by Aly Walansky
When planning a hearty dinner on a chilly night, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a braise.
Braise means “ember” in French, which refers to an old-school method of cooking in the kitchen hearth. In fact, Outlander fans may remember that Claire learned this technique when she was in the past - and then brought elements of it back to the future with her! The pan was set in the hot embers with additional embers placed on top to cook all day long.
Picking the Right Pan
Fast forward to today, braising doesn’t require special equipment, specific braising pans, or a hearth and embers, thank goodness. “A standard saute pan with a lid is ideal,” said Laura Pauli, chef and sommelier at Cucina Testa Rossa, and if you don’t have a lid, no sweat, just set a cookie sheet on top (careful, it gets hot!), or a lid from a larger pan or even a piece of parchment paper cut to the size of the pan can do the trick.
When braising, you want a pan that will work both on the stovetop and also in the oven, so it needs to be built in a way that is safe for both the inside and outside of the oven. And you need it to be just deep enough that anything you are cooking can be covered by liquid. Whether it's a stainless clad saute pan or a non stick saute pan, both are perfect for braising.
What is Braising?
Braising is cooking something in a little bit of liquid on low heat for a long time, covered. Simply sear a piece meat in your saute pan and remove it. Then add in aromatics like onions, garlic, shallots, bay leaves, or whatever else you have on hand. Sweat those out and then return the meat back to the pan along with stock, tomatoes, or water! Simmer until your meat is tender and you've got a perfect meal.
That’s it, and you can braise anything! “Meat, fruit, vegetables, legumes all make delicious braises,” said Pauli. “Last week, I braised leeks in my saute pan. I braised apples with saffron, cider, sherry, and chicken broth. I braised chickpeas for a Thai curry, and for the piece de resistance, that classic French braise, Coq au Vin or chicken in wine.”
Braising is an easy, economical, and delicious way to cook that is ideal for tough cuts of meat as the liquid and long cooking tenderizes the meat. “Those cuts usually provide more value, especially when feeding a large family or making extra to freeze,” said Pauli.
Another key to braising is cooking with a wide shallow pan so that all the food can be partially immersed in a small amount of liquid. This Made In Saute Pan is the perfect size and shape to braise just about anything. While a saute pan isn’t the most obvious picture one gets in their mind when braising (many of us grew up braising in an old-school Dutch oven), it’s the ideal choice due to its diameter and depth while also having a tight-fitting lid. And those handles will go a long way as far as safety - and neatness!
Every chef loves a good braise. It's kind of a "set it and forget it" project that you can have working on the back burner throughout the day.
“The vessel of choice is important when braising, and there are multiple options here,” said Chef Gavin Lambert, co-founder of WECO Hospitality, who does a lot of braised chicken thighs, and finds that saute pans work best for this. “You can sear the thighs, roast the aromatics, deglaze, warm your stock, and braise the chicken all in one pan,” said Lambert. Plus, once they are done, Lambert recommends removing the thighs and reducing the braising liquid to a jus, without even switching pans.
Braising in a saute pan is super easy and convenient and helps all that delicious flavor stay in one place. For more information, check out this blog post on how to use a saute pan. Bon appetit!