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Initial Boil to Get Rid of Impurities in Meat

Recently, I've been reading recipes that call for an initial boil of meat / bones to "get rid of the impurities." These recipes range from stock recipes to oxtail braises.

Just curious, how many people actually do this and does it affect the taste of the recipe? My mother (and I) always just skimmed the scum off the stocks as it cooked instead of boiling the bones first, giving the bones a quick rinse, and then adding fresh water to the stock pot.

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  1. I do this all the time with whole chickens (for chicken soup), beef (for beef stews and the like), pork ribs and bone (for pork bone soup), as well as oxtail.

    I've never found that this affected the taste in any way but in a positive fashion -- makes the soups or stews taste a bit "cleaner" if that's a right word to use.

    Note, this is for soups, not for making stocks (which normally I use only things like chicken feet, neck, wings, bones, etc.)

    1. I think it depends on what kind of flavor you're looking for. I know this technique is ubiquitous in korean soup making...

      4 Replies
      1. re: joonjoon

        I'll have to research this. My instinct is that it sounds bogus.

        Seems like after thoroughly rinsing the meet prior to cooking, you would never want to throw out water from an initial boil, as you would be throwing away flavor/nutrients. Everything I read about slow cooked braises or stews talks about retaining flavor and folding it back into the dish.

        What impurities are we talking about here. I realize there could be many, but are we talking germs, residue from non-organic feed, what?

        Lived in Korea 3 years and studies cooking techniques there. Have never heard of this technique in korean cooking.

        1. re: roster

          it is definitely a common technique in korea, especially for slow cooked soups like oxtail soup, sollongtang, galbi tang, etc.

          1. re: roster

            The initial soak is to loosen congealed blood and any caked dust/dirt/grime.
            The initial boil and subsequent rinse is to remove the loosened matter, bone dust/fragments that embed in meat from cutting, and insect leavings.
            This method is traditional and is probably due to the fact that until fairly recently meats were sold from open air markets with no refrigeration, no glass cases, and no packaging.
            This may have changed somewhat in recent years as Korea has modernized a great deal in the past 3 decades and a number of restaurants have incorporated some western methods.
            Another factor is that a great many Koreans found the smell of some boiling meats (mostly pork) to be unpleasant, thus the addition of ginger to the boiling pot.

            1. re: hannaone

              I make oxtail soup a lot during the winter and have wondered about the process. Thanks for sharing the information.

        2. The same is done for making pho broth.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ChristinaMason

            2nd that, per my mother. Just barely bring to a boil and then transfer the meat over to the big stock pot.

          2. I use this method all the time. I cook a lot of korean soups but actually learned this from a vietnamese cookbook. If you want a clean, clear soup/stock, there is no better method.

            as for boiling away the flavor, I'm sure some is lost but its minimal and you certainly get a reduction of the bitter/irony flavor of blood and scum. I still skim using this method.

            Note that flavor is not the only component of a good soup. Mouth feel is also critical. The colligen doesn't get release with the first boil so your soup/stock will have some awesome mouth feel.

            Remember, after the first boil also clean the pot as a lot of scum sticks to the pot.

            1. If you're concerned about losing the flavor, you can strain through a coffee filter. Always worked for me. It's amazing the amount of scum and bone pieces you catch that would otherwise be present in your delicious soup. Learned the hard way through a chipped tooth.