Braising Standards With Melissa Clark

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's cold outside and more snow is on the way, which makes it the perfect time for braising! Slow-cooked short ribs, pork shoulder, brisket let you keep the oven on and the kitchen warm. Melissa Clark tells us about the fundamentals of braising and answers your questions about it! She's a New York Times Dining Section columnist and cookbook writer, and her most recent cookbook is Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make.

Some Braising Tips

  • Sear whatever you’re brazing on all sides, get it golden brown. It adds depth of flavor.
  • You can braise with any kind of liquid—wine, beer, broth, water, even a little fruit juice. Try using apple cider with white wine for a big piece of pork.
  • The liquid level should come up to half or less than half of what you’re braising.
  • The basic recipe: Brown meat in fat, take it out of the pan. Put vegetables in (the standard is finely chopped carrots, celery, and onion) and sauté. Then add your wine or other braising liquid and simmer in until it reduces. Add the meat, cover, and put it in the oven at around 300-235 to braise.
  • Use a pretty good quality wine—something you would drink. Avoid anything labeled “cooking wine.”
  • Classic carnitas doesn’t need much added liquid. The fat in the pork melts into the sauce. You cook all the water off and the fat that comes out of the pork will brown all over. Carnitas should be a little crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside.
  • You don’t need much liquid to make brisket. If you’re not planning to serve things with the liquid, you don’t need to use a lot to braise with.
  • Braising temperature is usually about 325 degrees.
  • Braise vegetables whole. They cook more slowly. Cabbage is great braised. Halve or quarter it (cut it through the root), brown it, then braise it in miso or with white wine and garlic.
  • If the sauce is not thick enough, and you want to serve it with the meat or vegetables, take pot out of oven, take out meat and vegetables, bring the liquid to boil on the stovetop and let it reduce. You can also add flour and butter to make a thick, glossy sauce.


Melissa Clark

Comments [23]

Amy from Croton-on-Hudson

I make this very simple beef brisket several times a year and once made it in early kitchen windows were open and apparently the delicious aroma drifted to my neighbor across the street! She called me to ask what I was making and asked for the recipe....she in turn has given it to each of her daughters who have told me that their families thoroughly enjoy it as well. Here is the very simple and foolproof recipe:


Serves 12

4 lbs boneless beef brisket (thin is better than thick cut)
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
3 medium onions(or more!), thickly sliced
1 cup hot water

2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup cold water

Over at 350

Spray a 10 x 13 inch roasting pan with non-stick spray for cooking for easy clean up

Place brisket fat side up in pan
Season brisket with salt and pepper; sprinkle the garlic and place onions on top. Bake uncovered 1 hour, or until onions turn brown (better to have browned onions)

Add hot water around meat, then cover with aluminum foil and seal tight. Reduce heat to 300 and continue cooking 2 hours.

Remove brisket and onions to a warm platter.

To make gravy: place roasting pan on burners on top of stove OR pour liquid from roasting pan into a saucepan, then, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in l/2 cup cold water, with cooking liquid and cook, stirring until boiling and thickened.

Can be made one day ahead (tastes better): bake, slice and reheat on day you serve it.

Jan. 24 2014 12:43 PM
Paul from NYC/Northern NJ

Oops. Just left this comment for the wrong segment.

Here it is again:

Reindeer is the same as caribou. Does this help?

Jan. 24 2014 12:40 PM
lesterine from new york

i use america's test kitchen carnitas recipe which calls for 'traditional' ingredients oregano and fresh orange.
this recipe finishes in the broiler which gives the meat a wonderful crispy caramelized flavor and texture.
it's delicious on it's own, and very versatile to eat with mashed potatoes and any vegetable of choice.

Jan. 24 2014 12:38 PM
Gale from Manhattan

When braising brisket, am I better off with first cut or a second cut? Thanks!

Jan. 24 2014 12:38 PM
Hal from NYC

I like to braise lamb shanks with Mediterranean / North African spices, wine, stock, tomato paste, and serve with couscous.

Jan. 24 2014 12:37 PM
karen from highland park, nj

just braised thick steak slices from pork butt - it's a cheap cut of meat and perfect for a braise. brown onions and garlic, then brown the slices of pork, add spices and flavorings, a little water, bring to boil, cover, put into a 225-250 oven for at least 4 hours - LOW AND SLOW - warms this old drafty house (bonus) and smells and tastes delicious. recently, in this frigid weather, i've been braising alot: chicken, lamb, leeks. cabbage + onions with dill in butter, i'm getting hungry, hahaha...

Jan. 24 2014 12:36 PM
Bruce Merchant from New Jersey

Most folks think that is exclusively for meats. Try braising fish. I braise thick chunks of tuna or sword fish. My favorite is octopus.

Jan. 24 2014 12:34 PM
Peter from Bushkill, PA

Please don't forget to mention that Italian classic: pork loin braised in milk.

Jan. 24 2014 12:33 PM
Peter from Bushkill PA

Please don't forget to mention that Italian classic: Pork loin braised in milk.

Jan. 24 2014 12:32 PM

What is the difference between oven and stovetop braising?

Jan. 24 2014 12:30 PM
Grace from NYC

For carnitas: a little orange and lime juice, water, cumin and garlic. Amazing!

Jan. 24 2014 12:29 PM
karen swaine from highland park nj

the way i have made pork chops for years: chops into a pan (no browning) add water and red wine just enuf to cover chops, salt, pepper, thyme, afew whole unpeeled garlic cloves, cover, low simmer until tender (about 40 minutes), uncover pan, remove garlic peels, smash them, let water cook off, brown chops in their own fat - (obviously have to use chops that have some fat on them).

Jan. 24 2014 12:23 PM
Theresa from NJ

A favorite recipe, from Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" -- Pork loin braised in milk, Bolognese style. It's amazing. Perfect for an elegant dinner.

Jan. 24 2014 12:23 PM

I leave a chicken in a slow cooker for 4 hours. Is this the same thing?

Jan. 24 2014 12:21 PM
antonio from baySide

I tried to make beef bourguignon for my girlfriend ('Barbara') and I believe it was a success, but do you have any tips for braising? Like pan heat? Do you use any other fats? Oil or butter?

Jan. 24 2014 12:20 PM
Wanda from Oakland, NJ

My family waits for winter because I make homemade chicken pot pie.

I use a pressure cooker for preparing the chicken and vegetables, separately.

I freeze my chicken broth from this dish.

Jan. 24 2014 12:20 PM
Dave Miss from Brooklyn

Where can I get that oxtail recipe?!

Jan. 24 2014 12:19 PM
tom from astoria

My mother just showed me how to cook a small roast with the water 1/2 up the roast with carrots onion potatoes-- she said her grandmother--born 1865, Montreal - used to do this - so it goes way back ---Is this braising and is it different in N America than in Euopre? Carrots cooked in beef juice is the Best!

Jan. 24 2014 12:18 PM
ella from 10013

I heard you should reduce wine by 1/2 before adding, true?

Jan. 24 2014 12:18 PM
Dan from Manhattan

Mackerel is wonderful braised, especially with the juice from Kim Chee and a little miso and onions and garlic

Jan. 24 2014 12:18 PM
sam from new york

braised a brisket in gingerale, ketchup and onion soup old jewish grandmother recipe

Jan. 24 2014 12:17 PM
susannah from Brooklyn

I just bought a few cans of canellini beans. Can I braise beans and veggies together? I was thinking white bean, bacon, carrots, tomato stew... white wine and chicken stock...

Jan. 24 2014 12:15 PM
mbk from manhattan

Citarella has excellent beef stock!

Jan. 24 2014 12:13 PM

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