- Season your braising liquid
- Sear your meat hard before you braise it
- Don't use too much liquid
- Use good, high quality products
- Make sure you cook the meat through
Have your braises been underwhelming? Try these 5 chef tips for how to braise meat.
Braising is a two-part cooking method that involves quickly searing food at a high temperature and then adding liquid, covering it, and finishing the cook at a lower temperature over a long period of time. Just because braising involves a little bit of "set it and forget it" doesn't mean you can't mess it up big time, though — meat that's wet on the outside and dry on the inside is the braising nightmare many of us know all too well.
To ensure moist, flavorful braises every time, we met up with Corporate Executive Chef Charles Schlienger of Thai hotspot Sway in Austin, TX to learn his 5 important tips to keep in mind when braising meat.
1. Season your braising liquid
"If it's not seasoned, your product is going to be bland."
Whether you're braising lamb shanks, oxtail, or any other cuts of meat, the seasoning you put on the meat itself is only half the battle. While your braising liquid won't serve the purpose of making the inside of your meat more moist (that's a common misconception), it does have the important role of marinating your meat as it cooks. If you don't season your braising liquid, you're missing out on an easy (and essential) opportunity to add flavor to your braise.
2. Sear your meat hard before you braise it
"That's going to create the Maillard reaction, which is going to add flavor."
Giving your meat a nice, hard sear after seasoning it and before braising it will add a ton of complexity to your final product. While you'll lose much of the texture typically associated with a hard sear due to the moist heat of your braise, that savory seared flavor will still be imparted into your final product in a big way.
To pull as much flavor as possible from your meat (and to have less dishes to clean), you should do both parts of a braise in the same pot or pan. This allows for total incorporation of the oh-so-delicious "brown bits" — those Maillard reaction-y morsels that will be stuck to the bottom of your cookware after you sear your meat — into your braising liquid. A saute pan, stock pot, or Dutch oven are all great choices for executing both parts of a braise in one piece of cookware.
3. Don't use too much liquid
"That's going to pull out all your seasoning that you just worked so hard to get."
Unlike with a stew, the liquid in a braise isn't meant to be the focus of the dish. In fact, a good braise uses only as much liquid as is necessary to create a moist heat under a tight fitting lead to help cook your meat low and slow. This moist heat works in tandem with the hot braising liquid to cook the meat through. Too much liquid and you wash the seasoning off your meat (as Chef Charles notes). Too little liquid and you aren't going to get into those nooks and crannies to break down that connective tissue and end up with fork tender meat.
4. Use good, high-quality products
"Don't go cheap on it."
While braising is a popular method for making cheaper cuts of meat taste expensive, that doesn't mean you shouldn't seek to start out with quality meats if you can. If braising can make less desirable cuts of meat taste great, just think about what it can do for the desirable ones!
Not cutting corners actually applies to both ingredients and cookware here. Don't skimp out and braise in a non-ideal piece of cookware that's good at searing but not braising or vice versa just because it's convenient. Instead, use all-in-one braising cookware that will help you rather than hinder you (like Made In's Saute Pan and Stock Pot).
Made In's Saute Pan
5. Make sure you cook the meat through
"But make sure you don't overcook it as well, because you can still dry your meat out."
Like I mentioned earlier, it's not true that braised meat can't get dry. In fact, dry meat is arguably the number one problem home cooks and professional chefs run into while braising.
The typical cadence of a braise is as follows: add the meat, brown the meat, remove the meat, add your braising liquid, use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of your pot or pan, return the meat to the bottom of the pot or pan, bring it to a simmer, and then cook the meat in the oven. To ensure your meat doesn't get overcooked, make sure you're checking in on its temperature every 20-30 minutes and adjusting your cook time accordingly.
Hopefully your next pot roast, braised pork shoulder, or osso bucco will be a moist and flavorful success thanks to Chef Charles' tips!
If you're interested in learning more about Chef Charles and Sway's unique fusion of Thai and Texas, check out the story of Sway. If you're feeling inspired and want to braise the roof, here are 52 braising recipes.