Braising Meats, Step by Step
Choose a cut of meat from the animal's working muscles :
Beef short ribs, brisket, rump roast and some of the less expensive cuts
of veal (such as the breast, shoulder and shank) are ideal. Chicken
drumsticks and thighs are other good choices. Use about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
for 4 servings.
Use a heavy casserole pot with a tight-fitting lid. The pot should hold
all of the ingredients snugly in order to minimize the amount of cooking
Heat about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the
meat, taking care not to crowd the pan, and brown well on all sides. Don't
rush the browning process. It's essential to the flavor of the dish.
Remove the browned meat from the pan and add any aromatic vegetables. Let
these cook over medium heat until softened, stirring occasionally.
Return the browned meat to the pan with the softened vegetables and add
your braising liquid. Choose veal stock for both veal and beef. Use beef
stock only for hearty beef braises. Chicken stock goes well with poultry.
For more flavor, add wine along with the stock. Tomatoes are another
popular braising medium. They complement the flavor of beef and chicken
dishes and help thicken the braising liquid. Be sure to keep the quantity
of liquid to a minimum. The less liquid you add, the more concentrated the
flavors will be.
Once all the ingredients are combined, bring them to a boil over high
heat. As soon as the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to barely a
simmer, cover tightly, and cook over low heat. Gentle heat is vital to
dissolve the tough tissues in the meat. If allowed to boil unchecked,
braised meats will become unpleasantly tough. Braised meats can be cooked
on top of the stove or in an oven at about 300oF. Cook until
the meat is fork-tender.
When the meat is tender and the liquid is still hot, skim the fat from the
surface. Most braised dishes taste better when they're allowed to chill
overnight and reheated the next day. If you choose to do this, don't
bother to degrease before cooling. The fat in the dish will congeal on the
surface as it cools and can then be easily lifted away.