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There are several homemade seitan recipes available, and all call for boiling the seitan in some kind of broth for a bit, then letting it cool. I'm making seitan for this "vegan beef stew" recipe.

Do I need to boil the seitan first, then let it cool, then use it in this recipe? Or can I just make the seitan and use it "raw" since I'm going to be boiling it in the stew anyway? Is seitan something that wants to be twice cooked or anything along that line?

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Raw seitan can work in these kind of dishes, but it needs a different kind of temperature regime than "just boiling" it.

You want to avoid heating it through above the boiling point of water before it is well set, otherwise you will get a lot of expansion and a brain-y/fluffy texture that is far from meaty. Also, raw seitan pieces tend to recombine (it is glue protein after all). You will eventually need to heat it to boiling point to "finish" the texture. The surface can be a bit "slimy" in the end result, probably due to remaining starch coagulating on it - this is not a problem in thick sauces but can be in thin and soupy dishes.

A strategy I found working well:

  1. Cut raw seitan, so your thinnest dimension is a cm or less.

  2. Sear surface with an open flame (brulee torch, stove burner...) to get some browning and to stop it from being sticky. Avoid overdoing it, you neither want strong expansion nor a strong burnt-hair taste. Do not saute instead, this will cause too much expansion.

  3. Have your cooking liquid (broth,sauce,soup) ready, set up for a long simmer at a stable temperature. A rich or even emulsified liquid is preferrable, so add any fats (or things like coconut milk) now. Avoid adding strong acids or anything that could act as a protein tenderizer yet. It should be well out of the food safety danger zone but safely BELOW ANY BOILING. 70-90°C. Repeat: You do not want it boiling even for a moment before the seitan is well set.

  4. Add the seitan. Add anything else that benefits from long stewing. Make sure there is enough liquid to well cover it, some expansion can still happen. Leave alone to simmer for 3 hours.

  5. Finish - bring to boil, and boil anything that needs boiling alongside, so you have a 15-30 min boiling phase. You will get some expansion but not overexpansion of the seitan pieces.

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I would first try this by cooking the seitan separately. I think that it needs time and heat for the protein chains to form and create that wonderful 'meaty' texture. Also because beef would have flavor of its own, I'd think your end product would be more flavorful if you cooked the seitan per it's directions and flavorings, and then added that to your stew ingredients.

I'm kinda thrifty tho so I would cook the seitan first and probably try to use the leftover 'stock' from the seitan recipe in the stew. Just to save money and time.

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You can use the raw seitan in the stew like it says in the recipe. Please be sure to knead it properly first to get the glutens nice and firm/strong before adding it to the other ingredients - if it seems too soft or wet, let it sit for 10 minutes or so and then knead it again until it is firm. I've made it using the recipe's method several times in the past for similar dishes. It should be fine.

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