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Old 08-24-2012, 07:30 AM   #1
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Always wanted to know - meat first or garlic/onions? Or it depends?

Hi all. I wouldn't call myself a great cook or anything, so perhaps this is why I'm asking this question here, but I've always wanted to know why some recipes state that you should cook the garlic and onions first, and some state that you should cook the meat first.

I've always been told that you usually cook the garlic/onions first so that they release their flavors into the meat, but I've heard the reverse as well.

Is there a hard and fast rule to which one is better? Or does it differ from recipe to recipe?

This is mainly for stir-frys and sauces, but I'd appreciate any information on other recipes where it's applicable.

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Old 08-24-2012, 08:04 AM   #2
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Berabouman

I also am cooking only for my family and friends. And I always fried onions and garlic first and then the meat.
Until one day I was watching a famous chef here in Greece. She was on TV and was preparing beef stew with vegetables and potatoes.
She fried the meat first (untill it turns red on all sides, generally when the meat is fried and ready it does not stick to the bottom of the skillet), saying that the meat will taste better and keep its juices inside, and then added the onion, garlic, fried for 2 minutes and continued cooking the stew following the recipe.

I was surprised and I tried it the next day.
I can tell you that the meat is juicier and more soft when cooked first.
Since that day I cook this way

I speak for myself only :)
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Old 08-24-2012, 08:18 AM   #3
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I would say it depends on what your cooking. Generally speaking, meat first and vegis next. If we are making a braised dish, the meat/poultry is browned off first and set aside, the onion, garlic, celery, etc. are sauted in the fat that was rendered (may need some extra oil/butter), the pan is deglazed and the meat added back. In the case of a pot roast, once the roast has cooked enough, other vegis are added in order of cooking time required. Seasoning is done through out the cooking process.
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Old 08-24-2012, 08:18 AM   #4
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Unfortunately, the answer to your question depends totally on the recipe.
I don't put too much stock in the notion that cooking aromatics in the oil will flavor the oil enough to in turn flavor the meat, since the majority of the flavor components in aromatics are water-soluble, not fat soluble. Even in the case of the latter, the flavor wouldn't penetrate the meat unless you were doing a confit of sorts, so the only additional flavor would be on the oil that's left on the meat, which would likely float off into the rest of the dish at some point anyway. All-in-all, I don't think it makes a difference in that regard.

For stir fries you should generally cook the meat first, it's called "velveting."
I think the best idea is to familiarize yourself with WHY you could cook the meat first or not, and how the different ways of preparing it affect the final outcome of the dish.
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Old 08-24-2012, 08:41 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the replies so far! It's good to know that there are others like me who have wondered why you cook each one first. :)

"I think the best idea is to familiarize yourself with WHY you could cook the meat first or not, and how the different ways of preparing it affect the final outcome of the dish."

I think this is a very good point, but unfortunately I don't know enough about food chemistry to understand it well enough. Would anyone care to explain?
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Old 08-24-2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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It's hard to give a catch-all answer but I'll try:
If you cook the meat first, the idea is to brown it for extra flavor. Contrary to popular belief this does nothing to "seal in the juices," but it gives a really flavorful crust that you can't get any other way besides browning it. I also leaves flavorful brown bits in the pan called fond. I generally do whatever I can in a dish to create a seared crust and fond. At that point you add your veggies, which have enough water in them to keep the fond from burning as long as you control the heat and add a little salt. Just watch out because if you're pre-searing the meat, you can't allow the fond to burn or the meat to overcook.
If I'm pre-searing and I notice the fond starting to burn, I'll throw in a small amount of water and stir up all the brown bits, let the water evaporate for a few second until the liquid is a syrupy consistency, then I'll scrape it out onto the already-seared meat, and continue searing the rest. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of this "fond" (I avoided the bad pun there)
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Old 08-24-2012, 06:45 PM   #7
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If I have the choice between say beef mine and onions, I always put the onions in first for a short time and then add the meat
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