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Braising Help

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Over the past year I've been trying to braise more and more and I'm occassionally not happy with the results. I know that it is a long slow process but I need some more specific advise.

Do I braise according to the weight of the meat like when roasting? What if I need to choose between 2 similar cuts one with bone and the other boneless - is the braising time the same?

I would appreciate your advise on the matter as I have sometimes braised a chuck to perfection and other times it has come out dry.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #2 of 19
The secret to a good restaurant is CONSISTANCY. Whenever you go there it's the same. So goes your braising. When you achieve one that you like, make it the same EXACT way every time, write down what you did, what you added, amt of liquid ,amt of herbs ,and veges. the exact time and cooling time.
I have found meat on bone cooks quicker. When braising the bone conducts the heat throughout faster.
Use the same cut and quality of meat all the time, this is hard in todays market, but get as close as possible. :chef:
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post #3 of 19
"I have found meat on bone cooks quicker. When braising the bone conducts the heat throughout faster. "

Interesting. Would you please elaborate as to cuts of meat, size, temp and cooking time? Thanks very much.
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
I always thought that meat with bone cooks slower. I thought that it took longer for the bone to come up to temperature.

I do try to follow my previous methods when they worked well but I run into problems when I need to cook different amounts. I have no problem braising a 3 lb chuck, but what do I need to do differently if it's 8lbs? Cook it longer? By how much?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #5 of 19
You should probably be looking at internal temperature more than time, though time is important.

The best cuts for braised meats are usually cooked to temperatures that would be dry and unpleasant in other meats. It's not that these meats have more moisture to resist this process but that the process breaks down tough connective tissues into tender moist results.

This starts happening at about 180 degrees in pork and beef. In barbecue circles, this called the plateau or the stall. The temperature of the meat doesn't rise much at all for a while at this point and this is indicative of a phase change--the collagen breaking down. These meats are often considered done at about 190 or a bit above.

For best results, you want to get to this point slowly so the meat has a more consistent temperature throughout the roast. The wet cooking of the braise helps this as it conducts heat better than air as in roasting.

AS with other roasts, these meats should have some resting time as well, often up to an hour is cited in the barbecue world but 20 minutes is a minimum.

Yes, getting there slowly does have the time element and this is often given as a substitution for temperature on the assumption that people don't have instant read thermometers or remote probe thermometers.

Get a thermometer and use it. You'll have greater success. Cookbooks such as Joy of Cooking will give you the approximate timer per pound at X temperature for the particular cuts of meat.

You can use their long resting times to make dinner happen on time even if they finished early.

Cook's Illustrated had a braised pork shoulder recipe they recommended cooking the day before and reheating. It held together better and the flavor and juiciness improved.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #6 of 19
Braising fowl is quicker and needs lower finish temps unless you're using old or wild fowl.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #7 of 19
Braising is a technique reserved for meats that are high in collagen and other connective tissue. When braised properly, the collagen will melt into the braising liquid. The gap left from where the collagen use to be is what allows braised meat to flake, giving it that juicy tenderness.

Although chuck works OK, I would go for something with more connective tissue like beef shortribs, Ox Tail, Lamb Shanks, Veal Shanks...that sort of stuff.

When braising something its not really about time or internal temperature, its about flaking. The size and the surface area, as well as the type of the meat, are the three biggest factors.

For poultry, such as chicken legs and thighs, or duck leg and thighs, try braising at about 400 degrees for about 1.5-2 hours. You know that they're done when the meat starts to easily pull away from the bone and is easy to shred.

The breasts are not good for braising because they contain very little collagen and connective tissue.

The times for beef, lamb and veal on the other hand are pretty much the same. A good place to start is 400 degrees for 3 hours. Check to see if they are tender and start to flake after this time, and if they are not yet done, let cook for another half hour and then check again.

Quick Tips For Braising

  • Sear your meat first. The carmelization will add some nice flavor to your braising liquid, and caramelized meat almost always taste better than meat that isn't.
  • Your braising liquid is important. Try using the appropriate flavored stock that matches what you're braising (ie, beef short ribs, use beef stock). Also the addition of mirepoix, aromatic herbs and some wine is also a nice touch.
  • Bring your braising liquid to a simmer on your stove top before you braise it in your oven. This will ensure that you timing is much more consistent.
  • If at all possible, always braise in a oven. The braising pan is surrounded on all sides by the heat, allowing for much more even cooking.
  • Cover the product you're braising completely with your braising liquid.
  • If your braised meat seems chewy, it's usually undercooked, not overcooked. The reason why its still chewy is because the collagen hasn't yet completely dissolved.
Hope this helps.
post #8 of 19
1 1/2 to 2 hours @400'' seems to be a long time to braise chick legs or thighs. I have done them in about 35 to 45 minutes depending on size.??? :)
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post #9 of 19
I agree with Ed. This time/temp suggestion is mishugeneh.

Plus, in reference to Chef Jacob's preceding post:

"Collagen" is not a type of connective tissue, it's a class of protein (molecules). They don't "melt," they denature.

400F is not a braising temperature or anything like it. In fact, it's anti-braising. Braising requires low temperatures. I'd say putting your braising vessel in anything over a 300F oven is pushing it. I usually braise at 250F and feel guilty because I'm rushing it instead of braising at 225F like someone with more patience.

Duck breasts may be effectively braised, and indeed many wonderful whole duck (or breast dishes) such as duck in olives (stomach growling thinking about it) are based on a braise or near-braise technique.

Getting away from beating up on Chef Joseph (who's a pretty knowledgeable guy -- what happened?), Phil brought up the "stall." You won't see nearly as much stall at 250F as you do at lower temperatures. That's one of the two reasons I braise at the the high temp -- predictability. The other is (relative) speed.

Phil is good to read. His ways aren't the only ways, but they're good ways.

Regarding timing a braise -- it's not a strict "by the pound" calculation. Shape counts as well. Also, once given cuts reach a certain size the "by the pound" formula changes. So it's something like X minutes per pound for the first 5 pounds, then Y minutes per pound for each pound thereafter. BUT ... the only RIGHT WAY to time braises is to ballpark it, then start checking. There's no substitute for sticking a fork in it and twisting; the Mark IV Human Eyeball; and, the nose knows.

Speaking of braising poultry or anything else for that matte -- if you're looking for something which combines the benefits of braising, poele and roasting -- try a Romertopf. Suckers are awesome.

BDL
post #10 of 19
Even though collagen is a protein, it is still a connective tissue and yes, it does dissolve when braising. When cooking a normal piece of meat, collagen will start to denature at around 140-150 degrees F.

Quoting on Food and Cooking "Then around 160 degrees F, connective-tissue collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin." PG 150

As far as braising duck breast go, I totally disagree. A good duck breast needs to have crispy skin and cooked to a nice, juicy, Mid Rare. Braising is reserved for cooking tough cuts of meat all the way through. I guess you could poach a duck breast to mid rare, but then you would loose out on the crispy skin, which is half the reason for eating duck in the first place.

Furthermore, 400 degrees is a fine braising temperature if you're working with a home oven and you don't want dinner to take 8 hours. The whole purpose of braising is to "dissolve the collagen" which is achieved much faster in a 400 degree oven. As long as you let the meat cool to about 130 degrees F before serving, you will still retain a lot of moisture and succulance, mainly from the dissolved collagen which is now gelatin, reabsorbing back into the braised item.

When cooking at the restaurant, I never put my oven above 200 degrees, and start my braising meats first thing in the morning. But I assumed the orginal poster didn't want to take 8 hours to make dinner.
post #11 of 19
Warning, Thread Hijacking. I demand a million dollars and this thread must now go to Cuba. Errr, um China (as you shall soon see).

I think this perspective is too tightly constrained on European tradition. There are other ways to cook duck. Consider Peking Duck. Chinese cuisine often poaches or braises duck coupled with a deep fry at some point or a roasting finish for crisp skin. In fact, the poach is important to getting the skin crispy without still being fatty.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #12 of 19
Phil,

You're absolutely right...I love me some good peking duck. With most of my professional work done in fine dining French restaurants, I do tend to approach my cooking more from European technique.

But when cooking just a duck breast itself, I much prefer pan roasting over over braising. I guess that's just a personal preference though.

post #13 of 19
I don't disagree that it is good and probably simpler to do.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #14 of 19
Steaming is another technique used to render out a lot of the skin fat in duck. Whatever method is chosen, it is well worth it to reclaim the duck fat for other uses.

Back to braising - Chef Jacob recommends covering the item completely with the braising liquid. Others claim the liquid should only come up halfway or so. To my mind, whole chunks not completely covered is braising, smaller pieces completely covered is stewing. Where is the line, if any, between the techniques really drawn?

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #15 of 19
MJB,

I worked for a chef who only filled the liquid up half way, and he was known for his braised dish that he would do each winter. Covering the meat all the way is just a personal preference of mine. I find that it yields a much more forgiving braise. But there are some extremely talented chefs that I know and respect who would disagree with me on this. It's just a personal preference.

The line between stewing and braising is somewhat blurry. I think your understanding of it was correct in its modern form. A stew is basically a braised dish where the meat is cut into small chunks. Although a lot of people simmer their stews on the stove, a lot of classical recipes call for oven braising.

The word stew came from the 18th century French word etuve which basically translates into stove or heated room. The origin of the word "braise," came from a French word for coal, alluding to the old school technique of putting hot coals on the lid of your braisier to ensure even heating.
post #16 of 19

There are a lot of threads on here about braised short ribs, but the question addressed in the last two posts of this one seemed like a good segue for some of my questions so I figured this was as good as any to resurrect.  If my questions are addressed in other threads on braised short ribs, please direct me to them!

 

Ok, so I was watching football all day on Saturday (Go Gators!) and I wanted something slow cooked that would be delicious, hearty, and fulfilling as the weather begins to get slightly cool in my area.  Chili would seem to be a natural option, especially given the football watching, but I opted for braised short ribs.  This was my first try at making them so instead of getting creative I decided to follow the Joy of Cooking recipe to the letter.  The result was good, but not as good as I know it could be.  The first issue was seasoning - the whole thing felt a little underseasoned to me.  This is easily adjusted, but since there are three major steps where I can up the seasoning I thought I'd ask - should I increase the seasoning directly on the short ribs before searing, on the mirepoix before adding liquid, or to the whole "pool" once the ribs are back in the braise?  The answer may just be "all three" but again, it never hurts to ask.

 

Next question, how far should I take the searing of the short ribs?  Light brown? Golden brown? Dark brown like a crust on a nice steak? 

 

Finally, and the question which drew me to this thread - how high up should the liquid go?  Another related question - how big of a vessel should I use?  In this case I used a 5 qt dutch oven for 3 lbs of short ribs which meant that there was very little if any pileup in the vessel.  This also meant that using Joy of Cooking's recipe which calls for 1 1/2 cups of liquid, the liquid only covers the short ribs about 1/3 of the way up for the bigger meatier ones. 

 

I've seen a lot of folks say that the only way to know when they're done is by checking.  Fingers, forks, nose, and eyes...but how often should I check in on them?  Is there anything lost each time I open the oven, take off the lid and poke around?  I'm not intending on doing this every five minutes, but I also don't want them to go too far.

 

I have a few more questions about the sauce, but I know there is another thread which addresses that in more detail... Thanks for any input!

post #17 of 19

When to season? 

All three.  Seasoning at different points during the cooking "layers" the flavors.  Plus taste and adjust anytime you have the lid off.  The whole "taste and adjust" thing is one of the hallmarks of a good cook. 

 

How much to sear?

As a rule of thumb, a sear means developing some visible crystallization on the surface of the meat.  That means there should be at least a few dark brown spots on meat which is otherwise lightly browned.  Braises fit the rule of thumb rule well.  Don't go as far as developing a "crust," because it will make the meat tough. 

 

What size pot? and How high up should the liquid be?

As a rule of thumb (again with the thumb!), a cooking vessel should always be the Goldilocks size.  I.e., just big enough to hold everything without crowding or huge empty spaces.  That's a good rule and certainly applies here.  If the amount of liquid from a given recipe doesn't cover the meat in a braise as a result of the pot size, I think you're usually better off turning the meat occasionally then adding too much extra liquid.  Otherwise the meat to liquid ratio won't be high enough for the meat to make a sufficient contribution to the braising liquid (which is a component of the finished dish), and the liquid will taste dilute. 

 

That's not to say that using more liquid isn't doable if you have some good reason for doing it -- just don't add too much water.  Use something like rich stock along with some extra whatever else you've already got going into your braising liquid.  And cognac.  Cognac is always a good thing.

 

Checking?  When to check?  How to check?

If you're the type of person who's really connected to what's going on in the kitchen, you can start checking when the food starts to smell done.  It won't be... but that's a good time to check, taste and adjust.  If you're using a recipe, make your first check about 15 minutes before the recipe estimates your done time.

 

You can check by touch or by fork, either way is as good as the other if you know what you're checking for.  Ideally, you want meat that's tender enough to cut with the side of the fork, but not so well done that it breaks into strings.  I prefer to err on the side of slightly underdone than barely overcooked.

 

BDL

post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Checking?  When to check?  How to check?

If you're the type of person who's really connected to what's going on in the kitchen, you can start checking when the food starts to smell done.  It won't be... but that's a good time to check, taste and adjust.  If you're using a recipe, make your first check about 15 minutes before the recipe estimates your done time.

 

You can check by touch or by fork, either way is as good as the other if you know what you're checking for.  Ideally, you want meat that's tender enough to cut with the side of the fork, but not so well done that it breaks into strings.  I prefer to err on the side of slightly underdone than barely overcooked.

I've never been able to time a braise perfectly so I tend to use this technique for timing/checking.  What's more... I rarely braise for immediate consumption and intentionally "slightly undercook".  Then I col it down, refrigerate and the next day skim fat and finish to perfect done-ness.  All braised and stewed meals seem better the next day anyway.

post #19 of 19

In terms of "how high"... I'm a halfway advocate, and for big items I'll turn the meat over every 30 mintues or so.

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