The final result of this cooking method is tender beef that melts in your mouth. Braising is the method of choice for large, less tender cuts of beef such as a Pot Roast or Brisket, using a small amount of liquid.
The beauty of braising is how it turns less-tender cuts into rich, fork-tender dishes. The key is to cook the beef in liquid over low heat for several hours. If you use pre-cut chunks, make sure they're not too small (a golf ball size is good), because they tend to overcook.
Braising can be done on your stovetop, in a slow cooker or in the oven, depending on your recipe. Before you start preparing the beef, be sure to pat it dry with paper towels. This helps it brown more evenly. If your recipe calls for a spice rub or seasoning mix, now's the time to sprinkle it on. Salt and pepper works great, too. It also helps to chop up or open any vegetables you'll be using later.
Most every braising recipe calls for browning the meat on all sides, usually over medium-high heat, until it develops a golden brown crust. Be careful not to brown it for too long so it doesn’t burn.
Most braising recipes include a variety of chopped vegetables, such as carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Chefs call these aromatics, and you're about to find out why (your kitchen will soon smell amazing). Add them to a pan and sauté until they begin to soften. If your recipe doesn't call for vegetables, it's OK to skip this step.
See those brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan? They're chock full of flavor. When your aromatics have softened and the pan is still hot, slowly add some liquid—such as beef broth, cooking wine, juices or even water—and scrape up the bits with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant rubber spatula. This technique is called deglazing, and it helps make your dish delicious.
Carefully return the meat to the pan or slow cooker. Depending on your recipe, now's the time to add more liquid, such as the beef broth or wine you used for deglazing. Then turn down the heat per your recipe, cover it with a tight-fitting lid and let that moist heat work its magic.
You'll know it's done when the meat is fork-tender. Some braising recipes can go straight from the stovetop, slow cooker or oven to your table. Or you can remove the meat and vegetables, strain the liquid, and combine it with a roux to make a great sauce.
You’ll be mighty tempted, but it’s important to avoid lifting the lid, which releases valuable heat and moisture and can significantly increase the cooking time.
Pronounced "roo," it's a paste-like mix of fat (such as butter) and flour that’s essential to making a silky sauce.