Braising 101 -Braising Food Like A Pro

Published on August 10, 2023 | Updated on July 17, 2024 | by Allen Bixby

The art of braising food and culinary tips on how to braise properly. We’ll also share some popular braised dishes that are sure to please any crowd.

Braising is a cooking term that has been around as long as humans have had a pot to cook in.  Every home cook should learn the proper techniques, even seasoned chefs look for best practices. You’d probably be surprised about how much you already know. Two words; crock pot. That’s right, a form of braising, but we’ll come back to that.

How it works

Braising is a very effective cooking technique that will yield tender, flavorful dishes with minimal effort. It involves cooking ingredients at lower heat and in liquid, typically in a covered pot or container. The long, slow cooking process gives time for the flavors to amalgamate, while also converting tougher cuts of meat into juicy and unbelievably succulent morsels. It is also a very forgiving cooking process. You can decide your food is done cooking, but it can stay where it is for another 30 minutes if needed. Keep in mind the other direction doesn’t work, you cannot hasten the process, it must have the minimum amount of time.

In restaurants we would often say good food takes time. Braising is made for that motto.

Benefits of braising

Let’s face facts, we modern cooks are spoiled rotten with the quality of ingredients we get, especially when it comes to meat. Spoiling and rotting were big risks. Getting stuff in the pot mattered. Tender meats were also an exception not the rule. Game meats and bush meats have great flavors, but need some help getting ready to eat. Enter braising, one of the best techniques to deliver tender meat and vegetables. It also brings out the base flavors in the food, is an economical way to cook a meal, and creates delicious blended tastes over the extended cooking time.

Braising Tips

In order to braise perfectly there are some key tips to follow. Whenever possible use fresh ingredients; this will give you the most natural and rich flavors for your dish. Make sure that your braising liquid is not too salty season it lightly as the salt level will reduce during the cooking process. Take time when preparing and choose good quality ingredients -this could mean using quality cuts of meat and homemade stocks. When it comes to the process when braising is to first sear the meat or vegetables in a hot pan before simmering them in liquid (often wine or broth). Then add your range of ingredients – herbs, spices, shallots, onion and garlic – with the slow simmer being key to achieving an outstanding result. Popular dishes such as beef stews, osso buco, and braised cabbage are all products of braising.

Non-traditional methods

Crock pots are a great way to braise foods. If they are your chosen piece of equipment, it is still a valuable step to sear the meat in a heavy skillet, getting all those caramelized flavors to add to your pot. We have a fun rotisserie chicken copycat recipe for braised crockpot chicken. If you are impatient, or legitimately short if time we have you covered. You can get very similar, almost identical results, when using an instant pot. We put our money where our mouth is with this recipe for pulled pork carnitas tacos. New tools are good, and the low and slow traditional methods stull work. What a great time to be alive and have such cooking choices!

Popular braised dishes

Moist and tender pot roast has been on menus since it was first introduced in the US in the mid 1800s, and is the penultimate American braised dish. From France we get coq au vin, beef bourguignon. A Mexican (and barbecue) staple is carnitas or pulled pork. These are all cooked by braising. We will go over those three dishes, but they are far from the only choices. Look into ragus and Bolognese, or Chicken all’Arrabbiata from Italy, slow cooked curries form Asia or Harissa, braised beef stew from Africa. You also owe it to yourself to try braised lamb shanks at least once.

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin served with wine

Coq au Vin is a classic French dish that utilizes the technique of braising to create incredibly delicious and tender results. The base of this dish is typically a combination of chicken, mushrooms, onions, bacon, and herbs like thyme and bay leaves and of course ‘vin’, wine. The chicken is browned in a pan or oven before being combined with other ingredients and simmered in either a red wine or white wine stock. The aroma that comes out of the kitchen while it cooks is heavenly! When it comes time to cook your Coq au Vin, make sure that the heat is at a low simmer -this will help keep all the flavors sealed inside the pot while still infusing new ones into every bite! Additionally, if you want to take your Coq au Vin game up a notch try marinating your chicken in white wine overnight and adding some cream or butter towards the end of cooking for added richness.

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon cooked by braising

Beef bourguignon is a classic French beef stew made famous in the US by Julia Child, with beef, mushrooms, pearl onions, bacon lardons, carrots, garlic and herbs. The secret to making this dish stand out lies in the proper use of braising techniques. When preparing beef bourguignon there are a few essential steps to follow to get the best results:

  1. Sear the beef -Heat some oil in a large pot or Dutch oven and sear the beef on all sides for about 5 minutes until nicely browned. This step locks in flavor and ensures that your stew will have plenty of delicious juices once it’s finished cooking.
  2. Add vegetables -Once your meat is seared, add in all vegetables including mushrooms, bacon, onions, carrots etc. Sauté these until they are beginning to soften before adding any liquids such as stock or red wine.
  3. Simmer -Once your vegetables and stock have been added reduce the heat to low-medium and let everything simmer for 2-3 hours until it has thickened up nicely and all flavors have been fully integrated into each other. Make sure to stir occasionally while it cooks so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot!
  4. Finishing touches -For a richer flavor try adding some butter or cream towards the end of cooking time or if desired some fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary can be added for an extra fragrant punch!
  5. Serve -Once everything has come together serve with boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes for an extra hearty meal!

Pulled Pork

Braised Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a delicious and flavorful dish that is typically cooked by braising. The process involves slow-cooking pork shoulder in a flavorful liquid like beer, broth, cider or other acidic liquid to tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor. The key to successful pulled pork is all in the preparation. The night before, the pork should be liberally seasoned with salt, pepper and your favorite herbs and spices. This will help develop an intense flavor as well as help keep the meat moist during cooking.  When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat your oven to 225°F (107°C). This dish is made for your crock pot, or you can place the seasoned pork into a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot with a lid on top. Pour in enough of your chosen liquid so that it slightly covers the meat. Once everything is in place, cover securely with a lid and slow cook, or place into the preheated oven for 5-6 hours until completely tender. Once done, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before transferring onto a platter. To finish off, take two forks and begin shredding apart the pork -this should be easy now since it has been cooked low and slow for hours!

 

So, What Are You Waiting For? Get Braising…

Braising is an incredible way to tenderize tough cuts of meat and vegetables while extracting flavor from all your ingredients. While most commonly used for tougher cuts of meat, braising can be applied to seafood, poultry and even fruits. When done correctly, braising opens up a variety of flavor possibilities with the freshest ingredients around. Get creative with your dishes by adding other herb and spices specifically tailored to your liking. With these tips in mind, your friends will be begging you for cooking secrets after they’ve tasted your delicious braised meal!

About the Author Allen Bixby

A retired restaurateur, not quite ready to stop playing in the kitchen.

I have had the pleasure of watching amazing high end chefs, and classic American style diner cooking, creating a very diverse background with food. Add both parents teaching English, watching Julia Childs and Graham Kerr as a child, and learning to bake bread from my Finnish great grandma, and you get a decent recipe for a knowledgeable voice to write about food.

From recipe design to equipment testing, there is a broad spectrum of entertaining aspects of food and how we do what we do every day to feed our loved ones!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
>