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What is braising?
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Braising is partially immersing food in a liquid and cooking it, tightly covered, over low heat for a long period of time, until the food is tender and the flavors of liquid and food combine, mellow and resonate. Braising is tailor-made for tough cuts of meat like short ribs, stew meat and brisket. We braise beef to make pot roast, chicken stew, pork stew and beef stew.

It's just as good for vegetables. Freshly pick basil, large carrots and parsnips and celery root. All these are good candidates for braising.

There are two kinds of braises. In a brown braise, the food is seared before the cooking liquid is added. It's brought to a boil, the heat is lowered, and the food is simmered until it is fork-tender and the sauce has turned sweet and deep-flavored from the preliminary browning.  Pot roast is a brown braise.

In a white braise, there is no searing or browning. The food is simply gently heated in a covered pan with a small amount of liquid. Chicken fricassee, the classic French veal stew, are both white braises.

In either case, using an acid such as wine, vinegar, tomato or lemon juice for part of the braising liquid will help tenderize the food. And you can add flavor to the sauce by using a combination of onions, carrots and celery, the diced aromatic vegetables that the French call "mirepoix" and the Italians, "battuto".

Busy people will find another bonus to braising: Cooks who plan ahead know that braised dishes not only reheat well but also taste better when reheated. Make braised pork chops on Sunday, refrigerate them, and reheat them on Monday. Make chicken fricassee on Saturday, freeze it, and defrost it a week later, when you get home late, tired, cold and hungry for something warm and flavorful.


1. Use tough, flavorful cuts of meat. Tender meat will merely self-destruct in the long, slow cooking.

2. Do not overcrowd the pan. The meat or vegetables should be distributed in a single layer.

3. An acidic component such as wine, vinegar or lemon juice will help with the tenderizing process.

4. The more flavorful the braising liquid is, the more flavorful the finished dish will be.

5. The food should be partially immersed in the liquid. If you're making pot roast, the top of the pot roast should be peeking out over the liquid, rather like a sandbar.

6. Don't allow the liquid to boil. Once it reaches a simmer (185 degrees), turn the heat down. Protein and connective tissue begin to soften at 120 degrees. At 170 degrees, they begin to firm up again. Boiling the liquid will ensure tough meat. If the liquid should boil, the remedy is to continue cooking it at a reduced heat, until the protein softens again.

7. Use a heavy pan with sides that are high enough to hold the food and liquid easily, such as a large casserole dish.



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September 25, 2017

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