If you’re unfamiliar with the term braising, it’s a cooking technique that involves searing meat and then slow-cooking it in liquid until it becomes incredibly tender and flavorful. Cooking methods, such as grilling or pan-frying, can often leave the meat dry and tough, especially if you’re a home cook with less experience. However, braising is a surefire way to create melt-in-your-mouth beef dishes that impress any meat lover.
First thing first, before we go any further, it’s essential to choose the proper cut of beef. With the right cut of beef and a little patience, you can create delicious, satisfying braised beef that will make your taste buds happy. More about that later.
In this article, I’ll share my years of expertise as a chef and show you how to braise beef successfully at home. You’ll find everything you need to know, from selecting the right cut of meat to choosing the perfect liquid and aromatics. I’ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step of preparing a fantastic braised chuck roast as a chef.
What is braised beef?
Braising is a popular cooking method, especially in some parts of the world (France, Italy, or Spain, to mention a few). It involves browning a tough cut of meat in oil and then simmering it in a flavorful liquid until it becomes incredibly tender. The liquid breaks down the tough fibers in the meat, making it very tender and flavorful. At the same time, the long cooking time also allows the meat to absorb the flavors of the liquid, herbs, spices, and other aromatics you add to the pot.
You may notice that I mention tough or lean cuts of beef without much marbling. The reason is that braising differs from other cooking methods in several ways. For example, grilling or broiling cooks steak quickly over high heat, while roasting typically involves dry heat in the oven. Both of these methods can be great for specific cuts of meat, but they aren’t ideal for tougher cuts that require a slower cooking process to become tender.
As a chef and a home cook with children, I absolutely love braising, and there’s one good reason: you get a delicious, savory sauce that can be served alongside the meat. You can’t get that from grilling. This sauce is perfect for serving on top of vegetables, rice, and mashed potatoes, making braised beef a versatile and satisfying meal.
Choosing the Right Cut of Beef for Braising
One of the keys to successful braising is choosing the right cut of beef. You do not need to overspend on expensive cuts such as prime rib roast. That’s why braising is such a fantastic cooking method because you can use inexpensive tougher cuts high in collagen and connective tissue. These cuts are ideal for braising because the long, slow cooking process breaks down tough muscle fibers, making the meat incredibly tender. So here are the best cuts of beef to use for braising:
Chuck is a cut of beef from the shoulder of the cow, and it’s one of the best candidates for braising. It has a tough texture but is also one of the most flavorful cuts. It does have some marbling which contributes to the overall flavor of the beef. Chuck can be cut into chunks or left in one large piece and used in various braised dishes.
Brisket comes from the breast of the cow and is another great cut for braising. It’s an extremely tough cut of meat, but it has a good flavor profile and can become incredibly tender when cooked low and slow. Brisket is also used in beef stews, pot roasts, and barbecues.
Short ribs are cut from the lower ribcage of the cow and are perfect for braising. They have a lot of flavors and are very meaty, making them a great choice for hearty, braised beef. Short ribs can be cooked in one piece or cut into individual ribs and are often used in dishes like Korean-style braised beef or classic beef bourguignon.
How to braise beef
Here’s an excellent braised beef recipe.
- 3 lbs of beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 springs of fresh thyme
- 2 springs of fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- A Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a lid
- Wooden spoon
Step 1: Season the chuck roast
Season the chuck roast or your chosen piece of beef with salt and leave it in a fridge overnight, uncovered on a baking sheet on a wire rack. It’ll tenderize the beef and help it develop a nice brown crust on the meat’s exterior.
Step 2: Bring beef to room temperature
Before cooking the beef, bring it to room temperature to allow it to cook evenly throughout. As a general rule, the bigger the piece of meat is, the more time it takes to temper. For chuck roast, 1 hour is enough to get to room temperature.
Step 3: Brown the beef
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Use oil with a high smoke point. Once the oil is hot, add your meat and brown it on all sides. This step is essential because it adds flavor to the meat and creates a delicious crust on the outside. In restaurants, we often cover cuts of beef in flour. It helps to thicken the sauce and get a nice crust on the meat’s exterior.
Step 4: Add liquid and aromatics
Once the meat is browned, remove it from the pot and set it aside. Add your aromatics, such as onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, to the pot and cook them until they’re softened. Add tomato paste and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then, add wine and reduce it by half. Once the wine is reduced, add beef broth.
Step 5: Cook the beef
Return the beef to the pot, ensuring it’s almost fully submerged in the liquid. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 5-10 minutes, and in the meantime, preheat the oven to 325°F. Cooking meat for 5-10 minutes will allow the meat to cook quicker in the oven.
Step 6: Preheat the oven to 325°F
Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and place it in the preheated oven. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the beef is tender and falls apart easily when pierced with a fork. The cooking time may differ depending on the cut of beef and its size.
Step 7: Thicken the sauce (Optional)
Once the meat is fully cooked, you can thicken the sauce if you’d like. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside. Then, bring the liquid to a simmer and let it reduce until it thickens to your desired consistency. Remember that this step is optional and shouldn’t be used if you use flour when browning the meat.
Step 8: Serve and enjoy!
Before serving the meat, remove bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary from the sauce. Serve beef with a delicious, flavorful sauce. If you cook big pieces, shred them using a fork. Braised beef goes well with various sides, such as roasted vegetables, creamy mashed potatoes, or rice.
Tips for the perfect braised beef
Braising beef may seem like a daunting task, but actually, it’s quite the opposite. There aren’t many things that can go wrong. To ensure that you do not mess it up, here’s what you need to know before braising beef:
- Use the Right Pot: It’s essential to use a heavy, oven-safe pot or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid when braising beef. This will help distribute the heat evenly and prevent the liquid from evaporating too quickly.
- Brown the Meat Well: Don’t skimp on browning the meat – this step creates a rich, deep flavor essential to good braised beef. Ensure the meat is well-seared on all sides before adding it to the liquid.
- Be Patient: Braising is a slow cooking process, and it takes time to break down the connective tissue in the meat and turn it into something tender and delicious. Don’t rush the process – plan ahead and allow plenty of time for the meat to cook. At some point, the beef tightens up, becoming even harder before it loosens up and falls apart.
- Don’t Skimp on Seasonings: Braised beef can be a little bland if you don’t add enough seasoning. Be sure to taste and adjust the seasonings as needed, adding salt, pepper, herbs, and spices to your taste. Here’s an article explaining how to season the steak.
Braised beef variations
Braised beef is a versatile dish that can be customized in various ways to suit your taste. You can change a few ingredients if you like spicy, mild, or sweet-tasting braised beef. The cooking method remains the same. Here are some delicious recipes to try; however, I have to say that wine and Guinness-braised beef are some of the best-selling ones in restaurants:
One of the most popular variations of braised beef is red wine-braised beef. Adding red wine to the braising liquid gives the beef a rich, deep flavor. You can also experiment with different types of wine, such as merlot or cabernet sauvignon, to see how the flavor changes.
Asian-Inspired Braised Beef
Try adding soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and star anise to the braising liquid for an Asian-inspired twist on braised beef. This will give the beef a savory, umami flavor that pairs well with rice or noodles.
Mexican-Style Braised Beef
For a spicy and flavorful variation of pot roast braised beef, try adding chili powder, cumin, and chipotle peppers to the braising liquid. This will give the beef a smoky, spicy flavor that’s perfect for tacos or burritos.
Italian-Style Braised Beef
To give your braised beef an Italian twist, add tomatoes, red wine, and fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme to the braising liquid. This will give the beef a bright, tangy flavor that’s perfect for serving with polenta or pasta.
For a hearty and rich flavor, try adding a bottle of Guinness beer to the braising liquid. This will give the beef a deep, complex flavor that is perfect for serving with mashed potatoes.
How to store and reheat leftover braised beef
After making a delicious batch of braised beef, you may have some leftovers you want to enjoy later. In fact, I like to prepare braised beef in advance since it’s so easy to reheat, and it tastes even better after a couple of days sitting in the fridge. Nevertheless, proper storage and reheating are crucial to maintaining the quality and safety of the beef. Here are some guidelines on how to store and reheat leftover braised beef:
- Let the braised beef cool down to room temperature before storing it.
- Transfer the beef and any remaining braising liquid to an airtight container or a covered dish.
- Refrigerate the beef within two hours of cooking.
- Braised beef can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
These guidelines are recommended by the USDA, a trusted source of food safety information in the United States.
- Remove the beef from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
- Transfer the beef and any remaining braising liquid to a saucepan or skillet.
- Reheat the beef over low to medium heat, occasionally stirring until heated through.
- Ensure the beef reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving.
Braising is an excellent cooking method; every home cook should make the most of it. Not only it’s easy to make, but also it’s a hearty meal that can be used throughout the week. The secret to successful braising is selecting the right cut of beef and cooking it low and slow. With the right cut of beef and a little patience, you can create rich, flavorful braised beef that is perfect for everything from cozy weeknight dinners to special occasions.
What is the difference between braised beef and slow-cooked beef?
Braised beef and slow-cooked beef are both delicious and tender, but they have some differences. Braising involves searing the meat on high heat and then cooking it in liquid at a lower temperature for a shorter amount of time, while slow cooking involves cooking the meat at a low temperature for a longer period of time without searing it first. The result is that braised beef tends to have a richer, more concentrated flavor, while slow-cooked beef is typically more tender and falls apart easily. Both methods can be great for making hearty, comforting meals, so it comes down to personal preference!
What are some good sides to serve with braised beef?
Braised beef pairs well with various sides, such as mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, or sautéed greens. You could also serve it with buttered egg noodles, creamy polenta, or crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce.
Can I braise beef in a slow cooker?
Yes, you can definitely braise beef in a slow cooker. In fact, slow cookers are a convenient and efficient way to braise beef, as they allow you to set it and forget it for several hours while the beef becomes tender and flavorful.
How can I make braised beef more flavorful?
There are several ways to make braised beef more flavorful. First, sear the beef before braising to develop a rich, caramelized crust. Second, use flavorful liquids such as red wine or beef broth or a combination of both to braise the beef. Finally, add hearty vegetables and herbs such as onions, garlic, and thyme to the braising liquid to infuse more flavor.
Can I braise beef in advance and reheat it later?
Yes, you can braise beef in advance and reheat it later. In fact, many people believe that braised dishes taste even better after a day or two, as the flavors have had more time to meld together. When reheating, be sure to do so slowly and gently to prevent overcooking and drying out the meat.