How to Braise Meats to Achieve the Most Tender Cuts of Beef, Lamb, and More
If you're a meat-and-potatoes kind of person, knowing how to braise meat is a pretty important skill to have. But for anyone new to braising meats, there's no need to be intimidated. We're here to help. So what does it mean to braise meat? Braising is simply a cooking method that involves browning meat or vegetables in oil, then cooking them in a small amount of liquid in a covered pan, either on the stovetop or in the oven. The long, slow cook time helps develop flavor and turn even the toughest of meat cuts fork-tender. One of the most popular types of braised beef is pot roast, which is usually a chuck or round roast with added vegetables. Pork and lamb are also delicious when braised. Follow along to learn how to braise meat in the oven or on the stovetop. Then give some of our best braising recipes a try.
How to Braise Meat
Step 1: Brown the Meat
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (if you're oven braising).
- Trim excess fat from the meat.
- Heat about 2 Tbsp. oil in a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven ($50, Target) over medium heat. (A Dutch oven is a large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. It makes a perfect braising pot because it can be used on the stove or in the oven.) A large skillet may be used for smaller or thinner cuts of meat such as pork chops.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper. Add the meat to the hot oil. You should hear it sizzle. Brown the meat on all sides, turning as needed (cook the meat just until brown on the outside but not cooked all the way through). Remove the browned meat from the pan and pour off any fat. Return the meat to the pan.
Step 2: Add Liquid and Seasonings
Now it's time to get creative! The following suggestions are for a 2½- to 3-pound beef or pork roast, or four bone-in beef or lamb shanks (about 1 pound each). Combine the liquid and seasonings, then pour around the meat.
- Liquid: Use about ¾ cup total. Some common options to consider include beef or vegetable broth, apple juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, a combination of broth and dry wine, or water.
- Dried Herbs: Add about 1 tsp. dried basil, herbes de Provence, Italian seasoning, oregano, or thyme. If you've got fresh herbs, use 1 Tbsp. snipped. To mimic the flavor of herbes de Provence with fresh herbs, try using equal parts rosemary, savory, and oregano with just a pinch of thyme.
- Liquid Seasoning: These flavor enhancers are optional. If desired, add 1 Tbsp. barbecue sauce, Dijon-style mustard, low-sodium soy sauce, steak sauce, or Worcestershire sauce.
Step 3: Braise Meat Until Tender
Cover the pan and cook over low heat on top of the stove or in the oven for approximately 1 to 3 hours depending on the cut you're using. This low and slow time allows the meat to become super tender. Check on the amount of liquid and add more to the pan if necessary during the process so the meat doesn't dry out. Once the meat can easily pull apart using a fork, it's done.
Turning Braised Meats into a Meal
Transform a braised meat dish into a meal by adding potatoes and veggies about 30 to 45 minutes before the meat is done. Be sure to cover the pan tightly after adding potatoes and veggies. Here are some guidelines:
- Potatoes. Use about 1 pound of potatoes for a typical 2½- to 3-pound roast. Peel and quarter medium-size potatoes and/or sweet potatoes. If using new potatoes, peel a strip of skin from the centers.
- Other Vegetables. Use about 1 pound total. These should be cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Consider peeled butternut squash, peeled carrots or parsnips, sliced celery, trimmed and sliced fennel bulb, sliced leeks or shallots, trimmed mushrooms, onion wedges or peeled pearl onions, and peeled turnips or rutabaga.
Now that you know how to braise meat, use the technique to make braised vegetables as well. Impress the family with a side of braised carrots or collard greens. When practicing your braised meat skills, go for a classic braising recipe such as our Sunday oven pot roast, Italian-seasoned chicken, or fork-tender lamb shanks. You can also add some global flair with curried pork chops or short ribs.