How to Braise a Flat-Iron Steak (Great Recipe for Braising Pans!)

The best way to cook a flat-iron steak? Braise it, my friends. And thanks to Molly Stevens’s braising cookbook, “All About Braising,” I’ve rediscovered a classic: Smothered Steaks

The first recipe I cooked from Molly Stevens's braising book was an all-out hit. Truly amazing.

Smothered Flat-Iron Steaks: The first recipe I cooked from Molly Stevens’s braising book, and it was an all-out hit.

PS: If you’re thinking “been there, done that, no thanks,” think again—with the right cut, the old-time recipe becomes a revelation. I promise.

I finally ordered All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cookingby Molly Stevens. It’s the perfect book for my project this season: testing all the best-known braisers on the market. And if you love braising as much as I do—or if you own a braiser and you’re wondering what to cook next—you really must buy this book.

If you've been following along, you know that I've been reviewing top braisers on the market.  Loved the All-Clad Braiser!

This season, I’m reviewing top braisers on the market. Loved the All-Clad Braiser!

(Even if you don’t buy the book, read the introduction, Why I Cook. This moving essay gets to the heart of why we all cook—click on “Look Inside,” then click until you get to page xi).

I have bookmarked dozens of recipes that I want to try in this tome, but even in the highly unlikely event that I didn’t get to another one, the price of this book would be well worth it just for her recipe for Top Blade Steaks Smothered in Mushrooms & Onions.

Smothered Steaks? You ask. Isn’t that midcentury cafeteria food at its worst?

Well, yes. It was often that way. As Stevens points out, traditional recipes called for top round steaks, “a cut that becomes dry and leathery when braised…” And if you grew up in the 70s (as did I), you might have had an even worse version of this dish: minute steaks smothered in canned cream of mushroom soup. Later, in college, I used to feed it to my roommates. It did the trick, but I doubt I’d ever want to revisit that.

It’s All About the Cut

Yes! Flat-iron steaks are a great braising cut!: Look at all that marbling—as the meat braises, it becomes meltingly tender and that wonderful marbling enriches the sauce.

Yes! Flat-iron steaks are a great braising cut!: Look at all that marbling—as the meat braises, it becomes amazingly tender and that wonderful marbling melts away and enriches the sauce.

By using the right cut—and some amazing flavorings—this recipe gives Smothered Steak back its good name. Stevens’s recipe calls for Boneless Top Blade Steaks, which she mentions are the same as flat-iron steaks. While that may be true in her neck of the woods, in my neck of the woods (Amerique profonde), flat-iron steaks are top blade steaks with the mid-layer of gristle removed. Don’t sweat it—either will work splendidly for this recipe.

Of course, I changed a few things in the recipe; Stevens calls for paprika; I couldn’t resist using smoked paprika, which has become more widely available (and de rigueur!) since her classic cookbook was published 10 years ago. She also calls for finishing the sauce with 1/4 cup heavy cream and a generous squeeze of lemon; I omitted both from this recipe. When I tasted the amazing concentration of beef juices, sherry, smoked paprika, thyme, mushrooms, and onions, it was truly everything I wanted the dish to be.

I made the recipe in the All-Clad Braising Pan, a pan I reviewed recently and that I’m quite thrilled with. Of course, any braising pan will work, as will a large deep skillet with a lid.

Enjoy. As I’m sure you will.

Smothered Flat-Iron Steaks

Smothered Flat-Iron Steaks

Smothered Flat-Iron Steaks with Mushrooms and Onions

Adapted from All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking.

Serves 4.

4            3/4- to 1-inch-thick boneless flat-iron steaks (you might have to cut 2 large steaks into 4 portions total)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2        cup all-purpose flour
2            tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2            tablespoon unsalted butter
1            pound (16 ounces) cremini or baby bella mushrooms, thickly sliced
1            large yellow onion (about 3/4 pound), sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2     teaspoons dried thyme, crushed
1            teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2        cup dry sherry
2            tablespoons snipped fresh parsley

1. Using a meat mallet (or the bottom of a heavy saucepan), pound the steaks one at a time between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap until about 1/2-inch thick. Season both sides of each steak with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow dish and dredge the steaks with the flour, shaking off the excess.

2. Heat the olive oil in a braiser over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook the meat, turning as needed, until nicely browned on both sides, but not cooked through, about 8 minutes total. Remove the steaks from the pan.

3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the braiser, and when it is melted, add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring as needed, until the liquid that they’ve released has mostly evaporated and they’ve started to lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl.

4. Return the braiser to the heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter; when the butter has melted, add the onions, thyme, and paprika; lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions are tender but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add the sherry; bring to a boil while stirring to loosen the browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan.

5. Reduce the heat to simmering; return the mushrooms and their juices into the pan and stir to combine. Tuck the steaks and any juices into the mushroom-onion mixture, covering the steaks with some of the mushrooms and onions. Cover the pan and allow to simmer. After a few minutes, make sure that the liquid is at a gentle simmer and adjust the heat as needed. Simmer for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until the steaks are fork-tender.

6. Transfer the steaks to a serving platter, but leave the mushrooms and onions in the pan. Increase the heat to a boil and allow the liquid to reduce to a sauce-like consistency. Season to taste, then spoon the sauce over the steaks. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

 

Other links you might enjoy:
What is a Braiser? What is a Dutch Oven? Should I invest?
Review of the All-Clad Braiser
Review of the Lodge Braiser
A list of all recipes in my Braiser Cookbook
 How to Braise without a Braiser

Also, check out Molly’s book. The reviews on Amazon are great!

All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking

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A French Recipe for Pork Roast—Perfect for the All-Clad Braiser

In this easy French method for cooking pork roast, pork shoulder gets braised to meltingly tender perfection, with sweet onions, dried, cherries, and a hint of orange. It’s a terrific pork recipe for a braiser.

Pork Roast in the All-Clad Braiser.

Pork Roast in the All-Clad Braiser.

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If you’ve been following along these past few weeks, you’ve likely noticed that this season is all about braising. While recently  testing out the All-Clad Braiser, I developed this French recipe for pork shoulder. I started with a recipe I found in Gordon Hammersley’s book, Bistro Cooking at Home, a beautiful tome that was featured in a braising article I worked on eons ago for the late, great Country Home magazine.

Hammersley’s recipe calls for prunes, Armagnac, sage, and walnuts—favorite flavors of the Southwest of France. For my recipe, I used his basic braising method, but for the flavorings, I went further south, into the Roussillon (famous for its cherries) and then over to Provence, calling on herbes de Provence, that fabulous dried herb blend anchored by thyme, rosemary, and lavender. It’s one of my favorite braiser recipes ever, and it’s easy in a fix-and-forget way—the kind of cooking that Hammersley calls “walk away” cooking. Love that term.

Enjoy the roast with  pureed potatoes, and if you can find any fresh, local, in-season green beans, well, you couldn’t possibly go wrong, could you?

I used the All-Clad Braiser for this roast. Very pleased with the results!

I used the All-Clad Braiser for this roast. Very pleased with the results!

Pot-Roasted Pork with Orange, Dried Cherries, and Herbes de Provence
Serves 6.

If you have time, make this roast a day in advance. Refrigerate the roast in its cooking liquid up to 48 hours. This helps the flavors meld and also makes it incredibly easy to remove the fat, which will have separated and semi-solidified into a spoonable layer on the top.

1            3 1/2 to 4-pound boneless pork shoulder (sometimes labeled “Boston Butt”), trimmed of excess fat
2            tablespoons vegetable oil
2            sweet onions (such as Vidalia or Oso Sweet), cut into thick rounds
1            cup dry white wine
1/2        cup low-sodium chicken broth
2            tablespoons honey
2            tablespoons orange-flavored spirit, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1            tablespoon dried herbes de Provence, crushed
1/8        teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2        cup dried sweet and/or tart cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Season the pork generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a 3 to 4-quart braiser, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the pork and brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes.

2. Remove the pork from the pan and add the onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine, chicken broth, honey, orange spirit, herbes de Provence, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boiling, stirring up any brown bits that may be present on the bottom of the pan.

3. Return the roast to the pan; cover and slide into the oven. Cook until the pork is very tender, about 2 hours. Uncover the braiser; add the cherries, sprinkling them around the roast and into the liquid in the pan. Continue to bake, uncovered, for 30 more minutes.

4. Skim fat from cooking liquid. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions and cherries to the top of the roast. Tent the roast with foil. For the sauce, place the braiser over moderately high heat and bring the cooking liquid to a boil; cook until reduced by about half. Slice the roast; moisten it with the some of the sauce. Pass the remaining sauce with the roast to serve.

A few tips/thoughts:

I changed a lot of things from Hammersley's recipe, but one thing I definitely held onto was the idea of cutting the onions quite thick. That way, they won't cook down to nothingless.

I changed the major flavor profile from Hammersley’s recipe, but one thing I definitely held onto was the idea of cutting the onions quite thick. That way, they won’t cook down to nothingness.

 

Sometimes I get impatient with browning meat, and I throw the onions in before the meat is brown. Didn't hurt a thing, and it hurried up the process a bit.

Guilty as charged! Yes, I admit that sometimes I get impatient with browning meat, and I throw the onions in before the meat is brown. Didn’t hurt a thing—with the wide base of the braising pan offered plenty of room.

For contrast, I like using both sweet and tart cherries, though you could use just one or the other.

For contrast, I like using both sweet and tart cherries, though you could use just one or the other.

 

Here it is, friends. Ready to plate. I served with puréed potatoes and French green beans.

Here it is, friends. Ready to plate. I served with puréed potatoes and French green beans.

Other links you might enjoy:
What is a Braiser? What is a Dutch Oven? Should I invest?
Review of the All-Clad Braiser
Review of the Lodge Braiser
A list of all recipes in my Braiser Cookbook
 How to Braise without a Braiser

If you like this recipe, check out my cookbook, The Braiser Cookbook: 22 irresistible recipes created just for your braiser-great for Le Creuset, Lodge, All-Clad, Staub, Tromantina, and all other braiser pans.

 

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Braising Pan Review: The All-Clad Braiser Makes the Cut!

Enamel cast iron versus stainless steel? In my ongoing quest to review the top braisers on the market, here’s my unbiased review of the All-Clad Braiser, and how it compares to enameled cast-iron braisers, such as the Le Creuset Braiser and the Lodge Color Covered Casserole.

The Le Creuset, Lodge, and All-Clad Braisers.

The Le Creuset, Lodge, and All-Clad Braisers.

I love my enameled cast-iron braiser so much that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want any other braiser. But the minute I took the stainless-steel All-Clad Braiser from its packaging, I seized upon a major advantage: You can actually lift this pan easily without feeling like you’re in the weight room at the gym.

The minute I took this out of its box, I seized on a major advantage.

The minute I took this out of its box, I seized on a major advantage.

Don’t get me wrong—I love enamel cast-iron, and I’ll continue to faithfully use my Lodge and Le Creuset Braisers. But make no mistake: These babies are heavy. With their lids, the 3 1/2-quart Le Creuset Braiser weighs 11 pounds, while the 5-quart Le Creuset Braiser weighs 15 pounds. The Lodge 3-quart braiser weighs 14 pounds. And that’s empty. Still, if you’re a fan of enamel cast iron, you’ll gladly carry that weight.

The All-Clad Braiser, however, weighs just shy of 5 pounds.

Let’s review the advantages of the enameled cast iron braiser:
Cast iron absorbs, conducts, and retains heat well and distributes heat evenly.
Enamel cast iron doesn’t react with (cause an off-flavor from) acidic ingredients, like tomatoes and lemon juice.
Enamel cast iron is beautiful! Who can resist all those amazing colors, especially in the Le Creuset line?

Now, some potential disadvantages to enameled cast iron braisers:
They’re heavy (as mentioned above).
They’re somewhat hard to clean and over time, their light-colored interiors may discolor (frankly, that’s never bothered me in the least. A stained enamel pan is my badge of honor that I’ve cooked often and well for my friends and family).

The light-color enamel interior may discolor. Does this bother me? No. It's a badge of honor that I've used this pan to the fullest.

In enamel cast-iron braisers, the light-color enamel interior may discolor. Does this bother me? No. It’s a badge of honor that I’ve used this pan to the fullest.

• The enamel may chip. But frankly, if it does, it might be your fault (using too high of heat or sharp utensils). The exterior of my 10-year-old Le Creuset braiser has a few nicks, but that’s because I’ve manhandled it a bit over the years; the interior (where it counts) has no nicks whatsoever.

After ten-plus years, there are a few chips in the outer enamel. Doesn't bother me a bit.

After ten-plus years, there are a few chips in the outer enamel. Probably more my fault than the pan’s, with all the rough-housing I’m prone to do in the kitchen.

Which brings me to…

The advantages of the All-Clad Stainless Steel Braiser:
In my inaugural test of this braiser yesterday, I cooked a marvelous pork roast (recipe to come!). Here’s what I found:
It conducts heat well and distributes heat evenly. All-Clad sandwiches a core of aluminum (a great heat conductor) between outer layers of stainless steel. The pan isn’t heavy, but it does have a nice, authoritative weightiness to it.
• It browns foods beautifully. Indeed, I reluctantly admit that it browns better than enameled cast iron with light-color interior—though the latter does well enough for most uses.

I was delighted with how well and quickly last night's pork roast browned in the All Clad Braiser.

I was delighted with how well and quickly last night’s pork roast browned in the All Clad Braiser. Yes. You’ll get the recipe. Wednesday.

• It cleans up nicely.
• It’s not so freaking heavy. As I mention above.
• It won’t react with acidic food.
• It’s made in America. The importance of this is up to you. Le Creuset is made in France, and the Lodge Enamel Cast-Iron Braiser is made in China, though by an American company.

Disadvantages of the All-Clad Stainless Steel Braiser:
• It’s not cast iron. And if you love cast iron, you’ll want an enamel cast-iron braiser.
• It doesn’t come in all those amazing colors! This might matter to you, from not at all, to a little, to a lot.

Auditioning for the show "too cute."

Le Creuset: Auditioning for the show “too cute”?

• It’s relatively expensive. Right now on Amazon, it’s $239.95. While that’s comparable to the Le Creuset Braiser (at $249.95), you can get the Lodge braiser for $61.60 (a current sale price for the blue braiser) or $90 (the current price for the red braiser).

Bottom Line: I recommend the All-Clad Staineless Steel Braiser without reservation. The braiser you choose will simply depend on whether or not you prefer enamel cast iron or stainless steel.

Other links you might enjoy:
What is a Braiser? What is a Dutch Oven? Should I invest?
Review of the Lodge Braiser
A list of all recipes in my Braiser Cookbook

Links to Amazon products and customer reviews:

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 3-1/2-Quart Round Braiser, Cherry

All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Dishwasher Safe Braiser Pan

Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole (3-Quart)(i.e., a braiser)

Also note that the Lodge Caribbean Blue colored braiseris currently on sale for $61.83. A bargain, in my book.

 

 

Note: I requested and received the All-Clad Braiser from the company for the purposes of this review, with the understanding that I would return it after testing. My opinions are strictly my own. Also, any purchases you make through the links provided will help support this site–without adding to your costs whatsoever. Thank you for your consideration. 

 

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