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Unread 04-29-2006, 11:33 AM   #1
kcquer
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Default Braising v. roasting

I just watched a very interesting episode of America's Test Kitchen. They were cooking pot roasts. The roasted one chuck roast and braised one.

As this would apply to us, I'm drawing a parallel to foiling (braised) and not wrapped (roasted).

As they explained the cooking process, the collagen will not fully breakdown (and most importantly render into the meat) until it has spent 30 mins over 210*.

We all know that we don't hit those kinds of "internal" temps with a brisket, but the temps in the outer areas of a wrapped brisket, would easily hit that level.

Here's a couple of excerpts from the ATK web site that further explain the cooking process. The first references braising of chuck roasts, the other specifically adresses briskets.


Braising -- searing meat, partially submerging it in liquid in a sealed pot, and then cooking it until fork-tender -- is a classic technique used with tough cuts of meat. A variety of cooks have put forward theories about why and how braising works (as opposed to roasting or boiling). We set out to devise a series of experiments that would explain the mystery of braising.

Before kitchen testing began, we researched the meat itself to better understand how it cooks. Meat (muscle) is made up of two major components: muscle fibers, the long thin strands visible as the “grain” of meat, and connective tissue, the membranous, translucent film that covers the bundles of muscle fiber and gives them structure and support. Muscle fiber is tender because of its high water content (up to 78 percent). Once meat is heated beyond about 120 degrees, the long strands of muscle fiber contract and coil, expelling moisture in much the same way that it’s wrung out of a towel. In contrast, connective tissue is tough because it is composed primarily of collagen, a sturdy protein that is in everything from the cow’s muscle tendons to its hooves. When collagen is cooked at temperatures exceeding 140 degrees, it starts to break down to gelatin, the protein responsible for the tender, rich meat and thick sauces of braised dishes.

In essence, then, meat both dries out as it cooks (meat fibers lose moisture) and becomes softer (the collagen melts). That is why (depending on the cut) meat is best either when cooked rare or pot-roasted—cooked to the point at which the collagen dissolves completely. Anything in between is dry and tough, the worst of both worlds.

This brings us to why braising is an effective cooking technique for tough cuts of meat. To determine the relative advantages of roasting, braising, and boiling, we constructed a simple test. One roast was cooked in a 250-degree oven, one was braised, and one was simmered in enough liquid to cover it. The results were startling. The dry-cooked roast never reached an internal temperature of more than 175 degrees, even after four hours, and the meat was tough and dry. To our great surprise, both the braised and boiled roasts cooked in about the same amount of time, and the results were almost identical. Cutting the roasts in half revealed little difference—both exhibited nearly full melting of the thick bands of connective tissue. As far as the taste and texture of the meat, tasters were hard pressed to find any substantial differences between the two. Both roasts yielded meat that was exceedingly tender, moist, and infused with rich gelatin.

The conclusion? Dry heat (roasting) is ineffective because the meat never gets hot enough to fully melt the collagen. It does not appear that steam heat (braising) enjoys any special ability to soften meat over boiling. Braising has one advantage over simmering or boiling, however—half a pot of liquid reduces to a sauce much faster than a full pot.

Getting It Right: Roasting versus Braising

A distinctive pattern of fat and connective tissue runs through the meat of a chuck roast. When cooked in dry heat, or roasted, the fat and sinew do not break down sufficiently, even after many hours in the oven. Cooking the meat in moist heat, or braising, promotes a more complete breakdown of the fat and connective tissue, yielding very tender meat.


Most cooked briskets are dry, but they are not tough. In contrast, if you cook a steak the way you cook a brisket (that is, until very well done), it will be dry and tough. What makes brisket different?

To find out, we used a Warner-Bratzler meat shear, a device designed to measure tenderness in meat. It uses a motor to push a piece of meat across a dull blade while a simple scale measures the required force. We first cooked very tender meat (tenderloin) in a 3 1/2-hour braise until very well done. Tender when raw, the meat was, according to the meat shear, 188 percent-2.9 times-tougher after braising. Next we cooked the brisket, which, unlike the tenderloin, was tough to begin with. By the end of the first hour of braising time, the meat had become even tougher. But further cooking reversed this trend. When the brisket was ready to come out of the oven (after 3 1/2 hours of braising), it was 28 percent more tender than when raw. What was happening?

The muscle fibers in meat contract and tighten soon after cooking commences. When the muscle fibers contract, they expel moisture and the meat becomes tougher. As the internal temperature of the meat climbs, a second process begins that helps reverse this trend. A tough connective tissue, collagen, begins to melt, turning into soft gelatin. In some cuts of meat, most of the toughening of the muscle is counterbalanced by the conversion of collagen to gelatin. We could see this when we used the meat shear on the brisket. Early measurements showed large variations, and if we looked at the blade after getting a high reading, we almost invariably saw white material-the collagen-streaked along the side. Once the temperature of the meat passed 200 degrees, however, these streaks had disappeared, and the meat had not only softened but also become more uniform in texture.

Extended cooking destroys tender cuts with little collagen (like the tenderloin) as they steadily give up their juices and become drier and tougher. But extended cooking actually improves the texture of tough cuts with lots of sinuous collagen (like brisket). Yes, they lose juices and become dry, but they also become tender as the collagen melts. So if your brisket seems a little tough, put it back in the oven!




So, this would seem to thoroughly explain the advantages of foiling, which contradicts most of my cooking experiences of the last year which have caused me to move away from wrapping meat until its cooked

Any temptation I had to call myself anything but a beginner in the "experience" thread is gone now. Just when you think you have some of this chit figured out, you learn something new that proves you don't know nothin' yet.
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Unread 04-29-2006, 11:46 AM   #2
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Great article.
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Unread 04-29-2006, 12:29 PM   #3
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Great article. Just a thought, since barbecuing with wood for fuel creates a humid cooking environment from the moisture derived from the fuel source, is this somewhat like braising? Obviously not with water in a closed vessel as in braising, but a humid cooking vessel just the same.
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Unread 04-29-2006, 12:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin
Great article. Just a thought, since barbecuing with wood for fuel creates a humid cooking environment from the moisture derived from the fuel source, is this somewhat like braising? Obviously not with water in a closed vessel as in braising, but a humid cooking vessel just the same.
In my opinion, Kevin, that is exactly what happens. And that explains why you can render a brisket tender in a smoke chamber, without foiling, if you want to.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 02:55 PM   #5
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The info I posted above gives a nice description of how meat when cooked gives up first it's juices and then the fat (collagen). Knowing this happens is one thing, but seeing it up close as it happens is a real eye-opener.
I was browning some ground beef for tacos a couple of nights ago and in a matter of a few minutes the whole process takes place right before your eyes. It's actually pretty interesting. Next time you have some burger to brown, keep an eye on it and watch what happens.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 03:10 PM   #6
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LOL

You're messing with my head. I just made my best brisket so far and I never foiled it. Then again it was a CAB & I had been using select.....more variables.

Great read. Thanks.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 03:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
I just made my best brisket so far and I never foiled it.
My best briskets are always the ones I don't wrap too. I guess the info just helps explain why foiling is so effective, not necessarily that its essential to a quality finished product. Foiling is effective, but it's also a comprimise. I prefer unwrapped most of the time, but sometimes that foiled brisket you took out 30 mins late that you chunk up and then slather with the foil juice is pretty damm good!
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Unread 05-11-2006, 03:28 PM   #8
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I love ATK.

The theories about the BBQ pit being a moinst enough environment must have something to them. I've never wrapped a brisket, and have had good, tender, moist results. I have noticed a difference in pork loins between water in the water pan and sand in the water pan. Water is better. But I've also cooked beef chuck roasts in the pit with good results. Regardless, good article.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 03:44 PM   #9
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Oh man, thanks for sharing that. That was great!
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Unread 05-11-2006, 05:00 PM   #10
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Default Are you who do not foil your brisket ... using a liquid container in the chamber?

...AND, are you also spritzing the brisket near the end? There has to be a rational explanation of these two seemingly conflicting processes .... doesn't there ??
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Unread 05-11-2006, 06:17 PM   #11
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The primary purpose of the water pan is for temperature stabilization. I.E. it is just a big mass. The Bandera doesn't have the thermal mass some of the pits built with 1/4" steel have. That is why some folks opt for sand. Water/liquid can only get to 212 degrees so it acts as a temperature regulator. I make my water pan work by using apple juice. Some folks say it doesn't add anything, but it smells so good while I am cooking, I use it for every cook.

Every brisket and butt I have done, I have done without foil. I mopped one butt, but that was the last time I did it as it seemed to be extra work without much gain in the end.

My 2 cents worth.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 06:25 PM   #12
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Default Does the sand get much hotter with 'Dera at ~250*F?

I can check next time. I noticed my 'Dera liquid bowl was bubbling away when I opened the door late in the cook. Seems like getting 30 minutes or so at or above 210*F might not be such a problem. Clearly, many here are getting good results with brisket even without foil.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 08:16 PM   #13
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i would like to hear what those who have cooked on ceramic cookers and steel cookers have to say about this in comparison. the ceramic cookers are supposed to become infused with the moisture of the meat creating a moist cooking environment and thus more tender meat. the only thing i can add on this subject is twice last year for time purposes i finished off butts in the oven, and i used my kitchen hearth for this wich is made out of ceramic, and i got pulled pork that was so rich and moist and tender that it was almost spreadable! i did not prefer the consistance myself but it definately was different than a straight through cook in a regular cooker. any comments? thanks. for reference www.hearthkitchen.com.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 08:17 PM   #14
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Great article, Thanks.
It makes me want to do my own side by side test.
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Unread 05-12-2006, 03:58 AM   #15
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I can see how the hearth can work as far as a mass is concerned, but as far as a ceramic cooker becoming infused with moisture I wonder. Once the ceramic is above 212 degrees there wouldn't be any moisture left except for superheated steam. I would also think the ceramic would explode if there was still moisture trapped or infused at high temps. Oh well, what do I know.
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