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What is Braising?

I remember when I was relatively new to the whole "cooking thing," being easily confused by the different terms and methods that were listed in the cookbooks. Some of them I remember hearing while I was growing up. These were terms like baking, broiling, or even basting. So, I was a little embarrassed and lost when I first came across the term braising.

Luckily, it wasn't that hard to learn what braising was or even how to do it. Simply put, braising is a way to slowly cook foods like poultry, meat, and vegetables and make them much more flavorful at the same time. One of the beneficial side effects of braising is that it can tenderize even the toughest of meats. There is no specific or maximum time required to cook something when braising meats. However, when using this technique you may need to refill the fluid or liquid from time to time to avoid burning.

To give you an idea of the proper way to braise something, here is a step-by-step description of how to properly braise. While the directions may call for meat, the technique highlighted here can be used for either chicken or vegetables as well.

  1. Cut. Cut up your beef or pork in equal sized slices or chunks. This ensures that all the pieces will cook evenly, throughout, in roughly the same amount of time. After cutting the meat, repeat the process with the vegetables that you wish to use during your meal.
  2. Brown. Once you have sliced up your meat, it's time to brown it. Heat a frying pan with a little corn, vegetable, or olive oil to help brown the meat. Browning the meat means to cook the meat till it's brown on all sides.
  3. Season and sear. While you are browning the meat, add salt, pepper, or whatever seasoning you wish to use and your vegetables. This will help flavor the meal completely later on, while also locking in the taste for the vegetables. You are finished with this step when the vegetables have been cooked evenly on each side.
  4. Add liquid. Once you have browned the meat and seared the vegetables it's time to add the liquid. You can use beef stock, pork stock, chicken stock, water, wine or some combination of these when braising. Fill frying pan until the liquid comes halfway up the meat or vegetables.
  5. Simmer. Reduce the heat and allow the meat to simmer.
  6. Check. Periodically check the meat and vegetables. Your meal will be finished and ready to eat when the meat and vegetables have reached your desired tenderness. You may need to refill the liquid a few times to prevent burning.

Don't worry if you don't immediately notice a difference between "browning" your meat, and "braising" your meat. The difference isn't going to be noticeable when by sight as much as it is by taste. Remember that braising is used to infuse flavor throughout the meat, while tenderizing it at the same time.

 

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Comments for this tip:

Anne Page    24 Jul 2012, 16:46
I find that using a dutch oven to brown and then braise meats works much better than a frying pan, although any heavy, deep sided pan will work. Also, I recommend covering the pan with a lid before simmering allows the juices to permeate the meat.

In addition, I generally add the potatos and/or vegetables when the meat is almost done cooking to prevent them from becoming mushy while the meat cooks.
 
 

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