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Feb 25, 2008 11:07 PM

Why both marinate and braise?

I've recently made a couple of recipes that call for marinating meat (in one case stewing beef, in the second lamb shanks) and then braising or stewing the meat in the marinade (plus a few other ingredients) for several hours.

I have to confess I skipped the marinating step. I don't understand why marinating first would make any improvement to just stewing in the marinade.

Will somebody explain please?

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  1. Funny you should ask! At this very moment there is a 4-pound bottom round roast in the fridge 'marinating' in a dry rub. The dry rub is composed mainly of ground chiles with a few ground herbs for flavor along with slivers of fresh garlic inserted into the meat as of yesterday afternoon. I plan on braising this roast in the oven at 200 degrees today using some red wine as part of the liquid. I'm hoping to produce meat that is braised only to rare doneness.

    The reason for the long marinating in the dry rub is so the meat absorbs some of the flavor before I brown it just before adding the liquid. If this works, I will then allow the roast to be refrigerated over night before thinly slicing it to be used as a substitute for store bought cold cuts. Who knows what kind of poison has been used to make the commercial cold cuts?

    I've successfully done this before with pork loin. The sliced meat is wrapped in several small amounts, and then all but one of the wrapped portions are frozen to be used a little at a time.

    Hopefully this stuff will taste great as sandwiches on home baked rye bread along with some slices of provolone. No, I do not make the provolone. <vbg>

    BTW, the gravy produced by braising will be cooled so that fat can be removed. The defatted gravy then will be saved for my next batch of minestrone.

    1. The acid in a marinade tenderizes the meat, increasing its ability to retain moisture while at the same time infusing the meat with the flavors of the marinade. As it cooks, meat tissue loses moisture and then reabsorbs it again as it cools, which is one reason braised meats often taste better after having been refrigerated overnight. Next time you make a braise, try marinating only half the meat and see if it makes a difference to you in flavor or texture. If it doesn’t, you needn’t bother with it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JoanN

        I should add that in both the recipes I referred to, the meat is cooked to the falling-apart stage. I often make marinated flank steak, and in that case I of course see how the marinade tenderizes and flavors meat that is cooked quickly to a rare or medium stage.

      2. don't marinate - see if you can taste the diff - I'll bet you can't. My belief: 50% of recipes contain mistakes or irrelevant steps

        1. John Besh has an UNBELIEVABLE short rib recipe that marinates the ribs over night in the red wine it will braise in the next day. The depth of the flavor after braising was head and shoulders above any short rib recipe jfood has ever eaten.

          In the future even if the recipe does not suggest this step, jfood will absolutely marinate the ribs over night before searing. Sunday short ribs always start on friday night at casa jfood.

          11 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            That's great to know - it never occured to me, but makes perfect since. Where did you get the Besh recipe? I'm still wedded to the Balthazar one.

            1. re: MMRuth


              Interesting that Jfood has on the gotta try list, the Balthazar short ribs recipe based on your recommendation.

              Here is the link to the Besh recipe:


              Hope you enjoy

              1. re: jfood

                Thanks - I'll check it out - haven't made short ribs for a while! Maybe this weekend.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Here's another URL that jfood can look at (firewall issues) and this is the one he used, not sure about esquire because he can not see.


                  Need to see the price at t he butcher before committing, been a wide range of price increases over the last weeks, some good some not so.


                  1. re: jfood

                    Did you mean to post another URL? I see a wide range of prices for shortribs - but $6.00 or so a pound seems the norm.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      went back and added the URL. range for SRs has been $5-9 over the past couple of weeks, tenderloin $16-24 (50-100% variance over lower end). Plus jfood always doubles the meat (usually have 7-8lb's) in a recipe because they always seem to have too high a liquid to meat ratio (except for Boulud who has 3 bottles in his recipe, wake up big guy noone uses 3 bottles at home).

                      1. re: jfood

                        Ha - 3 bottles - that's a bit much even for us!

                2. re: jfood


                  Like the notion of overnight marinating, but don't see where Besh mentions it in his recipe?

                  MM, agree with the Balthazar recipe for short ribs--a big favorite, but shifting gears a bit, I've got turned on to a lamb shank recipe recently that is so awesome I find it hard to go back to short ribs. And I'm generally not a big fan of Emeril's, but give this a shot. I serve it over garlic mashers...


                  1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                    go to the MSNBC site. The first para in the recipe calls for 12 hours marinating.

                    If you like Allison Steele as background DJ-music as you cook from midnight to 4AM then you marinate by day and braise at night. Sounds like the title to a Coen Brother movie.

                    In any event the recipe is fantastic.

                    1. re: jfood

                      well - i'll try it. Sounds great. 5 hours tho??? A bit much? Why braise on the burner and not in the oven - does not make sense to me. Put the dutch oven in the oven - uniform heat.

                      1. re: marcharry

                        jfood changed it to go in theoven. he agrees that braising in oven, not stove, he should have mentioned, sorry. And he left in for about 4-5 hours. Then in the fridge overnight and reheated the next day.

            2. Well, unfortunately these folks aren't very astute readers... Not one answer properly addressed the question! To address a few of these responses : First, a dry rub is NOT a marinade, so ignore that one ... Secondly, thank you, Joan, but we KNOW what a marinade does! Again, that wasn't the question...

              The question IS: why marinate first, then, when cooking, braise in basically the same marinade? I believe that "wearybashful" is trying to say that this seems redundant, and is possibly overkill.

              My thoughts are- I agree, this seems like too much. Marinades are powerfully flavored and often contain large amounts of sodium. I think that by doubling up, the meat in question would probably end up tasting like a solid chunk of the marinade. Gross.
              I personally would marinate the meat, then just cook it covered, with no added liquid. If you feel like you need some liquid, then go with water, or a watered down beef broth.

              This is obviously too late to help you, "wearybashful", but I hope it aides someone!

              3 Replies
              1. re: ddferrari

                The msnbc (link above) calls for
                "Generously season the short ribs with salt and pepper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the zinfandel, sugar, garlic, fresh thyme and a pinch of salt. Marinate the short ribs in the wine mixture for 12 hours in the refrigerator."
                There is not much salt (ok, that depends on how you interpret 'generously season') in this marinade, but a lot of wine. A number of the other classic French and Italian recipes that are basically meat cooked in wine use this approach. In effect, it marinates in the cooking liquid, as opposed to a salty brine.

                I braise a lot, but have not tried this overnight marination very often. It may enhance the flavor in the meat, but, I don't think it is essential. It may also be more valuable with older animals, such as the old cock of 'coq au vin', than with spring chickens.

                1. re: ddferrari

                  Two points.

                  Marinating without braising will work only if the cut of meat is already tender. The marinating step may infuse the flavor, but won't tenderize the meat (many tests have shown marinades don't have much affect on tenderizing beyond the surface). A chuck roast or brisket or pokr shoulder NEEDS the braise.

                  Second, yes, a standard highly salted marinade may be overkill if it's braised with as well. But if you assume the recipe is calling for a lower strength marinade, that shouldn't be an issue.

                  Jfood mentions short ribs marinated in red wine for a day then braised in it. I think this is a good example of when a marinate-then-braise approach works. Your'e basically giving the meat much more time to soak -- you couldn't braise it for 2 days without drying out the meat.

                  1. re: ddferrari

                    I do not disagree but found it interesting that you inferred from the original post that the question was in regards to marinating first then cooking by braising in the SAME marinade. Which of course made me go back and re-read the original post as I didn't notice it was indeed braisesd in the marinade.

                    For whatever reason I misread and figured whatever recipe called for this was marianting in one thing and braising in another. I can't think of a good concrete example, but if that were the case I could understand the two seemingly redundant steps. Perhaps marinating in something too strong or unpleasant on its own in the braise itself but that would lend flavor/tenderizing to the meat itself.

                    But since that's not the case, I would be curious if any taste testing proved any substantial difference.