profile

Salt Sear Savor

⛷🏂 Shred the Gnar. Fry the Gnar!

Published about 2 years ago • 3 min read

We hit 1,000! You are incredible. Thank you so much for sharing the newsletter and helping us reach our goal for the year. And 20 days early too! Yeah, we’re overachievers!

And for the 35 new folks, welcome! I’m excited you’re here to learn more about cooking with us.

Shred and Fry Meat To Transform Its Flavor & Texture

Ready to add another technique to your repertoire?

Pulled pork. Ropa Vieja. Shredded BBQ chicken. Carnitas.

These shredded meat dishes are famous for a reason! Succulent. Tender. Juicy.

It’s magical to cook tough cuts of meat low and slow until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. But you don’t have to stop there. Whether it’s braised chuck roast, smoked pork, or a poached chicken breast, you can continue the alchemy by shredding it all to pieces.

But Why Shred Slow-Cooked Meat?

Let’s pull apart the layers (see what I did there 😉) and find out what’s going on.

Shredding meat:

  1. You create a softer, more tender texture than if you leave it in chunks. The act of pulling it apart obviously breaks down the overall structure. In a sense, it gives your teeth a headstart. 🦷🏃🏁
  2. You connect all the shredded bits into a web-like structure so it holds together. It becomes one large mass instead of distinct pieces.
  3. You create more surface area! Why does that matter? The meat will more easily absorb any sauce you mix into it.

So shredded meat is easier to eat in a taco or a sandwich. It won’t fall out as you take bites.

A nicely charred, grilled chicken breast might turn out dry. But if you shred it and mix in some BBQ sauce, no one will know the difference!

And remember this.

It’s not better or worse to shred. It’s just different.

For example, one night you might braise beef and serve it in whole pieces over polenta. Then the next night, you take the leftover beef, shred it, and mix it into a tomato sauce for pasta. It becomes a completely different dish!

Fry Shredded Meats

Okay. You’ve taken slow-cooked, tender chunks of meat and shredded them. You’ve got this tender, juicy, web.

And you can stop there.

But that soft mass of shredded meat is a bit one noted in flavor and texture.

What if I told you you could create a dynamic combo of tender, juicy meat that is also crispy and intensely flavored at the same time?

Here’s how to continue the transformation.

Just re-introduce heat.

Heat creates flavor and a crispy texture through the Maillard reaction. And while we often only think about it for raw food, the same principle applies to cooked food too.

Whether you want to call it frying, crisping, or searing, here’s the technique:

  1. Add shredded meat to a smoking hot pan with plenty of fat in it—the fat promotes browning and keeps the meat from drying out
  2. Let the meat sit without stirring until the bottom crisps and darkens, almost turning black in spots
  3. Then flip, not stir, the meat until that crispy, dark bottom is on top—Stirring promotes even cooking. But we want uneven cooking here so some of the meat stays juicy.
  4. Let it sit undisturbed again until the top, which is now on the bottom, crispifies as well.

Think of it this way. It’s the same technique as cooking hash browns. 🤯 You’re just swapping the shredded potatoes for shredded meat. You get a wonderful combo of crispy and soft all in one. The differences in texture turn it into a party in your mouth.

Easy, right?

There is one last thing to keep in mind.

Heat causes the fibers in the shredded meat to contract and expel internal moisture. So by cooking the meat again, you run the risk of drying it out.

  • So this technique is better for fattier cuts. For example, if you did it with shredded chicken, dark meat works better than white meat.
  • It’s also why you want plenty of fat in the pan when you fry it.
  • And why you may consider adding a sauce to the shredded meat after you’ve seared it.

Beyond Carnitas

My guess is you have experienced this shred-then-fry technique if you’ve ever eaten carnitas. It’s common to crisp the pork after it’s been slow-cooked.

But I intentionally didn’t mention it until now. Why? I wanted you to know this technique is versatile! Reapplying high heat to cooked food can transform it. 🔥

If you throw a big BBQ, you can take a pan full of pulled pork and throw it under the broiler. You’ll brown the top of the pork and achieve a similar result as frying it in a skillet—you can just crisp up a lot more at once!

Or you can take shredded beef and stir-fry it in a smoking-hot wok along with some veggies and soy sauce. You’ll have a killer dish you can serve over rice.

So the next time you slow cook something, consider transforming it not once, but twice, by shredding and then frying it

Where I learned this: This article on making carnitas with leftover Thanksgiving turkey from J. Kenji López-Alt. And then there’s an article from Milk Street that I can’t seem to locate to give credit. Sorry!

Do you have any advice on how I can improve the newsletter? Ideas for topics I can cover? Hit reply and let me know. I love hearing from you.

As always, thanks for reading. Catch you next week!

Luciano 👨‍🍳

Salt Sear Savor

Learn to craft your own dishes, improve recipes, and just be a better cook with a free weekly email on cooking.

Read more from Salt Sear Savor

A Balancing Act: The 7 Elements of Taste Recipes are guidelines, not exact formulas. You can follow a recipe perfectly and get a different result than the recipe creator. From ingredients varying in taste to using another type of salt, there are many factors at play! That’s why you have to use your taste buds to be able to adjust or create a recipe on the fly. I’m here to help. There are 7 elements of taste that impact how we enjoy food: salt, sweet, sour, bitter, umami, fat, and spicy. Just...

about 2 years ago • 4 min read

Do you live near the ocean? Lucky you. I do not. Here in Colorado, I couldn’t even drive to an ocean within the day if I wanted to. So think about it. When I’m standing at the fish counter at the grocery store, how fresh could that salmon possibly be? It could have been caught yesterday and flown in this morning! Maybe. But probably not. How Fresh is “Fresh” Fish? There are loads of reasons fish can take a while to end up on a grocery store shelf: Boats spend days at sea before they bring...

about 2 years ago • 3 min read

I hope you enjoyed the holiday season and are off to a wonderful start to the new year! It’s good to be back sharing some cooking knowledge. Thanks for letting me have two weeks off! I know y’all run a tight ship. 😉 The Key to Sweeter Sweet Potatoes Ever roast sweet potatoes just to have them turn out…not that sweet? Yep, me too. There is a trick to super-duper sweet, sweet potatoes. And no, it’s not adding maple syrup and marshmallows. It’s all about how you cook them. Sweet Potatoes’...

about 2 years ago • 3 min read
Share this post