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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How to Braise Meat

By Efrona Mor

“To Braise” means browning in fat and cooking covered in a small amount of liquid. It’s a method used to tenderize and intensify flavors in meat or vegetables. Usually inexpensive cuts of meat are best suited for this style of cooking, so it’s an affordable gourmet meal with little fuss.

Listed below are the 4 basic steps to braising meat, and an example chart for different meats and their cooking times, followed by a recipe for: Braised Ginger Beef with Pomegranate Sauce.

1st Start by choosing a cut of meat. Lamb or beef shank, pork or beef shoulder roast, top blade steak, brisket, chuck roast, and short or back ribs are the most common beef, lamb and pork braising choices. Most are tougher cuts of meat with high levels of protein known as collagen. Collagen cooked at low temperatures for long period’s converts to gelatin in the braising process which in turn tenderizes the meat and creates a rich thick sauce. So don’t think you need to buy a tender cut of meat to end up with a good meal. In the end tougher cuts of meat are better for creating the richest flavor and thicker sauce. The secret is in the gentle slow cooking. Chicken and fish are also great choices, however, chicken should not be skinless and bone in is best, preferably legs and thighs, and for fish, shark and swordfish cuts will hold up better than others.

2nd Then brown in fat. Depending on your recipe, most meats are browned first in a small amount of fat for color and flavor enhancing. Using a Dutch Oven or large heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, add your fat, heat to a hot temperature, add the meat and brown on all sides. Usually browning takes 10-20 minutes and is a process that does not cook the meat all the way through, it’s a surface cooking called browning or searing to lock in flavor. Most commonly meat is left whole for braising, but if meats are cut, remember same size portions are the best for even cooking.

Tips: For successful browning, foods must be dry and free of moisture or steaming not browning will result. Also not crowding your pan will allow moisture to escape during the browning process and give you a properly browned item.

3rd Then add your liquid. Liquids can include, wine, apple juice, water, broth or etc. Liquids, however, should not cover the meat. Usually no more than a ¼ - 1 cup is needed and sometimes no liquid is added depending on the recipe. Also at this point other items can be added, onions, garlic, spices, vegetables and etc.

4th Cover and cook on a very low heat, over a stove top, in a slow cooker or in the oven usually for 1 to 4 or more hours, depending on the recipe. Oven cooking is most effective, due to even heat from all sides which offers the best flavor and tenderizing results, along with a less fussy project. ( braising temperatures are 145-300 degrees, inexperienced cooks, however, should not cook below 185-200 without proper equipment for temperature control, meat can spoil if improperly cooked on to low a heat, if there is a simmer (small bubbling) going on in the pot you know your temp is not to low)

Example Cooking Times:

Lamb Shank, four to six shanks each one pound, 2 ½ hours

Shoulder roast 3-4 pound, 3½ - 4 hours

Top blade steaks, 2 ½ to 3 pound, 1 ½ inch thick, 1 ½ to 2 hours

Brisket, 3½ to 5 pound, 1 ½ inch thick, 3-4 hours

Back ribs, 3-4 pounds, 2x2x4 inches, 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours

Short ribs, 3-5 pounds, 2 ½ to 4 hours

Boneless chuck roast, 2½ -3 pounds, 2½ hours

Chicken, bone in, 1 hour

Swordfish, 2-4 pounds, 1 inch thick, ½ to 1 hour

Ginger Beef with Pomegranate Sauce

3 - 4 pound Brisket or Shoulder Roast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 inches of fresh ginger, sliced ¼ inch thick

15 large garlic cloves, pealed and left whole

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup pomegranate syrup (most stores carry this)

1/3 cup brown sugar

Wash the brisket and dry excess moisture from the surface of the meat.

In a heavy pot with tight fitting lid or Dutch oven, heat the oil and brown the brisket and onions together for about 7-10 minutes. Turn the brisket to evenly brown on all sides.
Add the remaining ingredients, cook for about 3-5 minutes until sugar is melted and sauce becomes hot, stir well, cover and bake in a 300o oven for about 3-4 hours, stirring once or twice to baste the meat. (a slow cooker can also be used and will require no stirring, however I like to stir and baste once just because I enjoy checking the progress)

For stove top cooking, cover and keep flame low, and sauce at a slow simmer, stirring about every 30-45 minutes. Cook the brisket for about 3-4 hours, or until meat is tender and sauce has thickened.

If sauce has not thickened to desired thickness when the brisket is ready; remove meat and lid, then reduce for a couple minutes.

Slice meat and arrange on a large platter, pour the sauce over the top and garnish with cherry tomatoes and or parsley.

Efrona Mor

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