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I'm going to braise short ribs for a dinner party this weekend. The recipe suggests braising the ribs for four hours, then refrigerating overnight. The next day, the directions say to skim off the fat that forms on top of the liquid, reheat, and serve.

What are the advantages of this method over serving immediately? Does it greatly affect the taste? And to refrigerate, should I keep the meat in the liquid and chill the whole pot? What's the best way to reheat?

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3 Answers 3

Always let a braise cool in its liquid to prevent drying out. As the meat cools, the fibers relax, allowing the juices to be pulled back into the meat. Imagine squeezing out a sponge (heating the meat), and then releasing the sponge in water (cooling the meat). (People on this forum have disagreed with this statement before, but I stand by it.)

Although allowing the meat to cool for 30 minutes or so will yield fantastic results, if you are an overachiever, putting your meat in the refrigerator overnight will increase the effect. After the meat is cold, it will become more solid, making it easier to remove bones, slice the meat, and skim the fat.

However, I never do this because I am impatient, I kind of like the mouth feel of a little bit of fat, and the results are very good without it. I suggest leaving the refrigerator for the leftovers, which will be wonderful.

BTW, pay less attention to the time, and more attention to the state of the meat. 4 hours may be too much, or two little. The best judge of whether the meat is ready or not, is to taste it. This points to one more advantage of the overnight refrigeration, controlling exactly when you want your food to be ready the next day.

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Bruno Goussault (and others) advocates for stepwise cooling for this very reason; the sponge analogy may not be a completely accurate description for how this readsorption is accomplished, but it is clearly an effective technique. See, e.g., blog.khymos.org/2011/04/01/…, under the "STEPWISE COOLING" heading –  Ray Apr 21 '11 at 19:52
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Michael is correct in terms of the meat moistness/texture perspective. One thing to add: I've found that flavors continue develop in the refrigerator as well. You may remember times, for example, when you've tasted chili or spaghetti sauce the next day and found the flavor to have improved.

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I'm not sure about whether you should cool the meat in the liquid or not - I've made braised meats both ways, but I've never done a straight back-to-back comparison. One thing I do know: skimming the fat is a lot easier when the fat is solidified.

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