Braising (derived from the French word ‘braiser’) is a cooking method. It involves cooking usually meat or vegetables slowly at a low temperature. The additions of liquid like stock or water are common for moisture and flavor. Usually, you wouldn’t add much liquid. It depends on how much moisture the food has to begin with. Braising works by slowly breaking down the collagen in the muscle fibers of the meat, causing it to be tender fall apart. Braising is ideal for tough, and cheaper cuts of meat.
Meat is the most common thing to braise and is often referred to as ‘pot roasting’. Some cooks may tell you the difference is the addition of liquid. Muscle fibers are held together in meat by proteins called collagens. Callogens break down as a result of low and slow cooking for meat that is so tender you can take it apart with a spoon. Braising goes quite well with large, tougher cuts like the shanks, rounds, shoulder, and brisket. You can also braise steaks, pork belly, whole birds, and pretty much any meat you can think of.
Cooking usually involves seared the meat first to lock in any juices. Then into in a covered pot (like a dutch oven) the meat goes with a bit of stock and an acidic element. Spices and vegetables like bay leaves, carrots, celery, onions, and more also make their way in for flavor. Then the roast goes into the oven on low heat for several hours until you can very easily slide a long skewer into it with no pushback.
Too many people think of beef roasts, pork ribs, and super tender meatballs when they think of braising. Fish is such an amazing thing to braise because you get that melt-in-your-mouth sensation with not even half the time. Fish and seafood are very often braised in Asia in soy sauce. They often prepared this way whole or filleted. Searing the fish skin is common for additional crispness and texture.
It’s possible to braise any veg under the same conditions as meat except timing unless you want mushy vegetables. Carrots are among the most commonly braised vegetables because of their sweet flavor. First, you’d brown the veg to get that Maillard reaction going for flavor and sweetness. Salt and other seasonings like herbs and spices are also common. After the stock is added the vegetables should simmer for 20-30 minutes. They should appear glossy and are easily cuttable with the side of a fork (not mashable).
Even if you use a pressure cooker or a slow cooker you’ll likely need to use a pot or pan to sear or sautee the food you’re braising first. This causes the Maillard reaction in meat and vegetables, where amino acids react with reducing sugar giving food that brown, cooked color, and nicer flavor.
Braising is possible in any pot or pan with a lid. Pressure cookers, slow cookers, Instant Pots, Dutch ovens, and almost any other equipment that used time and trapped moisture for low and slow cooking. Braising is usually between 200f and 300f for at least 2 1/2 – 3 hours for meat.