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Biscuits's picture

Again, in the spirit of sparking a real cooking discussion, let's talk about braising.  Why, when, how, benefits of, common problems with, and recipes that best illustrate the technique.


I am often surprised at how many people equate braising with "boiling", or even "simmering".  They are not the same.  Braising involves only a little liquid, and lots of slow heat in a covered environment, whereas boiling and simmering involve lots of liquid, uncovered, at high heats.   It is my understanding (and someone more knowledgeable feel free to correct me) that the technique of braising was developed to help make tougher cuts of meat easier to eat and more digestable.  That being the case, braising would seem to be the perfect method for things like rump roast, shank, ox-tail, etc., and not so good for tenderloin or steaks of any cut.


Personally - I think braising is the only method for shank.  DH and I both love that particular cut of meat (lamb, beef, veal) and I don't think any other cooking method does it justice.  It takes a rather inexpensive cut and makes it a meal fit to serve at the finest restaurant.  Osso Bucco comes to mind.


Anyone want to give a play by play on the proper braising technique?


Ancora Imparo -

Ancora Imparo -

Heather's picture

(post #30492, reply #1 of 118)

I'm just on my way out so I don't have time to post Frank McGee's take on it right now--I have been reading his book lately. He says the key is low temperature--I'll post it later.
I'm sure he is right--when I braise or make stews I ignore the instructions for cooking on the top of the stove and put my big LC in a 275 oven for hours and the meat gets perfectly done while staying moist.

ashleyd's picture

(post #30492, reply #2 of 118)

Osso buco - now you're talking! I love braising because the meat stays partially above the liquid and browns up (or stays brown) through the cooking, something a stew just doesn't do. The other thing I like is that you get a whole piece of meat which you can then slice or not afterwards, except not in last night's braised lamb shanks when the meat just fell off the bone!


“In victory you deserve Champagne, in defeat you need it.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

Age is unimportant unless you’re a cheese.

MEANCHEF's picture

(post #30492, reply #3 of 118)

If I am not mistaken, Glenys made a few cryptic comments a while back about high heat braising.  I am not sure I understand the concept, but would love to know more.

Biscuits's picture

(post #30492, reply #6 of 118)

Me, too.  I'm interested in anyone's take on this, actually.


Now, I know this is going to freak Mean Chef out (G), but stay with me.  My dad always braised beef ribs in beer - braised, not boiled - in the oven, in a covered pan, for several hours before putting on the grill.  Whether they were traditional or not, I have to say they were fabulous, fall-off-the-bone ribs.  I Q-ed him about it a week or so ago and he told me rather cryptically (he isn't talking well right now - radiation therapy has made his throat really sore) that that method was only for beef ribs - pork ribs "don't need it".  As I said, he wasn't really talkative so I didn't get more details than that.  Anyone able to shed any light on his position?


 


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Gretchen's picture

(post #30492, reply #8 of 118)

I think beer just becomes a flavorful liquid in this case. And some people (mistakenly, in my opinion) parboil pork ribs before putting on the grill.  I think beef ribs are just tougher and his method would tenderize the meat.

Gretchen

Gretchen
MEANCHEF's picture

(post #30492, reply #9 of 118)

I never make beef ribs (being addicted to pig), but the primary reason for not cooking in liquid is that all of the flavor is lost into the liquid - think about the taste of the chicken after making stock.  People mistakenly think they taste good only because they like the bbq sauce, not because the meat has any flavor.


This can be overcome by slow cooking in foil with a dry rub before grilling- sort of the best of both worlds.


Don't know for sure, but I would be willing to bet the theory applies to beef ribs as well.


Edited 2/20/2005 2:44 pm ET by MEAN CHEF

Gretchen's picture

(post #30492, reply #11 of 118)

Oh, I agree with you completely.  It is so clear where the juices go.   

Gretchen

Gretchen
Aberwacky's picture

(post #30492, reply #12 of 118)

And where do the juices go when you grill them?


When I braise the pork ribs--and I DON't parboil them--I just use a little bit of beer, cover the pan tightly with foil, then while grilling the ribs, reduce the braising liquid to use as a sauce.


Leigh


 

"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
Gretchen's picture

(post #30492, reply #13 of 118)

When I smoke them they seem to be inside the meat at that low temp.

Gretchen

Gretchen
Aberwacky's picture

(post #30492, reply #14 of 118)

Hmmmm. 


Of course, I was referring to grilling, not smoking (I do both), but I have noticed quite a bit of "juice" and grease on the bottom of the smoker when the ribs are done.  All three methods produce juicy ribs for me.


I'm no expert, but I would assume that no matter the cooking method, you are going to lose some juice during the process.  Perhaps there's some time/heat formula involved, but at this point, I plead jet lag and pregnancy for any lapses in logic or judgement I may be making.


I'm not recommending the braising as a permanent substitute for smoking or grilling, mind you, just offering it as a winter alternative.


Leigh

"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
Gretchen's picture

(post #30492, reply #32 of 118)

I think cooking ribs is a very personal thing with each person. When I smoke ribs  I find I need to then grill them because the smoking at low temp just does not cook the fat out.  The same is true of chickens--I heat my smoked chicken in a 400* oven to get the fat to render.
 Yes, juice is going to cook out of them.  I feel that putting them in  a iiquid or steaming environment releases more of the meat juices than more of a sear/dry bake.  I am sure your ribs are absolutely delicious.  In fact, I can't remember when I ate a bad rib.
I used to parboil ribs in BBQ sauce.  And to attest that liquid does cook out of a piece of meat I often have 2 cups of broth when I make pulled pork.


I was just looking at Patricia Wells' Paris Cookbook and there is a wonderful sounding recipe in there from a Paris chef using Thai curry as the rub.  Gonna give that one a try for sure.


 


 


Gretchen
Gretchen
Biscuits's picture

(post #30492, reply #22 of 118)

When Daddy did this, he used very little beer to start, and there was almost none left when he was done.  What little was left, he poured into his BBQ sauce (said that was his secret ingredient) and used that to baste the ribs after they'd been on the grill for a while.  Thoughts?

Ancora Imparo -

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Aberwacky's picture

(post #30492, reply #10 of 118)

Sorry to hear about your dad.


Hmm.   Now, I haven't done this with beef rigs, but during the winter, when grilling outdoors takes AGES, I will braise pork ribs (spare ribs) in beer and spices in oven, then finish them on the grill to get the surface a little dry and crisp.


Makes for tender, delicious ribs in the same amount of time it usually takes to grill them in the summer, with a hint of the grill.  Not much smokey flavor, but they are very good, all the same.


Leigh

"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
Glenys's picture

(post #30492, reply #17 of 118)

He didn't just braise the ribs, he infused them.

RuthWells's picture

(post #30492, reply #58 of 118)

I'm late to this thread, Biscuit, but wanted to shoot some good wishes your father's way -- hope all's as well as can be hoped!


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

moxie's picture

(post #30492, reply #85 of 118)

I am just lurking and learning on the braising part, but healing thoughts for your dad, Biscuit.

"I have always relied on the kindness of strangers." - Blanche Dubois

Glenys's picture

(post #30492, reply #16 of 118)

Tales From the Cryptic.
I've experimented with open and closed braising, searing versus roasting in the browning step and high heat versus low heat. I'm not bound by one single method, I use them all at different times.
If you begin with enough liquid and account for reduction, an open braise can be much richer and just as efficient in the tenderizing stage. The reduced, "open" sauce develops its own caramelized intensity.
Generally when I'm braising I do several shanks, duck legs or ribs. Rather than sear I brown the pieces in a 450°F oven. Short ribs and duck lose fat, lamb shanks brown evenly etc. No muss, no fuss. If it's cubes of meat, I generally marinate in the wine overnight, if applicable, and sear. I don't braise cubes of meat much anymore. Like Meanie, I'm more of a lamb and pork girl simply because I grew up in a family that raised Angus cattle and I ate way to much beef in my childhood. Having said that, I have never been able to cook short ribs or cubed beef to the "eat with a spoon" texture in less than four hours and usually it's six. I'm very suspect when a recipe says two.
High heat braising is a definite candidate for duck legs and lamb shanks. The secret is the parchment paper/foil layer pressed down on the meat, creating a non-evaporationg pressure cooker effect. No difference what so ever in the results versus long and slow.
As a rule I do a braise about once a week.

MEANCHEF's picture

(post #30492, reply #18 of 118)

Is high heat braising done also with the cover on and at what temperature?

Glenys's picture

(post #30492, reply #20 of 118)

Parchment then foil pressed down onto the surface of the ingredients, lid on to hold the liner in place, 450°F.

MEANCHEF's picture

(post #30492, reply #23 of 118)

I will try this with lamb shanks.  Thanks

Biscuits's picture

(post #30492, reply #25 of 118)

Does cooking at this high a heat, even with the parchment and foil layers, cut down the cooking time?  Or is it still a long cooking period?

Ancora Imparo -

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Glenys's picture

(post #30492, reply #31 of 118)

Cuts the cooking time about in half.

Biscuits's picture

(post #30492, reply #21 of 118)

Gosh, I really love you sometimes.  I see why you teach.


I HATE searing meat on the stove, because, as you said, I get unsatisfactory and uneven browning.  I do it - but I am not even sure why; I suppose because that's the way I was taught to do it (?).  When I make brown stock I brown everything in the oven.  Why haven't I ever thought of searing in the oven??  Thank you, Glenys, for that.  I will probably never sear on the stove again.


The secret is the parchment paper/foil layer pressed down on the meat, creating a non-evaporationg pressure cooker effect.


I studied with (2) European chefs in Ireland way back when.  They did this, but they couldn't explain to me WHY.  It was just the way it was done.  They used parchment with a small hole cut in the center.  I've never done it since, but I'm going to try this on my next braise, I think.


Also, they caramelized tiny onions for onion confit this way.  Whole onions, peeled, then put in a pot with some wine and water, nothing else, then cooked long and slow with the parchment with the whole cut out in the center on top.  The end result was the onions took on a deep mahogany color, they were soft like butter, and had the most incredible flavor. 


 


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Risottogirl's picture

(post #30492, reply #26 of 118)

They used parchment with a small hole cut in the center. 


I use this method for a LOT of things, butter glazing carrots, pearl onions like you mentioned, even when I do rice in the oven.


Another one of those little things I learned from crabby, old French chefs (and I still do!) :)


I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate
Julia Child

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

Biscuits's picture

(post #30492, reply #27 of 118)

Crabby old French (or Belgian!) Chefs are a PITA, and low on explanations, but their technique is always 100%.  I just wish they'd get better with explanation.  I work better when I know WHY I'm doing something instead of "just because that's they way you do it." (G)

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Risottogirl's picture

(post #30492, reply #29 of 118)

Ain't THAT the truth! But they are a dying breed...literally.


There is a lot more "explanantion" occuring nowadays as many of the youngsters here become "apprentices" not at age 12 or 14 but after earning a "bac" from a technical school culinary program that includes kitchen mangement skills. These kids question everything, asking 100,000 question:


WHY, chef, does it have to be done that way?


And they expect (and get) answers!


I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate
Julia Child

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

KarenP's picture

(post #30492, reply #44 of 118)

   I'm one of those with Molly Steven's book about braising, which I just love.  She talks about one of the basics of braising is to trap the braising liquid in the cooking vessel and the parchment with a tight lid assists in that. Covering the meat directly means that it will braise in the small amount of liquid and not steam in the condensation that arises.  She also talks about using foil if the lid for a pot will not fit properly and in that instance not using parchment.  Some pots are designed with little bumps inside the lid to capture moisture which will then drip back down into the liquid.
  I've not committed this book to memory yet and have made a half dozen items from it so far.  What I'm pay attention to while trying the different items are the basics she lists in the beginning of the book.  These include the type of cooking pot--size, shape and weight.  What items are best for braising.  Browing methods.  Building flavor.   Top of stove and in oven braises.  Quick -vs- slow braises. 
  You've chosen a great topic.

Biscuits's picture

(post #30492, reply #24 of 118)

BTW, is it just me, or does beef (with the exception of a several cuts of steak) seem to have very little flavor on its own?  Maybe it's a recent thing, a change in diet of beef in general?


I know that DH and I rarely eat it anymore, preferring pork and lamb and chicken because they have more flavor. 


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Glenys's picture

(post #30492, reply #30 of 118)

I think supermarket beef, which in Canada happens to be quite good, but in general, just doesn't get the aging or the diet to develop flavour.
Here in Western Canada we tend to get grass fed beef, usually only "fed" when they're ready for market. Even so, beef that's been dry-aged, hung for a month is another story. My butcher hangs up to 45 days.
Another issue is the cut. Like the ubiquitous boneless, skinless chicken breast, leaner quick cooking cuts have little flavour until manipulated with searing etc. If we go back to well marbled cuts, bone on, the flavour returns. My home repertoire is usually rib eye, prime rib with bone and short ribs for braising.

samchang's picture

(post #30492, reply #49 of 118)

*BTW, is it just me, or does beef (with the exception of a several cuts of steak) seem to have very little flavor on its own?  Maybe it's a recent thing, a change in diet of beef in general?*

It's the beef, I never buy grain fed beef anymore, and I'll pay the premium if I have to to get grass fed. A much better flavor, deeper and beefier, and a better, non-mushy texture. BTW, for a great but depressing read, here's Michael Pollan's piece about what it takes t turn a steer into hamburger these days. It also tells you just how unnatural feeding grain to cows really is and the disastrous results that follow: http://www.nehbc.org/pollan1.html