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Braising: Easy, Hands-Off, And Nearly Foolproof

Flickr user, Russ. (CC-BY-NC-2.0)
Pot roast

From time to time, The Food Guys like to return to the basics of cooking. Braising is a technique of cooking tough cuts of meat like brisket. To become tenderized, the meat must reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees F, keeping the muscle fibers tender while melting collagen in the connective tissue. By cooking meat at low heat in a small amount of liquid inside a covered container for 2-3 hours, the melting connective tissue transforms into gelatin, forming a concentrated, flavorful sauce. Braising allows you to use inexpensive cuts of meat and to cook both a main course and side dish at the same time, in one pot.

Unlike boiling, braising requires only enough water in the pot to cover two-thirds of the ingredients. Unlike stewing, it usually involves whole cuts of meat. Food Guy Greg Patent cautions you to "keep an eye on the pot." Don't let things dry out and don't leave the pot in the oven all day. If you plan to add root vegetables like carrots, turnips or rutabagas, leave them out till you've got just an hour of cooking to go. (Other Food Guy Jon Jackson points out that he adds rutabagas before the other vegetables, since they take longer to cook.)

You can increase the meat's flavor by browning it before cooking. Start by patting the meat dry, then pan-sear it in oil at fairly high heat. Drain the excess oil, then add the liquid to the pot.

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 11/15/15 and 11/19/15. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)

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