How to braise meat to perfection

If you’ve never tried braising meat before because you think it’s too tricky or it takes too long, think again: braising can be an easy skill to master and it produces meat that is juicy, tender and bursting with flavour. It’s perfect for the busy parent on the go, because you can braise meat over the weekend and reheat the leftovers for a weekday dinner, which believe it or not, will actually enhance the flavour! Who would have thought? Here’s what you need to know…

braised meat

Start with the right materials

Successful braising begins with the perfect pot: you ideally need a heavy-duty Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, as these are perfect for the long, slow type of cooking. If not, you at least need a pot with a heavy bottom so the food won’t burn. You can braise on the stovetop or in the oven, but either way, the right pot will make your braising endevours much easier.

Use flavourful liquid

You can use any type of liquid to braise your foods, from water to stock to tomato juice! The purpose of a braising liquid is to add flavour and aroma to the food, so if you’re using water, be sure to add plenty of herbs and spices to add flavour to your dish. Make sure you have enough liquid to cover the meat about half way; you don’t want to totally submerge the food, because that will boil the meat instead of braise it.

The short-braise

The short-braise technique is used for more delicate foods, such as vegetables, fish and chicken. Using this technique, you braise the food just long enough to cook it all the way through. How long you braise for is based on how thick your food is, so follow your particular braising recipe and check whether it is cooked using a meat thermometre if necessary.

The long-braise

The long-braise is the technique most people think of when a recipe calls for braising. Long-braising essentially slow-cooks the meat, transforming even the toughest cuts of meat into tender, flavourful dishes. It also reduces the cooking liquid down to a thicker sauce-like consistency.

Sear in juices and flavoUr

Whether you decide to long or short braise, the process begins by browning the meat in hot oil, before adding the other ingredients and the liquid, and then cooking for several hours. Searing the meat before braising locks in flavour and ensures that meaty juices make the braised meats incredibly tender.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced,
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup good red wine
  • 6 plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered
  • 2-1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Season ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. In a heavy-based pot, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Sear ribs until browned on all sides, and place ribs in a large bowl to set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Add carrot, celery, onion and garlic to the hot oil and saute until brown.
  4. Add vinegar and red wine, stirring until all of the browned bits have been scraped from the pan and the bottom of the pot is free of browned bits (this is often referred to as deglazing the pan).
  5. Continue to cook until the liquid has been reduced by one third.
  6. Add tomatoes, broth and herbs. Return ribs to pot and bring to a boil, and then cover pot and transfer to the preheated oven.
  7. Cook for 3-4 hours, turning the ribs once or twice. You want to cook the ribs until they are “fork tender” and the meat is just barely clinging to the bone.
  8. Remove ribs from the pot and set aside. Strain the sauce. Remove the clear fat that is floating on the surface of the cooking liquid, or alternatively chill the sauce until the fat has hardened, and then remove.
  9. Cook the strained and de-fatted sauce over a medium-high heat until the liquid has reduced and thickened; this will take around 15 minutes. Serve succulent ribs drizzled with the rich and flavourful sauce.

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