How to Braise Beef
Braising is a simple technique that allows you to transform the cheap, tough cuts of beef into tender and delicious meals. Perfected by the French and synonymous with American "pot roasting," braising involves slow-cooking beef roasts in the oven, simmering them in a rich sauce for a period of several hours. With the right ingredients, technique, and a bit of creativity, you can create a hearty meal to feed a whole family. See Step 1 for more information.
Getting the Essentials
Select an inexpensive cut of meat to braise.While it may seem contrary to usual meat-buying logic, tougher or less-tender cuts of meat are perfect for braising. Pot roast, chuck roast or any inexpensive cut may be used. The muscle fibers and connective tissue that make these cuts stringy or tough are broken down by braising, which gelatinizes the collagen into a more palatable texture. Low heat and long cooking times are used to make a tough cut of any kind of meat moist, tender, and delicious, when cooked properly. Common cuts of beef for braising include:
- top blade roast
- eye roast
- seven bone, or center-cut pot roast
- ribs or short ribs
- It's unlikely that you would ever want to braise any kind of lean steaks or loin. You could, but because these meats are tender already, it'd be a bit of a waste.
Select a braising liquid.Other than a pot and your cut of beef, the only other absolutely essential ingredient is a liquid in which to simmer the meat. Because this is an opportunity to add a dash of flavor to the dish, it's most common to use wines, stocks, or other flavorful liquid, as opposed to water.Common braising liquids include:
- Beef stock or broth. You can match the stock to the dish by using a beef-based broth or stock, although using chicken stock would is universal for braising any type of meat, and might add a nice complexity to your braised beef. Stock is just broth that hasn't been seasoned, so stock is generally better for braising, since it allows you to control the salt-levels, but either is acceptable. Just go easy on the salt if you use broth.
- Red wine. Dry red wine can add a nice acidic note to beef, especially when combined with another braising liquid, like stock. The alcohol cooks off, resulting in a rich and fragrant dark sauce. Especially fruity or sweet red wines would be less desirable, but fine if paired with an equal amount of stock to cut the sweetness. The fruitiness of a white wine would pair better with chicken or pork. Since it'll season your dish, make sure it's something you'd like to drink--pour yourself a glass for "research."
- Dark beer. English cooking at its finest. Stouts, porters, or black lagers all lend a rich sweetness to beef, and a malty depth of flavor. The darker the better, when it comes to beef. Some Belgian ales might also work nicely, but experiment and find a beer you with a nice flavor. In general, lighter pilsners and lagers are more appropriate for chicken or pork.
- How much liquid you'll need will depend on the amount of meat you're braising, and the addition of extra vegetables. As a rule of thumb, you'll want enough liquid to cover the vegetables at the bottom of the pot and come up just to the level of the meat. You're not boiling the meat, or stewing it, so you won't submerge it in the braising liquid. It won't take much, and you can always add additional water to the pot if you didn't have enough wine left in the bottle.
Start with a mirepoix or some mix of finely minced vegetables.Sounds fancy, but it's not. In French cuisine, braised beef and many other meat dishes will always start with a vegetable base of finely minced carrot, onion, and celery, called mirepoix, which is used to pair with the meat and enrich the sauce. After searing the meat, the mirepoix is added and browned briefly before adding the braising liquid to the pot.
- For a proper braising, there needs to be something at the bottom of the pot other than the liquid, to give the sauce fragrance, substance, and character, as well as to keep it from drying out. When minced very small, the mirepoix will mostly disintegrate into the liquid over the course of the long cooking time, to flavor the sauce, though you could leave larger chunks to do more of a "pot roast" style braised beef.
- Depending on the cut of meat, you might use around 2-3 carrots, 2-3 celery stalks, and a small white onion.
Choose additional vegetables to add as well.Depending on what you want to do with the beef you braise, you might elect to make a one-pot meal with the addition of vegetables. In most braising, some variety of aromatic vegetable will always be used to keep the moisture consistent in the bottom of the pot, as well as to release other flavors and aromas. Cooking beef low and slow is a great opportunity to cook vegetables as well.
- Other vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, peas, mushrooms, greens, leeks, or other root vegetables can be added to the pot later, about 45 minutes before the meat is done cooking. Some fruits, like apple or pear, can also pair nicely with braised beef, depending on the season. Use firm, slightly under-ripe fruit, if you want to experiment.
- Aromatic herbs like rosemary, sage, bay leaf, or thyme can kick your braised beef up several notches. If you've got access to an herb garden, or just want to buy some fresh herbs from the store, tie up a bundle of a few stalks in twine and add at the same time you add the braising liquid.
Always use a heavy-bottom stew pot or dutch oven.Braising starts on the stove and moves into the oven, making it important that you start in a pot that's oven-safe. Enameled cast-iron pots are perfect for braising, featuring the heat-retention of cast iron and the hefty weight of a good baking dish.
- Skillets aren't generally big enough to hold all the braising liquid, meat, and vegetables required for a good braising, while thinner sauce-pans won't hold the heat as effectively as cast iron. If you don't have a cast iron dutch oven, though, anything you can cover and put in the oven will do in a pinch.
- If you don't have an oven-safe stew pot, but have a heavy-bottomed saucepan, it's perfectly fine to braise meat on the stove-top as well. Some cooks prefer the oven method because it more evenly-distributes heat throughout the meat, while others prefer the simplicity of braising on the stove. Both methods result in tender and delicious beef.
Prepare the meat for braising.Season the meat on all sides with an even coating of salt and pepper. Go easy if you're going to braise the meat in broth, which will also be seasoned. If you want to add other spices to the dish, wait to add them until after the braising liquid has been added. Don't worry about trimming off fat or connective tissue, which will be broken down during the cooking process, providing great flavor.
- Some cooks like to dust the meat with a light coating of flour before browning it, while others choose not to. Flour can help to create a nice attractive crust on the meat during the browning, and it will work to thicken the sauce. Additionally, it helps to dry out the surface of the meat to promote browning. If you don't dust with flour, dry off the meat before you attempt to fry it. Damp beef won't brown.
- Depending on the cut of meat you're using, you may want to trim up the beef into manageable pieces, or leave it whole to braise the entire roast. Either method is perfectly fine, and will only majorly affect the presentation of the dish after it's done.
- In general, braised beef will be left whole, while "stewed" beef (which is submerged in liquid) will be cut into smaller chunks. The techniques are largely similar, so go with what you like best. If you'd like bite-sized chunks, go ahead and cut up your roast ahead of time. If you'd rather leave it whole and fork it apart later, that's fine too.
Brown the roast and then remove it from the pot.Put your pot on the stove over a medium-high heat, coating the bottom with about two tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add your meat and let it brown on each side, until you've created a nice dark crust on the outside. Turn the meat periodically and be very careful not to scorch.
- You need to brown meat over high heat to cook the outside, not the inside. You'll cook the meat through in the liquid, so the browning is just used to create that tasty outer-layer of crust, as well as to season the bottom of the pot with drippings and little burned-on bits. The inside should still be very pink after you've browned it. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.
Add the mirepoix and sauté over medium-high heat.In the drippings and browned bits stuck at the bottom of the pan, add your finely-minced carrot, onion, and celery. Stir the vegetables around as they brown, taking care not to let them scorch.
Add about an inch of your braising liquid.When your vegetable base is browned, add a small amount of braising liquid to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the stuff stuck to the bottom, which will help to flavor the sauce and the meat. Add enough liquid to cover the vegetables and bring it to a simmer.
- The difference between stewing and braising is the amount of liquid you add to the pot. Although they're very similar processes, technically-speaking, braised beef requires only the smallest amount of liquid, enough to cover the vegetables and create a humid environment in which to cook the meat. If you add a bit too much, don't worry, it'll be just as good.
Return the meat to the pot, cover it, and place in the oven at 325 °F (163 °C).Once you've got the braising liquid up to a gentle simmer, add the beef back into the pot, settled gently on top of the vegetable/liquid mixture. Cover the pot securely and put it in the oven.
- If you want to braise on the stove, reduce the heat immediately to low and cover the pot securely. To keep things from drying out, it might be helpful to add a bit more liquid than you normally would, more like you would for a stewing, and to leave the cover on the pot as much as possible. Every time you remove it, the moisture will be released, causing it to get drier.
- As the meat cooks the liquid should condense and intensify, but the pot shouldn't dry out because you have the lid on. As it condenses on the top of the pot, it'll drip back down on top of the meat, basting it and keeping everything moist. Because you're creating a little cooking climate in the pot, you shouldn't remove it and mess with it. Let the pot and the heat do the work.
- The braising liquid should not be boiling. If the lid of your pot is rattling because the bubbles are aggressive, turn the heat down some. Anywhere between 250 and 350 F is appropriate for braising. The lower the temp, the longer the cooking time.
Add additional vegetables 45 minutes to 1 hour before the meat is done.To make sure everything finishes cooking at roughly the same time, you should add vegetables to the equation later in the cooking process, depending on what you want to add.
- Root vegetableslike parsnips, turnips, carrots, potatoes, and beets can and probably should be added earlier in the cooking process. Add root vegetables to the pot when you return the meat, and cut into uniform bite-sized pieces.
- Delicate vegetableslike greens, mushrooms, beans or peas should be added quite near the end, no more than an hour before you remove the braised beef from the oven. These may be added whole.
- Defrost any frozen vegetablesyou'd like to add before adding them to the braising pot. Adding frozen vegetables can bring down the temperature considerably, and they won't need to be cooked for very long anyway.
Remove the meat when fork-tender.Depending on the size and variety of the cut you're braising, it should cook between 2 and 4 hours to reach its most tender state, and reach an internal temperature of around 160 F. When the beef is done, it should literally fall apart with very little pressure from a fork.
- As the meat cooks, moisture will be forced out, drying it out. When it reaches 160 F, it'll technically be "done" at this point, but it won't be as good as it can and should be for a proper braising. Since you've gone to all the trouble to braise it, really braise it. After a bit more time in the oven, the fibers will relax and reabsorb the gelatinized collagen, making the meat very tender.
- You shouldn't need to worry about under- or overcooking a braised beef dish. Cooking it longer only makes it better, and there's almost no risk of over-cooking it. If you're in doubt, cook it longer. It's not a dish to rush.
Finishing the Dish
Remove the beef from the pot and let it rest.When the beef is done cooking, remove it from the braising liquid, set it on a plate or a carving board, and cover it with foil to retain the heat. Braised beef should rest for at least 10 or 15 minutes before you carve it.
- You can carve braised beef however you wish to serve it, depending on the particular cut. Slices are appropriate for brisket, while short ribs will likely be left whole. Fork-pulling some roasts might be appropriate, as well, if you want more of a BBQ-style dish.
- If you've added additional vegetables, you can remove them as well, if you want to reduce the liquid to create a sauce or gravy. Spoon into a serving bowl, cover, and set aside.
Reduce the remaining liquid to create a sauce.After you've removed the beef, put the pot back on the stovetop over medium-high heat to reduce the amount of liquid by half, or until it reaches the consistency you desire. Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire.
- If you want to make gravy, you can also thicken the sauce by mixing a slurry of about a tablespoon of flour and a quarter-cup of sauce in a separate bowl. When the slurry is mixed thoroughly, with all the lumps whisked out, add it to your sauce slowly, whisking as you go. If you dusted the meat with flour before browning it, the sauce might thicken on its own by reduction. Cook it down some to check for the thickness before you worry about starting a slurry.
- Other additional aromatics like ginger, lemongrass, grated citrus rind, or garlic can be added to the liquid as it reduces for the sauce.
Pair with an appropriate side.Most commonly, you'll see braised beef paired with the vegetables it was braised with, if you chose to include any, and a potato dish of some sort. Braised beef is excellent with the following side dishes:
Finish the dish with chopped herbs or other additions and garnishes.A bit of chopped flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, or fresh herb of your choice can liven up the braised beef. Arrange on a platter, spooning over the reduced sauce or gravy you made from the leftover braising liquid.
- In many parts of the world, braised beef is a common Sunday supper, especially in the cold winter and autumn months. After slowly simmering the meat in the oven, the whole house smells rich and warm.
Marinade roast beforehand to braise sauerbraten.A German variation on a basic braised beef, sauerbraten involves marinating a browned round roast in a mixture of vinegar and aromatic spices for up to three days before adding sugar and braising the beef in the marinade.
- For the marinade, heat a cup of apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar in a saucepan, with about two cups of water, over medium-high heat. To this, add one small chopped white onion and a half cup each of chopped carrot and celery. Toss in a teaspoon each of mustard seeds and whole clove, 2-3 bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes while you brown the roast. After about 10 minutes, turn it off and let it cool to room temperature.
- Brown the roast in olive oilbefore removing and placing in a pot suitable for holding the meat and all the marinade. When the marinade has cooled slightly (you don't want it to cook the meat) pour it over the beef and let it sit in the refrigerator for about three days, turning it once a day to make sure the meat is equally submerged.
- After three days, braise in the oven at 325 Ffor about four hours after adding about a third of a cup of sugar to the marinading liquid. After braising, crushed-up gingersnaps and raisins are commonly whisked into the juice to thicken and add sweetness to the sauce, which is then poured over the sauerbraten.
Use sliced bottom round to make braised swiss steak.While it has absolutely nothing to do with Switzerland, swiss steak involves the "swishing" process, by which one flattens fabric (in this case meat) with rollers or hammers. The tough meat is then braised in a rich sauce made from tomatoes, until fork-tender and delicious. Combined with mashed potatoes and fresh corn, there's nothing better than a properly cooked swiss steak.
- To prepare the meat, cut round roast along the grain to form steaks roughly one half inch thick. Dredge each steak in flour, then pound out with a meat tenderizer until the steak flattens by half. Dredge the steaks again in flour and brown them on the skillet, over medium-heat in your dutch oven, or other oven-ready pot, on both sides. When the steaks turn golden brown on both sides, remove them from the pot and set aside.
- To create the sauce, fry a small white onion, chopped, two or three cloves of garlic, and two large celery stalks in your pot. Sauté until the vegetables are browned slightly. To this, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and a can of diced tomato (or two medium fresh tomatoes, chopped), and about a cup of beef broth. Stir and bring to a simmer, adding some chopped oregano, Worcestershire sauce, and a tablespoon of lemon juice to the sauce.
- Return the meat to the potand braise in the oven for about an hour and a half, covered, at 325 F. The meat should be done when it's fork-tender.
Make carbonade flamande.Served with crusty bread, sweet-sour carbonade flamande is a deceptively simple Flemish flavor bomb, and a great way to mix up a traditional pot roast or braised chuck roast.
- Start the process by cubing the beefinto bite-sized chunks and browning them in the dutch oven. Remove them from the pot, then crisp up about 3 or 4 strips of chopped bacon, turning down the heat when the fat renders out into the skillet. To the pot, add a whole white onion, chopped, and slowly adding about 2 tablespoons of butter to the mix.
- Deglaze the pan with a bottle of Belgian ale, adding a cup of beef stock, and two tablespoons each of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Season the braising liquid with chopped tarragon, parsley, thyme, or whatever green herbs you prefer, and salt and paper to taste.
- Return the meat to the pot, then cook on the stove over low heat, covered, for about two hours, until he beef is fork-tender. Some recipes call for the braised meat to be topped with slices of bread for the last bit of the cooking time, which is broken down and stirred into the sauce to thicken. Often, this dish is served beside Belgianfries, or french fries.
Make the ultimate comfort food with beef bourguignon.The technique is easy and the flavor is classic French haute cuisine. It doesn't need to be complicated to be good.
- Brown cubed roast in bacon grease, then remove it and sauté the mirepoix. Stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste and add about 20 white pearl onions and a pound of white button mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste, while gently stirring the mushrooms and onions to coat. Deglaze the skillet with 2 or 3 cups of dry red wine, preferably Burgundy, and a cup of beef or chicken stock. Season with two bay leaves, and whole leaves of sage, rosemary, and oregano.
- Return the meat to the potand braise at 325 F for about 3 or 4 hours until the meat is fork-tender. If the sauce is a little thin, remove the meat and cook it over medium-high heat on the skillet to reduce and thicken. Serve with roast potatoes.
QuestionWhat cut of meat do I need?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRump roast, pot roast, and round steak are some familiar cuts of beef that may be braised.Thanks!
QuestionCan I order braised meat to be well done in a restaurant?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAll braised beef will be well done at the end of cooking. The technique of braising is used to create tender results from inherently tough cuts of meat. This is done through a combination of moisture and time - a lot of time. It is not possible to properly braise meat that is not "well done".Thanks!
How do I get the meat to taste braised without having to braise it?
To braise beef, season an inexpensive cut of meat and place it in a pot over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, removing when it's browned. Over medium-high heat, brown a mirepoix of minced vegetables, and pour in 1 inch of braising liquid, such as wine, stock, or beer. Return the meat to the pot, cover, and cook in the oven at 325 °F. After 2-3 hours, add additional vegetables such as potatoes or greens. When the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 °F, remove it from the oven and serve!
Lean cut of beef, such as pot roast or chuck roast
Seasoning, as desired
Braising liquid (water, broth, beer, or wine will all work)
Aromatics, such as garlic or onions
Vegetables, such as broccoli or carrots
- Beef stew may be cooked by braising. Large pieces, 2" cubes, yield good results.
- Pork chops may be braised in a covered skillet. Thin chops tend to curl; one inch chops are better for braising.
- Rump roast, pot roast and round steak are some familiar cuts of beef that may be braised.
- For some meats, fruit juice might be suitable for use in the liquid.
- Be sure the lid and handles of the Dutch Oven, including the handle on the lid, are oven safe.
- Use good quality, clean, dry pot holders or mittens when handling the Dutch Oven.
Things You'll Need
A Dutch Oven or covered skillet
An instant meat thermometer
Pot holders or mittens
Sources and Citations
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