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If I want to simmer or braise a piece of beef for a few hours, how do I choose suitable meat? Which of the usual cuts are great, which are adequate, and which ones will just turn tough? It would be great if you could, beside giving a list of the good cuts, also give some advice on visually recognizing the good meat, in case I am faced with a supermarket selection with no labels (or misleading labels) and no qualified personnel.

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How slow do you mean? 45 mins is probably the shortest long cook, but 1 hour, 3 hours and 6 hours are all possible and effect the beef selection – NBenatar Apr 9 '14 at 16:41
@NBenatar Interesting, I wasn't aware that there is a meat which can be slow cooked in 45 minutes. Are you talking about roasting a large cut of tender meat at once until the inside is medium rare? Because in my word usage, this is not slow cooking. But in case I am missing something, let's say cooking times of 3+ hours. – rumtscho Apr 9 '14 at 17:18

For simmering and braising it's good to choose a working cut, that is from a load-bearing part of the animal, as this will have connective tissue which will break down into gelatin as it is cooked. These make terrible roasts but great braises and stews. The other consideration is fat content - you have to remember in a braise or stew the fat isn't going to be able to drip out, so if you have a fatty piece of meat you could end up with a greasy dish.

In the past I've gotten very good results from shin (leg, foreleg), brisket, flank, and silverside (round). Parts from the neck and shoulder I personally avoid as they often have lots of gristle and fat, making it work to get at the good meat. A decently butchered pot roast would do though.

One thing to remember is to get a good quality meat. In the US most of what you find in the stores is Select grade, which has a huge range in quality, so look for good color with decent marbling. You are getting a tough cut, so when touching don't expect much give. In fact, if you get lots of give with a working cut don't buy it - it's probably old.

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I've been told that a roast shouldn't be slow-cooked (see…). Can you provide a visual example of what good connective tissue looks like and how do I know the difference between connective tissue and gristle? – David Wilkins Apr 9 '14 at 16:33
You won't see good connective tissue, if you see it it's gristle. You are right that roasts aren't the best choice for slow cooking, however a pot roast isn't really a roast - the pot part means it should be cooked in a pot with liquid, in other words braised. – GdD Apr 9 '14 at 16:53
@GdD I am the one who mentioned visible marbling, and I am still convinced that the looks make a difference. Connective tissue is visible. And besides, gristle itself also provides collagen. – rumtscho Apr 9 '14 at 17:19
I would add cheek to this list - it's hard to get hold of and needs a long, slow braise, but the flavour and texture is amazing. – ElendilTheTall Apr 9 '14 at 17:19

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