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 easy way to make a tasty one-pot meal. It works particularly well for tougher cuts of meat such as beef brisket, lamb shank, pork belly, and oxtails, as the process breaks down the connective tissue.
Done well, braising produces food that is rich in flavor with a caramelized texture that is fork-friendly to eat.
What Is Braising?
Braising is a combination cooking method whereby the food is lightly fried, or browned, and then cooked for an extended period at a low simmer, usually with some added liquid, in a covered pot, typically a Dutch oven or a slow cooker.
Braising has the effect of tenderizing the food and transforming the taste and aroma. While the technique can be used for a wide variety of foods, it's traditionally used mainly for meat. The cooking process usually also creates a tasty sauce.
5 Downsides of Braising
Here are five of the negatives of this cooking process:
- It takes a long time
- It produces food with a soft texture
- Nutrients are lost
- Certain foods are not suitable for this technique
- Variable cook times for ingredients
I look at each braising disadvantage in more detail below.
1. It Takes a Long Time
Braising is not a quick cooking method. It generally takes several hours to make a meal, especially if there's a large joint of meat involved. This can make it unsuitable for people who lead busy lives and only a limited time to spend on preparing meals.
Braising almost also always requires a degree of forward planning, unless you're using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to speed up the process; or you are only cooking fish or vegetables, which are quicker.
2. Food Becomes Soft
While braising is wonderful for creating flavorful meals, there's not generally a great deal of textual variety. Most crispness, crunchiness or firmness tends to be lost during the simmering process. The soft texture of the foods can become monotonous if you eat braised food regularly.
3. Nutrients Are Lost
While braising certainly isn't the most unhealthy cooking method, it does inevitably result in some nutrients being lost. The extended time period of applied heat is what does much of the damage. Some nutrients will also be absorbed by the liquid, which is fine if you eat it as part of the meal, but not if you avoid it.
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4. Not All Foods Work
Not all foods are suited to braising. Some ingredients have a tendency to turn to mush, disintegrate, or simply lose their distinctive taste and texture during the extended cooking process.
Here are some examples:
- Most seafood: Shellfish, oysters, and clams need to be cooked quickly, and softer fish types will be obliterated by braising. Only tougher and more solid fish like shark tend to work well, as do squid and octopus.
- Chicken breasts: Most cooks agree that chicken breasts are not a good food for braising, in part because they can easily go dry or develop a rubbery texture. They tend to be better when sautéed or grilled. If you're going to braise chicken, try thighs, or legs.
- Nuts: These are normally added to meals to give some added crunch. However, extended cooking will make them soft and slimy. If you're going to add nuts, do so at the end.
- Certain vegetables: Some vegetables become mushy and lose their distinctive taste when braised. Examples include peppers, peas, and asparagus. Hearty root vegetables usually work best when braising.
5. Variable Cooking Times
Despite it generally being considered to be an easy and straightforward, one-pot cooking method, braising isn't always that simple in practice. A common issue you will come across is that different foods can require very different cooking times.
Meat, for instance, generally requires a few hours of low simmering for it to tenderize. Many vegetables, on the other hand, take nowhere near as long and can lose all their texture and disintegrate if overcooked. Dairy products will also often separate or curdle if added too early.
You therefore end up having to stagger the addition of ingredients in many cases, making the braising experience more involved and difficult to get right.
Slow Braising vs. Fast Braising
The second stage of the braising process can be done in two ways:
- Slow braising takes longer and is essentially the more traditional way of doing things. The cooking is done at a low simmer in a covered pot. For a tougher cut of meat, it can easily take two or three hours for it to tenderize this way.
- Fast braising involves using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. These are designed to cook the food in a fraction of the time. While the results won't be exactly the same as with slow braising, it can be worth it sometimes just for the time saved.
My Favorite Cookware for Braising: Lodge Dutch Oven
I've used a Lodge 6-quart enamel Dutch oven in my kitchen at home for over three years. It's a great piece of cookware and my favorite product for slow-cooking meals.
- The design of this Dutch over makes it both a practical piece of cookware to use and attractive in appearance.
- The porcelain enamel on cast iron construction makes the Lodge perfect for braising. It's heat tolerant and impervious to water and other liquids.
- When I'm not braising, I use the Dutch oven for baking, broiling, and roasting. It can withstand temperatures up to 500°F.
- This product is sturdy and very easy to clean. Despite using it to make curries, I've never had any issues with staining.
- There was a huge array of colors to choose from when I ordered it. I picked the spice red.
- While the Lodge can cost eighty dollars or more when ordered online, a price that might put some people off, I would describe this Dutch oven as well worth the cost.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Paul Goodman