Chinese Braised Beef

I was really in the mood for some great Chinese food, and was excited to try cooking with a new cut of meat; beef shanks. The beef shanks take between 4 to 5 hours to become tender, but have great flavor and texture. If you’d rather use other cuts of beef, Chris Kimball describes how to preparing the recipe boneless ribs, and even a chuck roast (see comments below). One advantage of using the beef shanks is that you don’t need as much gelatin to obtain the correct consistency for the sauce. Overall, the beef tasted good, and the texture was amazingly tender. But the end results lacked a strong Chinese flavor; more hints of Chinese spices. 4-stars.

Tender meat, but lacks Chinese flavor

Tender meat, but lacks Chinese flavor

Because I ran out of heavy-duty aluminum foil in Step 3, I substituted regular aluminum foil. Unfortunately, the regular foil made a big difference in the evaporation (perhaps wouldn’t have been an issue with the 4 hours ribs/chuck). Because I was left with just about 1 cup of broth after defatting, I did not have to reduce for 20 minutes in Step 4. I did run a little low on sauce so leftovers were a little dry.

The recipe allows for variations using many types of beef, but require a few changes in the amount of gelatin used, and cooking time.

  1. I used cross-cut beef shanks, which have less connective tissue than long-cut beef shanks. Use 2-1/4 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin in Step 1. They cook in 4 hours.
  2. If you can find whole beef shanks, omit the gelatin altogether and allow them to cook for 5 hours.
  3. The base recipe calls for 3-lbs of boneless beef short ribs. Which you should trim and cut into 4″ lengths. Ribs require using 1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  4. You can also use a 4-lb chuck roast. Trim away any fat and sinew, then cut across the grain into 1″-thick slabs. Finally cut slabs into final 4″x2″ pieces.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $17.
How much work? Medium
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 1:00pm. Dinner time 6:00pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below:

1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
3 scallions
2″ piece ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 pounds beef short ribs
1 teaspoon cornstarch

  1. Add 2-1/2 cups water to Dutch oven. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow gelatin to soften for 5 minutes. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat oven to 300-degrees. Prepare the scallions by separating the white and green parts. Slice the green parts thinly on a bias, and smash the white part. Peeled the ginger, cut in half lengthwise, and crushed. Peel the garlic and smash.
  2. Set Dutch oven over medium-high burner and heat for 2 to 3 minutes until the gelatin has melted. Add sherry, soy sauce, hoisin, molasses, scallion whites, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, and pepper flakes. Then add beef, stir, and bring up to simmer.
  3. Remove Dutch oven from heat. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, then top with the lid. Put in pre-heated oven and cook until beef becomes tender; between 2 and 5 hours (see note depending upon cut of beef). Stir halfway through cooking time.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove beef to a cutting board. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Use paper towels to wipe out Dutch oven. Allow liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted juices to now-empty pot. Reduce liquid over medium-high burner, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup; 20 to 25 minutes; stirring constantly.
  5. Meanwhile while the sauce reduces, break beef into 1 1/2-inch pieces using two forks. In a small bowl, add cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water and whisk until combined.
  6. Turn down burner to medium-low, re-whisk cornstarch, add into pot and cook for 1 minutes. Add beef back to pot, stir to cover beef. Cover and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is hot. Serve sprinkled with scallion greens.
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5 Responses to Chinese Braised Beef

  1. Jonny Rashid says:

    How would you increase Chinese flavor? This recipe is on my list, maybe I’ll get to it next week.

    • I am not an expert on Chinese cuisine, but 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder and braising with smashed ginger in clearly insufficient. I mean it tasted fine; still got 4-stars. It was just not what I expected.

  2. travel6188 says:

    In first paragraph of directions, is there something missing after the word smashed? Smashed what?

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