What Is Braising?
Braising is a moist heat cooking method recommended for less tender cuts of meat. It is an excellent method for cuts with high amounts of connective tissue making them succulent and tender. For braising, meat is usually cut into serving-size portions rather than just cubes (as in stew).
• Brown braising - the meat is browned (it may first be dusted with seasoned flour) in a small amount of oil, fat or butter in a heavy pan or casserole dish. The browned meat is placed on top of vegetables, or with them, and a relatively small amount of liquid is added. The meat is covered and cooked slowly at a low temperature on the top of the stove or in the oven. At the end of cooking the braising vegetables are removed, and a sauce is made from the cooking liquid. (Sometimes the vegetables are used in the sauce).
Tips on braising
• Use the appropriate meat cut - meat cuts with a certain amount of marbling and gelatinous connective tissue retain juiciness better than very lean cuts when cooked long and slowly.
• Browning meat. Although browning is not essential it is desirable since it not only improves colour but also develops flavour.
• Tightly cover. A tight-fitting lid holds in the steam that helps to soften the connective tissue, making the meat more tender. A sheet of buttered baking paper placed over the meat, under the lid, helps to prevent the surface from drying. (To make a loose lid more tight-fitting, put a sheet of foil over the pan then cover with the lid).
• Temperature control. After initial browning at a low temperature, maintaining a sub-simmer is important. While prolonged simmering or cooking close to the boil is necessary to soften connective tissue and make soft meat tender, it also dries lean meat out. As meat is heated, muscles coagulate and proteins shrink, squeezing out water.
• Cooking meat in liquid does not stop this water loss. For braising, oven temperature may be between 130° and 160° C, seldom higher.
• Cooking time. Overcooking can make braised meat dry and stringy. Cook a braise until just tender. Check for readiness at intervals. If the meat is ready but the cooking liquid has not reduced enough to give a good sauce consistency, remove the meat (keep it covered so the surface does not dry) while you complete the sauce. Then return the meat to the hot sauce.
Beef steaks and cuts to braise
• Shin steak, chuck steak, blade steak, thick skirt steak, flank steak, topside, silverside and thick flank steak, and oxtail are all less tender but tasty beef cuts good for braising.
• Kidneys, liver, heart and tripe are also suitable for braising.
Lamb cuts to braise
• Medium-tender and least tender lamb, hogget and mutton cuts, such as boned and cubed forequarter, round neck, shoulder and forequarter chops, leg chops and shank or knuckle suit moist heat cookery such as braising.
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