How do I Braise Beef?

J.M. Densing

Braising is a slow cooking technique that uses liquid to transform tough cuts of meat into tender, flavorful dishes. You can braise beef in the oven or on the stovetop; accompanying vegetables can be cooked in the same pot. You usually brown the outside of the meat and then cook it slowly in a covered pot or pan. The beef is cooked at low to medium temperatures while it is immersed in liquid that covers it up at least half way. The process can take from 1-1/4 to 3 hours and occasionally longer depending on the size and type of the piece of meat.

Braising breaks down connective tissue in tougher cuts of beef.
Braising breaks down connective tissue in tougher cuts of beef.

Braising is also known as pot roasting; the best type of pot to braise beef is heavy and deep with a sturdy lid, like a Dutch oven or a crockpot. It's a process that adds a lot of moisture and tenderness to cuts of meat, including chuck roast, ribs, and brisket, that are usually tough when cooked with a dry method. These cuts of beef are often less expensive than more tender meat, so braising can be a very economical cooking method.

Round steak is an ideal cut of beef for braising.
Round steak is an ideal cut of beef for braising.

The first step to braise beef is to brown all sides of the meat. Add a small amount of oil or butter to the pot or pan and saute the beef on medium to high heat. Move and turn the meat frequently until it is evenly browned, or seared, on all sides. Then remove the meat, pour the fat and any drippings from the pot, and add vegetables such as onions, carrots, or potatoes, if any. Saute the vegetables for a few minutes.

The next step to braise beef is to put the meat back in the pot and add cooking liquid. Common liquid choices are water, wine, beer, juice, or stock or a combination of them. The liquid should cover the meat about half way. Any seasonings should also be added at this point.

If you are braising beef on the stovetop, bring the liquid to a boil and then cover the pot and reduce to low heat. Allow the pot to simmer and slowly cook the beef. If you are using a crockpot to braise beef, cover it and turn it on to a low setting. If you are preparing it in the oven, cover the pot tightly and put it in the middle with the temperature set to 325° to 350° Fahrenheit (163° to 177° Celsius). Allow the beef to cook until it is "fork tender."

Once the beef is cooked, the liquid can be made into a sauce to serve with it. Remove the meat and vegetables from the pot. Cook the liquid until it thickens, which is called reducing it, and add seasonings. Another method is to thicken the liquid with corn starch or flour to make gravy. Serve along with the meat and vegetables and enjoy.

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