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Braising with a slow cooker


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Home Cooking Braising

Braising with a slow cooker

LavenderPeony | | Aug 25, 2010 05:03 PM

I posted a few weeks ago as a newbie to braising. I learned from many helpful Chowhounds that a dutch oven is the best equipment for braises. However, I already have a slow cooker so I've been trying my best to make do with braising in it. I know a DO would make life much easier but it'd be great if I could get the slow cooker to work until I save up for a quality DO and gain enough experience to justify buying one.

Umm... it's not going so well! I've tried 3 times since I last posted and the meat is still coming out quite dry and stringy (i.e. it breaks up into strings along the "grain" of the meat).

Here's how I've been doing my braising:

1. Brown in my cast iron wok. In the meantime, get slow cooker turned on and heating up.
2. Deglaze the wok, bring liquid to a boil in the wok.
3. Put meat and braising liquid into slow cooker, on high.
4. Once the liquid starts showing little bubbles (~1 hour later), I turn it down to low.
5. Allow to cook, checking every 30-45 minutes that it isn't bubbling too hard and to flip the meat.
6. I read in Molly Stevens' book that the temperature needs to reach around 200 degrees to turn the collagen into the lovely soft gelatin so I tried my best to maintain the liquid at around 200 by turning the temperature down and propping up the lid a crack

Oh, of course, I've been carefully choosing the right cuts of meat too: beef chuck roast, pork belly, pork shoulder. I believe it is sometime during step 5 and 6 that I'm having troubles. Here are some of the problems I'm having:

- I've cooked the meat anywhere from 2 hours to 9 hours to experiment to see if it was because I wasn't cooking it long enough or cooking it too long... still get the same results

- I realize that the slow cooker seals too well so it builds up an excess of liquid. I've been propping up the lid a crack to try to fix that but this takes away the nice drip of moisture back onto the meat, and the part not submersed in liquid gets dry and hard

- I've even tried cooking night 1, refrigerating, then serving night 2... still hard and dry

- The last one I made was a beef chuck roast. I braised for 8 hours and the part submersed in liquid was PERFECT. The unsubmersed part was hard and dry so I flipped it, braised for another hour. I ended up with the entire roast tasting overdone and dry.

Chowhounds, do you have any suggestions to help me successfully braise in a slow cooker?

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