Braising is to cook in a small amount
of liquid. In contrast to poaching, in which the food is completely
submerged in simmering liquid, braised dishes use a relatively small
amount of liquid. Usually the purpose of braising is to concentrate the
food's flavors in the surrounding liquid so that it can be made into a
sauce, or allowed to reduce so that it coats or is reabsorbed by the foods
Braising can be a relatively rapid
process by which foods are very gently simmered just until they are cooked
through, or it can involve long, slow cooking, used most often but not
always for tough cuts of meat that require long cooking to tenderize them.
Foods may be browned or not before adding the liquid, meats may be larded
with fat to keep them moist, and the cooking liquid can be varied. Most
foods are braised with enough liquid to come halfway up their sides, but
some recipes call for very little; otherwise use none at all and rely on
the foods to braise in their own juices. Usually foods are braised in a
covered pot, but some foods, such as seafood or vegetable are braised
uncovered so the braising liquid reduces and concentrates.
Short-braising vegetables, also called
glazing is an excellent way to cook root vegetables such as carrots,
onions, and turnips. Short-braising is also a flavorful alternative to
steaming or boiling green vegetables. Although the vegetables may lose
their crunch and bright color, slow-cooking in a covered pot often reveals
a depth of flavor that quick-cooking does not.
Fish can be braised whole, in fillets,
or in steaks with just enough liquid to come halfway up its sides.
Shellfish can be cooked with even less liquid, just enough to generate
steam and leave enough cooking liquid for making a sauce. Most seafood
braises are short-braises. The seafood is cooked only long enough for the
heat to penetrate and cook the flesh. Some shellfish, however, such as
squid, octopus, razor clams, conch and whelks, require long, slow braising
to tenderize the flesh and release their flavor.