Buying Meat for a Braise

Buying meat for long braises can be difficult. Many smaller stores do not stock these less-popular cuts and many cooks aren't sure what to look for when buying short ribs, pork shoulder, and other meats for braising. As a part of our Braising Week, here are some suggestions for shopping for meat to braise.

Molly Stevens, author of the excellent All About Braising, reminds us that "tenderness and flavor have an inverse relationship. The more tender the cut, the less flavor it offers."

The goods news is that these tougher cuts sometimes go unwanted so if you can find them, they usually cost less than more popular cuts.

The cuts used in a long braise have high amounts of connective tissue called collagen. When cooked over a long period of time at a low temperature, the collagen turns into gelatin and thickens the sauce. "A long, gentle braise is the secret to revealing the true goodness of a tough cut of meat," as Stevens says.

After the jump, two sources for meat worthy of a long braise.

Niman Ranch makes buying meat for braising easier by labeling which cuts will work well in a braise, including point-on brisket, beef short ribs and lamb osso buco. (Speaking of Niman Ranch and braising, here's a recipe for Braised Niman Ranch Pork Shoulder With Tomatoes, Cumin, Cloves And Chipotle Peppers.)

Here in New York City, Western Beef is a go-to resource for meats cooked in long braises. While many of the city's small grocery stores don't reliably carry pork and beef for braising, Western Beef does. They also have value priced family packs of some meat, useful if you're braising for a big party or want to stock the freezer. Last night, Western Beef saved us. We did a one-stop-shop in Western Beef for all the ingredients we needed to braise pork ribs in coconut milk, rum and lime.

Do you have a braising savvy local butcher or another source you'd like to add to our list? Please post in the comments.