Many cuts of meat are tough and chewy because they come from muscles that get a lot of exercise. Cuts from the shoulder area of deer, lamb, cow and pig contain a lot of connective tissues that make the meat chewy, but the tissues melt when exposed to steam heat. Other cuts come from lean muscles with little marbling, such as cuts from the hindquarter, which also benefit from slow, moist heat. Braising refers to the cooking method that applies steam heat for hours to break down collagen and unwind protein strands, yielding fall-apart tender meat. You can braise on the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker, but brown the meat first to enhance the flavor.
Remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes ahead of time to let it warm up a bit.
Blot the meat dry with napkins or paper towels to enhance the browning process.
Combine salt, pepper and your other favorite spices with 1/4 cup of flour in a large, flat bowl. Drag the meat through the seasoned flour and push down on it, pressing the flour deep into the meat’s surface.
Combine 1/2 to 1-1/ 2 cups of beef broth, cider, wine, water, beer, water, juice or other liquid with dry spices and seasonings in mixing bowl to form your steaming, or braising, liquid.
Slice any vegetables you want to include with your steamed meat into large chunks. For example quarter potatoes, carrots, celery or onions.
Preheat a skillet or Dutch oven on your stove top, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, and brown the meat for 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Add the prepared liquid and bring it to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet or Dutch oven to loosen the browned-on bits of meat and flour.
Reduce the heat so the liquid simmers lightly. Cover the skillet or Dutch oven tightly. Simmer small cuts of meat 75 minutes and large roasts 2 to 3 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Add the vegetables for the final 60 minutes of cooking.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a lid on the Dutch oven and transfer it to the lower middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake the meat for 25 to 30 minutes per pound. Keep the meat cooking until it is fork tender. If you like it more tender, cook it longer. Add the vegetables for the last hour of baking.
Transfer the browned meat and liquid to the slow cooker and put the lid on. Cook the meat on "Low" for 7 to 8 hours or on "High" for 4 to 6 hours. Add the vegetables halfway through the cooking.
- IBiblio: Braising and Stewing
- “The American-International Encyclopedic Cookbook”; Anne London; 1991