How To Braise Meat for a Tender Cut Every Time
You don't have to spend a lot of money on a cut of meat to make sure it's moist and tender by the time it reaches your mouth. Tough, inexpensive cuts like rounds, briskets, and roasts will practically melt in your mouth if you braise them before cooking. It's a technique chefs have relied on for years, and luckily, it's extremely simple to replicate at home. All you need is a Dutch oven or pan, some spices, plus a little liquid and fat. To explain how, we asked Kahlil Arnold of the iconic Nashville meat and three Arnold's Country Kitchen to share the braising techniques he uses to consistently craft some of the most delicious meat in the South.
What Cuts of Meat are Best for Braising?
Arnold says that there's no need to braise tender cuts of steak like rib eye or New York strip because they're basically ready to sear and serve. When you're working with less expensive cuts of meat like stew meat, briskets, and rounds, however, braising will help them retain their juices and flavor. "Braising breaks down the proteins of the meat and makes the meat more tender," Arnold explains.
What is the Best Pan for Braising?
Although Arnold acknowledges that many chefs like to braise in a Dutch oven, he says that at Arnold's Country Kitchen, they prefer to use a heavy skillet to release the sugars and move it directly from the stovetop into the oven. Just make sure that the pan you select is deep enough to hold both your meat and your liquids.
Season Your Meat Before You Start Cooking
Arnold says you should season your meat before you begin searing. In fact, he recommends seasoning it the night before and letting it absorb the spices overnight. At Arnold's, they actually smoke their brisket before they braise it so it's saturated with flavor.
Sear Your Meat
Turn your pan up to high heat and add some fat to the pan before you begin searing your meat. "The fats are important because they release the moisture and add flavor and fat to meats that won't otherwise have a lot of flavor," Arnold says. He suggests mixing your fat with a little oil when you put it into the pan. You can also use just plain oil if that's what you happen to have on hand. Cook your meat a few minutes on each side until it forms a nice, brown crust.
Deglaze the Pan
Once you've formed that beautiful crust on your meat, it's time to deglaze, or add liquids, to your pan. Arnold uses chicken fat and apple juice, but he says this is where you can really get creative. "Don't feel like you have to follow recipes. Braising allows you to absorb the flavor of whatever you're cooking it in. Don't be afraid to put your own twist on it."
Cook Your Meat
Now it's time to cook your meat. Although there are plenty of chefs who simmer it right there on the stove top, Arnold says when he's braising a cut like a roast, he places it in the oven at 350 degrees with carrots, onions, celery, and bay leaves. The amount of time it spends cooking will depend on the type, cut, and size of your meat, so be sure to check on it every 45 minutes or so. Add more liquid if necessary. When it becomes tender to the fork, pull it out of the oven (or remove from the stovetop) so it doesn't dry out. When you're through, you'll have an easy meal that's about as close to perfection as you can get without driving to Nashville.