Braising and stewing are moist heat cooking methods.
Moist heat cooking methods are suitable for less tender cuts of meat or for some prime cuts that are best cooked slowly and thoroughly.
Braising begins by browning the food in fat and then a lengthy simmering in a small amount of liquid at low temperature in a tightly covered pan. This grants the food will be tender and moist – fibers and connective tissue will break and the juices are added to the gravy.
Tips for better braising meat
Brown – Always brown the meat on all sides, slowly and at low temperature. This practice develops flavor and color and it is preferable to a speedy browning at high temperature. A little flour on the meat – just dredge the meat on the flour or place it in a closed plastic bag with the flour and shake - deepens the browning; remember to add some extra fat to the pan if you do.
Season – Salt, pepper, spices, condiments and vegetables add flavor. This step is especially important when using lower quality cuts of meat.
Add liquid – Your choice of water, stock, wine, cream, tomato sauce, a marinade or a mixture of them. Tender cuts of meat may not require liquid at all as the pan is covered and the meat own juices are enough to keep it moist, however a small amount of liquid may be added to make gravy. Always add liquid to less tender cuts.
Cover – Holding the steam in the pan is the essential of moist cooking. This is what softens the meat and makes it tender. Be sure to have a pan with a lid that fits tight.
Simmer – Don’t boil. Cook slow and at low temperature. It doesn’t matter if it is in the oven, the stove, or the crock-pot.
Make gravy – Make your gravy with the liquid in the pan as it contains soluble nutrients from the meat and is full of flavor. Just thicken the sauce in the pan with the meat in, or remove the meat, make the gravy and pour over the meat, or serve independently.