Braising is a combination cooking technique in which the main ingredient is seared, or browned in fat, and then simmered in liquid on low heat in a covered pot. Braising works on a variety of items and can be done on the stovetop in a Dutch oven, crock pot, sauté pan, pressure cooker or cast iron skillet or in the oven. Braising is a most effective way of cooking tougher pieces of meat, very sturdy root vegetables and involves cooking over high heat for a short period of time and low heat for a much longer period of time. Braising is a more difficult cooking method but gives excellent flavor and texture and uses ingredients that can be more cost effective such as tougher cuts of meat and often less expensive root vegetables such as onions, carrots and potatoes. The recipes frequently freeze well and a large amount can be made at once with little attention during the long, low-heat cook time, making it an ideal method for large families or cook ahead recipes.
Here are the basic steps:
Season the main ingredient with salt and pepper.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil and/or butter in a heavy pan, cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.
Sauté meat or vegetables in the pan on medium-high heat until the item browns.
Deglaze the pan by pouring broth, beef/chicken/vegetable stock, wine or juice and scrape any brown bits that are stuck to the pan and stir.
Add cooking liquid (water, stock, wine, juice or some combination) to the half-way point of the main ingredient.
Cover and place the item on the middle of a rack in an oven that has been pre-heated to 250°-325° F. Or keep on the stove top over low heat (keep the liquid at just below a simmer – 200-212°F. Stove top cooking is recommended for smaller meat items or vegetables only).
Cook until completely tender. This can range from 1 hour to 24 hours, depending on what you are cooking. Root vegetables will be closer to the 45 minute – 1 hour range while large meat items (brisket, whole pork butt, shortribs, and the like) may take much longer. Always check your recipe.
Remove the pan from the oven and strain the meat and vegetables out of the liquid.
Remove the excess fat floating in the liquid, and then reduce the sauce to desired thickness by cooking it down over low heat until it thickens to make a pan sauce. Or, make gravy by adding a mix of equal parts fat and flour (a roux).
Tips and tricks:
Season your cooking liquid with salt at the end ONLY. The liquid will reduce and can lead to a very high concentration of salt at the end.
Use at least one acidic liquid when stewing. Tomatoes, vinegar or wine help break down connective tissue and tenderize tougher meats.
Vegetables and meats that braise well:
Beef: top blade roast, chuck eye roast, ribs, brisket, shanks, short ribs, stew meat.
Pork: shoulder/butt, front hock, pork belly, spareribs, picnic ham/shoulder, baby back ribs, hock
Chicken: Whole chicken, skin on thighs and legs
Squash – Summer & Winter
There are many recipes for braising for meats and vegetables and PRFM suggests these cookbooks for regionally available items and recipes, all available through the Cathedral of St. Philip Bookstore:
Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality by Anne Quattrano
Your farmer is always a great source of information on how best to cook your market goodies or check out our recipes page!