The juicy basics of braising
If you've never tried braising because you think it takes too long, or you don't like "boiled" meats, think again. Braising can be a short or long endeavor, and it leaves meats juicy, tender and full of flavor. In fact, it's perfect for the busy mom, because you can braise something over the weekend, and reheat it for a weekday dinner, which actually enhances the flavor of the dish. Here's what you need to know to braise with the best of them, plus a braised ribs recipe to put your newly acquired braising knowledge to use.
Start with the right pot
Successful braising begins with the right pot. You need a heavy-duty Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid to braise in, because they are perfect for this long, slow type of cooking. You can braise on the stovetop or in the oven, but the right pot will make your braising adventures much easier. The pot also needs a heavy bottom so the food won't burn.
Add a flavorful liquid
You can use any type of liquid to braise your foods, from water to tomato juice. The best braising liquid adds flavor and aroma to the food, so if you're using water, be sure to add herbs and spices to the liquid for the most flavorful results. You should have enough liquid to cover the food 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 technique is used for more delicate foods, like vegetables, fish and chicken. You braise the food only long enough to cook it through. How long you braise is based on how thick your food is, so follow your particular braising recipe and check for doneness with a meat thermometer the first few times you short-braise.
The long-braise is the technique most people think of when a recipe calls for braising, and it may also be why many people misunderstand the technique. Long-braising slowly cooks the meat, making even the toughest cuts of meat tender and enjoyable, but it also reduces the cooking liquid down to a sauce-like consistency, adding an intensely delectable flavor to the meal.
Sear in juices and flavor
Most braising, whether long or short, begins with browning the meat in hot oil, adding the other ingredients and the liquid, and then cooking for several hours. Searing the meat before braising locks in flavor and the lovely, meaty juices that make braised meats so incredibly tender.