Here’s a breakdown of which cuts are best, plus tips and recipes.
SHIN and LEG
Inexpensive cuts with bags of flavour, made up of very lean muscle.
CHUCK and BLADE
The best-known type of braising steak, and what most recipes mean when they call for this. A very tasty cut of beef that can be sliced or diced.
When boned and rolled, this is a beautiful joint for pot-roasting. It can also be sliced or diced for use in casseroles.
Because this comes from the bellyof the animal it can sometimes be fatty, but this is what adds to the flavour of the stock during cooking. A cylindrical joint that gives nice neat slices when carved.
Traditionally an American cut that is often called ‘oven-busters’ over here, short ribs are becoming quite trendy. Slowly braised in wine or beer with vegetables and lots of aromatics, they become very tender and almost velvety in texture, with a fantastic flavour.
MINCED NECK and FLANK
Mince madefrom the tougher cuts of meat is best used in dishes requiring slow cooking. Mince from a prime cut, such as tail of the fillet, is usually reserved for serving raw in dishes such as steak tartare.
Usually reserved for slow cooking in either steak and kidney pudding or Cornish pasties.
Neat, cylindrical joint, ideally suited to braising or pot-roasting.
Tough off-cut of beef that requires long, slow cooking to become tender. Because it is a cut of meat still on the bone – and also comes with quite a lot of fat, cartilage and marrow – it contains a staggering amount of flavour. The cut to use for osso bucco.
TIPS FOR SLOW COOKING
Brown the beef first – in small batches, if necessary, to maintain a high heat in the pan. As this caramelises some of the juices in the pan – adding to the flavour – you should do it in the pot you will cook in, ideally a cast-iron flameproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid.
If you need to toss the beef in a little flour before browning, make sure it is not overly wet and only a light dusting clings to the outside. This will give your meat a good colour.
When seasoning slow-cooked dishes, do so lightly at the beginning. This method encourages reduction of the liquid, so the sauce can become much more concentrated and easily get too salty. Adjust the seasoning at the end of cooking.
Cook the beef at the correct temperature at the start of cooking. The liquid in the pan should not be allowed to bubble at all vigorously, but just tremble in the centre of the pot. This lets the meat become meltingly tender but not fall apart.
Covering the dish with a tight-fitting lid or foil is also very important, especially with some braised dishes in which the meat is cooked in relatively little liquid. It stops the sauce reducing too much.
Making a slow-cooked dish the day before will improve the flavour immensely. Chill it overnight, then reheat and simmer gently for the briefest time possible before serving.
Slow cooked for a warming treat.
Put this simple French stew on the hob and let your cooker do the rest.
The perfect steak and kidney pie.