Paul has been passionate about preparing, cooking, and eating healthy food for over 30 years. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
Braising is a relatively straightforward combination cooking method for producing tasty one-pot meals. A wide variety of foods can be braised, but it is particularly suited to tougher cuts of meat that benefit from being tenderized, such as lamb shank, pork shoulder, and oxtails.
Braising creates dishes that are deep in flavor. The food is given caramelized textures and just falls off the fork. The meals produced are typically hearty and comforting.
While braising does have some downsides, such as the extended cooking time, this article lists and looks at seven of the positives.
What Is Braising?
If you are unfamiliar with braising, it's essentially a combination cooking method whereby the food is lightly fried and then slowly stewed in a closed container, such as a slow cooker or a Dutch oven.
Braising dramatically transforms the flavor of the food and tenderizes it. While the technique can be employed for a multitude of different foods, it's typically most often used for meat, poultry, and seafood. Along with the solid food ingredients, tasty cooking juices are usually also created by the process, which can be served as a sauce.
7 Pros of Braising Foods
Here are seven positives of this cooking combination method:
- Tougher cuts of meat and poultry can be used
- Maximum flavor
- Nutritive value retained
- Appealing sauce created
- Versatile and easy
- Low maintenance and supervision
I explore each of the advantages in more detail below.
1. Tougher Cuts of Meat and Poultry Can Be Used
While there are numerous foods that can be braised, it's a particularly useful technique for cooking tougher cuts of meat and poultry, examples being: beef brisket, rack of ribs, pork shoulder, lamb shank, and oxtails.
Braising breaks down the collagen and connective tissue into gelatin, tenderizing the meat and making it melty and easier to eat. It can also contribute to creating a rich sauce.
2. Maximum Flavor
A richer taste is achieved through the combination of a two stage process. First the meat or other food is lightly fried or browned to sear it. This uses a process called Maillard reaction to give the food an outer crust and release flavors and aromas.
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This is followed by the slow cooking process, which enables all the juices and flavors to merge and seep into the food. The melt-in-your mouth tenderized texture of the meat, coupled with the deep flavors contained in the cooking sauce, enhances the eating experience further.
3. Nutritive Value Retained
High heat has a tendency to destroy nutrients. This makes braising, which relies mainly on slow cooking at lower temperatures, a relatively smart and healthy option. Care should be taken during the initial light frying stage, however, not to allow the food to absorb too much fat.
4. Appealing Sauce Created
One element of braising that can be easily overlooked is the tasty cooking liquids that are created by the process. This sauces tends to be rich in flavor, possessing flavors that have been drawn out of the meat and vegetables, as well as any added herbs and seasoning.
Some braising recipes use wine, beer, or other flavor enhancers such as vinegar. Stocks and tomatoes can also be used to provide flavor and thickening.
Braising isn't just about creating great tastes. It's also a very economical way to cook. Delicious meals can be created from inexpensive, tougher cuts of meat. It's also efficient, as an entire meal can be prepared in a single pot or pan.
6. Versatile and Easy
While it's a method primarily associated with cooking meat, the truth is that most foods can be braised. Fish and poultry can also work well, as can vegetables. The variety of foods that can be braised means that there is plenty of room for experimentation.
The foods that generally don't work well are those that tend to go mushy or disintegrate during the cooking process. Dairy doesn't work either, as it tends to curdle and separate when slow cooked.
Braised meals are usually made in one-pot and are normally straightforward to create. After some light frying, it's normal just to throw all the ingredients together and leave them to cook.
7. Low Maintenance and Supervision
Some might see the longer cooking times that braising often requires as a negative. However, the positive side of this is that once your meal is cooking, you often don't have to do much maintenance and supervision beyond maybe giving the pot an occasional stir.
This means that you can go away and do something else and when you come back later, there's a finished hot meal waiting for you. This can be great if you're cooking for guests, as you've got time to entertain them while the food is cooking.
My Favorite Cookware for Braising: Lodge Dutch Oven
I've used a Lodge 6-quart enamel Dutch oven in my kitchen at home for more than three years and I love it. It's my favorite cookware for braised meals.
- The design is both practical and pleasing to the eye.
- The porcelain enamel on cast iron construction of the Lodge is ideal for braising, as it makes the Dutch oven both heat tolerant and impervious to water and other liquids.
- As well as for braising, I also use the Lodge for broiling, baking and roasting. It can withstand the heat in the oven at up to 500°F.
- This cookware product is built to last and easy to clean. I've not had any problems with staining, even when I've used it for curries.
- There was a wide range of color options available when I bought my Dutch oven. I chose the spice red.
- While the price tag may put off some people, I've never regretted buying my Lodge and I would describe it as excellent value for money. You get what you pay for in this world, and this cookware is worth it.
© 2022 Paul Goodman