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Best vs. Worst cuts for Braising? Anyone have a list?

This is my first ever posting of a topic so apologies if this question has been asked and answered already elsewhere.

I would like to get advice on which cuts of meat you always braise, and which cuts/roasts that you NEVER do so as they would get tough. A list of Yes and a list of Never for this technique and why.

I recently did a lamb shoulder according to the recipe that Will Owen posted from LA Times (I think) and it was a revelation. It has changed the way I look at roasting - esp. in terms of the length of time (long). I poured over many posts that touched on this topic. I want to learn a lot more about this - the meat was the best we EVER had and I am keen to eat like this more regularly!

I think I understand that shoulder is always good to do braising due to the connective tissue/collagen that break down under long slow cooking and contribute to the buttery softness of the meat. And I also have read that other cuts are lacking in this. Is there a list that shows which cuts have a lot of the connective tissue that would lend themselves well to braising? I have seen references here and there to tri-tip as being good for this but maybe only a few hours. That made me confused as I thought the longer the braise the better the meat. I seem to recall one post mentioning chuck roast also??

I would welcome your experience in terms of type (pork, beef, lamb), cut of meat, size/weight, and how long at low/slow produces the best meat. Right now I am thinking that the longer the better in all cases (of cuts appropriate for the braise).

I would be grateful for any and all advice.

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  1. The only stuff I've had bad results braising is extremely lean meat. Like boneless skinless white meat comes out dry and weird, but boneless skinless thighs are fine. I think you only need a little bit of fat/connective tissue (maybe I could even have made it work with the breasts if I added some fat to the braising liquid). Time is very flexible, but I braise at least until the connective tissue and fat have dissolved. Size of the meat shouldn't matter either.

    1. You are right, shoulders are always good. Loin or tenderloin of anything is lean and not good for braising. Fattier = better for braising, leaner = worse. Pork belly, for example is fabulous! As are short ribs of beef. Dark meat poultry is better than white meat for braising. The best resource to learn about braising is Molly Stevens' wonderful book, All About Braising, which we did as a COTM awhile back, master thread here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3301... You can likely get a copy of the book from your library, or there are often cheap used copies available for sale on-line. Worth it!

      1. Chuck roast of beef is great for braising. You are right, you want to use a cut that has a fair amount of fat and connective tissue. So think about cuts that come from well-used muscles of the animal. Shoulders and legs immediately come to mind. One of the best braised dishes I have ever eaten was made with lamb neck slowly braised for seven hours.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Euonymous

          I second lamb neck for braising. An easy way is in the crockpot. Just brown the neck pieces, remove from pan and saute some onions and garlic with some crushed tomatoes and a little wine. Add to crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours. It makes a wonderful pasta sauce.

        2. Thx everyone for the great advice. I'll try to get a copy of the Molly Steven's book GretchenS.

          1 Reply
          1. re: twokiwi

            I think you will be glad you did! And I should have said, welcome to the board, we hope you will post lots more, we all learn so much from each other! (And isn't it exciting when a whole new method of cooking opens up for you, I felt the same way with braising....)

          2. This has been gone through a few times.

            Beef anything chuck. Boneless chuck roast, 7 bone chuck roast, Cross rib chuck roast.
            Beef but less popular. boneless shoulder, eye of round, rump roast. These cuts will braise but don't have the connective tissue that chuck does.

            Pork Boston butt. boneless shoulder.
            pork less popular loin.

            Chicken legs and thighs.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Hank Hanover

              Eye round belongs on the Do Not Braise list.

              1. re: Karl S

                Twokiki: always listen to Karl S. The only way with eye round is the Cooks Illustrated low heat roast method which you can find discussed here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6089...
                Eye round, like any loin, is simply too lean to get the unctuous quality you fell in love with. Yes, you can braise it but it will be dry and shreddy.

                1. re: GretchenS

                  I think the best way to use eye of round and rump roast is oven roasted and then sliced for sandwiches especially open-face hot beef sandwiches with plenty of gravy poured on top.

                  1. re: GretchenS

                    Thanks for that reminder. I haven't made it yet altho so many rave about it.

                  2. re: Karl S

                    I wouldn't normally braise eye of round or rump roast but, apparently, they can be braised. On another thread, a chef was insisting that his restaurant braises eye of round and it was very popular. Someone actually went online and checked the menu and there it was eye of round. so I included it as possible but not popular.

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      Lots of things are possible, but braising is about the worst thing that can be inflicted on the eye of round. Too many people treat the round cuts as interchangeable for braising, and they really aren't. I've had it braised, and eye round sucks braised - except for people (who do exist) who like a piece of tough, overcooked lean beef that is moistened entirely by pan sauce or gravy. Those are usually the same people who like London broil grilled well done.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        Karl, I agree that eye of round is certainly not as good for braising as other roasts which I pointed out in my post.
                        Clearly, there are respected people that seem to disagree with you and braise “Eye of round” roast.

                        For example Food Network kitchens at this linkhttp://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes-and-cooki... said “Beef cuts most suitable to braising are: chuck pot roast, brisket, rump roast, short ribs, flank steak, skirt steak, eye round roast, top round roast, shanks, chuck eye roast, arm pot roast, shoulder pot roast, cross rib roast, blade roast, bottom round roast and 7-bone pot roast. Veal cuts best suited to braising are: shanks, neck, rib chop, short ribs, arm roast, blade roast, shoulder eye roast, arm roast, round steak, rump roast, breast, riblet, kidney chop and sirloin steak. Cuts of pork that are best braised are: blade roast, picnic roast, sirloin chop, country style ribs and trotters. Lamb is especially good braised, shanks, rolled breast, shoulder roast, shoulder arm chop, neck, blade chop, riblets and sirloin chop are the cuts most used. And the legs and thighs of poultry are good braised, whether chicken, turkey or duck.”

                        And here is Sara Moulton’s recipe Italian braised pot roast featuring “eye of round”
                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sa...

                        Here are 2 more published recipes that seem to be very highly rated that feature braised “eye of round” roast.

                        Crock pot eye of round rated very highly by viewers on food.com
                        http://www.food.com/recipe/eye-of-rou...

                        Another eye of round braised on food.com rated very high by people that had cooked it.
                        http://www.food.com/recipe/eye-of-rou...

                        Finally this chef responded on the “Pot Roast Help, Please" chowhound thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7282...
                        “ChefLeo ColonialInn stated “Good morning-
                        I have a pot roast recipe that we use in my kitchen. Usually it remains top secret, but we get so many requests for our pot roast we do have this spec available for those who want it. Enjoy, Leo.
                        Colonial Inn Fork Tender Pot Roast
                        Chef Leo Kremer ©
                        It is best that you make your pot roast 1 day ahead of time so you can slice it nice, if you cut it hot it will fall apart (this is a good thing for eating it though
                        )1 pc Eye round of the round choice beef, about 4 lbs.
                        1 ea. Diced onion large
                        1/2 ea. Heads diced celery
                        2 ea. Diced carrots
                        3 ea. Cloves minced garlic
                        - Preheat your oven to 300 degrees
                        - Sear the eye round in a hot heavy bottom pan, le cruset will work very well for this, until it is brown and caramelized.
                        - Take it out and caramelize the vegetables on medium heat. 10-15 mins
                        - Put the tomato paste and garlic in and cook with the vegetables for 3 minutes.
                        - Return the meat to the pan. Put the beef broth and canned tomatoes in and cover with water until the liquid reaches ¾ the way up the sides of the meat. Add the bay leaves
                        - Braise at 300 degrees for roughly 4-6 hours, turning the meat over every hour. Braise it until it is fork tender. (Cooking time can depend on thickness of the meat.
                        - Served the pot roast with the braising sauce. Add some salt and pepper to taste, thicken with cornstarch mixed with water.
                        The keys to great pot roast are to sear the meat well, get it nice and brown on the outside. Next you want to get good color on your vegetables. The most important step is to be patient. If you wait the 4-6 hours you will be cutting your pot roast with a fork, so remember good things come to those who wait. One more suggestion, wait until the end for your salt and pepper. As the liquid reduces it may become too salty if you add the salt too early.
                        This goes great with some buttery, creamy mashed potatoes, steamed baby carrots, and a warm family discussion.”
                        If it simply shouldn’t be braised and should be put on the “Do Not Braise” list, why are so many people braising them? And with apparent success.
                        Again, in my post, I pointed out that the eye of round roast was not as popular to braise as some of the other roasts. I will stand by my statement.

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          I know that people have recommended it and acknowledged as much. I think their recommendations are flawed in this regard. And I am not alone in that view of the treatment of eye round in particular. Yankee Pot Roast as served even in venerable places can involve a poorly chosen piece of meat like eye round; living in New England, I have witnessed this sad state of affairs. It survives as a practice because it has liminal associations with the way people's mothers and grandmothers cooked, not because it was more delicious than using more appropriate cuts. (Chefs in restaurants catering to Classic American Food do not win points for fighting American's liminal associations in that way.)

                          And I don't consider the Food Network a good resource. At all. It's simply a ghost of what it used to be way back when more capable people were part of the picture. That said, I respect Sara Moulton; I just disagree with the choice of cut.

                          But again, remember that the are people who LIKE and PREFER dry tough lean meat moistened only by sauce. For them, braised eye round tastes great. But that's not the usual audience at Chowhound.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            Karl, Hank, Gretchen: thanks for the great responses and links too. My problem was that I did not know which cuts of meat are 'marbley' and have lots of connective tissue - respectively. When my untrained eye looks at a cut of meat I guess I have been seeing the fat on the outside, not realizing that inside it was lean, lean, lean and dry, dry, dry.

                            that is, until I tried this braised lamb shoulder.....((insert heavenly choir here..)

                            anyway - everyone here has given such great advice that now I know exactly what to go for.

                            many thanks for the well researched and reasoned comments to my question !

                            :)

                          2. re: Hank Hanover

                            Did you see some of those highly rated recipes you posted? One has you put italian seasoning, french onion soup mix, etc. w/ eye round into a crockpot and cook away. The other uses cream of mushroom soup, beef bouillion,...into a crockpot w/ the eye. I can't imagine either of those turning out with melt in your mouth delicious beef. Just because it's on the internet and gets good reviews doesn't mean it's a good recipe. I saw a recipe on Allrecipes.com that was highly rated--boiled noodles, tomato soup, cooked ground beef, velveeta cheese layered and baked.

                            I have yet to have a decent eye round that was braised, seared or not. With my TMJ, I haven't been able to eat most of it. Add me to the votes of not using it for that. In the thread with ChefLeo, he was asked about the leanness of eye round but never responded.