slow cooking
 
 

Casseroles and stews are a great way of bringing out the best flavour in economical cuts of beef. Most stews and casseroles can be cooked in the oven or on the hob, but cooking in the oven makes it easier to control the temperature. If cooking on the hob you will need to stir the pan from time to time.

For best results it is important to use the right cut of meat for this cooking process. Avoid using quick cook beef cuts such as frying steaks with little or no connective tissue. Opt for cuts such as shin, chuck or blade. See overleaf for cuts most used in casseroles.

Another useful method of slow cooking is by using a slow cooker. There's one to suit all families and budgets and they're great for the hectic schedules of modem life. If using a slow cooker remember to add 40-50% less liquid as slow cookers are completely sealed and there is no evaporation.
Cooking steps for stews and casseroles

1 Most stews and casseroles start by browning the evenly sized meat cubes in a heavy-based flame/ovenproof casserole dish in a small amount of oil. Cook in small batches for the same amount of time.

2 Overcrowding the meat in the pan reduces the overall temperature, so instead of nicely caramelised cubes of beef they will start to stew in the liquid that develops as a result of the drop in temperature. You can use a non-stick pan for this part of the process before you transfer to a flame/ovenproof dish if you prefer.

3 Use tongs or a spoon to turn beef cubes over. Don't use a fork as any meat juices may escape if you pierce the surface of the meat.

4 Remove the meat from the pan and lightly brown any
vegetables. Return the meat to the casserole dish.

5 Add any liquid (stock, wine, ale) & bring to the boil, then immediately lower the heat, as boiling will toughen the meat. Cover then simmer gently on the hob over a low heat or in the oven.

Hints and tips
To brown or not to brown meat? This is debatable. Food purists will say this is an essential process as browning caramelizes the natural sugars in meat creating a richly coloured crust which helps meat to retain its shape during the cooking process. It also adds texture, rich colour and flavour to the gravy. However don't worry if you don't have time to brown your meat it will still taste delicious.

Coating the beef in seasoned flour before cooking will thicken the gravy as it cooks. A quick way to do this is to put the flour and meat in a plastic food bag and give it a good shake.

Marinating tougher cuts of meat will add extra flavour and helps break down some of the tough connective tissue prior to cooking.

Deglazing the pan with liquid (stock, wine or ale) helps to remove any meaty sediment from the bottom of the pan which will enrich the gravy.

If your hands-on time Is short in the kitchen put all your Ingredients in a slow cooker at the same time and leave it to do the rest. The results will be just as delicious.

Typical cooking times
To some extent, when a particular cut of beef Is ready to eat in a casserole is somewhat subjective -dependent on the particular preference of the eater. It's generally accepted that the ideal, traditional casserole meat has a soft; moist, falling apart texture that is typically achieved from the slow cooking of cuts that have thick muscle fibres with connective tissue. Our tests have shown that the ideal cooking times for the different muscle groups that are most often used in casseroles can fall under the following recommendations:

Topside

Silverside

Heel

LMC

Feather               

Thick Flank

Blade

Chuck

Shin

2hrs

2-2.5hrs

2.5hrs

2.5-3hrs

3hrs