Braising is one of the most important classic French cooking techniques for any aspiring chef. Along with poaching, grilling and flambeing, braising is an art that takes a little practice, but makes a huge difference in your culinary ventures. However, braising is also very forgiving, and even if you’re still a novice cook you can make a dish loaded with flavor upon your first try. Braising generally begins with browning meat, but this is a useful technique for creating hearty vegetarian dishes as well. The main key to braising is simply allowing your ingredients a long time to coalesce, but here are four braising tips that will ensure you get the most flavor out of any dish:
1. Opt for the right pot
According to Gourmet, a good braise relies on even, low transfer of heat, which is best provided by a Dutch oven. In fact, braising originated in ancient times when cooks would bury a tightly sealed pot beneath slow-burning embers. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, find a pot that has a tight lid.
2. Know your meat
Bon Appetit notes that braising lends itself well to cheap cuts of meat. When you’re braising, skip the steaks and choice cutlets of meat. Instead, opt for meat that’s a bit tougher, as the long cooking time and addition of braising liquid will allow the meat to soften up. What’s more, these cuts release a lot of flavor into your sauce or gravy, adding to the overall depth of the dish.
3. Exercise patience
To get the most flavor out of your braised dish, you’ll want to give all the ingredients ample time to blend together. Once all your meat, veggies, liquid, herbs and other aromatics are added to the pot, make sure to give everything enough cooking time and allow your sauce to reduce. Braising is great for preparing meals in advance, because you can leave everything sitting in the pot in the refrigerator for a day or two before serving. In fact, this will actually add to the flavor.
4. Find the right braising liquid
Bon Appetit also points out that while most meats and veggies are braised in stock or wine, other liquids such as beer and cider may better align with the flavor profile you’re working to develop. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and remember that in a pinch you can always deglaze the pot with water.