How to boost your flavours with 4 simple steps.
Braising; in a nutshell, it’s cooking large cuts of meat in a small amount of liquid ready for a slow cook.
It’s usually used on cuts of meat that are tougher so a slow cook breaks down the connective tissue and the gelatin makes it fall-off-the-bone tender.
Cuts like oxtail, lamb shanks, beef chuck and chicken legs, are great for braising.
It helps add that next level flavour and will make you a legend in the kitchen.
And the best thing is, it doesn’t take a lot of skill (perfect for me) or a great deal of time (even better).
But patience is required while the braising works its magic.
Tips on braising
Ideally, use a flat end wooden spoon so it can scrape up all the intensely flavoured brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.
You don’t want to miss out on those flavour gems and you don’t want to ruin your pans!
Using an enamel cast iron dish which heats evenly and retains temperature well will also help your braising technique.
STEP 1: Sear your meat
Season the meat on all sides.
Then pour oil into a heavy-lidded pot and place over medium-high heat and add the meat.
Make sure you don’t rush by over-crowding your dish.
So, do it in batches if necessary.
And have the patience to wait for the meat to get colour all over.
Once done, remove meat and set aside.
Step 2: Saute the mirepoix
Mirepoix; chopped onions, celery, carrots.
Cook your mirepoix in the juices from the searing and keep stirring.
Do this on a medium-high heat again.
You want a caramel-brown colour (not burnt).
Step 3: Deglaze the pot
This is important because this is where the magic happens.
And who doesn’t like throwing the word ‘deglaze’ around?
To do this, add the braising liquid.
Braising liquid is usually made up of stock, a bit of wine or beer or water.
You can add a bit of wine with stock to add some complexity… or use up bits of this and that in the fridge.
Stock: will give it a more meaty flavour.
Beer: lagers will add a sour note, stouts are great with beef and give a richer flavour and cider gives a fresh and/or sweet flavour to poultry and pork.
Water: works well if you want to keep it simple and lighter.
Wine: will add a bit of acidity. Always use a dry red or white and always cook with wine you’d also enjoy drinking.
Once you have your braising liquid, stir it in scraping up any browned bits from the bottom.
These brown buts are your intense flavour nuggets and once dissolved into the cooking liquid they will enrich the entire dish.
Step 4: Braise
Now, return the meat to the pot – the meat shouldn’t be submerged.
Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover and put back in the oven (on the temperature your recipe advises).
Tips on next level braising
- Mirepoix: for a basic braise the classic mirepoix if perfect. But, if you want to add more punch try adding one of these:
- Citrus zest: A couple of wide strips of orange, lemon, or lime zest will add a subtle citrus perfume
- Mushroom: Wild or supermarket mushrooms (fresh or dried), will give any dish a deep, woodsy flavour
- Anchovy: Minced anchovies provide an umami blast without tasting fishy
- Add more veg: If your recipe includes added vegetables (such as potatoes, or greens), add them to the pot 45 minutes before the meat is done. Check the liquid and if it’s low, add a splash more of liquid.
- Reduce the sauce: When the meat is fork-tender, remove it and any vegetables and reduce the sauce some more. Once it’s reduced and a glistening sauce, return meat (and vegetables) to the pot to heat through.
The truth is, you don’t need to do more than the basics I’ve gone through Steps 1 – 4.
However, if you feel a little more daring.
And want to experiment with your braising flavours.
Then add a final flourish like a handful of fresh herbs like mint, parsley, coriander.
Or add in a squeeze of lemon or grated zest of lemon for a fresher note.
A splash of vinegar will bring down the richness of a dish.
And a spoonful of crème fraiche will mellow a dish out.
It’s all just about experimenting and tasting, tasting, tasting, as you cook.
Enjoy your braising.
Do you have any tips on braising meat… leave a comment.