Braising and Stewing

Braising is the technique of cooking large cuts of meat, poultry, or vegetables in enough flavoured liquid to partially cover over a very low heat. The food may be lightly browned before the liquid is added (this makes for a brown braise; the food is not browned for a white braise), and a mirepoix of roughly cut vegetables is often included for flavouring. The pot is tightly covered so that the food cooks slowly in the liquid and steam until very tender. The resulting braising liquid is exceptionally flavoursome and is served as a sauce, either as it is or reduced. Stewing is much the same as braising except that the food is cut into even pieces, may or may not be browned, and is cooked in enough liquid to cover.

Braises and stews are an opportunity to use flavoursome but less tender and gelatinous cuts of meat, such as shoulder, and tough, old poultry; save the tender cuts for roasting and sautéing. (Mature poultry is, unfortunately, seldom available in supermatkets; younger birds really don't have the flavour to do these long-cooked dishes justice.) Meat is often larded (larder in French) with thin strips of back fat to keep it from drying out during its long cooking. You may cook braises and stews on an even low heat either on top of the stove or in the oven; if cooked too fast they will be dry and stringy, despite the back fat. Brown the meat as for sautéing.