When the weather begins turning colder, at least here in the Midwest, we stow away our back yard barbeque grills before winter rolls in. It’s a change that signifies many things – warmer clothes, winter sports and the start of Braising Season!
Professional Chefs already know the culinary delights of braising meats. Here’s a primer for the rest of us, and some potential new ideas for your menu.
Braising is a slow cooking method that combines moisture and heat to break down connective tissue and collagen which makes the meat soft and tender. When combined with your favorite mixture of stock, spices and rubs, the end result is a delicious hearty meal that will warm up your winter. Braised meats are comfort food.
Rule of thumb: Fattier is better for braising, where leaner is worse. If a cut is served as a steak on the menu, it’s probably not the best meat for braising.
Best Cuts to Braise
The best cuts for braising are the locomotive muscles from the animal; they are the muscles that are most moved by the animal. Think: Shoulder, Tail, Cheeks, Ribs (Short), Shank, Feet. These muscles are fattier with more connective tissue that is rich in collagen. When slowly cooked to about 185°F, the intramuscular fat and collagen break down and melt, tenderizing the meat and making it more flavorful and juicy.
Beef – Chuck, Brisket, Top Round Roast, Bottom Round Roast, Short Ribs, Cheeks, Shanks (Osso Bucco), Ox Tails
Veal – Shanks (Osso Bucco), Neck, Chuck (shoulder), Round, Short Ribs, Breast
Pork – Blade Roast, Picnic Roast, Shanks, Cheeks
Lamb – Shanks, Shoulder, Arm, Chuck
Cost Wise & Plate Beautiful
Braised meats are also an economical menu choice. They are typically indicative to less costly cuts, yet plate rich and hearty – the perfect marriage. Go for the “wow” factor and try having your bone-in meats “French Cut” to expose the bone; the affect makes for a beautiful plate presentation.
My favorite cuts for braising are beef short ribs. Buedel Fine Meats fabricates a variety of beef short ribs from traditional 3-bone short ribs to Tomahawk Cut single or double bone-in short ribs. Boneless short ribs can also be rolled & tied before braising for a unique plate presentation.
Enjoy the Braising Season, before you know it we’ll be breaking out the grills again.