Braising is a cooking method as old as fire itself, and is as relevant today as ever. This oven or stovetop slow cooking method has many unique and solid advantages. Among them:
- Turns a tough (inexpensive) cut of meat into something lush and sumptuous.
- Requires little hands on work once the food is in the pot.
- Can be done on the stovetop or in the oven.
- Works with many types of foods from meats to vegetables and beans to grains.
- Allows for dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated with no compromise to the quality of the food (in fact, most braised dishes actually improve in flavor if made a day or two in advance and reheated).
- Lends itself beautifully to one-pot meals; easy on the cook, appealing to the diner.
- Very versatile and forgiving; exact timing is not often a concern, and the recipes are usually quite flexible, welcoming many different kinds of substitutions and improvisations depending on what you like, what’s in season, or what you have on hand.
Back to advantage No.1: most of the least expensive cuts of meat are tough to start with, coming from the more muscular part of the animal, and quick cooking leaves them tough and hard to chew and digest. The slow, low braising renders them tender and moist, and when filet mignon or baby lamb chops aren’t in your budget, this is a great way to get an inexpensive but succulent meal on the table.
Other inexpensive foods like root vegetables, beans and various whole grains also have a great affinity to braising, and getting comfortable with this easy, hands-off cooking style yields many choices for great dinners.
Here are some recipes with which you can explore braising, while keeping a few extra dollars in your pocket.
Braised Beef Brisket by Mark Bittman
Brisket is a very inexpensive cut of beef, needing slow cooking to turn it tender. Slice it across the grain and serve with noodles.
Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple Rosemary Glaze by Molly Stevens
The maple glaze enhanced with rosemary turns humble short ribs into a company-worthy dish. Pick your favorite ale to cook the meat in.
Braised Fennel and Garlic by Peggy Knickerbocker
Anise-flavored fennel and whole garlic cloves turn soft and sweet when cooked slowly in some olive oil and dry white wine.