Pete Goffe-Wood

December 6, 2017

Slow cooking

Post by Pete

Slow cooking is exactly what it says. It is a long, slow simmer and it covers a couple of cooking methods namely stewing & braising, the only real difference between the two methods is the amount of liquid added and braising is often done in the oven.

  • Slow cooking is perfect for all of the cheaper cuts these are usually all of the hard-working parts – the neck, shins etc. – they have a greater concentration of connective tissue as well as collagen which when simmer slowly for a number of hours turns to gelatine which give these dishes their signature stickiness.
  • Always brown your meat before slow cooking the dark caramelised bit on the meat as well as those that remain in the pot and an important flavour booster as well as adding colour to the dish.
  • When browning, do so in batches as overcrowding the pot will result in meat turn from deep red to grey instead of delicious caramelised brown
  • Even though most recipes will tell you to bring the pot to a boil it is essential to then turn it back down to a slow simmer or as Elizabeth David says “Allow to barely simmer, to tremble or shudder rather.
  • Boiling quickly will result in very dry meat, the slow cooking process allows the connective tissue to separate from the muscle fibers and under these lower slower conditions the fibers absorb rather than expels liquid.
  • Lean meat does not make for good slow cooking and extra fat may need to be added to the pot usually in the form of bacon.
  • Wherever possible keep the skin and bone intact, if this is not possible try and add it to the pot and remove it later if not palatable. The fat and gelatine added by these two elements are vital to the body of the dish.
  • The addition of vegetables to the slow cooking process add another dimension in the form of sugar even if these vegetables are strained out and don’t make it to the table.
  • The flavour and intensity of the cooking liquid on completion of the dish is the essence of slow cooking. If you find that it is a little insipid strain the meat and vegetable through a colander and put the liquid back on the stove to reduce. To do so with the meat still in it would risk the meat over cooking, rather add the meat back to the liquid was the desired consistency or intensity is achieved.
  • When reducing the liquid in a dish, slow cooked or otherwise always remember to hold off seasoning until the desire consistency has been achieved. Anything perfectly seasoned that has then reduced by half will be doubly salty.
  • For best results, it is always preferable to serve the slow cooked dish the following day or days later. This allows the flavours to mingle, settle & develop (particularly in spicy dishes); it also allows the gelatine to set, giving an extra sheen and body to the dish when you reheat it.
  • If this is not practical let try and let the dish sit for an hour or two before serving.
  • When reheating slow cooked dishes do so slowly rather than at a rapid boil as all of your hard work will be undone and your meat may turn to mush.
  • When braising in the oven it is best to bring the dish up to the temperature you want it to cook at and then put in a moderate oven (150ºC)
  • For larger cuts of meat like belly and brisket it is best to cover the pot while in the oven. This traps in a lot of the moisture and the trapped steam is a very gentle cooking that ensures the meat remains moist.
  • When braising birds, it’s best to leave uncovered in the oven as the cooking times are shorter and so there is less chance of all the liquid evaporating.