By Stacie Billis
There are few cooking techniques that you can learn in one day and use to cook nearly anything. Braising is one of them. Here’s what you need to know about this go-to winter cooking method.
What Is Braising?
Braising is the process of pan searing followed by low and slow cooking in liquid. It is most commonly used to transform tough (often inexpensive) cuts of meat into impressive meals that elicit oohs and ahhs. But you can also use this technique for tender, silky vegetables and creamy, flavorful beans.
The only downside to braising is that it takes a while. That’s why it’s often considered the domain of weekend cooking warriors. But, since so many of us home more of the time and nearly all of the cooking is hands-off, it’s a great time to learn this technique.
Here’s the low down:
How to Braise Anything
1. Sear your meat.
Cover the bottom of a Dutch oven with your healthy fat of choice and set the pot over medium-high heat. Season your meat generously, then add to the pot. If it’s cut into pieces, be careful not to overcrowd. Once all of your meat is browned on all sides, remove from the pot and set aside.
Note: Skip this step if you are braising vegetables or beans.
2. Sauté your mirepoix and aromatics.
Mirpoix is a French flavor base made of diced veg, usually onion, celery and carrot. It’s a good place to start, but once you get comfortable, switch up the vegetables you use and add aromatics as you see fit. Garlic, shallots, ginger, lemongrass, anchovy paste, fresh herbs all work. Get creative!
3. Deglaze the pot.
Once your vegetables and aromatics are soft and fragrant, deglaze the pot by adding a big splash of liquid. Use wine, stock, beer, vinegar, or even water — and make sure to scrape up any crispy bits that are still stuck to the pan. Those bits are called fond and they are critical to building flavor. Do not let them go to waste!
4. Cook low and slow.
Return the browned meat to your pot, along with any accumulated juices, and add the braising liquid. This can be the same liquid that you used to deglaze the pot, some other liquid, or a combination of the two. For example, you can deglaze with wine and then braise in either wine or a combination of wine and stock. Other braising liquid options include milk, olive oil, tomato sauce, and coconut milk. The options are truly endless and the only critical thing to remember is that your braising liquid should only cover the meat about halfway. Do not submerge!