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I have a recipe for braised lamb shanks that I'd like to convert to use lamb loin chops instead. The original recipe calls for the shanks to be browned and then braised in a 350° oven for 2 - 2½ hours. Since the loin chops are a lot more tender than the shanks, I'd rather not cook them to death.

So, leaving aside the question of how to get good flavor development and consistency in the braising liquid (which I think I can work around), is there a good braising method for tender cuts of meat? In particular, should I still use the oven or stick to the stove top? And what temperature and duration should I be shooting for? Thanks!

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Generically speaking meat that is appropriate for a braise is tougher and has connective tissue that can be turned to gelatin by the long slow cooking process. As you've noted, meat that is tender can be "cooked to death" using that same method, so I would, generally, recommend against using a braise.

However, a stove top braise can go quickly without ruining the meat, if you keep it short and treat the braising liquid as more of a sauce than anything else. I would suggest that you brown each side of your lamb chops, then add all your other ingredients. Depending on the amount of liquid your original recipe calls for, you might want to cut back. I wouldn't want more than 1/2 cup or so of liquid. "Braise" covered on the top of the stove for 1/2 hour, never going past a simmer. Pull out the chops and cover, while you reduce the braising liquid to make it more sauce-like, then spoon onto the chops.

Note that you won't have the long time to meld flavors, and if there are big chunks of garlic or onions, they won't be a sweet as in the longer braise. But you should get a serviceable dish.

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Thanks for the advice, that worked very well. I did also sweat the aromatics for about 20 minutes to make up for the shortened braising time and used about half the called for liquid, reducing at the end per your instructions. The chops stayed moist and tender. Thanks again! –  Cold Oatmeal Jan 2 '11 at 17:29
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