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I’ve been schmoozing with a loyal reader named Jack about braising meat. Why don’t you listen in?

Jack: Jamie, in your Brisket in Wine Sauce recipe, you say to bake until the internal thermometer in the beef reads 190˚. I checked a meat temperature web site, and it said that well-done beef is 160˚. I'm thinking that 190˚ was a typo; please update the recipe if necessary.

Brisket in Wine Sauce

Brisket in Wine Sauce

Jamie: I’m glad to see you’ve been trying the recipes on our site. No, 190˚ was not a typo. While you are correct that the internal temperature for well done beef is about 160˚, when preparing a roast there are different considerations when it comes to braising, especially a cut like brisket. To achieve that wonderful melt-in-your-mouth quality, braised meat must maintain an internal temperature of 190°F for enough time for the tough muscle fibers to break down. In braising, the longer you cook it, the more the meat softens.

Braising is a wet heat technique that combines the enveloping warmth of roasting with the sultry steaminess of stewing. Braises should be cooked in a covered roasting pan, Dutch oven, or in a pan covered with a tightly sealed, double layer of aluminum foil. Start by seasoning the meat (a light hand is best). As with dry-heat roasting, some cooks start braises on the stovetop by searing the meat. Place the meat fat side up in the pan, and add aromatics and root vegetables of your choice. The braising liquid is added (water is fine, but some people use wine, beer or cola – not diet) about a third of the way up the side of the meat, the pan is sealed, and the whole thing goes into the oven, preheated to 300°F -- 350°F, until tender.

MORE: Kitchen Hacks, Learn How To Braise

Cooked at 325°F, briskets, chuck eyes, and other braised meats will take about 2½ -- 3 hours to cook, with small cuts on the low side of the estimate and large cuts on the higher side.

I hope that explanation helps.

Jack: Thank you, Jamie. I made the Brisket in Wine Sauce for this past Shabbos (though I used the top of rib instead), and it came out fantastic! I really do like braising meats ever since I discovered it a couple of years ago. (As you can probably tell, I’m the cook in my family – my wife is happy to turn these things over to me.) So, these tips are really helpful.

I’m curious, though: I’ve used cola many times as the liquid for braising, but generally I do use diet. What is the reason you say to avoid this? Is sugar necessary to break down the meat? Thanks again for all the terrific recipes.

Jamie: My husband is the one who taught me how to cook and my dad was the cook in our house, so I think it's great you’re the chef in your family! And I’m so happy to hear the recipe worked well for you.

Regarding cooking with diet sodas: the theory goes that most, but not all, diet sweeteners lose their sweetness when boiled or under high heat. The sweeteners used in diet soft drinks are specifically not for use under high temps. They go sour, go bitter or just get so concentrated that they don't taste great. But all artificial sweeteners behave differently, so if the one you use has been working for you, there’s no need to change.

Take a look at some of my favorite ways to braise meat.