The poaching process cooks beef with the use of simmering liquid in a covered pan. The liquid is brought to a boil, the beef is placed in the boiling liquid, the heat is reduced so that the liquid is at a gentle simmer, and the pan is covered. When the beef is thoroughly cooked, the poaching liquid can be skimmed to eliminate fat and impurities. Thinly sliced beef may take only a few minutes to cook or it may require a half hour or longer depending on the size of the cut.
Poaching differs from boiling in which food is vigorously cooked for the duration of the cooking time. Boiling can toughen beef and poaching allows the beef to retain its tenderness, moisture, and flavor.
When poaching beef, it is important to use small cuts such as slices of steaks or roasts so that the gentle heat of the poaching process will cook the meat thoroughly. It is important that the meat be totally covered with the poaching liquid in order to achieve the proper results. Water is often used as the poaching liquid, but other ingredients can be added to the water to provide additional flavor to the beef. Chopped aromatic vegetables such as carrots, onions, and celery can be added to the water as well as herbs and spices. When the poaching process is completed, the liquid and vegetables can be used as a broth or it can be strained and reduced and used as a base for a sauce that can be served with the poached beef.
Poaching is a healthy cooking method because no additional fat is required for cooking the beef. The poached beef can be eaten as part of a main meal or it can be cooled and used as an ingredient for various salads, sandwiches, or entrees.