Many people mistake braising as a cooking method that can never be low fat and is reserved for fatty cuts of meat, but braising can actually be a great way to infuse flavors into meat and vegetables, without having to add a lot of extra fat and calories. As long as you are using lower fat or trimmed pieces of meat, braising is an incredible way to create delicious, home-style, healthy meals. It can also be a great way to cook deep and complex flavors in simple side dishes.
What You Need:
- Dutch Oven or other large, with a tightly fitted lid
Browning Your Meat
The first step to braising is to brown your meat. Make sure first to trim your meat of most of the extra fat. Sprinkle your meat with salt and pepper and then add to about 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in your Dutch oven. Brown on all sides for 2-3 minutes until a rich brown color develops. This will help flavor your dish since browning starts to release the meat flavor as it caramelizes. The best meats for braising are tougher (and cheaper!) meats that have a lot of connective tissue that slowly cook down over time like beef round, beef brisket, pork shoulder, pork but, etc. Make sure to try and choose a lower fat cut of meat or trim of all visible fat since some tougher cuts of meat also have more fat.
Choosing Your Braising Liquid
Once you have browned your meat, you are going to add the braising liquid to your Dutch oven. When a meat braises, it both simmers and steams, so you are only going to want to cover the meat about 1/3 of the way with liquid. You can use almost any liquid to braise – wine, rich broth, juice, or a combination of flavors. The flavor of the liquid will seep into and flavor the meat. If you are using broth, make sure to enhance it with herbs and vegetables to deepen the flavor. Consider adding a touch of honey, vinegar, or lemon as well.
Adding Vegetables, Herbs, and More Flavor
Next you will want to add in your vegetables. Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, onions, potatoes are good choices for braising because they stand up over time. Kale and other sturdy greens also can be delicious braised. You will also likely want to add herbs and spices to your braise. Dried vegetables work fine in braises since they have time to develop their flavors. Try creating your own combinations or use classic combinations that you love on other dishes.
Low and Slow Cooking
Now turn the heat down to a low simmer, cover, and let cook until the meat becomes fork tender and is cooked to your liking. Most braising dishes take 2-4 hours depending on how tough the meat is. You can then either serve the dish as is, or take out the meat and vegetables and let the liquid simmer down to make a more flavorful sauce.