Braising is a combination cooking technique that uses dry heat and wet heat. The way it usually works is that you brown the food first for just a few minutes in a cast iron pan on high heat, which is known as sautéing or searing. This step helps bring the flavor of the food out. Then the meat is placed in a large covered pot at a lower temperature while sitting in liquid. This is where the food spends the remaining cooking time. Lots of home chefs use the terms "braising" and "pot roasting" int…
rchangeably. But technically, one of these cooking methods calls for adding a larger amount of water or broth.
How Braising Works
Braising is a cooking method that works best with foods that are tough, especially meat because specific cuts have very fibrous connective muscle tissues. The types of meat that should be braised due to their toughness are beef brisket (used to make pot roast), pork belly, and beef chuck, plus many other cuts. The way braising works is that the constant, simmering heat, combined with moisture inside the sealed pot or Dutch oven, breaks down the meat's connective tissues over a long period of time. Also, using acidic liquid aids in breaking down the tissues and also adds to the flavor of your recipe. Not all braised foods need to cook in liquid. For example, some vegetables have high water content and can cook in their own juices. But when you're cooking meat, it's best to add an acidic liquid like tomatoes or tomato paste and water, balsamic vinegar, red wine, white wine, beef or chicken stock, and even beer. Certain types of cuisines also tend to use the braising cooking method. Chinese food is often braised in soy sauce; Vietnamese cuisine is braised in a combination soy sauce and fish sauce, and Moroccan-style tajine recipes are braised in liquid with fresh herbs and spices.
What You Need for Braising Recipes
The only thing you need to braise food is a large pot with a tight-sealing lid. Dutch ovens are perfect braising pots because they're large, they have a fitted cover, and they're designed to stay hot for a long time. Slow-cooker Crock-Pots and pressure cookers are designed for braising food, too. But they're not considered pure methods of braising since other cooking techniques also come into play.
What Recipes You can Braise
The end goal of braising a particularly tough cut of meat is to make it so tender that you can cut it with a fork. So pot roast and pork shoulder are good examples of the type of meat that is best for braising. But also, recipes like beef short ribs, beef stew, goulash, and coq au vin should be made using the braising method because the in these recipes would otherwise be tough and chewy.
Make Braised Coq Au Vin
Coq au vin is a traditional French stew. First you brown pieces of bacon. Then using the leftover bacon fat, brown both sides of cut up pieces from a whole chicken. Before you start braising the meat and vegetables together, bring red wine and chicken stock to boil, and then lower to the burner to medium heat or medium-high heat. You can also put the pot in an oven that was preheated to 250-degrees F. Allow the meat, bacon, carrots, and mushrooms to braise for about 40 minutes. For the final step before serving, add pearl onions, and mix butter and flour into the stew to thicken the liquid. You should get the desired thickness after about 10 minutes. Then season the entire pot, or just your coq au vin serving, with kosher salt and black pepper.
Benefits of Braising
Besides taking a cut of chewy beef and turning it into a fall-off-the-bone and cut-with-a-spoon meal, learning how to braise food will save a lot of money and feed more people. It turns out that the toughest meats cost less than tender cuts. That's why you pay less and can get a lot more food. And by braising your pot roast or pork shoulder, no one even has to know that you reigned in any spending. When you're serving chicken cacciatore, coq au vin, beef bourguignon, and lamb tajines, plus recipes from China and Vietnam, no one will even guess that the meat you bought low-cost meat.
Braised Pot Roast
Preheat the oven to 325-degrees F. While waiting for the oven to reach full temperature, season the roast beef with salt and pepper. Put the roast in a Dutch oven with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and brown the meat on all sides on the stovetop. Remove the meat and cook carrots, celery, onion, turnips, cubed and peeled sweet potato, and a few garlic cloves until fragrant. Then pour in your liquid: beef broth, red wine, balsamic vinegar, plus fresh herbs, like thyme, sage, and bay leaves. Return the roast to the Dutch oven. Bring the liquid to a brief boil then place the pot in the oven for 2 to 3 hours. Before removing the roast from the oven, test that it's tender enough. After removing the meat, vegetables, and herbs, thicken the liquid by mixing in 1/4 cup each cornstarch and water. Allow the liquid to boil for 2 minutes while you continuously stir. Serve the meat with a side of mashed potatoes and pour thickened pot roast gravy over your entire dish.
Another way to braise pot roast is in the slow cooker. This recipe has been liked by all the people who enjoy coming home from work and school to a meal ready to eat. Season the roast with salt and pepper. It's suggested to brown on all sides first in a skillet, but this step is optional. Put the roast in the slow cooker with seasoned soup mix, water, carrots, onion, regular or sweet potatoes, and celery. Then close the cover and let it cook for 8 to 10 hours on "low." There's no need for someone to open the lid to stir or moisten the roast since slow cookers are designed to collect moisture and use it to cook the food trapped inside.