By Rona Lewis
Photos by Cathy Arkle
Like my lessons for cooking poultry, last week and this week were all about how to prepare with dry and wet techniques. This week was all about braising meat and the best cuts to do that.
This week’s class was a little different because of the time it takes to braise meat. May had us cook first and learn later. Braising takes hours. If we had done it the other way, dinner would have been served at 3AM!
So, we got prepping ASAP and within the hour had recipes like Braised Short Ribs and Beef Bourguignon simmering away in the over and on the stovetop. I got to cook a veal dish, which you’ll read about at the end of my story.
The best cuts of meat for stewing and braising are those with more muscle. They’re not as evenly textured and have a bit more connective tissue. This tissue is what makes a great sauce-hearty and thick. Cuts like chuck and shoulder are perfect for slow cooking. When talking beef, specifically, chuck-which pork doesn’t have- can be ground or whole. Whole, it’s the classic choice for pot roast or beef stew.
Brisket is another good choice. From the chest area, brisket has a thick layer of fat on one side. You can cut that down before cooking. This is the cut of meat used for cured meats like pastrami and corned beef. Same principle, different spices. In pork, the brisket is the same as rib tips.
Beef Short ribs are often used for Korean BBQ and English style. This cut of meat is also known as Flanken. Its bone-in so can be very flavorful. Short ribs come from behind the shoulder-near the ribs, obviously. My Mom used this cut to put in her famous Garbage Soup. Yes-it had all kinds of “garbage” in it…food wise that is. I grew up on it and it is still delicious.
Beef shanks come from the leg and are a pretty tough piece of meat, so slow cooking is perfect for slow cooking.
Pork Butt is THE cut to use when braising pig parts. It actually comes from the shoulder. Why is it called ‘butt’ when it’s from the other end? According to the Pork Board, “In pre-revolutionary New England and into the Revolutionary War, some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or “high on the hog,” like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels (also known as “butts”) for storage and shipment.”
Now you know….
Pork butt is used for pulled pork and most BBQ styles. The ribs in the loin section are often used for BBQ ribs and the belly section of the ribs is used for what we know as ‘spare’ ribs. Hams are from the hind legs and is made like a pot roast. It’s mostly processed and brined in the South. In Italy, it’s salted and dried then thinly sliced for Prosciutto.
Lamb also has good cuts for slow cooking. The shoulder is popular for stews. It’s what I used for the recipe below and the shanks, which you might know if you’ve ever had Osso Bucco.
Getting all this information took about ½ hour. Then, we got to wait. And wait some more. Just like when we braised poultry. The results however….are worth it.
Cathy got to make Pork Butt with Port and Prunes. Here’s her recipe on Cathy’s Blog.
My veal dish: