To braise means to simmer food gently, in a covered pot, in a little fat and liquid. The food can be meat, poultry, meaty fish or vegetables. It is usually browned or seared in a little hot fat, before being simmered. The cooking can be done on the stove top or in the oven, but it must undergo a gentle simmer.
Braising is a moist cooking method unlike grilling or broiling over high heat. it’s best used for tough lean cuts of meat because it tenderizes the meat and enhances flavour.
Slow cooking softens the connective tissue of meat without hardening the protein. Tender cuts of meat should not be braised as this will toughen them.
What liquid is used in braising?
You can use white wine, red wine, broth (stock), beer, juice, strained marinade or water. The liquid cooks down to a thick savoury sauce that is used to serve the food.
Tips for Braising Food
Meat or poultry should be seared or browned before braising to intensify flavour and colour. Vegetables can also be seared or browned before braising to improve flavour and colour.
Fatty meat can be braised the day before and kept in the fridge. The fat will solidify on the surface and you can easily remove it before heating the meat and thickening the sauce.
Firm fleshed fish such as monk fish, carp and salmon can be braised.
It’s often a good idea to braise the meat with vegetables. Place the meat on a bed or vegetables.
The vegetables enhance flavour and contribute moisture. You can use carrot, celery, onion, turnips, chopped tomatoes, sweet potato or Irish potato.
Strongly flavoured vegetables like rutabaga or Brussel sprout should be blanched before braising.
Fatty meats such as short ribs are also blanched or seared first to move some of the fat.
How to Braise Meat or Poultry
Dredge the meat or poultry with seasoned flour then brown it in a lightly oiled non-stick pan. The flour helps to brown the meat and it also thickens the sauce during cooking.
You can also marinate the meat for hours or overnight before browning it in hot oil and then braising it.
Skim off excess fat and add a little boiling liquid, not more than 1/2-inch, reduce the heat, cover tightly and simmer the meat until very tender. You might need to add a little boiling liquid from time to time, if necessary.
The meat can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven at a temperature of 300-325ºF (150-160ºC).
When the meat is ready, remove it from the pan and cook down the remaining liquid to a thick sauce.
The sauce can be enhanced with wine, spirits or fortified wine. It can also be enriched with cream or grated cheese. Beurre manié can be added to thicken the sauce in the final stages of braising.
How to Braise Vegetables
Place vegetables in a heavy skillet and add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan, Cover tightly and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender, basting from time to time.
Examples of braised foods
Pot roast: pot roast is a braised beef dish. Roast-sized meat is browned or seared first, then slow cooked in a covered dish, sometimes with vegetables, in or over the liquid. Tough cuts such as chuck steak, boneless chuck steal, short ribs are best for this technique.
Swiss steak: a thick slice of steak, pounded with flour and seared on all sides, then braised, in stock with vegetables and seasonings. The cut is from round steak.
Chicken cacciatore: chicken, fried in olive oil, seasoned with herbs, and simmered in tomato and white wine liquor. Vegetables such as mushrooms, onions may be added.Cacciatore can be made with other meats like beef, veal, rabbit etc.
Goulash: a rich stew originating from Hungary, made of meat (beef, lamb or veal) and vegetables and highly seasoned with paprika.
Carbonade Flamande: beef stewed in beer seasoned with garlic and herbs and served with boiled potatoes
Coq au vin: a casserole of chicken pieces, simmered in red wine, usually with bacon, mushrooms, onions, other vegetables, and various herbs.
Sauerbraten: oven-roasted or pot-roasted beef, marinated before cooking in vinegar with peppercorns, garlic, onions, and bay leaves. It’s of German origin.
Beef bourguignon: a casserole of beef cubes, cooked in red wine with mushrooms, onions, and bacon. Also know as boeuf à la bourguignonne
Beef brisket: braised like pot roast.
Tajine or Tagine: a North African stew of spiced meat and vegetables prepared by slow cooking in a shallow earthenware cooking dish with a tall, conical lid. The earthenware dish is also called a tagine.