Everything You Need to Know About Braising

You have probably braised a dish and didn't know it.

IMAGE Patrick Martires

Braising is one of the best ways to make succulent, tender dishes. The resulting dishes yield super tender meats, very flavorful sauces, and an overall super delicious meal. 

Braising is different from stewingBraising is cooking food in a small amount of fat and liquid in a closed container. When you braise, the food is usually sautéed first in hot oil to gently brown it before a little bit of water is added. (One to two cups is usually plenty). This liquid is then brought to a boil then left to gently simmer in a covered pot until the meat and/or vegetables are tender.

Did you know that Filipino recipes such as mechado, kaldereta, and even menudo are braised dishes? 

They are! So yes! You already probably know how to braise. 

Just to make sure, here's a quick guide on how to braise a dish, and you can see if you're doing the same or similar steps when you cook any of these dishes:  

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This is the easy way to peel garlic. 
Photo by Patrick Martires

1 You need to prepare your ingredients. 

Like any good cook, always prepare your ingredients first before you start cooking. When it comes to braises, you want to make sure that your vegetables are in large chunks so it takes longer to cook. This is because the meat will take a long time to cook and thus, you don't want your potatoes to be tender before the meat is tender. You'll have mush! So, using large pieces of hearty vegetables will prevent that. 

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The Darth Vader round dutch oven.
Photo by Le Creuset

2 You need to use a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. 

Good cookware will always be a wise and sound investment. Having a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, such as a Dutch oven, is another essential in your kitchen that is just as wise to have. It's a great multi-purpose pot! In this instance, it's the pot you need to use when braising since the thick bottoms of these pots will ensure that you're heating your food as efficiently and evenly as possible. This is particularly desired when cooking for long periods of time. You won't scorch any one spot! 

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Photo by from Pixabay

3 You need to sear the meat. Add the vegetables. 

You've prepped your ingredients and have your pot. Now for the actual cooking. The first thing you want to do is sear your meat. You can sear large cuts of meat, too, not just chunks! Remember that searing is all about creating flavors by using its own juices and browning the surface to develop it. That's why you want to do this to both your meat and your vegetables. 

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Whether you will dredge the meat in a little flour is totally up to you and the recipe, but it will help thicken your braising liquid into a sauce later on. 

Photo by Pixabay

4 You need to add water but not too much.  

After searing, add your sauce ingredients and water. You need to add just enough water that the bottom of the pot is covered but the meat is not completely covered with water. (Cooking food that is submerged in a liquid before being left to simmer until the food is cooked and tender is stewing, not braising.) Adding water to as far up as halfway up the meat is plenty. The dish will be covered and most of the water will return to the dish as it simmers. 

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You can use a broth instead, but note that this braising liquid will reduce considerably so use one that's not yet too seasoned with salt or you might have a braised dish that's too salty

Photo by Majoy Siason

5 Let it simmer then cover. 

Once your dish has enough water, bring it to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and let it cook until the meat is tender, the vegetables are cooked through, and the sauce has thickened slightly. Some recipes may require you to place your pot in a preheated oven where it will continue cooking, instead of on the stovetop. This is a great alternative to cooking on the stovetop so you can leave it to gently cook as you do other chores. 

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Either way, you may want to check the pot regularly during the cooking process to check the liquid levels and top it off with more water as needed until you get your desired tenderness. You may also hold off adding certain vegetables until the last 30 minutes or so or even removing the vegetables once these have been cooked through to ensure that each component of your dish is cooked perfectly. Unless you want mashed potatoes, this is a great option to consider for the vegetables.  

When the meat is tender and the vegetables are all cooked through, check your braising liquid or sauce. You may want to thin it down if it's too flavorful or reduce the liquid by simmering it some more until it has thickened and become more flavorful. 

You've made braises before but as with most lessons, there is always something more to learn that you may not know yet. Have you picked up a tip or two you can use the next time you braise a dish? We hope so! Why not try it with any of these delicious braised dishes that will definitely put your newfound knowledge to practice: 

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