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Mar 4, 2010 11:22 AM

A Few Questions Beyond the Braising Basics


As I was thinking about dinner tonight, I decided to end my lurker status and seek out additional guidance. I am going to make braised veal shank. But as I ran through the process in my head, I had a few questions:

1.) To Flip or Not To Flip?

When you braise, do you flip your meat during the braising process? I have seen many recipes mention flipping and others make no mention (whether intentionally or not). I could see the advantages of both. When you flip there is little chance of the exposed portion drying out. However if you don't flip, you get a textural difference from the dry heat cooking.

If you sometimes flip, sometimes don't, what are your criteria for determining which method to use?

2.) How to rest the meat?

How do you rest your braised meat? Do you remove it from the liquid and rest it on a plate? Do you leave it in the liquid to rest (the thought being it reabsorbs some of the braising liquid)? Do you loosely cover with aluminum foil in either scenario?

3.) Sauce construction

How do you turn your braising liquid into a delicious sauce? Do you simply reduce it until it reaches an appropriate thickness? I have found even using completely gelatinous chicken stock, the sauce can still end up on the runny side unless heavily reduced (1/4 the original volume). Do you instead use rue, slurry, or other approach (such as blending the braising vegetables)?

4.) Better the next day

It's a fairly wide held belief that braises often are better 1 or even 2 days after they are made. What is the ideal way to store them.

Do you leave the meat intact? If so, will you flip the meat at all when it is in the fridge?

Do you remove the meat from the bone, submerging it in the juices to pick up more flavor?

Are there any tips for reheating beyond the simple heat the pan in an over set to low heat (200ish) for 20-30 minutes?

Thanks for any info you can provide.

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  1. 1. I flip if I see a large difference between doneness in the top and bottom sides. I flip, usually.

    2. Rest in the liquid.

    3. Reduce, but I haven't really figured this out yet. Roux + some braising liquid might be the key.

    4. I usually put meat under the broiler for about 10 minutes to reheat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jaykayen

      In terms of the sauce it depends on what kind of sauce I'd like. If I want a more elegant presentation, or lighter sauce I'll generally skim the fat, strain out the aromatics then reduce to desired consistency. If I'd like a more rustic sauce I've found a good way to both thicken and flavour is to emulsify the fat with the liquid and aromatics (thyme stems, rosemary sprigs etc...removed, only vegetables left in) with an immersion blender. The vegetables add flavour and help to thicken the sauce.

      Hope this helps.

    2. I fixed lamb shanks the other day and because of their size, I did turn them occasionally. But when I'm doing a huge pork shoulder roast, I never do and see no difference.

      If I have the time, I always cook the day before, remove the meat from the liquid (leave on the bone(s)) and refrigerate separately. I can then easily lift off the congealed fat which is hard to do if the meat is in the liquid.

      With the lamb shanks, they cooked in various vegetables that I then pureed for the gravy. Usually mine are like sauces. If you want it thicker, I think making a slurry with some of the braising liquid and flour would likely work.

      I reheat in the DO or whatever on low heat.

      And, hey, you "came out" in a great way. Good questions. Welcome to the dark side :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: c oliver

        I find that meat can sometimes dry out when separated from the braising liquid. This is more critical with pieces of chicken versus a large pork shoulder though. The more I think about it's its often not that critical. The only downside of using 2 containers is just that - 2 containers to toss in the dishwasher.

      2. I agree with JK for the most part.

        First and foremost, I suggest braising in the oven versus the stove top. Far easier, less chance of burning.

        I flip the meat so that the sauce can caramelize/brown on the surface of the meat. I don't think I've ever seen a difference between the top and bottom in terms of doneness. When a piece of meat is braised you are basically cooking the bejesus out of it and doneness isn't a huge issue.

        Absolutely rest it in the liquid, but also understand that like I mentioned above, you're not really cooking a prime beef tenderloin here. You want a large piece of braised meat to cool slightly before shredding or slicing, but resting is not quite as important in a braising situation versus oven roasting or grilling when you have high heat and fast searing. On top of that the large amount of sauce/braising liquid usually served with the meat is plenty to help moisten.

        For the sauce there are 3 options you can easily explore. #1 do nothing and serve the braise in a deep plate or wide bowl and have it more like a stew. It will be a little thin in most cases but if you're serving it over rice or noodles or mashed potatoes, you'll not notice a huge difference. #2 you can simply thicken it with a flour roux or another starch like cornstarch. #3 you can remove the meat to a seperate platter and then pour the liquid through a strainer to remove vegetables and things. From there reduce it over medium high heat for several minutes. This would give you a more refined dish (versus option #1) and you can add in a splash of fresh port/wine/sherry and finish the sauce with some butter or cream with extra richness. Fresh herbs are a nice addition here. Just some options.

        For reheating later, I would chop the meat into manageable pieces before refrigerating just so they reheat faster. Store them in the liquid by all means. Don't worry about flipping it while its in the fridge, it will likely be in a congealed hunk of broth/sauce anyway - this is natural and is actually the collagen, etc that you have cooked/braised out of the meat. When reheating just heat it until it's warmed through to your liking. Frankly a broiler sounds far too fast and hot for reheating hunks of meat from the fridge, so I would say rewarm them slowly like you mentioned on the stove or in the oven.

        1. I make sure the meat is covered a little more than halfway and I don't flip, not that flipping is wrong, I just make sure the dutch oven is tightly covered and braised in the oven on low to med low heat.

          I rest the meat wrapped in aluminum foil. I do this because, in answer to #3, reduction is the way to go, IMO. I love the concentration of flavors. I strain out the veggies/herbs, skim off some fat and reduce til liquid coats the back of a spoon, probably 50% reduction.

          Alternatively, you could puree some of the veggies and add back to the stock to thicken it.

          I leave shanks and ribs intact, but I like pot roasts sliced, then stored and reheated in the liquid the next day.

          Reheating to serve a group I do in the oven on low. For a serving or two, I put in a smaller casserole and nuke on low til warm, not boiling hot. (I know, I know...)

          4 Replies
          1. re: mcf

            "I make sure the meat is covered a little more than halfway..."

            Just to clarify (because this is a confusing statement for a new cook), you don't want to cover the meat when braising. You want the liquid to come up about 2/3 or 3/4 the way up the sides of the meat. A better way to say the quote above is "Add enough liquid to bring the liquid level a little more than halfway..."

            1. re: Fuller

              I wrote it the way most of the recipes I've used say to do it; "add liquid to cover the meat a little bit more than halfway." Always works well for me. I never had a moment of confusion about the instruction. :-)

              1. re: mcf

                It's kind of like saying "fully open the umbrella half way." Either way, for anyone who's reading, don't cover the meat with liquid. To each their own.

                1. re: Fuller

                  How do you know I'm not Amish? (Oh, yeah, sitting at a PC... ;-))

          2. Thanks for all of the information everyone. It would appear there are some conflicting schools of thought. That isn't terribly surprising. With a little bit of technique, anything braised comes out delicious. I got a late start on the braise, so my girlfriend opted to eat something else for dinner. That means I'll get to test it out myself.

            I opted to flip the shanks this time around. I certainly have no complaint with the results (though the time I didn't flip, I was also happy). Since I was storing half my meal for 2 days, I only set aside a small amount of sauce. I choose to go with the reduction. I reduced it by at least half. Even with the homemade stock, I don't feel like it had as much body as I would have liked. Granted, it appeared a decent portion of solid clung to the bottom of the pan as I was reducing it. As for storage, the meat fell right off the bone, so I didn't entertain any thoughts of keeping it in tact. I opted to remove the bone and submerge the meat in the braising liquid. We'll see how that turns out Sunday. I have high hopes for it.

            Thanks again for all the feedback. I'd love to hear from more people (and/or what the scientific authorities may have to say on the matter).

            5 Replies
            1. re: mercury529

              I don't consider myself an authority. I'll just say that it is entirely possible to overthink this stuff. ;-)

              1. re: mcf

                Or UNDER-think, even when you've been at it so long you should know better! My pot roast last night was browned, then laid on top of a good pile of sautéed vegetable chunks and about a cup of stock + wine poured in. "Only just up to the meat," I thought, "but it'll sink a bit..." HA!! An hour later, the roast was completely submerged and well on its way to being Boiled Beef. I did manage to lower the level, and wound up with meat that was tasty if not as tender or succulent as I'd wanted. I just failed to remember that not only would the carrots, onion and celery cook down, but would throw off plenty of liquid in the process.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Was that in the oven or a slow cooker? That doesn't sound like too much liquid to me, but I don't know how deep your pile of veggies was. The meat, too, releases a lot of liquid.

                  1. re: mcf

                    It was in the oven. I had one and a half onions, sliced and separated, one chunked carrot, about two stalks of celery and two cloves of garlic. Everything but the carrot simply dissolved, as always happens, so my mistake was forgetting how thoroughly that happens and underestimating the amount of veggie mush there would be. Half-cup is my usual amount of liquid with a roast this small - it was long and wide enough to cover the bottom, but only about 2" thick - and I should have stuck with that. The upside is that after running the immersion blender over the leftover veges/juices, I have a good pint of lovely gravy to make a cottage pie with tonight.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      I see, that makes sense, if it was very small. At least you made yummy gravy.
                      Can't hate that. :-)