Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Classic French Cooking Technique-Braisng

A classic cooking technique, by definition braising is technique where food is browned in and then simmered in a small amount of liquid over a long period of time.
This method of cooking is exactly what tougher cuts of meat like chuck roasts and briskets also the more fibrous vegetables such as celery, carrots and leeks are all candidates for the braise.
Braising is often thought of as a winter preparation due to the colder temperatures and the need food to provide sustenance. Also the addition of extra heat in the kitchen in the dead of winter is also a welcome surprise. It may have also been born out of necessity. Winter harvest includes such staples as carrot, onions, leeks and corn which in some cases provide the base of the braising liquid. And meals definitely had to have that "Stick to Ribs" factor.
But with the advent of greater transportation and freezing development along with farming techniques these formerly winter staples can be bought fresh or frozen. Now I don't prescribe to the notion that food should only be braised in the dead of winter, when I feel like I want short ribs I want short ribs. I don't need to wait until the weather changes. And now day’s tougher cuts of meat are back in fashion in many restaurants. So I say crank up the air conditioner and bring out the casserole and braise.
The process of conduction (the transfer of heat from a liquid) and convection (the transfer of heat from the air to the food), braising is a moist heat cooking method that can be thought of as a combination method of preparing tougher cuts of meat. The meat is first browned (sautéed) in fat to develop some character and a crust to lock in juices and flavor of the meat. It is then transferred to a casserole or a large pot with a tight fitting lid to prevent the evaporation and stop steam from escaping.
Liquid is added to a depth of 1-2 inches depending on the casserole and the meat being prepared. At this point aromatics are added to the pot. It can be cooked on the stove top over medium heat low heat or in a medium oven set to 325- 350 degrees. Braising in the oven offers a more consistent heat control than the stove top, which only heats from the bottom while oven cooking provides heat all over. Heat from the oven can also be maintained easier, with less attention than on the stove top.
Classic French braising calls for the vegetables to be added for there aromatic qualities they impart on the meat but are not served with the final product. Fresh vegetables are added close to the end of the cooking time to maintain there flavor and texture.
In most cases the cooking liquid is used as the finishing sauce for the meal. The vegetables are strained off and in some case thickened with a roux, cream or even butter. The simple art of braising can be further broken down into more subcategories and more methods. Brown braising or sautéing food prior to the braising where the food is browned beforehand and dark ingredients such as brown stock or other red meat, or red wine are used. Or white braising where the food is blanched refreshed and cooked in a white liquid such as white stock. Choice of aromatics, herbs or vegetables, even braising liquids has changed little. The basic preparation and method is the same, despite various options.


  1. Very informative. And it makes me want to braise something. Thanks for the lesson.

  2. Aha! Now I know what braising is. And your description of it all is making me hungry.