If you’re wondering whether to make a meaty meal from simple cooking techniques, you might want to consider braising. The age-old method combines all the convenience of using a Dutch oven to make the meat tender and juicy while providing a sauce that you and your family will enjoy every single time.
What Are The Basics Of Braising?
Even if you’ve ever heard of Julia Childs or not, French cooking is deeply embedded into American culture. You’ve likely heard about pot roast with an image that sounds more like a culinary task rather than a savory dish. Actually, Braising comes from the French word ‘Braiser’ which combines dry and moist heat to cook meats. It all starts with searing meat on all the outside edges using high temperatures with a small amount of oil.
After this seals in juices inside your meat, then the liquid is added to a pot or pan where it simmers in a small amount of stock until it’s done. This method was originally intended to transform tougher cuts of meat into tender and juicy morsels. As far back as 1870 was the first mention in any modern recipe, but the roots may have been borrowed from Italian cooking.
What Are The Best Dutch Oven Practice Tips?
Even though we live in a society that often turns to take-out and ordering from fast food restaurants, most of the modern generation has no idea how to cook. But for those who do enjoy cooking, the concept for cooking with a Dutch oven is typically put on the back burner so-to-speak. All of us at Cookware Junkies want you to know that cooking with cast-iron pot is a lot easier than you’ve been led to believe.
Here are our top tips for Dutch oven braises.
Can you braise in a cast-iron Dutch oven?
Any kind of Dutch oven is perfect for braising since these cast iron pots have all the key features to cook meat. Right from the go, you can start to sear your meat in the same pot as you’ll add stock to slow cook that same meat. Since these pots are made from cast iron, they will be ideal for getting a good sear on any type of meat you decide to braise.
This helps to get a better sear to keep juices inside the meat while it cooks. This is one of the main reasons why meat can become tender as it simmers inside the pot. Circulating air within the pot itself will create a confection effect if you place the lid at an angle to give it some air. Hot and cool air will circulate within to get all sides of the exposed meat to cook evenly and from within.
Can I use enamel-coated cast-iron for braising?
The enamel coating is perfectly fine since the braising temperature doesn’t need to be above 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher than this could crack the enamel which will be bad for your pot and will begin to lift up and flake off in sections. Once liquid gets under the enamel, this cooking surface is no longer recommended to use. Most Dutch oven brands have no coatings and are seasoned so they create a non-stick surface.
Seasoning doesn’t take much time to do but you do need to use consistent coats of oil each time you clean it and add a new seasoning layer. These oil layers are then heated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit inside an oven for one hour. Then it needs hour to cool down. This needs to be repeated several times to build up a good seasoning on your pot. After that, it’s ready to use.
Troubleshooting when braising in a Dutch oven
Those who have never used a Dutch oven to make braised meat might like to know that there are some other tips to prepare this type of dish. It’s not rocket science exactly but so many websites will add their preference to a recipe without specifying the reasons why. This is utter lunacy when it comes to cooking, so let’s clear the air and give you an open book policy about what you should and shouldn’t do with this cooking method.
Do I braise meat with a Dutch oven inside the oven?
The big question of whether to braise your meat inside the oven or on the stovetop is a heated question. No really, it’s pure stupidity that causes many people to forget what they are cooking with. Cast-iron Dutch ovens are used for their advantage of storing heat and holding onto that residual heat for long periods. Unlike aluminum and other types of metal, cast iron gets hot and stays hot wherever the heat source allows the heat to transfer.
Because it’s iron, this highly conductive heat radiates through the metal naturally, so keeping your pot inside the oven is redundant! You might overcook your meat because the heat inside the oven will cause your pot to get too hot. Remember, that heat builds up within the iron faster, even when your oven is set to a specific temperature.
Do you cover Dutch ovens when braising?
Simmering meat inside a pot with the lid on it is a matter of evaporation that causes the liquid inside to increase the temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit. If you aren’t using the lid, the liquid will eventually boil down to nothing. For braises, there is a combination you’ll want to use which allows the lid to stay on the top for a while. Then you’ll need to take the lid off to get your meat to brown further as it simmers.
All sides of your meat will need this while you rotate each side at timed intervals. At each stage when you rotate your meat, you want to put the lid back on but give the lid just enough air to get confection. This allows some steam to escape but the suction pulls fresh air inside allowing your meat to brown further where it’s sitting above the liquid stock. This is the part of braising that most people think is so hard to manage.
How Do You Know Braised Meat Is Done In Dutch Ovens?
In reality, it can take between 1 to 3 hours to braise meat in your Dutch oven. Depending on the age of your meat, these cooking times will all vary but it also has a lot to do with the type of meat you’re braising. Chicken and poultry will take less time so count on 1 to 2 hours whereas pork, lamb, and beef may take up to 3 hours. It’s not always about what temperature the meat reaches, since tougher meats need to break down and tenderize.
You’ll immediately know your meat is ready when it can separate easily with a fork or the meat comes off the bone with no trouble. Just like BBQ ribs, the secret is all due to slow cooking over time, but the liquid you braise with will also influence this as you rotate these pieces as it cooks. This is why you need to keep an eye on your cooking times to rotate the meat as needed.
What kind of meat you can’t braise in a Dutch oven?
The best rule of thumb is not to use quality meats that you don’t want to ruin. You can cook a broiled steak in a Dutch oven but you shouldn’t attempt to braise a good steak. The problem is with the amount of tissue that meats in these select cuts have to offer. You want to have meat that’s meant to be used as beef round or brisket which have more connective tissue than prime cuts.
Rib-eye or filet mignon is out of the question, so always shoot for tougher cuts that can take time to tenderize. A perfect example is brisket chuck roast, rump roast, and short ribs, but not limited to wild meats including deer or wild boar. A great example for poultry is free-range chicken and rooster which tend to be rather stringy unless you slow cook them to perfection.
Why is my braised meat tough?
The number one reason is always that you didn’t braise the meat long enough. The second reason is that you used prime cuts which will do the exact opposite when they’re braised. These turn into tough pieces of meat because they lack the amount of fatty and connective tissue throughout the meat itself. These top-shelf meats are meant to be cooked fast and furious style with an exact internal temperature of 135-145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Besides that point, who in their right mind wants to spend more money on buying expensive cuts of meat to put into a slow cooker to be braised? Rump roast and brisket are typically much cheaper and need a lot of time to get that tenderness from all the fat and stringy tissue running throughout it. The same applies to seafood that’s very rubbery like squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.
Then there are tough fish including Murray cod, monkfish, blue-eyed trevella, and salmon that will make excellent braises for fish dishes. You can check the cooking times on each of these by comparing individual recipes online.
Dutch oven recipes you’ll want to try
There are many great recipes you can find online, but you’ll need to compare these with at least 2 or 3 others to get an accurate braising reference. If you’re into beef, we’ve got a great recipe that is a favorite of ours. You’ll love trying this since it’s always a crowd-pleaser and can be modified easily as you like. Check it out!
Easy stout-braised short ribs
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
- 6 Boneless short ribs (each weighing: 10-12 oz.)
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1 onion (thin sliced)
- 1 Large carrot (thin sliced)
- 3 Cups beef stock (or low-sodium broth)
- 2 Cups dark stout beer (or any dark stout of your choice)
- First, you need to warm up your Dutch oven on high heat with two tablespoons of oil at the bottom. This will be used to quickly sear your short ribs on the tops and bottom. Be sure to season your short ribs with salt and pepper before searing them. You can use as much as you like at this point. Also, use tongs to sear the sides as best as you can. Remove any excess fat around the edges so you get a good sear. Put each seared piece off to the side until the next step.
- Into the remaining fat and juices from searing your short ribs you now add your onions and after that the carrots. Allow these to cook for no more than 8-minutes on medium-low heat and stir them until they are softened and cooked. Both of these will be turned into your short rib sauce later. Now at this point, you will add your stock and beer into the Dutch oven and bring this to a boil.
- You can now add your short ribs placed into the pot strategically so you can flip them as needed. Place the top onto your Dutch oven and allow it to cook for one hour. After one hour, angle the lid so it’s allowed to vent steam. This is when you can flip each piece of meat every 15 minutes.
- Continue this until your meat is nice and tender. When the meat is done you transfer your meat to a platter and cover immediately with foil.
- The last step is simple since you’ll need a slotted spoon to scoop out the carrots and onions and place these in a blender. Whatever is leftover in the liquid needs to have the fat scooped off the top of that liquid. After that, you can save this in a jar for later since this fat is great for cooking. The remaining liquid is scooped out with a ladle into your blender and mixed until it’s smooth. This is returned back to your Dutch oven and boiled further to reduce it.
- After it’s become thicker you can season this with fresh salt and pepper and set this to simmer. Now you place your short ribs back into this thickened sauce until your ribs are warmed all the way through. You can now take each piece and serve them to your guests.