At the beginning of a new year, we tend to dial back on extravagance and entertaining to focus on the return to busy, everyday family life. And in doing so, we look for ways to economize—not only our budget but our most precious commodity as well: time. To that end, we've put together our most valuable resources to help you create crowd-pleasing, braised comfort food in your own kitchen.
What Is Braising?
Unlike such dry-heat cooking techniques as grilling, roasting, and broiling, braising is a moist-heat cooking technique. Combined with the fact that braising is a slow cooking method, it renders large cuts of meat and poultry lusciously fragrant, juicy, and fork-tender.
Braising is inversely related to two other moist-heat techniques:
- Soup making: diced ingredients (1/3—1/2 inch) and the greatest amount of cooking liquid
- Stewing: cubed ingredients (about 1—2 inches) and cooking liquid to cover ingredients
- Braising: whole cuts of meat and poultry (5 or more pounds) and the least amount of cooking liquid, does not cover ingredients
And with the surge in popularity of instant pots—otherwise known as multi-functional pressure cookers—the amount of time it takes to make a braise can be cut to about 1/3 the time of the traditional stove and oven method.
In other words, a traditionally braised dish might take 4 hours. In an instant pot, the same dish would be done in about 1 1/2 hours.
Cuts & Ingredients for Braising
Cuts that come from the forequarter, such as pot roast and brisket, beef chuck cuts, leg of lamb, and pork butt are all muscle cuts that benefit from hours of relatively low-temperature cooking to break down the connective tissue and render it tender—oh, so tender—no knife required!
Because of their size, braising cuts are great for creating a series of dishes, including sliced and served, sandwiches, pot pies, hash, burritos, or even omelets.
Or have a couple of meals from the whole braise and then portion out the remainder and freeze. Braised dishes freeze very well and retain their best qualities.
The liquid used for braising can be water, wine, beer, juice, stock, broth—even soda—or a combination thereof. Select your liquid based on the flavor profile and intensity that you desire. If you're considering using beer, read our article all about cooking with beer.
You'll also want to add flavor enhancers, such as aromatic vegetables (learn more about mirepoix here), fruit, garlic, spices, and herbs.
Consider using a bouquet garni in your braise, which will add flavor but is easily removed from the dish before serving (learn how to make one here).
How to Braise
Here is our step-by-step photo tutorial that takes you from raw ingredients to a finished dish in 9 easy steps. The same basic technique can be adapted for just about any cut you want to braise.
In this video, David Lobel explains the process.
Here is Stanley Lobel's very own recipe for braised beef brisket. As Stanley says: "Nothing says family supper like a brisket braised with carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic."
Here are some other braising recipes you will find at lobels.com:
- Braised Chicken with Raisins
- BBQ Braised Pot Roast (You can watch our friend Tom of YouTube channel "Tom's Test Kitchen" make this recipe)
- Braised Flanken
- Braised Pork Belly with Creamy Grits
- Grill-Braised Wrangler Pot Roast
- Brisket of Beef
- Veal Osso Buco
It is a great jumping-off point for creating a recipe that is all your own.
Troy's recipe for Crispy Pork Belly with Apple Herb Sauce is the most succulent and delicious pressed pork belly you will ever taste. The pork belly is braised with apples, shallots, herbs, white wine, and apple ale. Then the belly is pressed, sliced, and crisped in the oven.
To serve, the belly is placed on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and sprinkled with the pan gravy.
Tom of YouTube channel "Tom's Test Kitchen" shows you how to make our succulent BBQ Braised Pot Roast using Lobel's Wrangler™ USDA Prime Pot Roast.
What are your favorite braised, comfort-food dishes? Do you create other dishes from the braised cut? What are your family's favorites?