Marinades and Slow cooking 101

If you have an inexpensive, fatty and chewy piece of meat to cooking you can uses a variety of techniques to make it tasty. A few techniques that I use are marinating, slow cooking or a combination of the two. In the winter time slow cooking is probably your best option. You can do this in a slow cooker or by braising the meat. However, its summertime in Houston which means I don’t want to turn on the oven or stove for long hours of braising. Yes I could use my slow cooker but that requires more work to get it to come out as nicely as if I braised it in my cast iron enabled pan.

If you aren’t braising the next best way to take a fatty chewy piece of meat and make it tasty is to marinate it. Fajitas are the classic example of this. Take a skirt steak and marinate for several hours in acidic juices and a combination of spices. Then grill. I have a recipe I like for them which comes from Simple Recipes

I’m personally a big fan of skirt steak and my favorite recipe comes from Alton Brown. What I like about it is its Asian flavors – brown sugar, lime, soy sauce. It is also dead easy to put together in a snap and just let it do its magic. I’ll typically do the marinade prep on my lunch break and then stick the meat in a ziptop bag to soak up the goodness for the afternoon.

The two main cuts which really benefit from this type of preparation are

  • Flank steak
  • Skirt steak

However, if you’re cooking boneless short ribs or brisket you’ll often be marinating them as well. The big difference – they get cooked slow and low on the grill, or in a pinch in the oven versus a quick 8 minute sear for the flank and skirt steaks. Beef brisket and short ribs, pork shoulder and lamb shanks all lend themselves well to braising and some of my favorite ethnic dishes involve this technique.

These just scratch the surface of the awesome things you can make with an lower grade cut of meat. The best part is that many of things make leftovers that can be used in sandwiches for lunch.

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