Chef Wayne Talks Techniques: Braising

Braising meatBraising has to be my favorite technique. Braising is a combination of dry cooking, initially to brown the food, then moist cooking, with liquid and cooked gently until finished. This creates a dish with rich, mellow flavors and meat so tender that it melts in your mouth. Braised food is truly comfort food.

Braising can expand your cooking repertoire allowing you to use secondary cuts of meats – like shanks, ribs and shoulder cuts. With the slow cooking time, a braise is the perfect way to break down the sinew and collagen which leaves behind a melting, tender dish with all the flavors of the cooking liquid. Additionally, braising yields a great sauce with a minimum of additional effort. Because braising involves cooking in an aromatic liquid that will meld with the meat or fish juices that, when reduced, further becomes an intense sauce.

Other advantages to braising are that it’s a great make-ahead technique, and most braised meats become even better the next day giving more time for all the flavors to coalesce. Simply transfer the meat to an oven proof pan, strain your braising liquid and return some to the pan the rest is for your sauce, and reheat in a 350 degree oven until heated through. At this point you can get creative, you can add anything from cooked white beans, roasted artichokes or tomatoes, whatever you like and you have created a richly flavored dish. Note: braised meat must be stored in its liquid or it will become dry.

Here’s the basic technique:

First, brown the food in a small amount of oil and then transfer to an oven-proof container.

Second, add in enough liquid to surround but not cover the meat. Cover and slow cook at 250-350 degrees. This could take a while, especially for large shoulder roasts. It’s ready when it starts to fall apart.

Third, braised fish can be served immediately, however, meats are better if allowed to sit refrigerated for a day or two. To do this, allow the meat to cool down in the braising liquid and then pour off three-quarters of the liquid. Strain this liquid and reduce by half to a nice sauce consistency and serve it later with the meat.

Fourth, reheat the meat in its braising liquid, basting occasionally in a 350 degree oven. This will caramelize the meat then when heated through serve it with the sauce.

– Chef Wayne Anderson

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