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I did my first terrine this weekend. I used this recipe with 300g rabbit meat, 100g rabbit livers, 300g pork cheeks and 300g lard, marinaded in armagnac, white wine and salt overnight, minced, mixed with shallots and herbs, put in the mould and cooked.

During cooking the meat seemed to shrink about 1cm from each side and fat seeped in on the sides. When refrigerated the fat turned to solid so there’s a white chunk of fat on both sides which I don't think is desired.

Any ideas what went wrong? I believe I followed the recipe to the letter. Could it be a problem with the recipe - is the ratio of meat to fat wrong here?


Update: The meat did not fill all the terrine mould. Had there been enough meat to just over-fill the terrine and put something on top to press the meat down, would the shrinkage not have happened?

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    Aside from the actual reasons and whether you made some error, there is no reason to assume that a layer of fat is not desired. The aversion towards eating pure fat is a cultural phenomenon localized by geography and time, and is not present in classic French cuisine. So there is a high probability that everything went as intended, including the layer of fat. – rumtscho Oct 6 '14 at 9:08
  • I wouldn't be surprised if they want fat surrounding the whole thing, to seal it in & preserve it, as you would have with confit. – Joe Oct 6 '14 at 11:09
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Actually, it sounds like everything went right to me, that's a classic terrine. You simply picked the wrong recipe if you don't want fat - 1/4 of it is lard after all. When you cooked it the fat melted and got squeezed out to the sides, that's perfectly normal.

If you want less fat then replace fat with gelatine which will solidify to hold it all together.

  • No I'm cool with fat, just thought that it should remain mixed with the meat instead of on the sides. I'll try just over-filling the terrine and putting something on top to press the meat down next time. – Michael Oct 6 '14 at 10:46
  • Sure, the fat will still separate next time, it'll just float to the top instead. – GdD Oct 6 '14 at 11:05
  • If fat gets squeezed out from a perfectly emulsified mixture, you are overcooking it, it's basically the same process as mayonnaise curdling. But I don't know if your mixture was perfectly emulsified (maybe you failed there), or whether it is meant to emuslify at all. – rumtscho Oct 6 '14 at 11:05
  • The terrine was half-immersed in water and I took it out of the oven at 72°C so it shouldn't have overcooked. I don't understand the emulsification concept for a meat/fat mixture. As far as I know emulsions are made up of liquids with a continuous phase (oil in mayonnaise for example), a dispersed phase (egg yolk) and usually a stabiliser (mustard). I'm very interested in how this applies to the terrine mixture. – Michael Oct 7 '14 at 14:03
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Terrines almost always shrink. The water in the ingredients evaporates out, so the volume reduces - there's nothing you can do about that. However, not filling the mould will have exacerbated the problem. All terrine recipes are careful to state that the mould should be filled - yours even says to mound it slightly. It also says to use caul fat to help it hold its shape. I'd suggest following both directions in future.

  • Yeah I think that's what went wrong. I'll try that next time. – Michael Oct 6 '14 at 10:44

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