Braising is defined as a cooking technique which utilizes both dry as well as moist heat. The food is first cooked in dry heat by either browning it in its own fat (for meat) or using a small quantity of oil to do so. Once browned, the food is cooked in a liquid medium, often covered or sealed while cooking so as to avoid evaporation of the liquid. Pot roasts and Goulash are examples of braised dishes.
Origin of Braising as a Method of Cooking
The term Braise has evolved from “Braiser” a French word. Braising is said to have evolved as a combination of roasting and stewing. Braised recipes generally included inexpensive and leather-grade cuts of meat, which were seared and then slow-cooked in moist heat along with vegetables and herbs so as to make them tender as well as tasteful. Braised dishes are a part of almost every cuisine, as braising imparts a unique, delectable flavor to ingredients which may otherwise seem bland and flavorless.
The Process of Braising
Braising is mostly carried out to prepare stew-like preparations from mature, less tender cuts of meat. The main ingredient is first seared or browned in fat or oil, and is then placed on a bed of vegetables and herbs, along with a cooking liquid, in a braising pan with a tight fitting lid on top. The pan or casserole can be cooked over low heat or it can even be placed in an oven, so as to apply heat on both sides. Braising is termed as a slow cooking process as braised recipes require the food to be cooked over low heat for long hours. Although braised recipes generally include economical everyday preparations, there are also some braised dishes such as goulash, beef stew and pot roast which have become hugely popular with people of all classes and are served across restaurants as well.
Popular Braised Recipes
The famous American Pot Roast is actually a braised dish. Other braised recipes that are famous all around the globe include dishes such as Chicken Fricassee, Braised Chilean Sea Bass, Crock Pot Short Ribs, and Swiss Steak. Tough cuts of meat are best suited for braising, as the slow cooking over low heat, along with the action of the liquid makes the meat tender.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Braising
The main advantage of braising as a method of cooking is that it is very economical, as inexpensive cuts of meat, which are otherwise not easily digestible and do not have a good taste, can be easily turned into a flavorful stew.
However, the disadvantage of braising is that it is a very slow process, and the food needs to be cooked for hours prior to being served.
Techniques Similar to Braising
Roasting and stewing are often confused with braising, which is not true as braising is almost a combination of both the methods. Red cooking is another term used to denote Chinese methods of slow-braising.
Chuck Roast, Blade Roast, Shanks and Ribs are most suited cuts for preparing braised dishes.
The tough meat becomes tender while braising due to the moist heat breaking down the connective tissue and turning it into collagen.