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Culinary Lane cooking tips by Chef Mark Lane: How to Braise

Slow braised beef cheeks on potato & pancetta rosti, roasted mushroom medley & sweet oxtail jus

From "Culinary Lane Catering's" 3 & 5 Course Dinners at Home

Braising is my favourite cooking method & probably the most under used.

Braising is a way of cooking meat, vegetables etc, by first searing the item in hot fat, then simmering slowly in liquid in an oven (usually in a covered casserole dish) ... long, slow simmering breaks down the connective tissue in the meat and renders a dish tender with a full-bodied sauce.

The main difference between braising & stewing, is when braising you're adding the least amount of liquid required to cook the meat etc, stews require full submersion, and usually call for the meat or vegetables to be cut into uniform pieces for even cooking.

Braising is the best method to take what we call a second class cut of meat which can be left whole (belly, shoulder, leg, shank, cheek etc) & slowly braise them over a few hours to make them tender.

A first class cut of meat is fillet, sirloin, scotch, rump etc. These require quick methods of cookery, like sautéing or roasting, as they are already tender. But these cuts have less flavour. These muscles aren’t used as much by the animal so they don’t have much connective tissue or fat. Second class cuts are always working hard for the animal so are full of muscle & are very tough but they have the most flavour, are cheaper to purchase & require more cooking time.

I recommend to braise at 130-140c, but some chefs braise as low as 95c. The lower the temperature, the longer it takes to cook & less moisture is lost.

I strongly suggest to braise your Sunday roast. Sear it first, then place on a mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery, leek, bay leaf, thyme) in an oven tray/dish then place a couple of cups of stock, seasoning, cover with a tight fitting lid or tin foil, place in a 135c oven for around 4-5 hours (depending on the size) & when you are ready to serve, remove the lid, turn the oven up to 190c (remove the liquid for your sauce) & allow to colour for 30 minutes or so. The meat will be so tender you won’t even need to cut it. I believe, cooking on the bone is better & gives more moisture & flavour to the meat.

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