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.
I personally use beurre manie - will say equal portions of unsalted butter and flour kneaded together - to thicken to the desired consistency.
Although, if you want just a jus why not leave it like it is, perhaps with just a bit of reduction by boiling away some water.
I also experimented with finely chopped onions and slow cook them to a paste. No flour; ideal for lower calories.
I flip once mid way through the cooking process. Wouldn't hurt to do it 2-3 times.
Rest the meat:
Probably no need in resting braised meat. That is more for roasting. However, you will need to pull it out while you prepare the sauce anyway.
When I braise, I brown the meat and i cook a mirepoix or at least onions and garlic so when I am through with that I add 2 tablespoons flour in and stir it up for a minute or two. then deglaze with wine and stock. If the sauce still isn't thick enough, you can add a slurry of water and cornstarch or defat and reduce. You can even thicken by taking the veggies you cooked it with and pureeing them and add them back in.
I like to add "better than Bouillon" base to the broth. gives it a much richer taste.
I would definitely defat the sauce.
So just to clarify you brown the meat first, remove it from the pan, add mirepoix ingredients to the pan to sweat, add flour to the pan, and then deglaze? I actually haven't any recipes that specifically use that technique, but it makes sense. Are there any braising tradeoffs/benefits from braising in a thicker liquid?
None that I know of except that the flour taste is well cooked out. As far as the technique, I learned it from cook's Illustrated. You definitely want to brown the meat. That really adds a lot of flavor and the roast isn't gray when your through.
Oh for left overs, my wife makes what she calls ghoulash. She breaks up the meat sautes some onions and veggies. adds some beef stock to the left over gravy. Throws some frozen peas in at the last. serves it over noodles.
Once I braise my meat of choice, I usually strain the liquid and skim the fat into a small bowl. I then make a beurre manié like dough with the meat fat and some flour and use it to thicken the liquid into a delicious sauce. I mainly use this method when I braise beef short ribs.
The braise that I make most often is brisket. but I would guess that I would do more or less that same for all meats.
1) I don't flip the meat but I do occasionally baste the meat so the liquid goes over the top of the meat.
2) I rest the meat on a separate plate, mostly so that it cools down quicker and I can get to the slicing.
3) To thicken the sauce a bit, I put some of the cooked carrots and onions in a separate bowl with a little of the liquid and then I use my immersion blender to mash it up. Then I mix this back in with the rest of the sauce. It doesn't make it thick, by any means, but just gives it some heft. (this was a tip I picked up here on CH a few years ago.)
4) Definitely better a day or 2 later. When the meat is cool enough, I slice it and layer it with the sauce in a clean Le Creuset. The whole thing goes in the refrigerator for a day or 2. On the day that I am serving it, I take the Le Creuset out of the refrigerator early in the day. remove any layer of fat and let it get to room temperature. Then it goes into the oven at around 325 for about an hour to reheat. I find that if it goes straight from the refrigerator to the oven, it is so cold and it takes much longer to reheat.
valerie, could you give us a quick version of your brisket recipe? Not so much ingredient amounts, time or temperature, but basic ingredients, seasoning preferences and procedure? It's been over ten years since I tried cooking some, with only moderate success, and I'm getting interested again. And one of the warehouse chains in the area regularly has good brisket for relatively cheap.
re: Will Owen
I'm not Valerie, but I love this recipe, minus the cream and horseradish step. You can even skip the mushrooms and just reduce, but it's MUCH better with them:
I've begun using this without the mushrooms for almost all my braises of short ribs, chuck roasts, etc.
re: Will Owen
My brisket recipe is based on this one for short ribs. It's sweet, if you like that kind of flavor for brisket. Depending on how much brisket I am making, I usually double, or even triple, the amount of sauce. Also, I add way more onions than called for, plus toward the end I add carrots so they get soft, but not turn to mush. And I use crushed pineapple, rather than chunks of pineapple, so it basically disappears in the sauce but leaves the flavor. People can't figure out what the taste is but love it. I cook it on 300 or 325 (I always forget) for about 4 hours and I keep it covered the whole time.
re: Will Owen
Braising usually revolves the following components
COOKING LIQUID: Perhaps the item having the biggest effect will be the choice of cooking liquid. The two most popular will be
1) ALL (bf/ckn/veg) stock or
2) (usually red w beef) wine, of which there are over 1,000 flavors mixed maybe 1/3 or 1/2 with (bf/ckn/veg) stock.
3) Other choices include apple cider, pineapple juice, etc.
VEGGIES: Many people will start with celery, onions, and carrots - your basic aromatic veggies although some leave one or more out - then add mushrooms, leeks, parsnips or whatever is on sale or in season that week. A lot of people don't normally think of corn, green beans, other kinds of beans, or peas as braise-type veggies - because they are not aromatics - but they just might "spark" a braise dish for you. I just saw Tyler from "Tyler's Ultimate" on Food Network put peas into his braise dish just the other day.
A big question is whether to use tomatoes or not. I generally prefer tomatoes for pasta dishes and don't want them in my usual beef-oriented "meat and potatoes" type braises. A large variation I notice in recipes is that some people put all veggies in the beginning and pitch them. Others put all in the beginning and leave them to eat. While others won't put veggies in until the cooking process is half done, then leave them in to eat.
Another choice is potatoes - depending on whether the dish will be it's "own" meal - or omit them and serve with pasta or rice or mashed potatoes.
HERBS: The basic herbs usually involve garlic, parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves. Others may get more exotic with oregano or curry or basil.
1. It's completely up to you. If I notice the top is becoming too brown or dry, I'll flip, if it looks fine, I don't.
2. I rest the meat in the liquid for 10-20 min, then move it to a plate to break into "chunks" or shred. After shredding, I cover loosely with foil. It can still dry out.
3. I strain the braising liquid into a gravy separator. This allows you to use the liquid while leaving the fat in the container. (You can strain the fat & refrigerate for later use) Then I reduce a little & add any other seasonings. My favorite way to thicken the sauce is to use a buerre manie, which is softend butter mixed with flour. Add it to the heated sauce & whisk thouroughly, let come to a gentle boil, season with salt & serve. You can also keep any remaining sauce to use a base for soup or another meal. (it can be frozen & kept for a month
or so). You can add the meat back to the pot or serve the sauce separately.
Other options for thickening:
You could use a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry. Flour is a bit trickier & tends to lump more unless you start with a roux. Some people have good results with Wondra, but the buerre manie just adds that extra touch from the butter.
Michael Ruhlman's book "Ratio" has a great chapter about thickeners, if you want to read more about it. I second All About Braising by Molly Stevens. It's a very informative book with some great recipes.
4. You can store the meat directly in the sauce & it will taste even better the next day. Just put the pan on the stove or in the oven & slowly reheat. You're choice whether to keep the meat whole or shred it. Personally, I think it would be harder to reheat a large chunk of meat, it would dry out & defeat the purpose of braising it. I would shred it or put in small chunks.
You can do this with any kind of fatty meat. Just make sure you braise it long enough to break down the fat or the meat will be tough & dry. If you have an enamaled cast iron pot, even better. Oh & using a cut of meat with the bone still in will give you much better flavor than ones without a bone.
I love braised foods - and if you want to know about the cooking process in detail I suggest All About Braising by Molly Stevens - great book!
Here's how I braise, I learned this in school and the method took my braises to the next level....
brown the meat - remove, brown the veg -
deglaze the pan (a heavy enamel pot) - add cooking liquid - add the meat back - liquid should come 1/2 to 2/3 up the sides of the meat -
if the liquid is acidic (which is usually is) - cut a round of parchment paper to fit inside of the pot - then cover w tin foil and the lid
Place in an oven no hotter than 325
Cook - without looking for 1 - 2 hrs - depending on the size of the cut of meat.
Check for doneness - meat should be very tender but not necessarily falling off the bone (that's not bad though).
Remove meat and strain and discard veggies (w/ osso bucco I sometimes use an immerision blender to blend about 1/2 the veg back into the sauce).
Reduce the liquid and then season (it's important not to season too much prior to reducing so that you don't over salt your sauce).
Add meat back or plate and top with sauce. Yum!
A couple notes on sauces:
Think of your braising liquid as essentially a seasoned stock. You can reduce it to demi-glace-like consistency (meaning reduce the hell out of it), thicken it with a starch of some sort, or use it almost or completely as is, depending on application and how you intend to construct your plates.
But I have also used braising liquids very much like a stock in other ways - I've taken some of the liquid from braising pork and used it as a base to create a mole sauce that both echos the flavors of the meat and bring something entirely new to the plate. I've also used braising liquids as a base for a soup to serve with the meat I've put into a sandwich.
Point is you have many options with braising liquid.
1) I usually turn or otherwise stir on occassion to keep the bottoms from catching.
2) Rest in liquid.
3) Reduction, beurre manié, immersion blending are all good techniques depending on what's in the braising liquid. For your chops, I'd probably reduce and finish the sauce with beurre manié.
4) I put leftovers into tupperware with unadulterated braising liquid. I reheat in the pot/microwave and finish sauces as necessary in the future.
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).
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.
re: Will Owen
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.
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...)
"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..."
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.