Braising meat is becoming some what of a trend. The benefits of it, however, are endless. It’s a slow cooking technique that provides tender, juicy meat, regardless of the cut. The tricky part is actually trivial if you know what you’re doing.
The main ingredient in braising is your liquid. Think about the meat you are cooking and what savory or sweet liquid would contribute a good flavor to your meat i.e. beef-red wine, Asian dish- soy sauce, Pork-beer or apple juice. When I braise pork, I like to use 1 part beer or apple juice or white wine to 3 parts chicken, veal, or pork stock. Same goes for other cuts of meat, just think about how flavorful your liquid is and cook.
Next, you want to think about other flavoring agents such as vegetables and spices. generally speaking, 1 part carrots, 1 part celery and 2 parts onions is considered the “holy trinity”. These veggies are used in all traditional French and Italian cooking. Garlic is also used widely or you can use shallots instead of garlic or onions. Shallots are what I tend to use most. Also, with the mention of apple juice, consider cutting up apples instead as they among other fruits are powerful flavoring agents. Spices are crucial…remember: Salt is a chemical before it is a seasoning so it is crucial in any braising process. Furthermore, rosemary is great with all meat, basil is good if your making an Italian or Provence style dish with tomatoes and garlic. Generally, I tell my cooks to Imagine what is growing on farms in certain regions. If a chef looks out the window and sees carrots, onions, celery, rosemary and a pig. He/She will most likely use all of those ingredients and not much more. Therefore, if you are given a hand full of ingredients at the farmers market, you can make an amazing braised dish.
Now, for the technique. These methods can be done with various forms of cookware. For instance, If you’re searing, do it in a saute pan and if your braising do it in a pot. The fastest and easiest way to do any of this style cooking is to have a really good slow cooker. Slow cookers are important because they are so versatile, safer than open flames, most of them are programmable and they can easily be set to complete most of your cooking for you. I strongly recommend you invest in a quality slow cooker. Linked is my favorite site with the best current reviews and deals on slow cookers.
* First, Sear your meat and veggies with liberal salt and pepper. some people like to coat their meat in flour. I don’t suggest this because it can burn very easily. If you are using pork belly, leave the skin on. Throw in some carrots, celery and shallots. maybe apples if you want. Then sear the meat until it is more than golden brown. The best sears are the ones that are as close to burning as you can get with out actual burning or carbon development. Remember to salt heavily in this stage as salt brings out most flavors of your veggies.
* Second, deglaze by adding a small amount of acid. I use beer or apple juice with pork belly but any wine or liquor works. Brandy is generally my favorite liquor.
* Third, add you’re braising liquid. 3 parts stock to 1 part additional liquid. You should also add your spices now. Again, Rosemary and thyme are the best for pork belly.
* Fourth, Cook on low or in oven at 200 for 3 to 8 hours depending on the size of your cut. What you can do is poke at your meat with a fork every hour or so until you feel that tension within the meat has diminished. This process is so much easier with a slow cooker.
That’s all it takes. Braising meat is so beneficial because it will save you time and money while cooking. The end result will always be tender and delicious. You will most likely have left overs and your whole family will be eating healthy.
Remember this is far easier with a slow cooker. If you are using a saute pan and then switching over to a pot, you are going to lost serious flavor. It is always best to do this with a product you can trust. I sincerely hope you at least look into slow cookers..
I hope this helped you with all of your cooking in general. It was my pleasure to teach you what I teach my cooks and students.