Braising is partially immersing
food in a liquid and cooking it, tightly covered, over low heat for a long
period of time, until the food is tender and the flavors of liquid and food
combine, mellow and resonate.
Braising is tailor-made for tough cuts of meat like short ribs, stew meat and
brisket. We braise beef to make pot roast, chicken stew, pork stew and beef
It's just as good for vegetables. Freshly pick basil, large carrots and parsnips
and celery root. All these are good candidates for braising.
There are two kinds of braises. In a brown
braise, the food is seared before the cooking liquid is added. It's brought to a
boil, the heat is lowered, and the food is simmered until it is fork-tender and
the sauce has turned sweet and deep-flavored from the preliminary browning.
Pot roast is a brown braise.
In a white braise, there is no searing or
browning. The food is simply gently heated in a covered pan with a small amount
of liquid. Chicken fricassee, the classic French veal stew, are both white
In either case, using an acid such as wine, vinegar, tomato or lemon juice for
part of the braising liquid will help tenderize the food. And you can add flavor
to the sauce by using a combination of onions, carrots and celery, the diced
aromatic vegetables that the French call "mirepoix" and the Italians,
Busy people will find another bonus to braising: Cooks who plan ahead know that
braised dishes not only reheat well but also taste better when reheated. Make
braised pork chops on Sunday, refrigerate them, and reheat them on Monday. Make
chicken fricassee on Saturday, freeze it, and defrost it a week later, when you
get home late, tired, cold and hungry for something warm and flavorful.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL BRAISING
1. Use tough, flavorful cuts of
meat. Tender meat will merely self-destruct in the long, slow cooking.
2. Do not overcrowd the pan.
The meat or vegetables should be distributed in a single layer.
3. An acidic component such as
wine, vinegar or lemon juice will help with the tenderizing process.
4. The more flavorful the
braising liquid is, the more flavorful the finished dish will be.
5. The food should be partially
immersed in the liquid. If you're making pot roast, the top of the pot roast
should be peeking out over the liquid, rather like a sandbar.
6. Don't allow the liquid to
boil. Once it reaches a simmer (185 degrees), turn the heat down. Protein and
connective tissue begin to soften at 120 degrees. At 170 degrees, they begin to
firm up again. Boiling the liquid will ensure tough meat. If the liquid should
boil, the remedy is to continue cooking it at a reduced heat, until the protein
7. Use a heavy pan with sides
that are high enough to hold the food and liquid easily, such as a large