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Braised Meat

Hey Chowhounds,

I've been making a lot of braised meats lately. Pot roast, stew, ragu... I'm wondering if anybody knows any secrets about getting deep, meaty flavour out of braises. Whenever I eat foods like that in good restaurants, they always seem to have this amazing meatiness which I can't seem to replicate at home I always start by drying the meat off and painstakingly browning it on all sides. Then I sweat off carrots/onions/celery and some mushrooms (sometimes rosemary) in the pan. I deglaze with red wine and add beef stock and a spoonful of tomato paste, and let it cook for a couple hours. My homemade dishes are always very good, but don't have that wow factor, that real pop that you get in restaurants. Anybody have any tips?

Thanks!

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  1. You can try a little soy sauce, Bragg's Amino Acids, or.....beef base. Yep. Sounds like you need some umami goodness---possibly even some MSG. And are you using enough salt?

    Also, try adding the tomato paste right after you sweat the veggies, getting it a little brown in the pot before deglazing. Just be careful not to burn it. You'll extract more flavor that way.

    You can also try dusting your sweated veggies with a little flour and letting that brown before proceeding.

    One more idea: restaurants are notorious for using butter liberally to finish sauces. Might try it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ChristinaMason

      Add worcestershire sauce to that list. Good for adding umami.

    2. I don't used wine in my braises, that would be the first suggestion I would make, try leaving it out.
      And I do this trick: After I have the proper braise temp going; I seal the pot lid on tight, either with foil or some folk make a salt dough. Then I throw it into the oven on low. Wake up the next morning, refrig it and drool all day knowing I have an extra special dinner waiting fro me at home.

      1. The three most important things, IMO, are choice of cut. , searing and sauce reduction. For pot roast, chuck for instance. Then, searing it well followed by deglazing with red wine to get all the carmelized bits into the braising liquid. Braise in liquid that comes only halfway up the side of the meat, remove the meat and strain and skim the liquid, then reduce it until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Flavor and richness intensify the more you reduce the braising liquid. Those deeply colored, rich braises in restaurants are reduced. Sometimes a beurre manie (butter mixed with flour) is swirled into the sauce after it's removed from the heat, but that thickens, it doesn't create beefy flavor, which comes from reduction.

        Also, braising works best at 3-4 hours, at low temp, like 250-300 at most, IME.

        1. Restaurants will stick in more fat, more salt and some sweetness. You can add good old Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce (though I prefer sour fish paste). A sweeter vinegar, like a balsamic or Chinese black vinegar, will give it a balanced depth.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lergnom

            You're right about the sweetness. A little bit of dark brown sugar can be a wonderful thing in a braise/stew.

            And balsamic vinegar does wonderful things to lentil soup, I'll bet it works in beefy braises, too.

          2. Are you truly browning or are you just searing? Proper browning can take a long time. My suggestion would be to get a very deep, dark brown on all sides before you try to add an ingredient to amp up flavor.