When working on our recipe for Mexican Pulled Pork, we found we liked the cooked meat best when we left a thin layer of fat on the exterior of each piece. Would the same hold true for beef braised in a stew? To find out, we made batches of beef stew with meat completely trimmed, partially trimmed (leaving 1/8 inch of exterior fat and removing half of the intramuscular fat and connective tissue), and untrimmed. Tasters unanimously agreed the beef was better with all hard fat and connective tissue removed. Why the difference between pork and beef?
Beef tends to have more marbling (intramuscular ribboning of fat) than pork, so even when all the large chunks of fat are trimmed off a piece of beef, there’s plenty left beneath the surface. This fat renders out and moistens the beef as it cooks, keeping it juicy and tender. The fat in pork, on the other hand, tends to be around muscles, instead of between them. So if you trim away all visible fat from pork, the remaining meat will be quite lean and therefore dry and fibrous once braised.
Here’s what your meat should look like:
PARTIAL TRIM FOR PORK
For the optimal balance of fat and lean, leave a 1/8-inch layer of fat on pork before braising.
FULL TRIM FOR BEEF
Remove all hard fat and connective tissue (which will appear as white fibers or soft gelatinous areas) from beef before braising.
MAKE IT NOW: Our recipe for Mexican Pulled Pork is free through September 25, 2013.