Knowing how to braise is a cooking skill that’s widely misunderstood. Knowing WHAT to braise is even more confusing to most home cooks.
Now, it’s time to end any confusion about this ignored way of cooking because I’m presenting the information to tomorrow’s chefs at culinary college. Our braised food will be served by the companion hospitality class in the school’s dining room in an ‘a la carte’ style. This means they’ll be bringing us restaurant tickets like real waiters and waitresses.
Braising is a combination cooking method. In a previous class, we categorized all cooking methods as either conductive or convective. Heat is applied either directly to food or indirectly through air or moisture. When you braise something, you’re using the best of both methods.
The first step in how to braise something is choosing the correct item for this type of cooking. Generally, the toughest, chewiest cuts of meat are braised. That’s because the very long cooking times, moisture and acidic environment have a tenderizing effect that no other way of cooking does.
It doesn’t make sense to try to braise filet mignon or a flounder filet, they’re already tender. Items like those should be grilled or sautéed because of the quick, intense heat. The perfect item today’s lesson would be tough beef cubes, veal shank, or tongue. We’ve decided to make Beef Bourguignon and Chicken Cacciatore.
How To Braise Anything:
1) Coat the item in flour – By using a starch to coat the item, you help thicken the final pan sauce.
2) Pan Hot First – Just like sauté method, sprinkle some water from your hands and when it sizzles, the pan is ready to cook.
3) Fat Hot - Add some type of oil and heat until it changes from smooth to striated, just before the smoke point.
4) Add the protein product coated in flour - Don’t crowd the pieces and don’t poke or push them around. Leave them alone.
5) 75% / up to 25% - Cook the item 75% on the first side so you can observe the changes in color, moisture, and texture. These are indicators of how much it’s cooking. If you turn it too fast, you lose these visual cues.
6) Deglaze - Add wine to lower the temperature of the pan, and begin combining with the roux to thicken the pan sauce. Reduce the liquid until the wine is almost gone.
7) Stock and aromatics - Add a flavorful liquid like chicken or beef stock and chopped vegetables to the pan along with an acidic ingredient like tomatoes or vinegar to aid in tenderizing.
8) Low and slow – The key to braising is cooking very slowly for a very long time. Reduce the heat to a very soft simmer or poach with no visible bubbles. Leave it alone because 5 to 8 hours wouldn’t be unusual for cooking something this way.
When you know how to braise something correctly, you can actually save a lot of money. You can buy less expensive cuts of meat and create delicious, tender morsels because of your cooking method skills. You can also save time, because the more you ignore it, the better it gets. You can’t walk away from a sauté pan, but you can walk away from a braise and be very pleased when you return.
See Chef Todd’s live How To Braise class from culinary school.
Chef Todd Mohr has a passion for helping people improve their cooking with simple cooking techniques that work! His cooking DVDs , transform home cooks into confident home chefs. “Burn Your Recipes” and your cooking will be transformed.