Mechado a la Marketman, Revisited


My first post on Beef Mechado a la Marketman was extremely educational. Not on my part, but on the part of all the commenters that weighed in on the subject matter. In our home, mechado was more like a beef stew with carrots and potatoes, and maybe the pork fat thrown in for flavor. I tried to replicate the childhood version I was familiar with, and frankly, thought I had done a pretty good job achieving what it my mind was a saucy, fork tender and screaming for steamed rice as its life partner stew, here. But in the comments section, a discussion over kaldereta vs. mechado, a detailed description of mitsa or sticking the pork fat into the center of a roast, etc. was really quite interesting. If you go back to the original post and scan through the comments, you will see what I mean…


Apicio’s comment about owning a larding iron, whose specific use is to insert lard into meat (talk about single-use implements), always stuck in the back of my mind. I haven’t found a larding iron to buy, so the next best thing was to find some beef at the grocery that already had the strip of fat inserted into it! I asked the butcher at Rustan’s to make a larger piece of beef (say a kilo worth) and he just inserted the lard with a sharp long knife and his fingers… hahaha, now I know how to do it the low-cost way… And I made my way home hoping to make a brilliant, and more authentic mechado.


I tied up the meat with string to keep it all together. I marinated it in toyo (soy sauce) and kalamansi (calamondin) for about 45 minutes to get that localized pinoy flavor to the tomato sauce, and browned it on all sides. Removed the browned roast and added chopped onions and garlic to the pot, then some passata or tomato sauce and some chopped canned tomatoes, bay leaves, ground pepper, and bit of the leftover marinade. Once this came up to a simmer, I added back the beef and stuck it ina 350F oven for some 2-2.5 hours to braise slowly. The meat was turned over a couple of times. And roughly 30 minutes before taking out the pot, I added lots of chopped carrots, potatoes and some sliced red capsicums or sweet bell peppers. You can add some water during the cooking process if it looks like its drying out. Some wine might be nice as well.


I took the meat out and let it sit on a chopping board for 10 minutes, while I cooked the carrots a bit more. Then I sliced the meat, with the nice chunk of fat in the center of each slice, laid them out on a serving platter, and spooned a lot of the veggies and sauce on the side. The verdict? Ewww. A 5.0/10.0 at best. The meat was incredibly dry, kinda like shoe leather. And the sauce was good but a bit too thick. If you doused the meat in sauce, it got a little better. But I have to say, my first version was far and away more appealing. Of course this could just have been a function of bad meat to begin with (Australian beef in this case), but I do prefer the individual softer chunks of beef more akin to a Western stew than this version. I think I am going to chop up the meat and heat it up with a thinned sauce for lunch today. That might make it a little more appealing…


42 Responses

  1. “The verdict? Ewww. A 5.0/10.0 at best” Hahahahahaha, this made me laugh! Great post MM, I’m sure your next attempt will be awesome!

  2. Mechado was standard fare during wedding receptions or similar events back in the old days in my hometown of Obando, Bulacan. The neighbors pitched in to cook the “handa” which is what we used to call the food prepared for such occasions. I distinctly remember that the beef was just boiled/stewed with tomato sauce, soy sauce, onions, black pepper, garlic, worcestershire sauce, olives, bell pepper and potatoes. No oven cooking. Tough cuts of meat were used, even carabeef, but the resulting dish was always tasty, moist and tender because of the long boiling/stewing time. Also, I remember that the lard was inserted into the chunk of meat exactly the way you described above.

  3. MM, I think this would taste much better if you cooked it in a slow cooker. The sauce would not only have saturated the meat with flavor but also made it very tender.

  4. “A 5.0/10.0 at best.” – lol. am not entirely sure, but i think this is the first time i’ve seen a rating that low from you, MM. better luck next time. at least now you know what not to do next time. heheheh

  5. my lolo cooks d best mechado way back… the sauce is rich and condensed, almost left at the borrom with a thick layer of fat/oil on top, he adds a little “litid” and more of the fat whle slow cooking the stew… i guess the secret here is adding cooked liver pate’ and some sweet pickle relish…

  6. The raw meat looks incredibly lean! I find the best cuts for braising are the ones with a lot of connective tissues =) What cut of beef did the butcher give you?

  7. MM, whenever my Mom made mechado, she always slow cook it. That means lots of hours spent in the chicken since mom didn’t have any crock-pot to slow cook the meat. Her version always comes out tender and juicy, the trick I think is in the slow-cooking. Sorry, but I read the part where you stuck it in the oven, I knew instantly the meat would not come out tender and juicy, did laugh out load at the “ewwww” description though.

  8. …looks like you have eye of the round, MM. I use chuck blade roast (boneless) for pot roasts and/or mechado….turns out really good each time.

    Outside round vs. inside round…inside round more tender than inside round….just pinch the inside of your “hita” …it is more malambot than the outside of your thigh!

    Another one I use is the thick cut meaty short ribs.

  9. MM, you make me laugh. Here is a recipe for Boliche, the Cuban pot roast that I loved when we lived in Miami. The recipe is from Sonia Martinez who runs a Cuban cooking forum. It is delicous. First time I attempted Boliche, it was “ewwwww.” This recipe solved my problems. The Cubans use “eye of round” for this pot roast and they do lard it but this recipe with the ham (try using pancetta) is delicious!

    BOLICHE (Cuban Pot Roast)
    It is actually more of a “braised” roast rather than a “roasted”
    Yields 6 – 8 portions

    2 lbs beef roast
    6 large garlic gloves, minced or crushed
    1 tsp salt or to taste
    1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1 tsp. dried thyme
    1 tsp. cumin
    1/2 lb ground (sweet) ham ( I use pancetta or spek…it is fattier so helps the lean meat))
    3 Tbsp vegetable oil
    2 medium onions, sliced
    1 tomato, cut into quarters or chopped (optional, you can use canned
    tomato sauce)….(I use canned Molinera chopped tomatoes)
    10 whole black peppers
    2 bay leaves
    1 cup dry white wine (
    1 cup water

    Mix garlic with the salt and ground pepper, thyme and lemon juice. Pierce the roast all
    around, with a thin sharp knife. Using half the garlic mixture, stuff
    holes. Stand the roast on end, using a long, sharp knife, cut an “X”
    through the center of the roast, length-wise, to make a cavity for
    the ham. Pack this cavity with the ground ham. Spread any leftover
    garlic mixture on the surface of the roast. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Better longer.)

    In a Dutch oven, (**) heat the vegetable oil. Brown the roast on all
    sides. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and
    lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 2-1/2 hours, turning the
    roast every half hour or so.

    Let the roast stand for about ten minutes and slice. Extra sauce can
    be served on the side or poured over the slices when serving. Fish
    the bay leaves out of sauce when serving.

    (**) Sometimes I’ll use a pressure cooker and cook roast, after first
    bowning, for about 25 minutes or so.

    Buen Provecho!

    Note :

    BTW, The way I was taught was to make the hole in the meat for stuffing is to lay
    the boliche on the counter and with a sharp knife make a cut and slice a ‘flap’
    from right to left and lay the ‘flap’ open to the left. Then from the middle –
    where the left ‘flap’ is still joined to the boliche – make a slicing cut from
    left to right and let that ‘flap’ lay open to the right. You will now have 1
    piece of meat that looks like a three page book – a center “page” and the other
    two at either side. When you stuff the meat, do it first in the center “page”,
    then you bring one ‘flap’ over, stuff some more on top of that one, and then
    bring the remaning ‘flap’ over to cover all the stuffing. Tie with kitchen
    string and then roast in your liquid and seasonings. Potatoes and carrots cut
    in pieces can be added to cook at the same time.

  10. I forgot, again…maybe freezing the strips of lard would make life a bit easier…using your butcher’s hand tool….hey, even the best of the chef(ette) I know …says the hand is always the best tool in the kitchen!

  11. i agree with chip. i think the meat is way too lean. my mom did it this way, rolled and tied, while my mom-in-law cut the meat into cubes and threaded the fat through each cube. both versions were delicious!

  12. MM, you made me laugh. I thought you’d be wowing your roast but the ewww caught me by surprise:D. Must read up on your other mechado. My SIL cooks mechado very well but when I did her recipe it did not come out as well as hers.

    Susie, your boliche sounds good. Gotta try it sometime. Copied your recipe, thanks.

  13. You’re welcome, Farida. Please note that 10 whole black peppers should read “10 whole black peppercorns!

  14. Hi MM, been a reader for years, you got caught on a Gerello Pot Roast, not to be cut in any way. A waste because you cut it, makes it tighter. In Australia, we cook it in a pressure cooker for about 45 minutes with all the vegetables etc, just as you would have done in your dish, after this time you can carve it with a spoon. The Gerillo is one of the hardest working leg muscles in the cow, and as I have observed from your photo, yellow fat, an old cow, always buy Aussie meat with the whitest of fat, it’s from a steer not a cow.

  15. Looks more like morcon to me… hehe…

    But anyway, my granny makes the best mechado I’ve ever tasted. My mom eventually learned how to do it and so did I.

    We use really nice marbled beef with some “litid” and pork fat (I think it comes from the “batok” of the pig.

    We use lots of onions, garlic and tomatoes. Mince ’em all up. Same goes with bell pepper and celery. We don’t add any potatoes or carrots…

    Oh, we also add laurel leaves and pepper corns.

    Slow cook the beef and the pork fat with just enough water together with the rest of the stuff.

    One the beef is tender, we then add up the tomato sauce and cook it until you have reduced the sauce.

    Salt and pepper to taste. :D

    I love it when the mechado is like, a week old, tapos parang strands nalang yung beef. The best sa pan de sal… :D you should try it… :D

  16. i remember my lola used to make this using smaller chunks of beef about the size of an avocado with lots of marbling fat and then insert the fat on each individual piece. and slow cooking (like 2 hours or more)

  17. We sometimes fail in order to cook another incredibly good Mechado dish the next time! =)

    Do keep us posted!

  18. That looked like morcon :)) Anyhow, MM, I think letting it sit with the braising liquid overnight before serving might help making it a little moister. Moreover, I think brisket could have been a better cut for something like that or a better quality meat, your picture says that the meat has no marbling at all :D

  19. I think it was the cut of meat that made it dry :( I’m sure you’ll have better luck next time! Our mechado too dont have potatoes and carrots.

  20. What a coincidence on my arrival! We are having the mechado I left in the freezer for hubby ( w/c he unfortunately forgot) before my daughter and I left for a bonding cruise vacation to the Holy Land/ Egypt.

    BTW MM, on stopover in Athens, tried to follow your footsteps at Plaka, but my daughter only had an extra day to spare after the cruise and had a bit of the Pharaoh’s revenge to enjoy a nice restaurant meal. Our hotel room offered a nice evening view of the Acropolis though.

    But back to the mechado. My kids also get confused with the mechado/ caldereta thing with similar ingredients, but mechado has of course the pork fat and mitsa inserted thru the meat. I use beef chuck and when I pick a thinner cut and in a hurry, I just thread the fatty pork mitsa into the beef. I use my MIL’s recipe I remember with fresh tomatoes, onions, bay leaf , tomato sauce, peppercorns, some vinegar, potatoes, and soy sauce ( I like the Coconut brand mixed with some Kikkoman…seems to yield a richer sauce as it does with adobo) and simmer slowly for a couple of hours till desired tenderness. I have tried braising in the oven but somehow they do not come out the same.

    Talk about being confused with our culinary terminologies; the Pinoy guests on cruise were served an extra entre of adobo on two occasions , a practice not uncommon as a special treat to the kababayans when there are a bunch of Pinoys on board. The first time, what was presented as chicken adobo, quite yummy, I must say was closer in taste to a lechon paksiw, except of course it was chicken. From an almost no shrinkage of the meat pieces, I would say that it was oven braised. The next time, the adobo served, tasted more like the traditional adobo, yummy as well though a bit salty for my taste. Judging from the appearance of the meat, it was braised on stove top. So here we are with the variations on the same theme: beef, pork, chicken, tomatoes, vinegar, bay leaf, oven braising, stove top braising and coming up with slightly different flavors and effect on the meat.

  21. hi mm! Do you have tips on what to do with tough meats like that? or tips on how to tenderize meat without using the powdered meat tenderizers (the ones available here have msg)

  22. That meat looked like a goner from the start, no fat or litid (ligaments?) to tenderize the meat after a long braise.

  23. When I do my mechado, I just use a flatter cut then, place a strip of fat inside, pound the end of the meat, and roll to encase the fat. Then I enrobe the whole thing in caul fat/fat netting to seal it. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a bit to let it set and retain it’s shape. Others would use butcher’s twine but I’m lucky enough to be able to get caul fat from my local butcher.

  24. Kayadear: Since you are in the ” ‘Pins” as Silly Lolo would say, you are in the Land of Meat Tenderizer! also called Papaya…papain is the natural meat tenderizer. Another option…any acid can be used to tenderize meat…maybe add a little red wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar and as well as red wine in your braising liquid. I am getting a senior moment here and this is what comes to mind off the top of my head now.

    So, that’s is why you have been quiet lately, Doc!

    MM…Apicio is out of circulation again? …must be in Rio by now!

  25. Nowadays here in Singapore I don’t use Australian meat for recipe that call for braising or stew but instead use brazilian meat that has better fat content and more closer to our local beef in terms of taste.

    The mechado, calderata and morcon tend to taste almost the same nowadays. We must have mixed the recipe along the way :)

  26. As always, your posts are so informative. I think it would be great to have a discussion on the different cuts of meat, the best cooking method for each and which dishes they would be best for. Your readers can chime in with their recommendations. I’ve already learned a lot from the comments here.

  27. Doc, you have to remember…there usually is more than one cook on a cruise liner…Pedro and Juan. If Pedro is off, what you got probably was Juan’s version of adobo! Also, Pedro is probably Marc’s kababayan while Juan is from Palawan!….just kidding, Doc!!!

  28. Hi, MM! I think a beef part with a little more marbling would do the trick… maybe you should try slow cooking it on the stove top first and finishing it in the oven. And then osterizing the sauce before pouring it on top of the meat. I always consider a yummy mechado a good palaman for pandesal (with butter)… hmm… makes me drool… LOL.

  29. Chip has a point about the meat not having enough connective tissue, which melts and tenderises the meat on very slow cooking. Also I wonder if using a smaller piece would mean more flavour permeates the meat. A really low temperature, just barely bubbling, prevents the meat having a “ropy” texture. I haven’t had a traditional mechado since I was a child, so I have forgottern what it would taste like. Everyone I know who has served it takes a short cut by cubing the beef.

  30. Couldn’t help but give my two cents about one of my most favorite comfort foods – MECHADO!

    I remember my dad coming home late at night and there would be a table setting waiting for him in the master’s bedroom with a bowl of steaming white rice and a platter of days old mechado with some rock salt on the side.

    There’s nothing like that random crunch and bite of rock salt in every spoonful of mechado rice. For me, the mechado was a totally different dish without the rock salt.

    Btw, in our household your current version of Mechado ala Marketman was how we had the eye round cut as well. Unless I’m wrong that is how the dish got its name – referring to the fat inserted in the center of the whole slab as the “mitsa” or fuse.

    My Lola’s cook “Manang Rosita” learned to prepare mechado from the cook before her and she/they would use only ripe fresh tomatoes (with half as much onions) – sauteeing with garlic, ground black pepper after the meat was browned. They also used “atsuete” generously and it would impart a savory aroma and a distinct (almost nutty?) flavor to the dish.

    As for the cut of beef used, I would say that this is precisely how this cut of beef is cooked anyway – as a stew which has to cook practically half a day. The way we do it (maybe you can try this next time) is that after placing the beef back to simmer for 2 hours or so — we would then slice it into half inch thick cuts and place it back in the sauce for another hour or so.

    As much as I enjoy this dish I stopped cooking it over a year ago as it always falls short of my childhood memories.

    Thanks for the post MM! I may just give it another try…

  31. MM, here are some very specific instructions from Harold Mcgee on braising:
    1. After browning the meat quickly, start the pot with meat and the cooking liquid in a cold oven, the pot lid ajar to allow some evaporation (and thus cooling to prevent the meat’s temperature to rise too quickly) and set the thermostat to 200F/93C so that it heats the meat to 120F/50C slowly over 2 hours.
    2. Raise the oven temperature to 250F/120C so that the meat slowly warms from 120F to 180F/80C (80C is the temp at which the collagen breaks down into gelatin)
    3. After an hour, check the meat every half hour and stop cooking when the meat is easily penetrated by the tines of a fork.
    4. Let the meat cool in the braising liquid to allow it to reabsorb the juices.
    5. Remove to the meat and boil the braising liquid to thicken and concentrate its flavor.

    Rewarm the meat in the thickened sauce gently, being careful not to boil out the moisture that you so carefully ensured to stay inside it.

    What I gather from his explanation in “On Food and Cooking” is that one can very well overcook braised meat, not so much by the length of time it is cooked (but this is also possible) but more importantly, by the temperature at which it is cooked. As they say, in cooking one should consider heat and time to be ingredients as well that need to be applied in measured doses.

  32. MM, as stated above by a few posters, it’s the cut of beef you’re using.

    I always use a whole BRISKET when making mechado.

  33. chip, thanks for that, I was wondering if the heat in the oven was too hot, as from the stove top to the oven it started to gurgle within 10 minutes… Will have to try McGee’s suggestions, he is usually spot on… I love how everyone has weighted in with their tips and suggestions. I think I definitely need better meat. Then alterations to the cooking process, and an adjustment to the liquid it is braising in… Many thanks to all of you. Will have to try this again before the Christmas holidays roll in…

  34. I use top round or kabilugan, as the butchers in Manila call it. Best with a thin layer of fat on one side. I ask them to insert the strip of pork fat inside.
    I marinate it in soy sauce, kalamansi, a little red wine, and some worcestershire sauce. After about an hour, I take it out of the marinade, allow it to stand and dry, then fry on all sides. I remove the meat and in the remaining oil on the pan, I saute garlic, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, patis to taste, peppercorns ground roughly. I then add a half-cup of red wine and water enough to cover half of the mechado. Add a few pieces of bay leaf (laurel). Allow it to slowly braise until fork tender.
    Now, to make sure it is not dry as in your picture, remove the whole piece of meat, and allow to cool. Meanwhile, strain the remaining liquid (you may add water as needed), fix the salt and seasoning to taste.
    Slice the meat into 1/4-inch thick slices, and then return these into the liquid, and set to a boil. This way, the braising liquid enters the meat slices.
    Thicken the braising liquid into some kind of thin gravy. Pour into the sliced mechado arranged in a serving platter. Best served with carrots and potatoes.

  35. When you said the meat was dry, I looked at the dutch oven pot picture and I saw the burnt tomato sauce on the pot’s sidewalls. As well you kind of indicated some kind of a roast. Since the mechado is really a braised stew, I think you should have put on the cover of your Le Creuset. This will ensure self basting and not dry the beef. The evaporating liquid will just flow down the pot walls and you should not see the burnt tomato sauce. The larding process is an old European technique to make cheap tough beef cuts juicy and tasty. It is definitely not just a decoration. The tougher your meat , the more lardons you should insert along the grain of the meat. Essentially you are just artificially adding the marbling fat that is otherwise found in more expensive cuts. Beef mechado is really a pot roast, not a real roast exposed to the dry heat of the oven.

    I enjoy reading your blog out here in cold Toronto. Thanks.

  36. One more tip to avoid drying. The magic oven temperature is 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the Dutch oven pot in the middle rack of the oven. After about 2 hours check the internal temperature of the meat. The muscle starts breaking down at 200 degrees. Once you reach this internal temperature continue cooking one more hour. This really works. Good Luck!

  37. hi marketman, ive always been a lurker of your blog and a collector of food magazines.
    today, i made what i called asadong tagalog today. just like your mechado, i marinated pieces of flank cubes in soy sauce and lemon (no calamansi on hand) and some worcestershire sauce. i then simmered it in water and a can of tomatoes until tender. at this point, i should have taken out the beef and browned in oil as my family would do it -but laziness got the better of me.
    anyway, i added carrots and potatoes and i think it turned out pretty well, tender and flavorful.
    interestingly enough, a guest came over and said the MECHADO was good…and now reading your entry, her comment made sense.

  38. Mechado was a regular fare in our household in my youth. Coming from a family of Kapampangans, our own version of mechado is sliced into 1/4 ” thick before laying it in a pot for cooking. There is a difference between our mechado and caldereta. We dont put any hot peppers but we employ a lot of garlic and we dont use liver spread as a thickenng agent. Our secret ingredient is adding olives and whole sweet pickles with some of the liquid from the bottle in the pot and simmering it on low heat for a few hours until the meat is soft. We add potatoes on the last 30 minutes of cooking.



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