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Braising Lab #3, Discussion

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Please use this topic to share your results from Braising Lab #3. All are free to read along, but please post here only if you participated in Lab #3. Thank you!

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My samples just started braising a few minutes ago, so I will probably be one of the last members of the seminar to post results tonight. Who's going to go first today? Tell all.

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I just took the last braise out of the oven, I don't think I'll be posting my results until tomorrow morning.

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I'm moving real slow tonight. Finally got the photos transferred onto my computer but will probably post in the morning. Who will be the first? Did we scare everybody away? I knew we would eventually, Dan -- way to go!

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I don't know whether I'll manage to complete the experiment before falling asleep, so I'll post partial results.

I started with the high-temperature braise since I could do 2 dishes at once. I used a 2-qt Le Creuset oval oven and a 1-1/2-qt LC oval oven for the closest comparison possible. Granted, there are some size differences, but I didn't have 2 identical dishes that could tolerate the stove top.

By the way, I agree with the complaint about the new phenolic LC handles. I propose eBay and vintage LC as a solution:


The meat was my weeklong project, bottom round steak cut 1" thick, then cut here into chunks. This time, I seasoned all of them before searing with a combination of paprika, ground black pepper and dried thyme. After searing, I deglazed all with 1/4c. of last night's red wine, then added enough beef stock to bring the level up to around 3/8". I realize that this shifts the wine:stock ratio slightly between the two vessels, but I didn't bother to compensate.

I'm using an electric oven with electric burners, standard household GE variety, relatively new but nothing too fancy.

Now for the results. Please forgive the funny batch numbering, but I wrote these in the order Fat Guy set them up, so I did #2 and #3 at the same time, and #1 is in the oven. Think of it as watching the Star Wars series. :biggrin: If I try to translate now, it'll get messed up later when I add the final braise numbers.

#2: initial weight 4-1/8 oz, into a 2-qt LC French oven. Temp after searing 118F. Deglazed and added broth as noted above, then placed in preheated 300F oven, on the bottom rack where I've had the best results this week.

#3: initial weight 4-1/8 oz, into a 1.5-qt LC French oven. Temp after searing 117F. Deglazed & added broth as noted above, then lowered burner (coil) setting to try to match the simmering happening in the oven. This took a few tries, between trying to match the heat settings and the slow thermal response of LC, but after 21 minutes I had the liquid simmering at the same rate, judging by the bubbles coming up around the meat.


#2........118.....147..!..154.....162.....171 DONE! Fork tender, very flavorful!

#3.........117....144..!...171.....162....174.......171 Declared done; juice nearly gone


1. The stovetop simmer finally matched the oven simmer at 7:51, where the ! appears in the timeline.

2. The oven braise was positively, definitely done, and toothsome at that, at 8:50. Tender, juicy. Is this the same meat I've been braising all along? There was quite a bit of braising liquid left in the pan. I didn't try reducing it.


3. The stovetop braise was defined as being done at 9:11 because it was running out of liquid. I suppose I could have added more, but a lovely caramelization was going on, and the meat was drying out. The juices were actually separating a bit into bits of caramel and bits of fat, evidence that it had gone too far.


4. It's worth noting that, because I wanted to taste the meats side by side and they weren't done at the same time, the oven-braised meat had some 20 minutes' rest before being cut. Resting may have been important to retaining juices. I didn't control for that.

5. The initial weights (4-1/8 oz) and final weights (2-3/8 oz) were the same for both pieces of meat. Nonetheless, the stovetop meat was drier and had considerably less braising liquid. It's possible that my visual estimate of boiling rate was off, and that the stovetop was cooking faster than the oven braise, but they looked the same to me. It's also possible that adding liquid as this cooked down would have done wonders for flavor and texture. That's another experiment.

The results: both looked pretty good but there were marked differences in the behavior of stovetop vs. oven as well as the final results.

Oven: done, really nicely done, in 1:50, having been at or above 160 for roughly 1/2 hour.

Stovetop: this braise looked better because of the heavy sauce, but the meat was quite dry. It never felt as tender as the oven braise meat did. I used the same testing method (ease of insertion and removal of the temperature probe). This time, with the oven braise, I finally think I understand what "fork tender" is all about. I didn't get that with the stovetop braise. If my temperature readings are correct (granted, probe placement can go wrong) then the stovetop meat was at or above 162 for at least an hour, twice the time of the oven braise. Note that the temperature had not yet started to rise when I pulled the meat - so I hadn't cooked through the temperature "stall".

I really was surprised and pleased at the results of the oven braise this time. Since the temperature isn't that different than before - and the meat is from the same batch - I suspect it's a result of (a) seasoning the meat beforehand and (b) deglazing with wine and then adding broth. I wouldn't be ashamed to serve the braise from the oven. It still didn't hold a candle to the ribs I braised tonight (beyond the scope of the lab, but a good application of what I'm learning) but the technique seems to be improving.

By comparison, the stovetop braise was difficult to control in temperature and didn't yield good results. Once again I was surprised.

Time to go check on Step 1.


Step 1 results begin here, as an edit the next morning. This test was inconclusive because I gave up at 1:00 and went to bed, leaving the meat in the oven all night.




1. I think the 12:47 reading of 147 may be probe position error. I've found it's pretty easy for me to shift the temperature reading a few degrees either way by repositioning.

2. At 12:00 when I realized that the meat hadn't even hit the collagen-melting temperature after 2 hours, I turned the oven setting up from 200F to 210F.

3. Note that the initial temperature, just after searing, is 10F lower than the initial temperature of the other two. Searing wasn't quite as hot, apparently, and the meat was just a bit paler.


1. There was a rich brown juice, not reduced that I could tell, in the pan. It looked lovely. This juice had a sheen not present in the other juices. I suspect it's another clue of overdoneness.

2. I now know what "overcooked" actually means and how to judge it with a fork. This meat was very tender, but offered no resistance when the probe went in or out, and the little probe holes stayed open. There was no elasticity left. The meat wasn't tough, but it had the consistency and flavor of, oh, particle board that's been soaked in water long enough to fall apart. Note the probe holes in the photo below.

3. Initial weight was 3-3/4 oz; final weight was 2-3/8 oz. I'm interested and puzzled that this meat lost the least mass during cooking.

4. It seems clear that sometime in the night the meat passed through the "done" stage. I'll have to try this one again before making any judgments.


Edited to add the final results - all contained below the ********** line. Sorry if this belonged in a new post, but I preferred to keep everything together.

Edited by Smithy (log)

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Wednesday night reheating: all Sunday/Monday meats have been stored separately, labeled, with their juices in separate labeled containers. For this experiment they've been reheated in their respective juices. The clay pot meat and juice were reheated in the clay pot. Most others were reheated in ceramic gratin dishes covered with foil; the Ovenshire batch was reheated in a Corning Grab-It ™ pot with glass lid. All were reheated in the top rack of the oven for around 40 minutes while Part 1 (low-temp oven braise) was going on the bottom rack.

I should note that the original Corning Ware braised sample got lost in the shuffle and can no longer be part of this test.

Ovenshire and All-Clad (both metal, nonenameled): chewy, dry, flavor ok. I don't think I could tell these apart. I don't know that they've improved over last night, but they're better than when they were first cooked.

Foil-cooked batch: still unrepentently chewy. I don't think this has improved at all.

Le Creuset batch: more flavorful and moist than last night, which was better than when originally cooked. Still not "company" quality, quite, but the flavors show definite promise. That mix of caramelized sauce from the first night with leftover broth from the second night is still paying flavor dividends.

Clay pot cooked meat: there's very little juice left, and this is still the best of the bunch. It's definitely more flavorful and tender than last night, which was better than the night before. Based on Sunday's results, I wouldn't have tried braising beef in my clay pot again. Based on tonight's results, I definitely will. I can easily imagine this meat reaching "company" quality with a bit of tweaking. (I'll bet Wolfert could see this coming....) Surprise!

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Got home a bit late after a long, but productive day at the paying job. Could not bring myself to face any more short ribs, so I skipped school tonight. Looking at the number of posts, I suspect that some others also experienced temporary braise fatigue as well. I plan on doing Lab 3 later on.

Reheated the Monday experiment, and found it improved a lot. I could not tell my two "pots" apart, but both felt juicier, tenderer (Is that a word?) and the flavor had permeated through the meat.

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I began with 5 bone in short ribs and three vessels.

I used ceramic ramekins covered in aluminum foil for both the 200 and 300 degree samples. I used a 2qt Le Creuset dutch oven for the stovetop samples.

It was difficult to monitor the temperature in the stovetop sample in a way that could meaningfully be compared with the oven sample. I used a couple of probe thermometers inserted just above the surface of the liquid, in the meat, and in the liquid. The temperatures I got after a while all seemed to be for the boiling liquid; just around 210 degrees. I could not seem to get an measurement of the area above the liquid in either the dutch oven or the ramekins.

I took out the stovetop samples at 126 minutes at which time they both looked finished. I also took out the 200 degree sample and tested it for doneness at 136 degrees at which time it was not even close to finished.

The stovetop sample was the best. I will also admit that it was the best sample braised in the series of labs up to this point, but it may have a lot to do with my choice of braising liquid. Because I lost all the stock I had on hand yesterday, I had to find a suitable replacement. So I decided to use a barely diluted batch of demi glace I had in the freezer. The benefits to all the braises is pretty evident from tasting the first two results.

I found that the 300 degree oven sample was not as done as I thought it was, but it was still definitely done. It came apart easily and had good tenderness and moisture. But it was a little less tender and moist than the stovetop sample.

The 200 degree sample is still not done after 206 minutes. So I will continue this later...

Here are some photos:

200 degree sample- before


200 degree sample- at 136 minutes


300 degree sample- before


300 degree sample- after


Stovetop sample- before


Stovetop sample- thermometer positions


Stovetop sample- after


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I succeeded in getting a really good comparison of oven and stovetop braising, and I was able to reheat the Lab #1 samples without incident, but boy did I screw up the 200/300 degree comparison.

I recently acquired this cool new Panasonic "FlashXPress" toaster oven, and I figured, hey, I should use that for the 200 degree braise. I checked to see if my Corningware casserole dish would fit in the toaster oven, and it did!


So I did my reheating in there first and it came out great. I didn't bother to put the lid on (it didn't fit anyway) because the short ribs were almost fully submerged anyway. The second reheating made the meat even more tender and juicy, but it didn't deprive the meat of structure as I guessed it would have. This was definitely the tastiest meat I've tried in the seminar. I'm very interested to see how it comes out upon yet another reheating.

Then I decided to braise. This was a disaster. Suffice it to say you don't want to put aluminum foil too close to the elements in a FlashXPress toaster oven. After I recovered from the humiliation and defeat, I decided I'd just do the 200 degree braise in the regular oven later on, but then I got called out to dinner and all the timing and measuring got screwed up. To add to the chaos and confusion, we had just given our bulldog, Momo, a bath and Ellen was drying him as he chortled enthusiastically in the living room.


I did get some nice tender short ribs out of it all, and my totally unscientific observation is that the lower temperature created more "falling off the bone" tenderness but, surprisingly, less flavor and structure. I liked the higher temperature samples better -- they were very tender in their own right, but they were more like meat and less like mush. Then again, I may have braised too long.

Anyway, the really good comparison I got was between oven and stovetop. I had a few things going for me:

First, I have a matched set of Calphalon pots, so I was able to eliminate the vessel variable.


Second, the pots have glass lids, which made it extremely easy to adjust the rate of simmering in each pot to what appeared to be an identical rate. I can't overemphasize how great it is to have glass lids on braising vessels.


Third, my oven is well calibrated and well lit.


And finally, the burners on my range have a simmer setting. You can see that, unlike normal burners, these have two rings of gas jets, a big one on the outside and a little one in the middle under a heat diffuser plate. This allows for a very slow, steady simmer.


It was easier to adjust the oven than to adjust the burner, so what I found was that the oven at 280 gave the same rate of simmer as the burner on the lowest setting.

The results, as I suspected they might be, were nearly identical. For whatever reason, the oven samples lost more moisture than the stovetop samples, and the stovetop samples took about 15 minutes longer to become fork tender (I think this is because for the first little while the oven was running hotter than the stovetop, until I dialed down to 275 and then back to 280). But none of this seemed to create a meaningful difference.

Subjectively, I found stovetop braising -- especially with a glass lid -- to be much more pleasurable. There was no bending down, lifting, awkward manipulation of racks, or anything like that. And you don't have to heat up the whole oven to accomplish a task that can be accomplished just as well by a tiny flame. I assume stovetop braising will only work if you have thick vessels like the Calphalon (or Le Creuset) that provide good heat distribution, and I also assume that on an electric burner that cycles on and off to maintain heat this wouldn't work out as well. But we'd have to test that.

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Question: Does the temperature used for braising result in substantially different results in the braising process? Since the time will vary dependant on the cooking process what is the difference in cook time between different temperatures? What is the difference in yield between different cooking temperature?

Braising Experiment day 3 2-16-2005

For today’s experiment I’m going to be using pork ribs. I purchased a 1.98# package of “Rancher’s Reserve” ribs which state “Guaranteed Tender.” As there will be differences from one end of the rack to the other, I will try to discern those as well, using the pieces which I feel are the most similar for the 300ºF and 200ºF oven braises. I will begin by cutting the rack into three parts, then weighing and discussing the differences between the cuts. I will the dredge 2 of the pieces in flour seasoned with salt and black pepper, and brown them in olive oil over medium high heat. My braising liquid will consist of stock left over from previous experiments. I will leave one piece on the stovetop, in a straight sided sauté pan, covered with a tight fitting lid, and place the second piece into a Pyrex casserole pan, tightly covered with a double layer of aluminum foil, and that will go into a 300ºF oven. I am more interested in the final results on this one, and will not be taking time and temperature readings with the voracity with which I did yesterday. Once the first set of ribs is out of the oven, I will repeat the procedure with the remaining ribs and place them into the oven at 200ºF. I expect higher yield and a much longer cook time from the second round.


I will also reheat both remaining samples from day one, and taste the one which was initially braised in Pyrex on 2-14-2005, and suffered severe moisture loss due to a lid which did not fit snugly. I was unhappy with the results on this piece initially, and am looking forward to seeing what changes have taken place, as this will be the second time I’ve re-heated it.

I re-weighed the rack of ribs, and my scale gave me a reading of 1# 14 oz. As my scale measures in 2 oz increments, my weight measures lack the exacting specifications I would like for this test. (Note to self: quit bitching about scale and buy a new one.)

I cut the rack into three parts, as one was substantially bigger than the other; I removed a bone from the end of the largest piece and fed it to the dog. The head and tail ends will be cooked at a simmer on the stove top (head – piece A) and in the oven at 300ºF (tail piece C), the center piece (piece B) will be cooked in the oven at 200ºF. I browned the first two pieces together and then heated the stock to a simmer before dividing it and placing piece C into a Pyrex casserole dish covered with a double layer of aluminum foil and placing it into the oven.

A.Head piece – 3 bones in this rack weight 8 oz

a. This piece has more visible fat on top than the other two, and is much thicker as well.

b. I used 1 cup of stock and ½ cup water (I’m out of stock, I divided it equally between the three tests).

c. Temperatures

i. before browning 48ºF

ii. 0:00 84ºF – after browning, temperature when entering oven

iii. 0:20 not simmering, turned oven up to 350ºF

iv. 0:30 182ºF – simmering, smells great

v. 1:00 192ºF – simmering, I’m wishing I’d used pork all week, it smells much better than the beef did. I’m thinking the amount of fat on this ribs might be responsible for the smell. Shrinkage is apparent, bones are protruding from meat.

vi. 1:30 194ºF – liquid is at a rolling boil in the oven, I adjusted back to 325ºF

vii. 2:00 198ºF – Meat is done

d. Yields

i. 6 oz of meat 25% cooking loss

ii. 4 fl oz cooking liquid 66% loss

e. Flavor and texture

i. Cripes! This meat is great; Rancher’s reserve might actually hold some truth to it. It is fall of the bone tender, structure is solid until a utensil or a set of teeth get into it. I decided this piece and piece C were going to be dinner, and my fiancée and I tore them apart in a matter of minutes after tasting.

B.Center piece – 4 bones in this piece weight 10 oz. I browned it, then brought the stock up to a boil in my straight sided sauté pan, covered it with a tight fitting glass lid and threw it in the oven.

a. This piece is between the other two in thickness

b. I used 1 cup stock and ½ cup water for the braising liquid

c. Temperatures

i. Before browning 38ºF

ii. 0:00 90ºF

iii. This is where I got tired of going to the kitchen. I watched a movie with my fiancée, and took off my watch so I wouldn’t be distracted. After watching the longest bad movie I’ve ever sat through (Chronicles of Riddick, don’t rent it, even if you love bad sci-fi like I do, it’s worse than Rollerball)

iv. 3:00 182ºF – barely simmering, just done

d. Yields

i. 8 oz weight 20% loss

ii. 9 fl oz cooking liquid 25% loss

e. Flavor and texture

i. I’m really buying into Rancher’s Reserve, it’s pricey ($4.99/lb for this rack) but this one too was falling off the bone, and very delicious.

C.Tail piece – 6 bones in this piece, all very small 8 oz weight.

a. This piece was the thinnest of the three

b. I used 1 cup stock and ½ cup water for the braising liquid

c. Temperatures

i. before browning 44ºF

ii. 0:00 84ºF – after browning, liquid is simmering

iii. 0:30 192ºF – simmering, smells great

iv. 1:00 192ºF – simmering, shrinkage apparent, turned down heat a touch

v. 1:30 184ºF – simmering, looks almost done

vi. 2:00 188ºF – Meat is done

d. Yields

i. 8 oz weight (no loss?) –insert complaint about scale

ii. 1 fl oz cooking liquid 92% loss

e. Flavor and Texture

i. Exactly the same as piece a, no discernable difference that couldn’t be directly attributed to the difference in shape, and addition of more bones.

Conclusions- Mainly I found what I thought would be true was true, the lower temperature wound up having a higher meat yield and a much longer cook time. The texture and flavor of the meat was not noticeably different between any of the three tests I conducted today. Were it not that my results were so similar, I’d feel this experiment was a bust, due to the differences in size and shape of the cuts I used today.

Re-Heats – well, this proves it to me again. The Pyrex re-heat was spectacular, and it was basically inedible when I cooked it initially. Repeated re-heat and cooling really contributes to the quality of a braised dish. The texture was still firm enough to hold together, but fell apart easily under pressure. It was moist and delicious, and I wish I had more of it.

edited in an effort to fix the formatting of my outline - didn't work :angry:

Edited by ChefDanBrown (log)

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By the end of the week we should all be exhausted, confused and out of stock. Here at the eGullet Culinary Institute, we aim to please. And yes, Dan, please get a new scale before we institute corporal punishment here.

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So far I seem to be the only one whose stovetop braise wasn't as flavorful or tender as the high-temp oven braise. It could be a matter of technique, of course, but I'm wondering whether it might be equipment. Am I the only one working with an electric stove today?

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Yet another reheating experiment: today, out of time and desperate for a lunch to pack, I grabbed the Sunday samples that had lost their labels. These have not been reheated until now since I couldn't be sure of their source. I reheated them, sans juice (because I missed those containers) in a microwave oven at 50% power (sorry, don't know the wattage) for 3 minutes. Folks, even with that brutal treatment they were better than on the first night. Much, much better. Juicier, more tender.

Either that, or my senses have been beaten into submission by bottom round.

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I took out the 200 degree sample after just over 300 minutes (5 hours). At 5 hours I thought it was done, but I did think it could have cooked for at least another hour. I was surprised by how little liquid evaporated. Although the meat was tender, I was surprised by how tightly the meat still clung to the bone after that much cooking. After I ate it I decided it should have cooked longer.

I had an oven thermometer closely monitoring the temperature inside the toaster oven because I was worried about maintaining the right temperature. The thermometer was within 10 degrees of 200 for almost the entire 5 hours the sample was in there. The temperature did change dramatically when I checked it after 2 hours and then after 3, 4, and 4.5 hours, but it bounced back within 5-10 minutes. Nonetheless, despite the monitored temperature, I think the results would have been different in a regular sized oven.

I also think 200 degrees is too low to braise for my tastes. I like the samples cooked at higher heat. The resulting liquid provides a more interesting sauce and the meat has more caramelization, better flavor, and a better texture.

The reheated sample was very good. There was significant improvement despite being only the first time the sample was reheated (I didn’t reheat on Tuesday). The meat, which came from the aluminum foil vessel in lab #1, had lost a lot of the objectionable firmness as the fat and tissues appear to have continued to break down. I really wish I had reheated on Tuesday. Although I can’t taste it yet, I fear that the quality curve is starting to head downward (because I am a pessimist). But I’ll eagerly await tonight’s reheat to find out.


I have an after photo of the 200 degree sample, which I will post if this topic is still open when I get home (or tomorrow when it is reopened or whatnot). Although of my usual trademark low quality, the photo is interesting to me because it shows how little the sample changed after 5 hours in a 200 degree oven. It also shows some of the tissue that I had hoped would break down with further cooking.

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Thanks, Steven!

200 Degree Sample- After 5 hours.


I lost the photos I took of the top of this rib. In those photos the rib appears somewhat close to what it looked like at the 136 minute mark. At least this photo still shows the undisolved tissue connecting meat to bone as promised.

Edited by fiftydollars (log)

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I fixed my problem today.


Thank you Mr. Shaw, this haw been an eye-opening experience for me on several levels.


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Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting a new scale. I confess that behind the scenes the other participants were saying that if you didn't get one by the end of the week they planned to take you out back behind the barn and shoot you. You made it with only hours to spare.

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