“To Braise” means browning or searing in some kind of a fat and then cooking covered in
a small amount of liquid. This method is used to tenderize and intensify flavors in meat or
vegetables. Inexpensive cuts of meat are best suited for this style of cooking, so it’s an
affordable meal. In the early 1900's when European immigrants came to this country, all
they could afford were cheap cuts of meats, so braising was a preferred cooking method.
Low and slow. It was once said that if you braised a horse saddle long enough, it would
be tender enough to eat. The word braise comes from an 18th century French word that
meant "coal" in reference to the technique of placing a few hot coals on top of and below
a pot of food to heat it, so essentially braising is searing in some kind of fat, then cooking
in a little liquid at a low temperature for a long time. Meats for stews or pot roasts are
braised and the liquid you can use could be anything including stock, water, milk, wine or
Listed below are 4 steps to braising meat. For successful browning, foods must be dry
and free of moisture or steaming not browning will result. Also not crowding your pan will
allow moisture to escape during the browning process and give you a properly browned
piece of meat.
1. Start by choosing a cut of meat. Lamb or beef shank, pork or beef shoulder roast, top
blade steak, brisket, chuck roast, and short or back ribs are the most common braising
choices. Most are tougher cuts of meat with high levels of protein known as collagen.
Collagen cooked at low temperatures for long period’s converts to gelatin in the braising
process which in turn tenderizes the meat and creates a rich thick sauce. So don’t think
you need to buy a tender cut of meat to end up with a good meal. Don't waste your
money. In the end tougher cuts of meat are better for creating the richest flavor and
thicker sauce. The secret is in the gentle slow cooking. Chicken and fish are also great
choices, however, chicken should not be skinless and bone in is best, preferably legs and
thighs, and for fish, shark and swordfish cuts will hold up better than others.
2. Brown your meat in some kind of fat. Oil, butter or bacon renderings work the best.
Depending on your recipe, most meats are browned first for color and flavor enhancing.
Using a Dutch Oven or large heavy oven proof pot ( try to stay away from uncoated
aluminum pots when using acids like tomatoes or wine, they can react with the taste of the
food ) with a tight fitting lid, add your fat, heat to a hot temperature, add the meat and
brown on all sides. Usually browning takes 10-20 minutes and is a process that does not
cook the meat all the way through, it’s a surface cooking called browning or searing to
lock in flavor. Most commonly meat is left whole for braising, but if meats are cut,
remember same size portions are the best for even cooking.
3. Now add your liquid. Liquids can include, wine, apple juice, water, broth or etc. Liquids,
however, should not cover the meat. Usually no more than a ¼ - 1 cup is needed and
sometimes no liquid is added depending on the recipe. Also at this point other items can
be added, onions, garlic, spices, vegetables and etc.
4. Cover and cook on a very low heat, over a stove top, in a slow cooker or in the oven
usually for 1 to 4 or more hours, depending on the recipe. Oven cooking is most effective,
due to even constant heat from all sides which offers the best flavor and tenderizing
Braising temperatures are 145-300 degrees, inexperienced cooks, however, should not
cook below 185-200 without proper equipment for temperature control, meat can spoil if
improperly cooked on to low a heat, if there is a simmer (small bubbling) going on in the
pot you know your temp is just right.