Cooking School: How to Braise

Easy Crock Pot RoastFor the beginning cook, some of the terms used in recipes can be confusing and often lack meaning. One of those terms is braising. This time of year, it is a technique that can be used to create some of those comfort foods that warm us on these waning days of winter. Our step-by-step primer should help clarify this mysterious term and get you well on your way to enjoying many of winter’s favorite dishes. You can try our recipe for Easy Crock Pot Roast (pictured at right) to practice the technique of braising.

So, what is braising?

Braising is a cooking method by which meat (typically less tender, inexpensive cuts) or vegetables are first browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a lengthy period of time. This long, slow cooking process develops flavor and tenderizes foods by gently breaking down their fibers. It can be done on top of the range, in the oven or in a crock pot. A tight-fitting lid is essential to prevent the liquid from evaporating.

Pot roast is one of the iconic dishes that is prepared using the braising method. Follow these simple steps to try this easy cooking method.

  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large sauté pan or stock pot over medium-high heat.
  • Pat roast dry with paper toweling; season with salt and black pepper. (Seasoned flour is sometimes used instead of salt and black pepper alone to allow the juices to thicken as the meat cooks.) Brown the roast in hot oil on each side (about 5 min. per side). If the meat sticks to the pan when you try to turn it, give it a minute more and it will release. Transfer the meat to a plate.
  • The brown bits left in the pan will add tons of flavor to the finished dish, so don’t clean it!
  • Add chopped onions, carrots and celery to the pan. (This is called mirepoix, and is the basis of the sauce.) You may need to add a small amount of olive oil before cooking this mixture down.
  • Add beef stock and a little wine to the vegetables and return the meat to the pan. The liquid should come no more than halfway up its side allowing enough room for steam to rise, condense and baste the meat.
  • Continue cooking the meat so the liquid just simmers (about 185° or low enough that tiny bubbles just begin to break the surface). Baking in the oven at 325° is an easy way to maintain this temperature. The connective tissue in the meat will dissolve into gelatin and cling to the meat fibers, turning them very tender. If serving immediately, there is no need to slice the meat; it will easily pull apart.
  • If you desire neat, even slices, refrigerating the dish the day before eating will allow the fat to come to the surface and harden so it can be removed. When the meat is cold, it will slice easily. Arrange the slices in a shallow baking dish and ladle the gelled sauce over top. Cover tightly with foil and reheat before serving.

Featured Recipe

Easy Crock Pot Roast (pictured above)

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