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I've been making braises and I'm intrigued by the different methods for thickening the sauce with flour. I've come across five strategies:

  1. Coating browned meat with flour and cooking the flour before adding browned vegetables and liquids.
  2. Coating the meat with flour before browning.
  3. Coating the vegetables with flour after browning and cooking the flour before adding the browned meat and liquids.
  4. For certain braises, Escoffier recommends mixing in roux before adding the liquids.
  5. Whisking in beurre manié before reducing the sauce. (I suppose that the flour cooks as the sauce reduces.) Some recipes use a slurry with cornstarch or other starch instead.

What are the relative merits of each approach? Are they interchangeable?

  • I'm having trouble thinking of the whole recipes that would use the 5 methods as you outlined them. // In general heating flour with just water will thicken the liquid. Heating flour above boiling point of water, as in a roux, gives it a nutty flavor that you won't get with just boiling flour, but you lose some "thicken capacity." // Getting a crust of flour on meat would tend to make the sauce stick to the meat, assuming that the sauce is already thick. If you dunk such a piece of meat in a pot of water the flour just washes off. – MaxW Mar 1 '17 at 6:10
  • Sorry, I may not have been clear: different recipes use different methods. For instance, boeuf bourguignon typically uses (1). Some recipes for goulash (e.g., Robuchon's) use (2). Recipes for coq au vin might use (1) or (5). And so on. The flour is always dissolved in the liquids, so I guess that we're not looking for a floury crust. // I didn't know that roux lost its thickening power with browning. It makes sense then that more modern recipes avoid it. – Luca B. Mar 1 '17 at 14:31
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    Add "bake bread from the flour, dry the bread, and use the breadcrumbs as a thickener" ;) – rackandboneman Mar 1 '17 at 16:54
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Unless you are making a vegetarian braisé, I would suggest not browning the vegetables.

If you brown the vegetables and add them too early in the pot, then they will cook too much and be mushy in the end product.

I prefer not using flour when browning the meat too early because I tend to burn it; so I brown the meat, and after that, do a roux and re-add the meat and add liquid.

As for using beurre manié, for me it is just a thickening agent and is done at the end and should not really add additional flavour to the dish.

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    I've never read a recipe of boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin that didn't brown the vegetables. Even recipes for chicken and veal fricassées recommend cooking the vegetables before adding the liquids (although they shouldn't brown). It's true that they get mushy, but they're discarded before the dish is served. – Luca B. Mar 1 '17 at 3:30

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