Learning: What is Braising?


It’s been a while since my last post because things have been busy and I’ve not been cooking as much; I’ve even missed Saturday Kitchen for two weeks running…thank goodness for iPlayer :-).On the plus side, it does mean I’ve been more cooked-fo than have-been-cooking.

Last weekend I got some braising steak (or Chuck steak) from Smithfield and took it home to my parents and Mum turned it into a great bit of beef in beer, a Delia Smith classic.

One of my reasons for writing this blog was to learn more about cooking and do a bit of research on things to better understand how to improve my results, so when I write posts about things I’m learning from now on, I’m going to prefix them with ‘Learning:’ so I can search them. Maybe it’ll be useful for visitors too.

So, I didn’t really know what braising was, though I have sort-of done it before in various dishes. Indeed, I’ve done beef in beer before, but it’s never been as good as when good old Mum does it. So, why?

Wikipedia says braising is:

a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavour.

Let’s ignore the word particular… which isn’t particularly helpful, to be absolutely fair to the author. Ultimately the best way to describe the taste, is by pointing to the role fat plays in the taste of meat. A few examples (and I realise I’m stating the bleeding obvious): many people like rib-eye steak because of the marbly fat which makes the steak very sweet; and bacon relies heavily on the fat to deliver the flavour. By browning the meat and fat before cooking, the fat begins to impact the flavour of the meat and the browned-flavour of the meat too, obviously. I noticed this with lancashire hot-pot; unless you’re brave enough to really brown the meat mahogany, the flavour isn’t nearly as good.

So, the browning ‘sets the agenda’ for the deep flavour of the meat and the sauce, while the slow-cooking in some liquid makes the meat as soft and tender as mash. That’s why stews use more faty meats than other dishes.

By not covering the dish entirely, you can make some of the meat crisp and introduce a mix of textures, which adds to the dish. You can then serve the dish with al-dente veg to accentuate the crunch factor and make the dish a ‘whole’ one.

So that’s me making sense of braising; have I got that right, on-the-whole? Comments welcome.

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One thought on “Learning: What is Braising?

  1. I’m not in favour of the ‘not covering the dish entirely, you can make some of the meat crisp’ bit. By doing that you could dry out the braising meat and make it tough. Browning the meat before braising certainly adds flavour to the dish. Delia’s Beef in Beer, together with jacket potatoes cooking in the oven at the same time, is warming comfort food that is great to return to after a brisk Winter’s walk.

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