Braising is an age-old technique used by housewives to convert tough cuts of meat to melt-in-the-mouth delicacies.
This cooking technique was and is still prevalent around the Mediterranean basin where animals walk long distances for pastures, and in the process develop muscles that provide flavour but toughen some parts of their bodies.
Originally, large cuts were subjected to braising with a small amount of wine or other flavoured liquid i.e stock, in a braisiere, hence the word braising.
First, the cooking vessel is fitted with a concave lid to hold embers, then the pot is immersed into a hearth and nestled into hot coals to ensure heat from all sides.
An oven will do same and involve much less work.
Usually, a heavy pot of enamelled cast iron is sued. Braising cooks slowly, and for a long time.
During this process collagen (tough connective tissue in meat) and fibres melt and soften, releasing flavour and richness no other cooking method can.
Shoulders, short ribs, shanks, breasts, round and rump are ideal for braising.
Osso buco, a northern Italian specialty of veal shank is one famous example of braising.
Braised cuts are always cooked through and do not require the use of a thermometer. Cook them “fork tender”.
It is one of the most basic cooking techniques, and yields in skilled hands an excellent meat dish. Lamb-, or veal-, or pork shanks, oxtail, short ribs, a whole leg of lamb, hare, or any tough meat cut is suitable for braising.
Families on tight food budgets and time on their hands can save substantial amounts of funds using this age-old cooking technique.