Braising

braising: to cook (food) slowly in fat and a small amount of liquid in a covered pot

Braising can be daunting because of the amount of time that goes into the description– “a 24 hour pork shoulder” “the 105 hour leg of lamb.” But that time is very inactive on behalf of the cook. You are effectively allowing time and temperature to do the work for you and then taking credit with a dramatic title. The basic pot roast recipe is the most quintessential form of a braise, but sky’s the limit in terms of what can be achieved with a good sear, a bit of liquid, a low oven and a lot of hours.

Process

  • Marinate your braise-able overnight with spices, salt, herbs and oil for a very deep flavor.
  • Heat the oven to anywhere from 200F-300F. I’ve never braised anything at over 350F and not reminded everyone in the room to never let me do that again.
  • Remove the braise-able from the marinade and give a good sear in a heavy-bottomed pan.
  • Add the aromatics and the braising liquid.
  • Return the braise-able to the pan, cover with a tight fitting lid and transfer to the oven.
  • Allow to cook until the braise-able is tender. For meat, the muscles should yield to a gently prodding fork. For vegetables, taste a bit and decide if you like it.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its juices over night.
  • Remove the braise-able from the dish and taste the liquid. If it tastes bland, bring to a boil and reduce until flavorful.
  • Serve with the liquid and any appropriate accompaniments.

Things to Know

  • Tough cuts of meat with lots of connective tissue are the best for braising.
  • You need a tight fitting lid to braise well. If it doesn’t fit tightly, wrap the top of the dish with tinfoil and then place on the lid. There is little more infuriating than smelling a delicious braise for 24 hours to open it up and find it dry and terrible.
  • Don’t braise meat above 300F. It needs to be low and slow to break down the connective tissues, allow the flavors to penetrate and make something more than the sum of its parts.
  • Taking the time to marinate the braise-able and let it cool in its juices is not necessary but can be the difference between good and great.
  • For more info seek out Molly Steven’s magical book, All About Braising.

Hallmarks of Success

  • Food that elicits more compliments than number of ingredients that went into the pot
  • Tender and flavorful meals
  • A lowered food budget because you were able to transform the lesser appreciated cuts into a delicious dinner

Trouble shooting

  • Tough meat was either not cooked long enough or at too high a temperature
  • Dry meat didn’t have enough liquid or a loose lid that allowed the moisture to escape