Braise Battle Ep. 2
What are the best beef braising cuts?
There are several great options to choose from. Before we dig in, let’s cover what shouldn’t be braised- Lean, tender cuts. Of course, no one is going to braise a high dollar steak, but many people unknowingly choose a cheaper, lean cut and throw that bad boy into the crock pot/instapot. Top round or sirloin tip are great examples. These roasts are relatively inexpensive, however, their leanness and tenderness make them much better suited to hot/dry roasting and slicing. If you were to braise one of these lean/tender cuts, they will shred for sure, however the meat itself will be dry, even when covered in sauce. The cuts you want to choose are those that have some inter- or intra-muscular fat (marbling) and get a lot of work. I break down braisable cuts into three categories: Bone-In for flavor, bone-in for presentation, and boneless.
Cuts with bones that actually add flavor
Contrary to what you may have heard, all bones do not add great flavor. The following cuts have bones that will add extra depth of flavor to your braise as well as excellent texture to your braising liquid.
Oxtail- Oxtail is becoming much more common these days and rightfully so! Coming from the tail, this cut gets continuous work and is loaded with connective tissue which creates the most delicious sauce/stock. Most often, oxtail is a component of a dish rather than the main protein. Oxtail makes great soups and stews and is a great choice for a dish that requires little meat such as pasta dishes, tacos, or even head cheese. Side note: since there isn’t all that much meat on oxtails. Be sure to buy 1 lb per person or more to get a fair amount of meat. The star of the show here is the sauce that oxtail creates. NOTE: oxtail is in extremely short supply. The best way to secure oxtail from Farm Field Table is to place an advance order by calling our store at 248-509-8555.
Beef Shank (osso buco)- Beef shank is one of my personal favorites. Osso Buco, in Italian, means “bone hole” and describes the marrow bone exposed at the center of a cross cut beef shank (typically veal). Beef shank is arguably the hardest working muscle in the body and makes for a particularly unctuous, tender, yet meaty dish. Boneless, rolled and tied shanks are also available and particularly easy to prepare.
Bell Roast / Beef Neck Roast- I can’t begin to tell you how underrated beef neck / beef bell roast is. I personally think that the neck roast is one of the best braising cuts regardless of species. The neck roast is a rich, deeply flavored cut that also has the ability to retain texture after braising.
Bone-In cuts for presentation
These cuts are still bone-in but these bones are better for aesthetics than for flavor improvement.
Beef Short Ribs- Classic! You’ll find short ribs on restaurant menus everywhere. Typically braised in beef stock and wine, short ribs can be at the center of the plate, on a taco, in a dumpling or ravioli, or almost anywhere else. Short ribs are well marbled which make them extra moist when braised.
Chuck Short Ribs- The lesser know, less utilized neighbor to the plate short rib above. The main difference between these two is that the “lean” portion of the meat is larger than that of a classic “short rib” and the bones are slightly smaller. Win Win.
Chuck Eye Roast or Chuck Roll- The beef chuck roll is best described as the subprimal from the top of the shoulder, closest to the back. The chuck roll roast is the typical “chuck roast” that your grandmother cooked. Reliable, rich, and delicious. If you really want consistently great pot roast, go with a chuck roll.
Boneless Beef Cuts for Braising
We love boneless braising cuts for their ease of service.
Chuck Eye Roll- This is a smaller variant of the chuck roll listed above. What differentiates the chuck eye from the chuck roll is that the chuck eye is always boneless and much of the outer fat is removed. The chuck eye is the smaller muscle group at the center of the chuck roll which can be braised or roasted to medium and sliced thinly. We love the chuck eye’s versatility.
Brisket- Brisket is not just for your smoker. Brisket comes from the breast of cattle and is absolutely delicious as a braise. While brisket has a nice fat cap, the “flat” portion is quite lean and could dry out if overcooked so take it easy. The “point” is more rich and can be more moist after braising, but also more fatty. Either way, brisket is a great choice.
Heart of Clod / English Roast- English roast (or heart of clod) comes from the center of the front arm. This cut may be the leanest of the braisable cuts so be cautious to not overdo it. Heart of clod makes a nice, affordable dinner but may not be a cut that you use for special occasions or entertaining. Heart of clod is excellent in rich dishes such as beef bourguignon
Beef Bottom Round- Bottom round is the only cut on this list that is classically called “pot roast”. Similar to heart of clod, bottom round is lean and should be very gently braised. This is a great candidate for making corned beef or that very standard wednesday dinner.
Beef Navel / Beef Belly- In my mind, this is one of the best cuts of beef that nobody buys. Similar to pork belly, beef belly is a hard working, rich cut. Beef belly is well suited to bacon making, is the original corned beef cut and makes for a very tender and moist braised meat. You wont wan’t to eat a massive portion of beef belly due to it’s richness so after its cooled, cut into smaller portions and sear every side again to give crisp edges. Delicious!