What is braising?

Braising uses a combination of searing and simmering to cook tough cuts of meat, mainly beef and pork, leaving them juicy and tender. It is also suited for mature poultry and fibrous vegetables such as carrot, celery and leeks. 

If you are unsure about the cuts used for braising, remember this simple rule – “most exercised part of the animal is used for braising”.

Here is the list:

Beef: shank, chuck, brisket, oxtail
Poultry: Thighs, legs
Pork: Shoulders, rib, belly, butt
Lamb: Shoulder, breast, shank, legs
Veal: Shank, breast, shoulder

Searing the meat using butter or oil at high temperature is the first step in braising. The surface fats, protein, and sugar in the meat react and give a rich brown color, adding the essential flavor. The meat is kept aside to sear other flavoring ingredients-garlic, onion, carrot, celery. A braising liquid - stock or water, along with the acidic ingredient- tomatoes, vinegar, lime, beer or wine is added to speed up the protein breakdown in the meat. The meat is put back in, covered with a tight lid and slowly cooked for 1 hour or more till the meat is fork tender. The braising liquid should reach the level of the meat without submerging. By reducing the liquid, you can use it as a sauce while serving.

Lighter beer goes well with the pork; darker beer for beef and Cider alcohol in combination with cider vinegar gives great flavor for poultry and pork. Dry wine, when added with stock or water, gives the required acidity and balance for the dish. Other ingredients that can add flavor to the dish are mushrooms, ginger, lemongrass, bay leaf, peppercorns, sage, thyme, and rosemary. 

The combination of moisture, heat and longer simmering time is responsible for the conversion of collagen in the muscle tissues to gelatin giving meat its soft texture; a characteristic of braising. The meat is cooked using a conventional oven at 300 ºF or over the stovetop at low heat in a crockpot, pressure cooker or Dutch oven.

Braising is an economical cooking method. For one, tough cuts of meat used for braising are cheap, the ingredients are few and since we use a one-pot cooking method, it saves hard labor in the kitchen giving ample time to carry out other tasks. 

Examples of braising: Pot roast, lamb shanks, coq au vin, Indian beef curry.