Worcestershire Sauce

November 30, 2010 7 Comments

Worcester Sauce

“What’s This Here Sauce”

As a home cook who has never been to culinary school and has been teaching myself to cook for as long as I’ve been posting on the Internet, I am always thrilled to learn something new from my professional chef friends.

It is why I started The Reluctant Gourmet web site in the first place and as long as I continue to learn, I will keep finding new and interesting topics to write about or ask my chef friends to explain what I don’t understand.

Saying that, I am thrilled to post this enlightening post from Chef Mark R. Vogel about Worcestershire Sauce or as we call it in our family, “What’s This Here Sauce” and how he uses it in his braised brisket of beef recipe.

What I love about Mark’s recipes is the way he looks at the history either of the recipe itself or some ingredient used in the preparation.

Most of us have used Worcestershire Sauce in some dish they have prepared. Growing up there was always a bottle on the table when my mom served beef stew. When I make beef stew now and add a few drops to my plate, it takes me right back to my childhood. Funny how some foods do that to you.

I think you will enjoy this history of Worcestershire Sauce and the following recipe for braised brisket of beef and would love to hear from you in the comments section below.  How do you use Worcestershire Sauce?    What foods bring back memories from you childhood?

The City of Worcester – England That Is

Worcester is the principal city in Worcestershire County in the West Midlands of England.  Bifurcated by the River Severn, it has a population of about 100,000.  Inhabited since at least Neolithic times, it eventually became a Roman hub of trade and manufacturing.

Worcester played a key role in the English Revolution, (1642-1651).  King Charles I was overthrown and beheaded in 1649.  His son, Charles II endeavored to wrest control back from the Parliamentarians and restore the monarchy.

That didn’t go so well.  In the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles II’s Cavaliers were defeated, thus marking the denouement of the English revolution.  Worcester had remained loyal to the king.  To immortalize its fealty it was proclaimed “The Faithful City”, a motto now embodied in its coat of arms.

A Little History on Worcestershire Sauce

Worcester is also the home, but not necessarily the origin of Worcestershire sauce.  Here we go with another culinary mystery, rife with alternative accounts and “depends on who you ask” explanations.

John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, a pair of successful Worcester chemists, are credited with concocting Worcestershire sauce in 1837, (other sources site 1835 or 1838).  It was commercially available to the public by the next year and obviously became a huge success.  Some sources allege that it was developed in India.

Others claim that its rudimental recipe originated in India but was then modified and/or fabricated into Worcestershire sauce by Lea and Perrins.  Recountals of who, and under what circumstances, its building blocks were introduced to Lea and Perrins vary.

The Lea & Perrins brand, clearly the market dominator, was purchased by the H.J. Heinz Co. in 2005.  According to their label it is made from vinegar, molasses, corn syrup, anchovies, water, onions, salt, tamarind, cloves, natural flavorings and chili peppers.

The precise ratio of the ingredients, the arcane “natural flavorings,” and the specifics of how it’s made remain a secret.

What About Those Secret Ingredients?

I called Heinz and spoke to one of their media representatives and specifically queried about the nature of their “natural flavorings.”  Their lips were sealed.  They did offer however that Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is still made in Worcester.

Whatever the history or the recipe, Worcestershire sauce has a distinctive and savory flavor that adds an alluring dimension to many dishes.  Worcestershire capitalizes on umami, now recognized as the fifth basic taste along with salty, bitter, sour, and sweet.  All of these tastes have specific receptor cells on the tongue.

Umami, somewhat ineffable, has been described as brothy, meaty, and/or savory.  Worcestershire is used on all kinds of meats as well as marinades, sauces, stews, Caesar salad, bloody Marys and countless other preparations.

Below is my recipe for braised brisket of beef which employs Worcestershire sauce.  Brisket is a cut of beef below the shoulder; basically the upper front leg.  Brisket is the home of traditional corned beef and pastrami, but is also suitable for pot roast, which a braised brisket of beef basically is.

Like chuck, it is a tougher, albeit highly flavorful cut of meat.  It is rendered succulent by braising, i.e., slow cooking in fluid for a protracted period of time.

Braised brisket is a traditional Jewish dish although it can be found in cuisines the world over.  You can purchase a whole brisket which will yield 10-15 lbs.  If you’re not feeding an army brisket also comes in its component cuts, the first cut and the front cut.

If you’re a fat-phobe opt for the leaner first cut.  If you’re more about decadence and richer flavor, go with the front cut.

Braised Brisket of Beef

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes

Braised Brisket of Beef


4 lb. brisket

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour, as needed (optional)

Vegetable oil, as needed

2 large Spanish onions, roughly chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup dry red wine

1 pint beef stock, plus extra if needed

8 oz. tomato sauce or canned tomatoes, chopped

A splash of apple cider vinegar (optional)

2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

5-6 red potatoes, quartered

5 large carrots, cut into large chunks

How To Prepare At Home

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Liberally season the brisket with salt and pepper.

Some cooks also like to dust it with flour for a crisper external texture and to add a modicum of thickening to the fluid but this is not absolutely necessary.

In a large, heavy, oven-proof Dutch oven heat the oil. Sear the brisket until well browned on each side. Remove the meat and set aside.

Sauté the onion, adding more oil if necessary. When the onion is almost done add the garlic and sauté one more minute.

Add the wine and deglaze. Reduce the wine to about half.

Add the remaining ingredients except the potatoes and carrots. Add additional salt and pepper.

Return the meat to the pot. Cover and place in the oven for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Then add the potatoes and carrots.

Check the fluid level in the pot. If it looks low add some more stock.

Cook another 45 minutes or until the vegetables have reached your desired tenderness.




Last modified on Tue 23 July 2019 11:17 am

Comments (7)

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  1. Drew says:

    It’s also probably pretty close to garum, a common ingredient in Roman cooking. Which matches up perfectly with Worcester being “a Roman hub of trade and manufacturing”.

  2. scott says:

    I’m sad now because I have a cast iron dutch oven, but it’s not the enameled variety. You’re never supposed to deglaze cast iron, right? I got this beloved piece for less than $50. Tell me I don’t have to spend hundreds on a Le Creuset now, please…

    • Hi Scott, I don’t thing there is any problem deglazing in cast iron. I have done it with success and I’ve read several recipes that call for the same technique. You have to be extra careful if you deglaze with any liquids with alcohol because the pan gets very hot and could ignite the booze. Might want to remove it from the heat first. You also want to make sure your pan is well seasoned before deglazing with any acid liquids too.

  3. LADawg says:

    Just wondering if any of you know of or have heard of a man named David Wade? He had a local TV cooking show in Dallas 30+ years ago. Anyway, he had invented something he called Worcestershire Powder. Best I recall it was sold under his name brand. I did an internet search and it looks like it might still be available as an on line purchase.

    • admin says:

      I had not heard of David Wade but he was an early pioneer in television cooking shows. He passed away in the late 1990’s. – RG

  4. Chef Mark says:

    Drew: Indeed. Garum was made from fermented fish and inevitably shared some flavor dimensions with anchovies, which are used in Worcestershire. The ultimate unifying component of course, across all these ingredients and concoctions is the taste sensation umami.

    Hi Mark, thanks for clarifying the term Garum. – RG

  5. Chef Mark says:

    I’d like to dovetail on what RG said about cast iron. As long as you properly season it before the first use, re-season from time to time, and clean it after each use, (they recommend salt and oil not soap), you can degalze it. In a nutshell, seasoning and cleaning it prevents rust and as long as its not rusty, you can deglaze with impunity.

    Thanks Mark for making that clearer. – RG

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