Here's How To Prevent Chewy Braised Beef

When cooked right, braised beef is tender, juicy, and delicious. The exact same beef, however, can turn out dry and chewy if you're not paying attention to the temperature and time. Any meat that isn't fork tender after cooking is usually assumed to have sat on the stove or in the oven for a little too long, but for braising, it's the opposite that's true. According to Foodal, in order for braising to do its job, time is essential.

If you speed up the process and turn up the heat, the meat won't technically be braised. That's because braising involves the breakdown of muscle fibers (or more specifically, the collagen and connective tissue) dissolving it into gelatin (via MasterClass). The only way to effectively do this is by cooking your beef low and slow. MasterClass recommends one hour at either 300 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven or over low heat on the stove. If you raise the temperature to anywhere close to a high boil, the meat will be cooked through before the muscle fibers get the chance to break down.

 But cooking low and slow isn't the only important step to tender braised beef.

Tenderizing happens before and after cooking

The first step to preventing chewy braised beef occurs even before the meat hits the pan. Braising alone tenderizes meat, but as Serious Eats explains, marinating beforehand also aids in the process. Unlike braising, which tenderizes by heat over an extended period of time, marinating tenderizes with acid, like wine, vinegar, or lemon juice. The addition of salt also allows the proteins in the meat to retain moisture.

Acids are powerful, so marinating only needs about 25 minutes in order to be effective. Serious Eats states that when meat is overexposed to acid, it passes the point of tender and turns mushy instead, so contrary to popular belief, letting it sit in a marinade overnight isn't necessary. By marinating your beef before you braise it, you're essentially giving it a head start on tenderizing, and this is especially important if you're starting off with tougher cuts of beef like chuck or shank. But let the marinade and braising work its magic, and you'll never have to deal with chewy braised beef again.