very good and the best of the lot. It had the most flavor among the samples and the glazing seemed to protect the meat from my overcooking to some extent. The stock sample was good, but it didn’t have the flavor offered by the wine sample and I couldn’t say whether one was better than the other in terms of meat quality. The meat in the water sample had considerably less flavor than the stock or wine, but if I had served it with a different liquid it would be hard to tell apart. The stock sample had a bit more moisture than the water sample and I think this is mostly because the stock I used was very rich, which helped compensate for the gross overcooking.

As I said, the submerged sample was actually good. But since I don’t plan to ever braise a rib for five hours again I don’t think it will ever turn out that good again with this method. From the results I don’t see how this would have turned out differently if I had simply boiled a browned short rib for 5 hours.

I didn’t have a chance to reheat my samples from Lab #1, but I plan to do so this evening.

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Bartow   

Hello, all-

Weighing in late but briefly on LAb #2, since I'm having to cover for a missing staff member today.

Executive summary: Lighter wine is better (I used a not-so-nouveau beaujolais),

but I preferred the veggie braise overall.

Re the drowned meat thread - I can't imagine a totally submerged piece to develop the flavor that comes from air oxidation!

Sorry for the telegram, guys - times like these, I yearn for retirement.

Bartow

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Smithy   

Oh dear, oh dear! Fiftydollars, I'm so glad that neither you nor your precious knives were hurt. That makes it okay to laugh, no? (Well, maybe later, after the pain of losing all that veal stock is blunted.) I AM glad you weren't impaled, nor evidently damaged beyond a bruise, your pride and the loss of the veal stock.

What kind of red wine did you use? Would you use that variety again, in a shorter wine braise? If not, what would you try next, and why?

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It's definitely ok to laugh. The only casualty was the stock and I am only a bit sore today.

It was a cheap French red found in the Bordeaux section of the wine shop. I had a swig and found it to be a lighter bodied red. I can't remember much more about it and I don't have the bottle handy, but I can get more specific info when I get home.

I would definitely use it again based on my experience. But you make a good point; results in a shorter braise with the same wine are likely to be quite different. Luckily I bought two bottles and I will braise with this wine again (the leftovers from yesterday's bottle were left out, uncorked, all night).

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Fat Guy   
I'm with Smithy on that one, I'm perplexed by your last post Mr. Shaw, as it disagrees with not just other people's posts, but your own as well.

Yes, that's because I typed the opposite of what I meant. I meant to say fully submerged is inferior to partially submerged.

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I had really wanted to keep private the scandalous details of a rare and minor housekeeping indiscretion and therefore resisted every urge to publish the following photographs.

What you are about to see are photographs of the aforementioned braised ribs, after sitting, with absolutely revolting disregard for all standards of cleanliness and safety, on the stove since I pulled them out last night at 1:40am.

Submerged

gallery_15065_814_3668.jpg

Stock

gallery_15065_814_4291.jpg

Wine

gallery_15065_814_7933.jpg

Water

gallery_15065_814_25933.jpg

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