Everyone loves to braise, and the mythology indicates that it’s easy, but it’s not—it’s simple (and there is a difference). But for everyone who thinks that braising is forgiving, I would remind you of the last dried-out pot roast you’ve eaten. Here are some handy tips for braising.
Brown well. That’s what the recipe says, and the Maillard reaction that takes place when you brown is crucial to textural and flavor success when braising. Don’t “beige” your food. Brown it. Beijing is a city in China. Brown is the color of flavor. Use enough heat and get a nice crust on those short ribs or beef chuck. The chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars give browned foods their best flavor. As the heat and caramelization increases, the depth and complexity grow as hundreds of chemical reactions take place, building blocks of flavor. Literally.
Simmer properly. That means after browning, adding your aromatics and vegetables and deglazing with your liquid seasonings according to the recipe, you should simmer for a while, 5-10 minutes, to establish some thermal momentum in your braise, both in the liquid and the protein. Then—whether you use a lid and cook on the stovetop, cover and slide in the oven or open-top braise without a lid—you will continue cooking without the stop and start of insufficient heat in your pot.
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