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Braising Basics

written by

Erin Schnabel

posted on

August 26, 2023

Braising is one of my favorite ways to turn otherwise tough cuts of meat into fork-tender, mouth-watering meals. The process is simple with specific steps. Searing builds the foundation of flavor. Moist heat and time transforms tough connective tissue into gelatin, which is the gold that makes your finishing sauce. The meat and sauce maintain their own flavor, but almost “melt” into each other. Sort of sounds romantic, even ;-)  

Great cuts for braising and approximate times:

Beef chuck roasts (4hrs)

Short ribs (4hrs)

Shanks (4-6hrs)

Pork roasts (2-4hrs)

Coppa steaks (1-2hrs)

Pork Hocks (4-6hrs)

Spare ribs (2-4hrs)

Country ribs (1-2hrs)

 Every recipe may vary, but the basics are the same.

1.  After fully thawing the meat, dry it well and season generously. Dry meat will sear better, which means you will have a strong foundation of flavor.

2.  Sear in the pot you will be using for braising with a small amount of oil. Cast iron dutch ovens are great for this.

3.  Once the meat is thoroughly seared, Remove it and add chopped vegetables and/or mushrooms. Vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, cabbage, turnips, beans, and garlic work well. Fruit like apples and pears are delicious with braised pork.

4.  After the vegetables and spices are browned, add a small amount of braising liquid (broth, wine, beer, tomato sauce, orange juice, coconut milk, etc.) to deglaze the pot and then bring to a boil. Be sure to scrape the bottom to loosen up all the tasty morsels. Taste your liquid and adjust the spices and salt (not too much as you will end up with an over salted sauce after reducing the liquid at the last step.)

5.  Return the meat and veggies to the pot and add braising liquid to cover the meat ¾ of the way. Be sure to not fully cover the meat with the braising liquid.  

6.  Braise in a 325degree oven until the meat easily pulls apart with a fork.

Some cuts will take longer than others based on the amount of connective tissue to be broken down into gelatin. A coppa steak will be done in less than two hours while a pork hock will take at least four hours. When the appropriate time has passed and the meat is tender, remove everything from the dutch oven except the liquid. Now is the time to add a little acid to create a more balanced tasting sauce. A splash of tomato juice, apple cider vinegar, wine or squeeze of lemon work beautifully. Reduce (boil until thick) your leftover braising liquid by half. This is your amazing sauce.

We like to serve our braised meat with something that can soak up the sauce and compliment the meat. Creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, smashed root vegetables, quinoa and rice are all common in our house.

I hope you all enjoy experimenting with braising different meats, vegetables and spices to create wonderful meals and memories. Have fun in the kitchen! Good food lovingly prepared nourishes our bodies and feeds our souls.

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