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braising & stewing


Once Considered Peasant Food


Traditionally you would  use tougher cuts of meats in this type of cooking.  They were cheap and when cooked this way, it would turn out to be mouth watering delicious offerings.  Today, high end restaurants uses these cooking methods.   

Braising and stewing are very similar to each other.  Both are made by slow cooking in an aromatic liquid.  The difference between the two is that braising uses larger cuts of meat while stewing uses bit sized pieces and is considered a one pot meal.  Almost all cultures around the world have braises and stews in their classical cooking.

Having a nicely made stock will make your end product that much more enjoyable.  BUT you don't have to start with a nice stock.  When your making the dish, you cook it low and slow, you're making the sauce for the dish. 


When I braise a beef short rib, I like to use chicken stock instead of beef or veal stock because of the mouthfeel of the end product.  I think, when you use beef or veal stock the sauce becomes too tacky.  Chicken stock doesn't have that mouth feel to begin with.  While cooking, the sauce takes on the beefy flavor and thickens.

Traditionally they are hearty meals and served during the colder months.  Today, people are making stews with "nicer" ingredients like seafood and vegetables.  You don't have to wait for the cool breeze of the colder months to enjoy and use these cooking methods.




You can transform a less expensive cut of meat into something amazing.  This is a moist cooking method.  Think about a succulent braised lamb shank, the Italian Osso Bucco, braised Ox Tail, the list can go on and on.  What if I told you that many restaurants braise their baby back ribs before grilling them.  It makes tender before grilling, in my opinion a smoked pork ribs tastes better.

The Basic Procedures of making an awesome braise are...

  • You need to have time to start and finish the braise correctly.  There are no short cuts.  Unless you use a pressure cooker.

  • Searing your choice of meat in oil or fat.  You can dust the meat with flour or not.  Don't worry about how much you cook the meat at this stage.  You're going to cook it until the color you want is reached.  This is not traditional, you can grill the meat, dredge the meat in flour or corn starch and deep fry.

  • Take the meat out of the cooking vessel.

  • Sweat the mirepoix (aromatic vegetables- onions, celery and carrots).  There will be fond (bits of food stuck to the bottom of the pan), while sweating the vegetables scrape this off the pan.

  • If using a roux, add in at this point.

  • Put the meat back in the pan and add in the liquid you are using and any other flavoring ingredients you are using.  Make sure to add enough liquid so you have enough sauce to serve with your final product.

  • Over medium heat, bring the liquid up to a simmer.

  • In a preheated oven, I usually have the temperature set at 250 to 300 degrees.  Cover the vessel you cooking in with a cover or with parchment paper (directly over the the liquid- get all the air bubbles out) then wrap with foil.

  • This is where experience comes into play.  You can cook it as long as a recipe tells you to and it may or may not come out cooked correctly.  You need to cook the meat until it is FORK TENDER.  It can be cut with a fork.

  • Take the meat out of the flavorful liquid.  

  • This is where your critical thinking comes into play.  Strain the sauce or not.  My opinion is that a strain sauce looses some of it's flavor but could have better eye appeal.

  • Either way, you will reduce the sauce until the flavor you want and consistency you are looking for.  You can use a liason to thicken to the consistency you want.  This is where you 

  • Carve the meat and serve it with the sauce.

This all sounds daunting but it's not.  You'll be happy when you make a braise and devour the final product.



Stews are similar to braising.  The biggest difference is the size of met you use.  Stews use bite sized pieces instead of a larger cut of meat.  Traditionally, you would use cheaper cuts of meats that are tough and hard to choose.

Some of the most famous stews are... the All American Beef Stew, the French Dish Boeuf Bourguignon, Mexican Posole, North African Tagine, Indian or Thai Curries or the Japanese Chicken Nishime.  Again, there are many stews made in various cultures around the world.  Stews are hearty meals that can satisfy ones hunger.

If you're wondering the difference between a stew and soup is the thickness of the liquid.  Think about the difference between chicken noodle soup and the All American Beef Stew.

Today you can find stews made with vegetables and seafood.  Stews on menus are not always hearty and they can very healthy.

The Basic Talking Points of Making a Brown Stew...

  • Make sure you have the time to start and finish make the stew.

  • Sear the meat, dusted in flour (can be omitted), in fat.

  • Remove the meat.

  • Brown the mirepoix. 

  • Add your meat back to the pot.

  • Add your liquid. 

  • Add other aromatics you want, that can withstand the long cooking method.  Example is dried herbs can be added here (besides fresh thyme or bay leaves).  Fresh herbs should be added later in the cooking process.

  • Over medium high heat, bring the mixture to a slow boil and return to a low simmer.

  • Cook until the meat is FORK TENDER.

  • Thicken the stew to your liking.

  • Stews are better the next day

White stews are made different.  Maybe at some other time I will write down the procedures for that one.  It's not made very often but they are just as good as brown stews, not as flavorful though.

I dare you to make a stew tonight.  It might bring you back to your childhood.

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