Boiled Beef and Its Broth

Il Lesso Da Brodo

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Boiled beef for

    4, and 6 cups

    decreased broth

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There are two reasons why you should make boiled beef. The first is for the beef itself. Slow cooking in abundant moisture softens beef’s toughest tissues and produces meat with a succulence and a fine, delicate flavor that no other method can approach. A perfectly boiled piece of beef, however plain the description may sound, is as fine a dish of meat as you can bring to the table.

The second reason is for the collateral product of boiling—the broth. No risotto or soup can equal the finesse of one made with homemade beef broth. It is, moreover, so practical. It cooks with very little supervision, and you can freeze broth and use it weeks later.

When I say broth, I do not mean stock. The dense aromas of stock are hostile to light-handed Italian cooking. Broth is water in which solid meat and a few vegetables have cooked, nothing more. The vegetables I use, and subsequently discard, are carrot, celery, and onion. I add to them a peeled potato that soaks up the flavor of the fat, a piece of bell pepper that brings a whiff of freshness, a tomato whose acidity prevents the broth from becoming cloying. I do not put in an herb bouquet, because I don’t want those fragrances interfering with any dish in which I will be using the broth. I do not roast bones, and I no longer make broth with chicken. Chickens today make distractingly harsh broths.

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  • 1 medium potato, washed and peeled
  • 1 whole ripe tomato
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 1 stalk celery, with some of its leaves
  • ¼ red or yellow bell pepper, seeds and white pith removed
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 pounds beef chuck or plate or brisket, with some bone in
  • Salt

A pot in which the water will cover the meat by 2 inches; see step 1


Making Boiled Beef

  1. The meat must cook covered by 2 inches of water, so you need a pot that not only can contain the meat and vegetables and 8 cups water but is narrow and tall enough to keep the water level high. Before you begin to cook, you can try several pots, if you are not sure, with all the ingredients.
  2. Put all the vegetables and the water in the pot, bring to a slow boil, and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the meat, cover the pot, and turn up the heat to high in order to return to a boil as rapidly as possible. When the water has begun to boil again, adjust heat so that it simmers steadily, but very gently.
  4. After 1½ hours, add 2 tablespoons salt.
  5. Cook another 1½ to 2 hours, depending on the thickness of the meat. It should feel tender when prodded with a fork.
  6. Serve the meat while it is still hot with one of the condiments in this chapter or dressed simply with very good extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice, or with the red or green sauces in my previous book, or with horseradish or mustard, as you prefer.
  7. If you are not going to eat the beef at this time, slice it thin. Lay the slices in a flat refrigerator container, moisten each layer of meat, as you put it in the container; with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt; close the container tightly; and refrigerate. This is marvelous as a cold luncheon dish with salad.

Keeping the Broth

  1. Having removed the meat and discarded all the vegetables, pour the broth through a large strainer lined with a single-ply paper towel into a broad bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator one day, or at most two.
  2. When you take it out you will see that the fat has congealed in a thick yellow layer on top. Lift the fat out a piece at a time with a large, flat spatula, and discard it.
  3. Pour the clear, degreased broth into ice cube trays and put them in the freezer. When it has solidly frozen, unmold the cubes, put them into airtight plastic freezer bags, label them, and return them to the freezer. If you are keeping the broth longer than 2 months, boil it again for 15 minutes, and refreeze it. Do not keep longer than another month.