Braising is two-step cooking process in which meat or vegetables are first cooked in a skillet to promote browning and then cooked in a flavorful liquid over a long period of time. However, unlike stewing or poaching, the food is not totally submerged in the liquid.
Cooks braise when they want to soften tougher cuts of meat and very hard root vegetables as the combination of time, liquid, and heat will loosen meat fibers and add flavor.
How to Braise
- Select a tougher cut of meat or vegetable. Fish, fruit, and soft vegetables will not withstand this form of cooking.
- Cut the vegetables into even pieces. If cooking more than one piece of meat, make sure each piece is roughly the same size.
- Season any meat on both sides with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. The pepper adds flavor and the salt will begin to draw out the juices in the meat. This will help form a better crust later.
- Let the meat sit at room temperature for ten to twenty minutes.
- Heat a dutch oven, pot, or deep skillet over medium high heat and add two tablespoons of neutral oil with a good smoke point. Canola oil should work just fine.
- Brown the meat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until a crust forms. Crust adds flavor to the meat.
- Remove the meat and add the vegetables. Let them cook 2-3 minutes.
- Make a well in the center of the pot and add the meat back to the pot.
- Fill the dutch oven with a cooking liquid, typically broth, stock, or wine, until the liquid comes halfway up the side of the meat.
- Cover the pot.
- The product should now be cooked until the meat or is tender. This can take anywhere from thirty minutes to eight hours.
- There are two options for cooking the meat. The first is to keep it on the stove top on as low a heat setting as possible.
- The second is to put the pot in a 300 degree oven
The important part is that the braising liquid should not boil. This will overcook the meat and cause it to dry out. Keeping the heat low and cooking the meat for a long time will cause the fibers to loosen, promote the formation of gelatin, and ensure moist meat.
Note: if only braising vegetables, the cooking time should only be thirty minutes.
Braising liquid should be flavorful. The meat and vegetables will be cooking for a long period of time and the braising liquid will infuse its flavor in the meat or vegetables. If the liquid does not taste good, neither will what is in it.
Good braising liquids include broth (many dishes), wine (osso bucco), and tomato sauce (chicken cacciatore). Any of these liquids may be further flavored with vegetables, citrus juice and zest, and herbs.
What to Braise?
When braising vegetables, go with harder root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and rutabagas.
Braising is often confused with four other cooking methods: boiling, blanching, simmer, and stewing.