Braising 101

As an aficionado of vintage cookbooks, I discovered that braising has been a popular method of cooking for a long time. When I researched the technique, the earliest references I could find were from 18th century France. French cooks called the process of using dry and wet heat to prepare meat “braiser,” which morphed into our English word braising.

Classic French dishes like coc au vin and beef bourguignon are braised dishes. The culinary technique spread throughout Europe as an ideal way to tenderize tough cuts of meat and make them more flavorful. Asian cuisine—especially Vietnamese and Chinese—feature delicious meat and vegetable dishes that are braised to a tender perfection. American settlers praised braised dishes of mutton, oxen and beef. Pot roast and Swiss steak are braised dishes that are still iconic comfort foods.

Learning to braise is not difficult. While the double-duty technique takes a little longer than baking or broiling, the mouthwatering results are worth it. The first braised dish I learned to prepare was a tender beef brisket for our family’s holiday table. Over the years, I discovered other braised recipes from around the world that are ultimately tender and delicious. Here are some of my best tips & tricks for successful braising in your kitchen.

Choose the right cuts of meat

Braised meat recipes can save your money because they feature tougher and less expensive cuts of meat. Beef chuck, shank, brisket & skirt steaks are splendid for searing and slow braising in stock. For Asian-style meals, consider oxtails or short ribs. For pork, consider ribs and flavorful cuts of pork belly. Braising creates delightfully tender chicken for your favorite chicken recipes.

Ideal vegetables for braising

While braising veggies with meat ups the flavor value, they can stand on their own as a scrumptious and satisfying dish. Some of my favorite veggies to braise include root vegetables, onions and hardy greens. Braising is a preferred technique for many Indian-style bean or legume dishes. I absolutely love braising summer vegetables into a mouthwatering ratatouille!

The best pan for braising

Successful braising depends on steady, low heat. Ancient cooks sealed meat in heavy earthen-ware vessels and buried them with hot coals for hours. Fortunately, cooking techniques and equipment has evolved, and we get the same tasty success with a Dutch oven. I have a medium and a large cast iron Dutch oven for all my braising recipes. They distribute the heat evenly and allow the meat and vegetables to slowly develop intense flavors. Be sure that your Dutch oven has a tightly-fitting lid.

The perfect sear

Searing gives meat and veggies that attractive golden- brown surface that we all love. It requires an extremely hot Dutch oven with the oil lightly bubbling and shimmering. Sear the meat or veggies until evenly brown on all sides. This process seals much of the juices in the food for more tenderness and flavor. I prefer to use heavy tongs for turning meat as it sears. A cooking fork pierces the meat and wastes a lot of precious juice.

Easy pan deglazing

After the meat and/or veggies are seared to perfection, remove them from the Dutch oven and set them aside. Your choice of cooking liquid will make a big difference in the flavor nuances of the finished dishes. While many recipes call for stock or wine, I have made over-the-top yummy braised dishes with beer, cider and even flavored vinegar. Experiment with different liquids to find what best suits the flavors of your dish.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the liquid. For best deglazing, use a wooden spoon to scrape up tasty bits of charred meat from the bottom of the pan and stir it into the warming liquid. Some recipes may have your cooking the liquid on low heat until it has reduced, while others just instruct you to add the meat to the liquid and braise on low heat for an extended time.

Take your time

While we all appreciate smart recipes that can be prepared and served in an hour or less, braised dishes take time. For ultimate results, you want the seared meat, veggies, herbs, spices & cooking liquid to slowly meld into complex flavors that delight your palate. Braised dishes often taste even better the next day!

Braising on the go

I often use my slow cooker and electric pressure cooker to make braised meals overnight or while at work. I sear the meat/veggies in a skillet or on the sauté setting on the electric pressure cooker, then let the appliances do the work for me! Many classic braised dishes can be modified for your slow cooker or electric pressure cooker.

Are you ready to save on your grocery budget and prepare your family a sumptuous dish they will enjoy? Try some of my easy braised recipes and discover new global flavors to add to your kitchen repertoire!

Hungarian-Style Braised Beef & Paprika Recipe

Hungarian-Style Braised Beef & Paprika

This flavorful stew is a favorite in Hungary. My easy recipe includes fork-tender braised beef in a savory broth. The sweet paprika, wax peppers and hint of wine send your taste buds into orbit!

Osso Bucco Recipe

Osso Bucco

This elegant Italian dish is traditionally made with bone-in veal shanks in a savory tomato sauce. The meat in my easy recipe is well-seasoned with fragrant herbs & spices, then braised to tender perfection in chicken stock and white wine.

Braised Carnitas Tacos Recipe

Braised Carnitas Tacos

Invite your family to go south of the border with this scrumptious Mexican-style recipe. Load warm corn tortillas with tender, savory pork seasoned with aromatic herbs, spices & citrus juice. For a little kick, drizzle them with warm tomatillo salsa flavored with jalapeno. Ole!

Filipino-Style Adobo Short Ribs Recipe

Filipino-Style Adobo Short Ribs

Here is my version of adobo, a classic dish from the Philippines that features meat & veggies braised in a savory sauce. The vinegar gives the dish a pleasant tanginess that is complemented by the sweet coconut milk. The tender ribs fall off the bone.

Coq Au Vin Recipe

Coq Au Vin

To make a traditional coq au vin, you brown the chicken, bacon, and vegetables in a Dutch oven first, then braise with dry red wine, chicken stock, and cognac mixture and lastly bake in oven. Serve with green beans and mashed potatoes.

Beef Rendang Recipe

Beef Rendang

If you like Asian-style curries, wait until you try this traditional “dry” curried beef recipe popular in Malaysia. My yummy version includes tender beef chunks seasoned with a savory spice paste and a warm spice curry. The Asian-inspired herbs & spices create rich flavors you will love.

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About Chef Bear

Robert Felkins

My food philosophy is simple; food should be a feast of all five senses. Meals should be based on simple, tasty and smart recipes that are easy to follow. Instead of serving processed junk, I prefer to use fresh & seasonal ingredients. I gravitate towards all cuisines that are BIG on flavor. By cooking at home, we can all eat healthier and save money.

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