Dry & Moist Cooking Methods: Beef Cooking Tips

What dry and moist beef cooking methods are, and what governs their application especially in reference to meat cookery. Here are some cooking tips.

When we think of dry heat we generally think of the oven don't we? And moist heat, we think of boiling or steaming something. Well, to a large extent this is true, and especially in the cooking of meat, when do you use which process?

First a method break down. Oven roasting or baking is a dry method of cooking because hot air is the primary means of transferring heat to the item, yet if you were to wrap the item in foil or roast it in a pot with a lid, it would become a moist method of cooking because trapped moisture would generate steam and thus cook the item by steaming it. For an example, a baked potato wrapped in foil is actually a steamed potato because the moisture is not allowed to escape and thus is trapped and does the cooking of the item. If you check the texture of both a true baked potato and a foil wrapped one, you will notice the difference. Not that one is necessarily better than the other, they are just different, although I will take the true baked one hands down (personal preference).

Deep fat frying is a means of rapid evaporation of moisture by the surrounding hot fat, if something is breaded, then the breading forms a crust that browns in the oil while inside the crust, insulated from the hot fat, steam is generated and cooks the food. When this method of frying is applied you might say that the outside is cooked dry while inside the coating the item is steamed.

Of course stewing and braising both use a liquid/steam medium, so they are moist. Pan frying and sauteing are dry until you put a lid on the pan and generate moisture. Now as far as using what method to do what, usually the vegetables that benefit from a moist medium are the ones that don't contain a lot of moisture themselves, at least comparatively (i.e. carrots as opposed to celery). Steaming is ideal for many vegetables because the heat is high and there is little nutrient loss as compared to boiling. For vegetables that have a porous nature, and that contain some moisture as it is, like eggplant, they tend to absorb water so boiling would be a poor choice since it would leave the vegetable very soggy. A quick saute' or roasting would be better.

As far as meats are concerned, cuts that are well marbled and tender tend to do better with dry heat- saute', broil, roast. While cuts that have a lot of connective tissue, like brisket and chuck do better with moist heat processes like braising and stewing. The moist methods let the connective tissue break down into gelatin without drying out the surrounding muscle tissue. For the connective tissue to break down sufficiently in the dry heat method, the surrounding meat would be so dried out you wouldn't want to eat it. Connective tissue breaks down the fastest around 212'F, the boiling point of water, while meat is well done at 160'F, so you need a liquid medium to retain the moisture in the meat while the connective tissue(collagen, ligaments)turns to gelatin, thus ensuring a tender product. Hope this helps. Bon Appetit!

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