How to Poach Beef

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Poaching choice beef cuts still carries a whiff of sacrilege among many cooks, who assume that fillet and tenderloin automatically need a dry, direct heat. In fact, small beef joints and cuts with little fat benefit hugely from the uniform, subtle heat that poaching provides. The secret is to prepare an aromatic stock capable of boosting the beef’s flavor in the absence of fat.

Things You'll Need

  • Beef fillet or tenderloin
  • Medium-size pot with lid
  • Chicken or beef stock
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Slotted spoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Scissors
  • Frying pan
  • Olive oil
  • Tongs
  • Chef's knife
  • Herbs
  • Kitchen string
  • Cook’s thermometer
  • Bring a pan of chicken or beef stock, with aromatics such as onions, celery, carrots and even leeks or fennel, to a simmer and allow to bubble gently for 10 minutes to infuse the stock with flavor.

  • Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and set aside before they turn mushy, and reduce the heat so that the stock is moving but not bubbling. The vegetables can be reintroduced later if making a reduced sauce.

  • Season a tenderloin or beef fillet with plenty of salt and pepper and leave at room temperature. Trim away any sinew with scissors. Some cooks choose to brown the beef first in a frying pan in hot olive oil, but others skip this step as there is so little fat in the beef to allow crusting.

  • Transfer the beef to the stock, cover and allow to poach for a maximum of 20 minutes. The stock should not immerse the beef, but rather cover roughly two-thirds for a more intense flavor. Although poaching cooks the beef evenly, there is a fairly narrow window between medium-rare and well-done, roughly 18 to 22 minutes, according to BBC Good Food.

  • Turn off the heat and allow the beef to rest in the stock for 5 to 10 minutes if serving hot, or up to 30 minutes if the beef will be served cold with relish.

  • Remove the beef from the stock with a slotted spoon or tongs and pat dry. Slice into rounds with a sharp knife.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add plenty of herbs such as rosemary, oregano and bay leaf to the stock, while wine and even pale ale add complementary flavors.
  • Keep the stock after removing the beef and reduce to make a sauce that can be poured over the rounds when serving.
  • Tie the beef with kitchen string for bone-in joints to keep a cylindrical shape. Otherwise, fillet or tenderloin can go in untied.
  • Make sure the stock is not bubbling during cooking to avoid toughening the meat. Poaching differs from simmering in that you use less stock in a slightly shallower pot at a lower temperature, typically between 194 and 201 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F for a medium-rare fillet. Although fillet is the same cut used in raw dishes such as carpaccio and tartare, the U.S. FDA recommends 145 degrees as the safe internal temperature for beef.
  • Poaching will not tenderize a beef cut, so it would not be appropriate for slow-cook cuts such as shoulder or brisket.

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  • Photo Credit valery121283/iStock/Getty Images
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