To braise means to cook covered in a small amount of liquid, usually after preliminary browning. In almost all cases, the liquid is served with the product as a sauce.
Braising is sometimes referred to as a combination cooking method because the product is first browned, using dry heat, before it is cooked with a liquid. Nevertheless, in most cases, moist heat is responsible for most of the cooking process,and the browning may be thought of as a preliminary technique.The purpose of the browning step is not so much to cook the item as to develop color and flavor.
Some references describe braising and stewing as two different cooking methods. The term braising is used for large cuts of meat, and stewing is used for smaller items. In this book, however, we use the term braising for both methods because the basic procedure in both cases is the same—first browning with dry heat, then cooking with moist heat. (Note that the term stewing is also used for simmering in a small amount of liquid without preliminary browning.)
1. Braised meats are usually browned first using a dry-heat method such as pan-frying.This gives a desirable appearance and flavor to the product and sauce.
2. Braising also refers to cooking some vegetables, such as lettuce or cabbage, at low temperature in a small amount of liquid without first browning in fat, or with only a light preliminary sauteing.
3. Foods being braised are usually not completely covered by the cooking liquid.The top of the product is actually cooked by the steam held in the covered pot. Pot roasts, for example, are cooked in liquid that covers the item by one-third to two-thirds.The exact amount depends on how much sauce is needed for service.This method yields a flavorful, concentrated sauce.
4. In some preparations, especially of poultry and fish, no liquid is added.This is still considered braising because steam is trapped by the cover and the item cooks in its own moisture and in the moisture of other ingredients, such as vegetables.
5. Braising may be done on the range or in the oven. Oven-braising has three major advantages:
• Uniform cooking.The heat strikes the braising pot on all sides, not just the bottom.
• Less attention required. Foods braise at a low, steady temperature without having to be checked constantly.
• Range space is free for other purposes.
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