Braising is a method of food preparation where food is cooked slowly in low heat.
This method has its roots in French cooking (from the French word “braiser”) and is one of the basic French cooking techniques that every Chef should know.
Aside from being cooked slowly in low heat, it also requires liquid where the meat or vegetable is simmered. Through this slow method, meat or vegetables become tender without getting burnt while flavour becomes concentrated.
It would seem easy enough to execute this technique given that information, but Professional Chefs do not stop there. When hiring Professional Chefs, it is crucial to look for traits that display their attention to details because it is in those little details that make the difference. If you are in the Perth or WA area and needing Chef services, whether temporary hire or permanent hire, have us a call at Anytime Chefs. You will be guaranteed skilled, reliable and professional chefs who can execute various cooking techniques with utmost dependability.
Here are some things to note when braising meats and vegetables :
1. There is no need to be choosy with the cuts of meats.
It is generally said that the best meat dishes start with the best cuts of meats. However, with braising, the best-braised dishes surprisingly come from the cheapest cuts of meat. These cheap cuts are tough since they are mostly muscle tissues from animal parts that are always moving. Beef examples are chuck, flank, brisket, rump, and round. For poultry, these are the thighs and legs. The reason why they are better for braising is that muscles develop more flavour extractives. They have the right amount of fat and collagen, which when slow-cooked develops more flavour.
This is also the reason why lean meats do not come out great when braised because the absence of fat will dry the meat out easily. When the cooking liquid boils, it toughens the proteins resulting in dryer meat.
2. Vegetables will break down.
The best vegetables for braising are the tough fibrous ones such as carrots, celery, artichokes, cabbage etc. However, tough as they are, they will break down during the cooking and may not hold their shape. The great thing about this is that if these vegetables are included in a meat braise, they will impart more flavour to the resulting sauce.
If you want a more intact cut of vegetables, it is best to saute or lightly steam them first and add them at a later part of cooking.
3. Put a lid on it.
In the olden days, braising is done by burying a tightly sealed pot in slow-burning embers. Now in modern times, the ideal pot for braising is heavy-bottomed that will disperse the low heat evenly such as Dutch oven, but if Dutch oven is not available, a pan with a tight lid should be a priority.
It is fine to braise on the stovetop, but it is best done in the oven at temperatures of slightly more than 200°F. This method allows the low heat to steadily and fully envelope the pot making for even cooking, as compared to having the heat source only from the bottom.
Braising can conveniently be done nowadays using a crockpot or a pressure cooker.
4. Sear first.
It is typical to sear meat in a pan with a small amount of hot fat before braising it.
This step helps to :
- Develop the meat flavours as a result of the caramelization of the sugars in the meat surface
- Make the meat more visually appealing with the crusting and browning instead of a “beige” bland colouring
RELATED READ – Pro Chefs Searing Tips For The Best Flavour
After searing, the aromatics and vegetables are added. The “fonds” or the brown bits that resulted at the bottom of the pan are deglazed with your choice of liquid seasoning. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes to establish a thermal momentum in the braise and then transfer to the oven.
5. Add flavour through the braising liquid.
It is important to note that when to add salt to season the meat is important to achieve a good sear. Another option is to flavour the food through the braising liquid to be used. For example, better to use a broth or wine than with plain water.
Other liquid options are beer or cider. This is where professional Chefs can apply their creativity by using exciting flavours in the braising liquid to achieve the desired flavour profile.
One quick tip: sometimes, a lot of fat collects in the pan after searing. Make sure to remove most of the fat first before adding the deglazing liquid to avoid resulting in a greasy sauce.
6. It takes time
Braising generally takes about 1 to 3 hours. Take this cooking time into consideration to avoid the temptation of raising the temperature should there be a need to rush serving it. Plan for it so that the long cooking time will work to your benefit. Other items can be prepared between the cooking process and time can be used wisely.
This cooking time results in fork-tender meat and a well blending of flavours, deep and complex.
It is also important to taste and take the internal temperature of the meat. Proteins like beef, pork or lamb ideally needs to have an internal temperature of 170°-175° F. For chicken, collagen breaks down between 165° (dark meat chicken), and for beef, it can be around 180°.
Braising is one of the basic French cooking techniques and is one of the skills that every professional Chef should know. Seared meat is left to simmer in the liquid for around 1-3 hours in a tightly covered pot in low heat. This process results in tender meat, deep flavoured sauce and ideally should not result in any burns.
That’s it for this week.
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Ciao for now,