How to Braise Meat: Beef, Chicken, Pork And Lamb
Learn the basics of braising and you can transform even the toughest cut of meat into a tender, succulent masterpiece. Here's how to braise meat.
What is Braising?
Braising is a technique that uses both dry heat cooking and moist heat cooking. First, the food is usually seared at a high temperature to brown it and give it a nice crust, then a small amount of water is added and the temperature is turned down low, to cook for a longer amount of time. Once the initial browning occurs, the food’s flavor is intensified. This technique makes for an incredibly moist and tender dish.
3 Braising Methods and Tips
Slow Cooker: Keep the lid on to maintain a consistently hot and moist environment. Opening the lid multiple times causes the heat to leave, requiring extra time to come up to temperature. Crock-Pot’s run about 209ºF at its simmering point, perfect for braising. The braising liquid should be about halfway up the meat.
Stove Top: Braising on the stove is a fine way of starting out, but using one burner, especially for a larger pot, can be difficult; it’s harder to regulate the temperature and depending on how hot your stove runs, you may need to check the liquid levels frequently to make sure there’s no burning or hot spots. You may be able to step away for a few minutes, but not all that long because of the quick evaporation of the liquid.
VIDEO: Richly Flavorful and Ultra Tender Braised Beef Brisket
Oven Braising: Once you add all your ingredients and you’re ready to step away from things for a bit, consider an oven braise. The oven is a wonderful way to get consistent heating. Checking a large pot in the oven can be tricky, though, and can be heavy to lift out when you need to do so.
Browning the meat
The first part of a successful braise is browning the meat. Browning uses the famous Maillard reaction to swiftly and effectively caramelize the sugars in the food to give what you’re cooking a richer, deeper flavor. Once your pot is heated, add an oil or fat (butter, lard, etc) and add your seasoned meat to the pot. The trick here is to get the meat deeply browned on the surface.
Once you’ve browned the meat, most likely you’ll have to remove it from the pot to add other ingredients that will make up the rest of the dish. This might be the time to add onions, leeks, garlic, fruits, vegetables, or other aromatics into the fat that’s in the bottom of the pot. Adding any of these ensures the flavors will be complex and delicious come dinner time.
Liquid - How much to use
How much liquid you add depends on how you plan to serve it—add more if you want a more soupy, stew-like meal, less if you want a more concentrated sauce. This can be broth, beer, wine, vinegar, tomato juice, or even water, but be careful that you don’t add too much.
The liquid helps deglaze the bottom of the pot. Once deglazed, you can add the browned meat back in, careful that the level of the liquid doesn’t rise over the meat. You still want all that meat to rise above the liquid you’ve added
Once you’ve reintroduced the meat into the vegetables and liquid, get the whole mixture back to just boiling, when large bubbles break through the surface of the liquid rapidly, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, at the lowest temperature on the stove.
Bring to a boil and then simmer
Making sure the food you’re cooking gets up to boiling before turning the heat back down is a great way to visually determine where you’re on the spectrum of moist heat cooking. Don’t let the braise boil too long, though, or what you end up with may ultimately be too tough.
Recommended braising temperature
If you’re doing the braise on the stove, use the lowest setting you can. If you’re using the oven, set the temperature somewhere between 250 and 325 degrees, depending on the recipe you’re using. Once you get the hang of braising, though, you can probably set your own temperature without a recipe.
How to braise Chicken
Chicken and capons, especially thighs and legs, can be made in coq au vin, a delicious French dish using lots of red wine. The braising liquid is divine poured over mashed potatoes. Braise the chicken until its internal temperature reaches 195 degrees. There’s no need to cook chicken for hours, like a large cut of meat or pork.
How to braise beef, pork, and lamb
Most tough cuts of meat may be lean, but they contain lots of collagen which breaks down in the cooking liquid and helps meld all the flavors together. Tougher, larger cuts of meat are transformed by braising into mouthwateringly tender meals. Make pulled pork from a pork butt, a Sunday pot roast, or braised lamb shanks from cuts that wouldn’t be as delicious cooked any other way. Bone-in meats are good, too, because the bones impart more flavor into the dish.
A general guide for braising meats is about an hour per pound, so this could translate into 1 to 5 hours, potentially. You may want to check your pot at the 2-hour mark—if a fork can be inserted into the roast with ease, you might want to pull it out of the oven early. Of course, this also depends on what temperature you’re cooking at.
Braising and its benefits
This cooking technique has the option to cook protein and vegetables all in one pot for a balanced meal. It’s also easy to adjust the thickening agents to comply with diets like Paleo or Whole30.