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Sep 30, 2007 08:50 AM

Braising...a question

I was braising(for the first time) some beef short ribs and it asked for 2 bottles of wine as the liquid for 8-9 lbs of ribs - I cut the recipe in half...including the wine...and cooked for 2 hours - Needless to say the liquid was so cooked down and scorched that I had no liquid for the sauce

The question is should I have not cut the liquid in half and still used the 2 bottles even though I cut the amount of ribs in half - Is it ok to monitor the meat cooking and add liquid as needed or just follow the suggested amount?


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  1. You should always monitor what you're cooking and make adjustments as needed. It's fine to cut a braising recipe in half. But it usually takes a little experimenting with any recipe to get it dialed in for your equipment and tastes. (Also, it sounds like your temp might have been too high, maybe?) Just make sure you add more liquid next time. And if you need to add more, make sure it's hot liquid, and adjust seasoning accordingly.

    1. Didn't hear you mention about using beef or veal broth as 'the other' liquid? Also, are you braising on the stove top or in an oven? I personally prefer searing/cooking all the ingredients in a hugh heavy dutch oven and then cook/braise/stew the whole thing in the oven at lowish temperature. The end result uaually generates excess liquid ( less evaporation ). Any excess liquid one can always reduce/boil off later on

      1. You needed also to adjust the pot size.

        1. Thanks for the help folks - To further expand on some of your questions

          - Oven @ 375 for 2 hours...lower and slower next time?

          - It didn't call for any broth just the wine...is it ok to mix in some broth and not kill the flavoring? - I did the searing on stove top then into the oven to finish - That is what I was hoping for and didn't get was the extra liquid to make a nice reduction for a finishing sauce

          - I used a 8qt Dutch Oven with Cover...was that too big? I didn't want to crowd the meat thinking it wouldn't cook all in a smaller pot

          Thanks again folks!

          12 Replies
          1. re: hncreature

            When you braise, ideally it's great if you have parchment or kitchen paper, cut in a circle the diameter of your pot to cover the contents and braising liquid. Then have the lid ajar. In Italy, it is as common to find things braising on top of the stove as it is in the oven, and I think more so actually, since the oven originally was typically communal and fired up once a week. If you are going to use foil for a lasagna shaped pan say, be sure that it is crimped really well around the edges, and then slashed a few times to allow steam to escape, or you will end up boiling the meat. The liquid (to my taste) should be no more than about 1/4 to a 1/3 of the way up, whatever it is you are braising. Two bottles of wine, sounds like a massive amount--possibly delicious but especially if you have other aromatics and vegetables in your braise, you can get away with cutting the wine down to at least half, even a quarter, and adding water. Be sure the water is hot, as someone else suggested, so that you don't lower the cooking temperature. I braise at 350 degrees F. Braising is a slow and gentle method. Check the temp of your oven with one of those cheap little thermometers you can hang from a rack as back up. Some ovens can vary wildly. The other thing is, braising is great, because it doesn't take a whole lot of work once the pot is cooking, but you need to babysit. Every twenty minutes or so, open things up, take a look, if the recipe calls for turning (I always turn ribs when I braise), turn, and you if everything is right, you might need even an hour and a half until the ribs are really tender. (Don't get tricked into thinking the longer the better though, because if you go to long, the meat just dries out and gets hard.) fayefood.com

            1. re: hncreature

              Interesting. I use a 6qt LC type dutch oven covered and I always have about the same amount liquid after cooking as when I started. I usually do one package of short ribs or about 4-5 ribs. I often put half a bottle of wine and some broth to about half way up the meat of more but have never had the loss of liquid that you described and I usually cook mine for at least 3 hours but at a lower temperature say 275-325 depending. You can monitor not only for the amount of liquid but to judge when the meat is fork tender. You can braise too long and end up with meat that has lost too much moisture.

              1. re: hncreature

                375 is high for braising. It doesn't speed up the cooking, but makes the liquid evaporate faster, with a the higher risk of it drying out.

                The seal of the lid is more important than the size of the pot. If the seal is good, evaporated liquid doesn't escape. Sometimes all you need is a layer of foil under the lid to create a good seal.

                If you are low on liquid at the end of the cooking, you can add some (possibly after removing the meat). The flavors are still there coating the sides, bottom (and top) of the pan.


                1. re: hncreature

                  375 is not a braising temp. 250-300 (325 max, and that's too high for certain cuts) is braising. Slow-moderate oven. Lower (temp) and longer is better.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    I know those sorts of temperatures and times are normal braising ones. But what is wrong with higher temperatures? I suspect it has more to do with drying out, rather than the higher heat damaging the meat. I'm thinking for example of pressure cooking. With pressure the temperatures get up towards 250F, but since the cooker is well sealed, things don't dry out.

                    I haven't used a pressure cooker in some time, but my impression is that the results are often as good as the low and slow braises. But maybe the pros and cons of pressure cooking meats is another topic.


                    1. re: paulj

                      Well, 250F is a great braising temperature in an oven as well.

                      The issue has to do with the types of tissues that are being cooked in braising cuts of meat. Lower heat cooks them in a better order, as it were.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        And fish even lower, at about 149.

                        1. re: fayehess

                          Well, yes, proteins coagulate at 140F, and poaching is done at a simmer (185F-ish). Tough meats like shoulder need to be cooked until they reach 195F-205F in order to get the collagen and other tissues to finally relax and release - which is revealed when you can pulled them apart with a fork; if the meat isn't cooked to that point, they won't be as tender. It's an inversion of what happens when you cook tender cuts of meat like ribs and loins.

                      2. re: paulj

                        Yes, pressure cooking is another topic, but to respond to your point.. the temps with pressure cooking are less important than the pressure. I figure the pressure breaks down a lot of those meat/cartilage fibers ... completely separate from the heat and other factors.

                        1. re: k_d

                          I don't think so. Higher pressure makes water boil at a higher temperature.

                          If pressure were the factor, then food submerged in a deep pot would cook faster than food that is barely under water. Note also that pressure cookers are particularly popular at high altitudes. Without the extra pressure, food like potatoes and beans take much longer to cook at altitude because the boiling temperature is lower.

                          But, back to braising. I suspect that, whether the oven is at 250 or 375, the liquid in a covered dutch oven is close to boiling, e.g. 212. I should verify this with my probe thermometer next time I braise a dish. The meat that is not submerged might be exposed to somewhat higher temperatures with the hotter oven.


                          1. re: paulj

                            After looking at some pressure cooker sites
                            e.g. http://missvickie.com/index.html
                            I should say that pressure is also important in that it helps force the high temperature steam into the food.


                      3. re: Karl S

                        Thank you for that. Somewhere along the line I was working jobs where I wanted to get out of the kitchen ASAP (private chefing for a woman that asked me not to wear shoes, and to clean the floor as I cooked by using rags under my feet) I started to pump the volume up on the oven to 350 and then never went back. (I think it was the stress that stole my braising memory). You are absolutely right.

                    2. Definately adding some more liquid during the cooking would have helped. I also always go lower and slower. I usually braise my meat in the over for about 3 hrs at no more than 325^ . I have had to adjust this to get it just the liquids just right and when I changed from a LeCreuset pot to a Staub I had to modify once again. I always add broth as well as the wine for more flavor. Better luck to yo next time!