The Benefits Of Braising Steaks
Braising steaks isn't just another way to cook the meat, but serves a definite purpose, and is usually only done only on certain cuts of meat, although many other food items can be braised. The purpose behind braising steaks is to take an otherwise tough, or even barely palatable, cut of meat and turn it into a delicious meal.
Normally you would not expect to find certain cuts of beef featured on the menu of a fine restaurant. By the time the chef has braised the meat however, using herbs, wines, or whatever is chosen, your typical flank steak or chuck steak is suddenly transformed into a 5-star gourmet's delight.
The purpose of braising steaks is to break down the collagen, the tough connective tissue we sometimes find in cuts of meat which are usually cut away and discarded unless we're very fond of doing a lot of chewing. Nicer cuts like tenderloin or filet mignon should never require braising, and even if they were to be braised, whether anything would be gained in terms of taste is problematical.
The Good Old Pot Roast - The most commonly braised steak is probably what we would call the pot roast, although preparing meat in a crock pot or slow cooking meat in a stew would also be a form of braising. Braising stakes usually involves browning or flash-cooking the cut of meat first, to seal in the juices, and then slow cooking the meat in a liquid. Vegetables can also be braised, but most contain their own water or juice in sufficient amounts. Other types of meat, such as chicken are also often braised, chicken cacciatore being one example.
When braising beef, the liquid it is placed in after browning isn't usually plain water, but is usually beef stock or water to which bullion cubes have been added. Red wine, or whatever the chef chooses that will enhance the flavor can also be used. During the braising process, the nutrients in the meat are preserved, and any flavoring, such as a marinade might provide, is also preserved. At the end of the braising process one usually ends up with a very tender, and very tasty, cut of meat.
A Slow Cooking Process - Braising can, as mentioned above, be done in a crock pot, but is most often done in the oven in a covered ovenproof dish. It is a slow process with the oven usually set at 175 degrees or slightly lower. The cut of meat is usually completely covered with the braising liquid. Otherwise the meat can be based periodically to keep it moistened.
Braising steak isn't complicated at all. Once the steak is in the oven, which it will be for quite awhile, it can generally be neglected (unless basting is necessary) until it's time to be served. One of the big advantages of braising steak is that a large cut can be cooked rather than having to deal with individual cuts for a number of people, and if you have guests you can serve them some very delicious food without the need to mention how inexpensive it was.
A Sample Recipe - Here's one example of the ingredients involved in braising steak, in this instance braising one or more round steaks. Starting with the browned meat and a large onion which has been sliced and sautéed, and to which a little thyme and seasoned salt has been added, braise the steaks in a liquid consisting mainly of beef broth, and a few teaspoons of corn oil, adding a tablespoon of chapped parsley, and if desired several strips of carrots or leeks. Cooking will usually take between an hour and an hour and a half under low heat.