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Q&A: Braising


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I am thrilled. REPEAT: I am thrilled with your response. The dish looks wonderful.

And the more you use that claypot,the better it will perform.

.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Oh, fifi. You continue to hypnotize. Pretty soon, my husband is going to hate you! So, now I need one of these pots. I'd better start saving, making excuses or hoping that I can stumble on one (or more!) at Marshall's or TJ Maxx.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Moderator's Note: We've split Wolfert's response to this question and the posts that followed into a separate thread on Moroccan tagine cooking. Click here for that discussion.

Followup sometime later: the new Moroccan tagine cooking thread has further comparison between braising in clay pots and braising in other vessels. Those interested should make sure they check out that thread, too.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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  • 5 months later...

Thanks so much to everyone for this extensive braising course.

I wish I had the pictures to document things, but I braised about 4 pounds of short ribs on Saturday.

Pulling various bits of advice and info from the courses here, I first seared them in a cast iron skillet with some clarified butter. In went mirepoix which were cooked fairly quickly (i.e. translucent onions) and then deglazed with a 1/4c of a Niagara Merlot/Cabernet that was kicking around.

I was able to fit the cast iron skillet and a large stainless steel dutch oven onto one rack in the oven. As the pieces varied in size I grouped meaty and not-so-meaty and loaded them into their respective vessles along with mirepoix and a 3:1 beef stock/wine combo (thanks to someone's suggestion about trying that earlier in the thread) and, as per suggestions added about a half-inch to the pans.

Both went into a pre-heated 325 degree oven, the cast iron covered in foil and the dutch oven with lid intact. They were left alone for the first hour then checked every half hour, for doneness and to skim off some of the larger portions of fat and replace with a bit of liquid.

After 170 minutes they were pulled and all liquid was put onto an ice bath, then into the fridge. Sure enough tere was a very large layer of fat that was removed, leaving plenty of tasty, beefy liquid which I reduced and flavoured with S&P, and a bouquet garni of rosemary, bay, oregano and flat-leaf parsley.

Everything was truly fantastic, almost as much as the shockingly-low cost of the meat ($21 CDN) that fed 8 people! This was a great course and I'm glad to have found such helpful advice before attempting what, really, is quite a simple but pleasing preparation of beef.

Incidentally I found that the unglazed cast iron gave a better appearance to the finished product, while taste differences between it and stainless were very slight. With different types of vessels I did have to fiddle a bit with temperature and rack palcement to ensure the two were cooking evenly and at the same pace.

Thanks to all (and in the words of my dinner guests: "Who knew something with a bone could taste this good!")

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  • 3 months later...

Great advice! (See below)

My question: do all these guidelines (especially regarding pre-salting the meat and browning) apply to poultry?

I've really enjoyed reading about the braising experiments, and also the photos showing the progress along the way, as well as the finished products. I looked forward to daily reading all the new posts. There was so much info though to absorb. Will there be another post summarizing the findings from all these experiments, as to the best vessels, cooking methods, best temps, best amounts of liquid, best braising liquids etc.? I think that would be very informative and helpful to many people, as there were so many threads to follow. Thanks much :-).

Here is the summary I made as the week went along:

POTS

– An enameled cast iron (ECI) Dutch oven is best. However, avoid LeCreuset, which is overpriced and has phenolic handles that deteriorate in heat (or get old, metal-handle ones on eBay). Staub is just as good (maybe even a bit heavier) and has metal handles. A matte black surface seems to work best.

ECI cooks faster than other materials. It's not easy to clean, so brown the meat in a sauté pan and deglaze the pan thoroughly into the cooking vessel.

– Copper works very well, but ECI holds, transfers and evens out the heat better.

– Calphalon Professional Nonstick II Anodized Aluminum is almost as good as ECI, has a glass lid and metal handles, produces a good fond and is easy to clean. The best choice overall, and works well on a stovetop braise.

– unglazed clay works well, and the result seems to improve more on subsequent days.

– Corningware (ceramic without metal) gives good results but is slow.

– heavy metal meatloaf pans, very well sealed with foil, are OK for small batches but must be airtight – not as good as ECI, so make a full recipe and keep it for later days, when it’s better anyway.

– Stainless steel clad aluminum is next, Pyrex is poor, and a foil tray is dreadful (and very slow).

- Do NOT use unclad aluminum, which is very reactive, even without acidic ingredients such as tomatoes.

SEALING

Sealing the lid keeps the liquid from evaporating and enhances the cooking. The ancient method is to apply a flour/water dough between lid and vessel. Lifting the lid breaks the seal, so you have to know your oven perfectly. The modern method is to put a double layer of aluminum foil between lid and vessel. Lifting is easy, and the seal is almost as perfect. Parchment paper may also work.

MEAT

Tough, fatty cuts are essential, since the connective tissue breaks down and enriches the sauce. Bones are helpful. Short ribs or flanken (boneless short ribs) are good, and shin and oxtail are even better, with more gelatin. Shoulder and breast of lamb are good.

Starting with frozen meat is just as good as thawing.

SALTING

From André Guillot, a famous French chef: lightly salt the meat the minute you bring it home. You will hardly need to salt later, and you’ll use half as much salt as you would normally. Lightly salted meat will tenderize and mature in flavor when stored overnight in the refrigerator.

After salting, coat the meat lightly with grape-seed oil, which will keep it from drying out; Some blood will run out, but this is insignificant.

BROWNING

A non-non-stick pan on the stovetop is best, since non-stick prevents formation of fond. Cast iron is perfect. Under the broiler is hard to control and can dry the meat out. Unbrowned produces good results, but a different, soft texture on the bottom. The part above the liquid line is identical, browned or not.

For large cuts (e.g., brisket), skip the browning and uncover for the last 1/2 hour.

LIQUID

Wine alone is too strong, especially when reduced. Worth using perhaps 1:3 with stock? The solution is to deglaze the browning pan with wine.

Water is weak and blah.

Stock is by far the best, made even better by adding demi-glace.

Covering the meat leaches out the browning and creates a boiled color and taste.

Standard advice is halfway up the side of the meat, but just 1/2" is even better and gives more tender results.

Beer might be OK.

Mirepoix (carrot/onion/celery) dilutes the flavor and makes the sauce taste like stock. If you must, toss some in during the sauce reduction process. If you use stock as the braising liquid, they’re already in it.

The alternate Tom Colicchio (Grammercy Tavern) stovetop method: when you have LOTS of stock, skip browning, pour stock almost to the top and cook uncovered on the stovetop, turning every ½ hour to keep drying one side while moistening the other.

STOVETOP VS. OVEN

A heavy pot with a tight seal gives excellent results on the stovetop. With the Calphalon glass top, it’s much easier to monitor and handle, too. However, steady heat, coming from all sides in the oven, as in ECI, is perhaps a little bit better

COOKING TEMPERATURE

Low heat (200) results in a little less shrinkage, but no difference in flavor. It’s not worth the much longer cooking time (5 hours still not enough for heavy pork ribs).

Preheat the oven to 325. After 1/2 hour, if the liquid is more than barely trembling, turn it down to 300 or 275. Thus reduces the sauce better and increases caramelization. However, 300 is necessary to melt the collagen and get a proper braise.

CLARIFYING THE SAUCE

From Paula Wolfert. Strain the sauce, pressing down on all the solids with the back of a spoon; cool the entire sauce down; remove all the fat that rises; put the remaining liquid (scum and clear) in a small wide saucepan; and set over heat to bring to a boil. Now, shove the saucepan half off the heat and cook at a slow boil, skimming off all the scum-like solids that rise to the top on the cool side of the liquid for about 10 minutes, or until reduced enough to coat a spoon lightly.

PROCEDURE

1. Brown the meat well. with a small amount of oil, 1 to 1-1/2 min. on each side. A plain cast iron pan works better for this than E/CI or non-stick.

2. Don’t pack the vessel too tight – 1" between pieces and between the meat and the side.

3. Use only a little liquid. The standard is halfway up the side of the meat, but even better is ½" deep.

4. Cook very slowly in the oven.

5. Don't cook the meat to mush. A fork should go in easily and release easily but grip the meat slightly, and the fork holes shouldn’t stay open. For short ribs, 2 hours is about right.

6. Refrigerate, skim the fat and eat the next day.

REHEATING

Always better the next day, and there are significant improvements on the following day.

Reheat uncovered at 275 in a shallow, ovenproof serving dish, to deepen the flavor. Turn once while reheating.

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  • 1 year later...

This was fascinating. Thank you, all who did the work!

One thing caught my eye in lab#1, and was subsequently supported by slkinsey's information:

the aluminum foil pan pieces almost never were left in long enough to reach the same internal temperatures as the pieces in the other containers. Regardless of container, the final meat temp is a reflection of how 'done' it is.

Im thinking that the thin pan lost much more heat than the others with every opening of the oven to check temps, which is part of why the meat in there would require longer to finish.

I'd be interested in comparing results for an infrequently opened oven, where the cast iron was compared to aluminum foil pan, for meat allowed to reach the same final temp.

Since it aint a gonna happen in my house anytime soon*, I'll just cross my fingers and hope someone else is also curious. *no iron or clay pots or heavy aluminum for that matter. Nothing oven safe with a lid.

I've done many braises with no added liquid. I just piled sliced onions and bellpeppers on the meat, covered, and cooked low and slow. It works a treat. Those veggies tend to create a sweet sauce.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I've done many braises with no added liquid. I just piled sliced onions and bellpeppers on the meat, covered, and cooked low and slow. It works a treat. Those veggies tend to create a sweet sauce.

Interesting you mention this. I've got a braised pork chop recipe from one of my recent cooking classes to try tonight that does exactly this. I had to read the recipe three times to make sure I wasn't missing the liquid!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Fifi, those black columbian pots are total workhorses! I use them all the time, and as Paula said, they just get better and better. If you scout around for them, they can be had at a very reasonable price.

Although technically not a braise, I used my open/flat one for a Le Marche inspired dinner last night.

Beautiful summary on the braise, by the way.

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The pots: The first question I want to address is the pots. Do the pots have any real effect on chicken? I will be using the little Le Creuset, a Corning Ware dish of comparable size, and a cheap foil pan with a foil cover. (I am skeptical about the foil thing, but, oh well.)

I love Le Creuset and would never use anything else for braising. I would suggest instead of using a foil pan as a cover, try parchment paper. The lids that come LeCreuset are actually the best though. :smile:

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  • 3 months later...

Sometimes in the winter I'll decide that the Seattle rain won't let me go to my smoker for pulled pork and so I simply slice a couple yellow onions about 1/2 " to cover my LC and lay a whole pork butt/shoulder on top [salt and pepper is all I use on the meat], cover and put in the 200 degree F oven over night. Looking for 190 degrees next day.

Allow to set for at least an hour , chop and stir with the onions and juices. Serve on buns or with Kraut or on my fav good Egg Noodles, buttered a bit.

Thanks belatedly for a great series. FG started by quoting James Beard "T&P" and amazingly the conclusions seem to match.

Robert

Seattle

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  • 1 year later...

Has anyone tested side by side braising with pressure cooking?

Yesterday I was short on time but needed to braise some oxtail. I recovered my pressure cooker from the basement and put it to work at a low steam for about 1 hour. The results were much better than all my previous braising attempts including those where I tried to replicate the methods discussed in the Brasing Labs series. Nothing scientific here for sure, but maybe worth exploring.

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I've switched almost exclusively to my pressure cooker when braising. The main difference I've found is that the cooking liquid doesn't evaporate at all in the pressure cooker, so I usually have to reduce my sauce more. Other than that, I really can't tell any difference.

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I've switched almost exclusively to my pressure cooker when braising. The main difference I've found is that the cooking liquid doesn't evaporate at all in the pressure cooker, so I usually have to reduce my sauce more. Other than that, I really can't tell any difference.

My neighbor just picked up a pressure cooker and has been playing with it. She said I could give it a test run as well. Are you still doing a dredge in flour, brown in fat, and then put in the pc?

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Are you still doing a dredge in flour, brown in fat, and then put in the pc?

I never dredge meat in flour, regardless of how I braise.

But yes, I proceed just the same way I would if I were braising in a Dutch oven, so usually that means I brown first, then add the liquid, then lock the lid into place and cook.

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Are you still doing a dredge in flour, brown in fat, and then put in the pc?

I never dredge meat in flour, regardless of how I braise.

But yes, I proceed just the same way I would if I were braising in a Dutch oven, so usually that means I brown first, then add the liquid, then lock the lid into place and cook.

When I first learned to cook it was via Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 so I have that flour step stamped in my brain. I am eager to try the pressure cooker method.

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Has anyone tested side by side braising with pressure cooking?

Yesterday I was short on time but needed to braise some oxtail.  I recovered my pressure cooker from the basement and put it to work at a low steam for about 1 hour.  The results were much better than all my previous braising attempts including those where I tried to replicate the methods discussed in the Brasing Labs series. Nothing scientific here for sure, but maybe worth exploring.

I've switched almost exclusively to my pressure cooker when braising. The main difference I've found is that the cooking liquid doesn't evaporate at all in the pressure cooker, so I usually have to reduce my sauce more. Other than that, I really can't tell any difference.

I've never thought of braising in a pressure cooker. Not that I have a pressure cooker, but I might consider it if the benefits seemed worth the cost. What would you say is the time difference? Is there an advantage other than time savings?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Depending on what you're cooking, a pressure cooker will cut 1/3 to 1/2 of the cooking time. I recently braised some "country ribs" (aka thick strips of pork shoulder) for chile verde; once the cooker came up to pressure, I cooked them for about an hour and had meat that practically shredded itself. About the same time for short ribs; 20 minutes for chicken thighs and the meat falls off the bone.

In addition to the time savings, pressure cooking means that you don't have to keep the oven on for several hours -- you have one burner on for half to a third of the time, which keeps the kitchen cooler.

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  • 1 month later...

I've read through all of the sections of this amazing labs session and I've just finished my first attempt at braising short ribs. one question I have is how best to store the meat/juice overnight. There are a couple of posts in the Q&A that mention the idea of separating the meat from the liquid overnight, problem is I can't find any more information on this. Is it really the best way? All I've ever read before (especially things like McGee) seem to suggest that cooling an storing meat IN the juice is the best idea as it somehow rehydrates the beef, is this wrong?

top marks to any quick responses as I'm going to have to go to bed soon!

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I usually store the meat in the liquid, and the flavors seem to intensify. That's what I'd do with short ribs.

The only times I don't, I suppose, is if it's something like a pot roast that I want to be able to slice cold before reheating.

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I've read through all of the sections of this amazing labs session and I've just finished my first attempt at braising short ribs.  one question I have is how best to store the meat/juice overnight.  There are a couple of posts in the Q&A that mention the idea of separating the meat from the liquid overnight, problem is I can't find any more information on this.  Is it really the best way?  All I've ever read before (especially things like McGee) seem to suggest that cooling an storing meat IN the juice is the best idea as it somehow rehydrates the beef, is this wrong?

top marks to any quick responses as I'm going to have to go to bed soon!

I don't see why you'd want to store the meat separately if you were going to use it with the sauce. Usually I braise, degrease, add the meat back in and refrigerate. You could also degrease the next day. Either way, I don't see why you'd store separately, but I may be missing something.

nunc est bibendum...

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I don't see why you'd want to store the meat separately if you were going to use it with the sauce. Usually I braise, degrease, add the meat back in and refrigerate. You could also degrease the next day. Either way, I don't see why you'd store separately, but I may be missing something.

Exactly what I'd always thought but these two comments made me wonder:

Also, I noticed the overnight separation of meat and juices was dropped from the summary. I think that methoc really makes a difference in the texture and flavor.

Thanks for adding those points, Wolfert.  The separation of meat and juice during storage does seem to make a difference in texture and flavor.  Another practical benefit I've noticed is that it's much easier to get the congealed fat off the juice if there isn't meat cluttering up the container.

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I don't see why you'd want to store the meat separately if you were going to use it with the sauce. Usually I braise, degrease, add the meat back in and refrigerate. You could also degrease the next day. Either way, I don't see why you'd store separately, but I may be missing something.

Exactly what I'd always thought but these two comments made me wonder:

Also, I noticed the overnight separation of meat and juices was dropped from the summary. I think that methoc really makes a difference in the texture and flavor.

Thanks for adding those points, Wolfert.  The separation of meat and juice during storage does seem to make a difference in texture and flavor.  Another practical benefit I've noticed is that it's much easier to get the congealed fat off the juice if there isn't meat cluttering up the container.

Huh. I went back and took a brief look at both of those comments but got nothing new out of it. Maybe there's more somewhere that would elucidate this, but I still don't understand why separating meat and juices would enhance texture or flavor. I get that it's easier to degrease a sheet of fat without having to scrape off the meat, but I don't get the flavor/texture part. It seems counter-intuitive to me. At the very least, the flavor/texture of meat stored either way should be the same. What's the liquid supposedly doing to the meat? Well, when colder weather rolls in, I'll have to do some experimenting.

nunc est bibendum...

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Huh. I went back and took a brief look at both of those comments but got nothing new out of it. Maybe there's more somewhere that would elucidate this, but I still don't understand why separating meat and juices would enhance texture or flavor. I get that it's easier to degrease a sheet of fat without having to scrape off the meat, but I don't get the flavor/texture part. It seems counter-intuitive to me. At the very least, the flavor/texture of meat stored either way should be the same. What's the liquid supposedly doing to the meat? Well, when colder weather rolls in, I'll have to do some experimenting.

Does seem a bit strange doesn't it, any way, I've decided that I'll do a little experiment. I've got some completely sealable containers so I've pulled the meat and put it in those, in one of them I've added back in a little of the cooking liquid but the rest I've left as they are (i.e. dry-ish). I'll see which seems best in the morning.

At least this way I've got a nice easy job of de-fatting the liquid tomorrow and can decide what to do with the second overnight storage before finally serving/eating this great looking food on saturday :)

Thankfully our weather forecast at the moment looks more like autumn/winter than summer :wacko:

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By separating meat and the liquid, I think you would get a less intense flavor, but more solid texture, if you don't want the meat to fall apart, as for a roast that you want to be able to slice.

For a roast or brisket you want to slice, I think it makes sense. But if you braise the meat just enough then let it cool, carryover cooking shouldn't hurt the texture though. It seems to me to be simply a matter of what feels right to the cook. I'd like to see some evidence that, all things being equal, storing meat and liquid separately has a better effect on flavor/texture.

nunc est bibendum...

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