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What Is Rinderbraten?

Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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Of all the ways to cook the beef roast known as rump or round, the German method of rinderbraten, or marinierter rinderbraten, is among the most storied. Translated as "spiced beef roast," this method involves stuffing the cut with pork fat and brining it in a liquid infused with salt, red pepper flakes, cloves, all spice and brown sugar for as long as a month and a half. After the brining, the meat is boiled and then simmered until cooked through, then sprinkled with a little cinnamon before it hits the plate.

The rinderbraten is not whipped up for any old meal, since it has such a long preparation time. Instead, this protein is most often prepared for holidays and birthday celebrations. It is one of several dishes associated with the German gasthaus, or guest house, style of service in large bowls.

It is believed that this dish came to the United States by way of Nashville, Tennessee. According to the Friends of Metropolitan Archives in Nashville, spice round arrived by way of several German-born butchers, particularly William Jacobs of the Jacobs Packing Company. In 1948, after about a century of immersion in the American colonies, Jacobs' company was shipping as many as 40,000 lbs (about 18,144 kg) of spice round every season, according to the historical society.

Though variations exist, the traditional method of making rinderbraten involves first slitting open the lean cut of round roast and stuffing it full of pork fat that is seasoned with various spices like cloves, all spice, cinnamon and red pepper. Then a brine solution is prepared of water, brown sugar, molasses, salt petre and salt. The brine liquid is boiled and then cooled to fully dissolve the ingredients.

The meat then soaks for as few as three weeks or as long as a month and a half, often wrapped in a cheesecloth to contain the valuable stuffing. After the brining, the beef and some of the brining liquid — and occasionally red wine — is brought to a boil. It then simmers for about 20 minutes to as long as a few hours for the meat to be cooked through.

Rinderbraten is commonly served with a beef gravy and also spaetzle, a lumpy Bavarian egg noodle. Various vegetables can be served to round out the meal too. Before it hits the plate, the meat is sprinkled with more cinnamon and sliced.

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