Braising is the act of cooking food in a liquid to add flavor, moisten, and tenderize. It does usually require a longer cooking time, but it's well worth the wait.
It's best done at lower temperatures like 250-350˚F/121-177˚C to allow your food to cook slowly, usually for hours, depending on what it is. This "low and slow" process gives food time to breakdown (read: become tender), and take on the incredible flavor of your braising liquid. While there are multiple ways you can approach braising, we thought to give you the most common and convenient way.
A quick note: If you can, do this all in one oven-safe pot like a Dutch oven. It's more convenient to do so, and you can really take advantage of all the flavor that builds from the very beginning of the process.
1 | Get Beautiful Color
After preheating your oven, the first step in any good braise is to sear your meat. If you don’t have a pot large enough, you can also roast it at 350˚F/177˚C. Searing is best done in a large pot in which you can then continue the braising process. But if searing meat in a separate pan, once it's finished, remove it from the pan and set aside.
You just want a nice overall color. It will add so much flavor and texture, and make it much more appetizing.
2 | Sauté Aromatics
Once your meat has been seared, or while it's roasting, you’ll then want to sauté any onions, celery, garlic, or other flavor enhancers.
If possible, do this in the same pot in which you seared the meat for optimal flavor. The veggies will absorb the fond from the seared meat, enhancing further your end result.
3 | Deglaze
Deglazing pulls all the leftover flavors (aka fond) from the bottom of the pot. Usually some sort of alcohol is used, generally wine or beer. You only need enough to generously coat the pan. Often more is added to become part of your base liquid, especially if the only other liquid added will be water.
- Add the alcohol while scraping the bottom of the pan. The fond should loosen easily.
- Allow to reduce until you can't smell the alcohol anymore. That is a sign that almost, if not all, has cooked off.
Remember, the more it reduces, the more concentrated the flavor will be, which for a braise is a good thing.
Don’t want alcohol? You can use any sort of liquid - a little stock or even some water will do the trick.
4 | Add Base Liquid
You’ll need to add liquid to the pot in which you want the food to braise. Usually, this liquid is some kind of stock, but can also be a combination of water, stock, wine, beer, or even juice.
Make sure you have enough liquid to cover the meat and veggies. Submersion level is up to you - halfway is fine, but full submersion will result in more flavorful food. Plus, it gives you more liquid for later converting your base into a sauce (more on that below).
5 | Finishing Touches
Throw in some woody herbs like rosemary and thyme to give your braise some extra character.
Bring your liquid to a boil on the stove before placing in the oven to cut down on cook time. Then add your meat back into the pot and cover.
If you need to, now is the time to transfer your goodies into an oven-safe dish with a top.
If only half submerged, flip food over halfway through the cooking process.
Cooking times vary, so look for your food to be pull-apart or fork tender. Once it's finished cooking, it's best to let it cool down and store in its own liquid if you won't be serving it immediately to help keep it moist.
6 | Making a Sauce
Once your braise is finished, you'll be left with an awesome mixture of flavors sitting in the pot. While your braise will be fantastic enough on its own, there's no need to throw away that liquid. Enhance your dish by making it into a sauce.
- First strain your liquid through a fine mesh strainer. You can even push down on the food to squeeze out excess moisture.
- Then strain again to remove any excess solids that might have pushed through.
- From here you can use as is or thicken the liquid (follow the steps below), if necessary.
7 | Thickening The Liquid
Thickening your braising liquid is quite simple. All you need to do is reduce it until it reaches the consistency you like. Then season with salt, if necessary. Note that reducing will remove even more liquid, so if you don't have much left, try thickening with a slurry.
If storing and serving later, we recommend waiting to thicken until serving. That way the braise can be stored in the liquid and the sauce will be fresh for each portion.
Best Foods to Use
If you're not a fan of animals, or just want to try something new, have no fear! Braising is a great way to change up your usually approach to vegetables. The biggest differences for braising vegetables as opposed to meat are:
- There's no need to sear first
- They don’t need to be stored in the liquid
- They cook much faster than meats
- Best braised in large chunks, instead of small pieces
All other steps can be followed as mentioned.
We recommend using harder, denser vegetables like potatoes, winter squash, and cauliflower because they can withstand long periods of cooking in hot liquid. This type of process will usually break down softer veggies into a big bowl of mush.
Braising works well with any meat, but is particularly great for tougher cuts of meat. It allows them time to slowly break down and soften the connective tissue, which imparts fabulous flavor. You can, of course, use tender cuts, as well, but because of braising's slow process, there are often quicker ways to get the most from those cuts.
Whether it be chicken, duck, or even turkey, our winged friends make amazing braises, too. You can use any part you like, but we usually go for darker meat (legs and thighs) with the bones intact. Turkey is one of those foods that dries out very quickly, so braising is a great way to maintain and enhance its moisture.