If you have ever made a pot roast before, you may already know what braising means. This technique is a great way to seal juices in, create and refine more flavor, and produce tender, juicy results. Braising meat isn’t difficult, but it does require some patience, especially since braising also means cooking meat for a long period of time.
Braising is versatile, so you can use any type of meat if you are making your own recipe. In the classic French dish “coq au vin,” a tough cut of chicken, such as an old rooster, is used. However, if you aren’t following a particular coq au vin recipe, you can use other meats such as lamb or beef.
The first step is to sear the meat. This step is necessary because you will seal juices in while creating cracklings at the bottom of the pot that, when you deglaze the pot, will contribute even more to the flavor of the dish. Before you put the meat in the pan, though, dredge it lightly in unbleached all-purpose flour or cornstarch. A light coating is fine. (You aren’t frying the meat, after all.)
The coating will create a slightly crispy crust. Make sure your pot is very hot. You may use a different pan to sear your meat, but it’s best to use the same pot that you will use later for finishing the braising. Brown the meat on all sides, then remove from the pot and set aside on a platter.
Next, you will want to deglaze your pot and add your liquid and some of the vegetables. At this point, the flame is still on and the pot is still hot. De-glazing will produce some smoke and steam once the liquid is added, but that process of deglazing will also pick up all of the bits of fried meat and flour/cornstarch that’s stuck to the pot. You can also add root vegetables. These are added first because they will soften and make the sauce thicker. If you place the root vegetables on top of the meat, they may not be as moist as you like when the dish is done.
Now, here comes the braising part. Place your meat back into the pot. Make sure to pour any juices in, too. Turn the heat on low once your other vegetables are in and the lid is on. You can braise on top of the stove or you can put the whole pot into the oven at a low temperature, such as 280 degrees F. Although the cooking time is longer, braising allows you to tenderize tougher cuts of meat without much work on your part. The “low and slow” cooking method breaks down the meat so that it’s so soft, you can cut it with your fork.