For a technique that requires such little effort and provides so much reward with each and every bite, you can’t go wrong with braising a cut of meat for a satisfying winter meal. Best of all? Braising is a great cooking method to apply to many cuts of meat and actually works better with a less expensive and less tender cuts! For restaurant quality results right down to a delicious sauce that builds with every hour of cook time (low and slow is key!) we can’t speak highly enough about this technique and encourage you to try it out for yourself. Braise [pronounced BRAYZ] means to cook foods (meat or vegetables) by searing in fat to brown and develop flavor then simmering in liquid in a covered pot at a low temperature for a long time until tender. The covered pot can be used on a stove top or in the oven – the oven is preferred because the heat is evenly distributed with fewer hot spots. A common misconception is the difference between braising and stewing. To braise is to cook a large cut of meat with just enough liquid to partially cover it. Stewing, on the other hand, uses small, uniformly cut pieces of meat that are totally immersed in the cooking liquid.
The science behind this cooking method? Slow cooking tenderizes the food by breaking down their fibers. The heat time and moisture breaks down the connective tissue (collagen) that binds together the muscle. The result is a fall apart, tender piece of meat. Necessary to braising are a couple of our favorite tools of the trade: an enameled cast iron dutch oven with a lid and a wooden turner or spatula for scraping up browned bits at the bottom of the pot. A wooden utensil is key so that it won’t scratch the delicate enamel surface of the dutch oven.
Here are four simple, universal steps to get you started. You’ll have a hearty meal, with little hands-on cooking time, in no time!
- Sear your meat. Season the cut of chosen meat on all sides as you heat vegetable oil in a heavy duty, dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Wait until it’s nice and hot, then add the meat. Don’t over crowd the pot if you’re cooking more than one piece at a time as they won’t brown properly. Let the meat brown on each side until it is dark brown on all sides and has a nice crust. Remove and set aside.
- Mirepoix (or at the very least, onions and garlic) is essential. When they’re cooked until just browned in the drippings from the meat, they help to develop the flavor of the dish and make for a more flavorful sauce.
- Deglaze that pot! Wine, broth, cider – whatever you liquid of choice is, this is a crucial step. While adding the braising liquid, scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with your wooden utensils. Those are flavor bombs, also known as “fond.” When they dissolve into the cooking liquid, they enrich the whole dish.
- Braise! Return the meat to the pot with any accumulated juices. It shouldn’t be submerged – the braising liquid should just come halfway up the cut of meat. Bring it to a simmer, slide it into the oven and let the magic happen.
To make things even easier for you, we’ve developed a delicious braising sauce featuring two of our favorite flavors – Maple and Bourbon! Our new Maple Bourbon Braising Sauce will take your traditional braised beef to new heights!
Maple Bourbon Braised Beef
- 3 pounds top blade or brisket beef roast
- Salt and pepper
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup chicken stock or apple cider
- 1 Vidalia onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 jar Maple Bourbon Braising Sauce
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Pat roast dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a large, heavy bottom pot that has a lid over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, brown the roast on all sides. Remove meat and set aside.
- Drain off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat. Deglaze pan with chicken stock or apple cider. Place sliced onion over the bottom of the pot. Place beef on top of the onion. Pour jar of Maple Bourbon Braising Sauce over meat. Cover pot with the lid and roast in preheated oven for 2 to 2½ hours, or until the meat is tender. Spoon sauce over meat several times while roasting.
- Slice roast and serve with sauce.