Braising produces incredibly tender meat, hanging out in a pool of its own gravy, surrounded by tender veggies, all in one pot. You get all this by low, slow cooking in the oven in a closed pot with a little liquid. Although there are fancier moves you can throw in the mix—such
as deglazing the pan, reducing the gravy at the end, or thickening the gravy with a slurry of flour—ultimately, braising is really simple. Here’s a basic method to get you started (we used a pork shoulder for this braise). To delve deeper, including great flavor variations, see our Winter Braising feature. And here are more braising recipes.
Here’s how to make your own braise:
1. Choose a heavy pot with a tightfitting lid. The pot should be roughly the same size as the food you’re putting into it, so less of the liquid evaporates.
2. Coat the bottom of your pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Pat your meat dry, season it with salt and pepper, and sear it in the pot for five to seven minutes per side (do this in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pot). You want a nice brown crust to form, so don’t move the meat around while it cooks. You can also brown your veggies (a few minutes per side) for an all-vegetable braise. Remove the meat or veggies from the pot.
3. Sauté some onion in the same pot, and if you want it to taste more traditionally Euro, add some celery and carrot. (You can also substitute parsnip for the carrot and celery root for the celery.)
4. Add anything else you want in your braise: seasonings (see our Winter Braising feature); chunks of other vegetables (hearty root vegetables work well); canned tomato products; dried beans; grains; dried mushrooms; dried fruit; etc.
5. Place the meat back in the pot and add broth, stock, water, alcohol, or any combination of those liquids till it reaches one-third of the way up the food, then bring to a simmer.
6. Cover tightly and place in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Check after about 25 minutes to make sure you’ve got a slow, mellow simmer going. If the mixture is boiling, reduce the temperature by 10 degrees and recheck after 10 or 15 minutes. If it’s not simmering, increase the temperature by 10 degrees. Braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning the meat halfway through, until the meat is falling off the bone and the veggies and beans (if you used any) are tender. Remove from the oven.
7. Shred the meat and put it back in the pot. Finish with fresh herbs if desired; add vinegar, mustard, or lemon juice if the dish tastes flat; or cream it up with a dollop of yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche. You can also remove the food from the pot and cook down the liquid to make a thicker gravy (but do this before adding any yogurt or cream).