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to brown or not to brown?

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i'm referring to the western method of browning meats vs. the korean method of not browning meats (making kimchi jigae, for example)....

the koreans (my wife included) say that there is no need to brown the meat to develop the flavor. this is different from blanching the meat, which they do sometimes.

the western method seems to always start with browning the meat to develop flavor and render some fat.

thoughts?

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  1. Do you mean if you're going to be braising it? I definitely prefer to brown it. Otherwise, you end up with more poached meat than braised. It adds texture, develops flavor (not just of the meat, but of whatever spices you coat it with, etc).

    2 Replies
    1. re: katecm

      +1 - browning caramelizes the surface sugars/proteins for added flavor.

      http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/...

      1. re: todao

        +1 You also get some of that lovely caramelization on the pot and therefore in your sauce.

    2. I find the same question in some of the Indian cooking I've been doing lately. Sometimes the meat is browned, but often it is stewed with browning. Although I prefer the browning--maybe because that's what I grew up with and am used to--I keep wondering if I should try it the other way and see how that changes the balance of flavors.

      1. Browning before adding the liquid develops one kind of flavor, but it certainly isn't the only way of adding flavor. It's contribution is more significant in lightly spiced French style dishes, less so in Indian or Korean. And even in France there are classic dishes that don't use it, for example Pot-au-feu. In addition, in a long braise the meat that is exposed to the hot air above the liquid, and juices that collect on the pot sides and lid, experience the same sort of browning. That is, the braising itself develops this type of flavor.

        According to Robuchon, poaching is cooking by total immersion in liquid. Braising is 'cooking in a closed vessel, with some liquid and vegetables, spices or herbs.' Yes, he does add that the meat is 'usually browned'. Stewing is 'slow, covered cooking in a good deal of sauce of liquid'.

        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          Yes, I think this is hitting the nail more for me - that it's a DIFFERENT kind of flavor. It's obvious that browning adds that depth of taste but you might not want that type of flavor...right?

        2. There is an article in today's NY Times discussing just this issue. The writer discusses both Moroccan and Vietnamese dishes where the meat is not browned. He considers the resulting flavors to be lighter but no less interesting and feels it may be a good way to work with stews and such in warmer weather.
          Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/din...

          1 Reply
          1. re: escondido123

            thanks for sharing that escondido...it's interesting.

            according to my korean wife, the reason why they don't brown meats as much is because they don't use a lot of oil in their cooking, unless it's for frying and for seasoning. it's not a big part of their cooking culture - but they do use a lot of broths and they braise sometimes.

          2. In making stews, America's Test kitchens tested browning vs not browning the meat before adding the liquid and other ingredients. They found no difference in taste or tenderness in the final product.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pdxgastro

              so, with that information, then, can we skip the browning part, when making stews, braises, etc.? that is quite a surprising discovery!!!

            2. For me, it depends what I am cooking; it is not one or the other. The NYTimes article summarizes it very well. For North African slow cooked meat dishes, I just heat some fat, add meat, aromatics, spices and slow cook everything for about 10 minutes. Add liquid, cover and simmer. Also I add very little liquid as I've found that slow cooking itself will release juice from the onions, meat ,etc. I almost never have to reduce the braising liquid or need any thickening at the end. Same for Indian curries and Chinese stews.
              For dishes such as osso buco and beef in red wine, I brown the meat before procedure. In French cooking, the classic daube de boeuf and many veal stews, the meat is not brown at all,.

              1. In Indian curries, the meat is not browned because it is thought that the meat absorbs more of the spices and flavors when it is not brown and crusty. I have never tested it, but that's what I do. Also, I like the texture of soft meat, and a crusty meat in an Indian curry can be disconcerting to me. In a long braise, the crust would go away, but I still like the non-browned way. I always brown for western dishes though, to build the fond.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cocktailhour

                  thanks for all the responses and insights. i hope more chowers can share their thoughts!