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3 Keys to Braising Beef

3 Keys to Braising Beef

New York City chef Justin Smillie shares three secrets to perfectly braised beef.

Step 1: Brine

Here, three key steps to perfectly braised beef. Try it out in Red Wine-Braised Beef.

Step 1: Brine the meat to season it to the bone. Then drain, pat dry, and refrigerate until dry and tacky. This will encourage better browning later.

Step 2: Brown the Meat

Brown the meat at a steady sizzle, working in batches. If the fond gets too dark, remove meat and deglaze with a splash of water. Save the drippings, and start the next batch.

Step 3: Braise

Gently braise the meat until it pulls away from the bone but does not collapse. It should be tender but bouncy. Inhale: "That scent is part of the reward."

Step 1: Sear the Meat

Our favorites include just about any steak, pork chops, and skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, but most quick-cooking meats will work. Heat 1–2 Tbsp. neutral oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable, in a large stainless-steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high until almost smoking. A hot pan means a good sear, which is crucial to creating that crust. And avoid nonstick at all costs: You'll need those browned bits as the flavor base of your pan sauce. Cook until the meat is deeply browned and cooked through, then let rest.


I thought I would chime in with all of the recent talk about immigrant workers in the U.S. One of the most significant reasons why I have always loved working in the restaurant business is the diversity of people with whom I have had the opportunity to stand next to at the range. The is not, in any way shape or form, a political statement – it is rather a true feeling that has been at the core of my work for the past fifty years. It has been enjoyable, educational, eye opening, and rewarding to work and learn from people who shared the same feeling of satisfaction when cooking and serving others.

At the diner where I received my start, I worked with Millie who came to the United States from Poland, and settled in Buffalo. Her husband, also from Poland, was a chef by trade before he passed away and left Millie to fend for herself. She was a great cook, a wonderful teacher, and a friend who shared her breakfast station with a 16 year old with no experience whatsoever.

When I landed a position in the apprenticeship program at the Statler Hilton Hotel – I was immersed with a crew of people for Europe. Frenchie was from somewhere in central France – he had lived in the United States for 17 years and chose to never speak English. I sensed that he understood and could speak if he chose, but it was important for him to hang on to his cultural upbringing. He was a fabulous butcher (the hotel in those days purchased sides of beef, whole pigs and lambs, etc.) who showed me enough about butchery to give me a taste and show me that it was probably not my future career. Patsie was around 4 foot 10 inches tall (I think he was shrinking) who made all of the pastries, desserts, ice cream, and the like for the 1,200-room hotel. He didn’t have any full time help, just always an apprentice working through all of the stations on the property. His ice cream, from what I remember, was as good as it gets. Like Frenchie, no one seemed to know his real name, but he did, at least, speak in broken English. He was from Florence, Italy. And then there was Antonio who handled the lunch line for the Beef Barron Restaurant and was the resident saucier. He made all of the stocks and various sauces for the restaurants and enormous number of banquets that we served. Antonio, I think was from Sicily – he was skilled at making massive amounts of stocks, soups, and sauces in 100 gallon steam jacketed kettles.

You see – Buffalo, where I grew up, is as multi-cultural as New York City on a much smaller scale. There are sections of the city with an Italian population, another (The 1 st ward) that is almost entirely Irish, a strong Polish population, a deeply rich African American section of town, and many other smaller ethnic areas all of which seemed to choose to protect their individuality and customs by keeping their populations as pure as possible. Yet throughout the city we all co-existed. It was, however, in the kitchen where the real magic happened. Kitchens are incubators for healthy integration of cultures all focused on a single purpose – cooking and service.

Later I worked for a Greek restaurateur at Shore’s Orchard Downs in Orchard Park – he taught me how to be frugal and conscience of every dollar spent by an operator in a restaurant. I worked with African American cooks, Jamaican Cooks, Austrian Chefs and Master Chefs. Italian Sous Chefs, English maître ‘d’s, Hispanic and Ethiopian Line Cooks, prep cooks from Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico Garde Manger’s from Spain and Portugal, Russian servers, Korean prep cooks, dishwashers from every part of the world, pastry chefs from Austria and Switzerland, Ice Carvers from Japan, Bread Bakers from France and Switzerland, and Norwegians who made the most incredible Gravad Lox. This was quite an incredible lot of magnificently talented individuals with whom I worked over my time in the kitchen.

So what did I learn through the process of sharing workspace with this broad range of ethnic diversity? Well, I learned that when we share a common interest we are all the same. I discovered that nearly everyone feels the same passion for their country origin, yet is proud to be here on American soil. I learned to listen and wonder at the mastery that each of these people had for their set of skills. I built on my repertoire of cooking techniques as each shared what they could with everyone they connected with in the kitchen. I discovered that our differences paled in comparison to what we shared as human beings. I found out that the language of the kitchen compensates for a lack of understanding of each other’s birth language. I discovered that whenever we (native born Americans)_ complain about what we went through on a daily basis, most of these people of other cultures went through 100 times more to get where they were. And I learned that we all had dreams that we hoped could be fulfilled on American soil.

I know, after decades of working in busy operations that when we listen, respect, and show interest in a co-worker’s cultural background – that we can then depend on them to do the same with us. I know that all of these wonderful people want to do a good job, want to learn and grow, and want to express themselves with food and service.

Every time I visit another restaurant I know that I can walk in the kitchen, shake hands and give a thumbs up to cooks, servers, managers, owners, bakers, and dishwashers and receive a sincere smile in return. I make it a point to always thank the kitchen crew for the meal they prepared for me – I know how hard it is, I know how much soul goes into well-prepared food, and I know how important it is that kitchens are non-partisan, open environments where we relish the opportunity to work together.

My grandfather on my father’s side came to America from Norway at the age of 17. He was made a citizen in two weeks and then drafted to fight for America on French soil in WWI. My grandfather on my mother’s side was from England and Ireland and came to America to become a restaurateur (obviously my inspiration in later years). Like most Americans we can follow our lineage back a generation or two and find similar stories.

When I hear disparaging comments about immigrant workers in the U.S. I always reflect on my own experiences and know how much I relish the time I spent along side interesting, proud people from every part of the world. I know that without their presence my life would never have been this full.

We are a country of immigrants, of proud people who at some point came over to the United States to fulfill the dreams that each of us share for ourselves and our families. The oneness and opportunity of America is what has made us great and what will continue to do so.

I saw a poster the other day that portrayed a sentiment that should be at the heart of our rhetoric: “Make America Kind Again”. I would add – “Keep America Inclusive – We Are One”.

A Smarter, Better Way to Brown Meat for Stew

A good braise or stew of beef or pork always starts the same way: by browning the meat. This isn’t just to give the meat a jump-start on cooking (although surely it helps) — it also adds that intense seared flavor that is so important to a delicious stew.

The only problem is the mess. Your cast iron pan is overcrowded with hunks of beef and a flurry of fat is spattering the stovetop as you try to monitor both the beef and the vegetables you’re sautéing at the same time.

But there’s a really easy way to brown your meat without making such a mess on your stovetop: roast it.

I learned this trick from contributor Sheri Castle, who taught us all to oven-sear the pork shoulder in this slow-cooker pulled pork recipe. By quickly browning meat in a ripping-hot oven, say 450°F to 500°F, we can replicate pan-searing in a shorter time with less mess.

3 Keys to Oven-Seared Meat for Stews

  • Be sure to season the meat and coat it lightly with oil. A dry rub adds browning, but skip it if your stew doesn’t have dry herbs or spices.
  • Use a rimmed baking sheet to capture the fat and flavor that will pop off your oven-seared meat. A roasting pan is too deep and will prevent the meat from browning evenly.
  • Deglaze the baking pan for extra flavor, and be sure to scrape all the tasty bits off that baking sheet and into the stew pot.

Since the meat we’re oven-browning is headed for a moist braise in the stew, you don’t have to worry about overcooking it and drying it out. Just be sure to brown it evenly and get it into the cooking liquid while it’s still warm from the oven.

Still stovetop searing? Try this method: How To Sear Meat Properly

Want even more flavor? Brown your meat through grilling: Tip for Maximum Flavor: Grill Meat Before Braising

Meghan is the Food Editor for Kitchn's Skills content. She's a master of everyday baking, family cooking, and harnessing good light. Meghan approaches food with an eye towards budgeting — both time and money — and having fun. Meghan has a baking and pastry degree, and spent the first 10 years of her career as part of Alton Brown's culinary team. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn't I Just Feed You.

Step 1:
Combine your flour and pepper in a bowl or, if you’re like my mom, pour the two into a plastic bag. Add the beef, seal the bag shut, and then start shaking it like crazy until your beef is fully coated in flour.

Step 2: Heat your stockpot over medium-high heat on the stove and add some vegetable oil. Once your pan is hot, sear your floured beef on all sides until the cubes develop a nice caramelized deep brown crisp all over. Take your time with this step, it’s worth it. Don’t bunch the beef cubes altogether. Crowding your meat results in excess water being released and you’ll end up with grey boiled meat -- sounds delicious, doesn’t it? -- instead of crispy brown. It will take about 4-6 minutes per batch and, depending on the size of your pot, will require one to two batches. Once your beef is nicely browned, remove it from the pot and set it aside.

Step 3: If you browse recipes you’ll see that not everyone does this next step, but we think it’s essential. It’s our not-so-secret weapon. Toss your diced onion, chopped carrots, and celery into your stockpot -- add more oil if necessary. Saute them for about 5 - 10 minutes. Once your onions are nice and translucent, pour in the cup of red wine and scrape up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. This is called the deglaze . Now add your beef back to the pot, pour in your stock/liquid of choice. If you have bay leaves, now is the time to add ‘em. Bring your broth to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid, and leave it. Check on it every now and then to make sure it’s still simmering lightly.

Step 4: After about 1.5 hours, add the remaining carrots, potatoes, and any other veggies you’d like to make use of. Put the lid back on, add any extra liquid if you feel like your broth level is too low, cover and continue to gently simmer for another hour. and that’s it. If you’re like me, you can quadruple the ingredients (except the wine, 1 cup will do) and eat nothing but beef stew for the next 9 days. Enjoy!

How to Cook Corned Beef Four Ways

Here are four ways to cook corned beef: in your Instant Pot or pressure cooker, boiled, oven-braised, and in your slow cooker.

1. Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker Corned Beef

Fork-tender brisket in a fraction of the time. That&aposs the beauty of using your electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot multi-cooker to make corned beef.

  1. Place corned beef on the trivet of your pressure cooker. Add any additional seasonings. Pour just enough water to cover.
  2. Cook the corned beef on high pressure for about 90 minutes. Release the pressure.
  3. If you want to make it corned beef and cabbage, add carrots and and cabbage to the liquid surrounding the meat once, and cook again on high pressure for about 10 to 15 more minutes.

Popular Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker Corned Beef Recipes: 

2. Boiled Corned Beef

  1. Place the brined corned beef in a large pot or Dutch oven along with the liquid and spices that accompanied it in the package.
  2. Pour in enough water to cover the beef, then bring the water to a boil on the stovetop.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot.
  4. A three-pound corned beef could take three hours or more to become perfectly tender. Check the meat occasionally, adding more water if necessary. The beef is ready when it pulls apart easily.

Popular Boiled Corned Beef Recipes: 

3. Oven-Braised Corned Beef

  1. Use a large roasting pan or Dutch oven, with or without a rack, depending on the recipe you use. It਌ould take about one hour or more per pound to cook, depending on the thickness of the roast.
  2. Since corned beef needs to cook with moist heat, you&aposll cover the pan or wrap the roast with aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out.
  3. Check the liquid as it cooks, replenishing it if needed. You can add vegetables during the last hour of cooking. This video for Braised Corned Beef Brisket shows you how it&aposs done.

Popular Oven-Braised Corned Beef Recipes:

4. Slow-Cooked Corned Beef

  1. Popping everything into the slow cooker is the easiest, most convenient way to cook corned beef.
  2. If you&aposre cooking carrots and potatoes with the meat, consider adding them about halfway through. A four-pound roast will take four to five hours on HIGH, or eight to nine hours on LOW.
  3. Cabbage doesn&apost take much time to cook, and can be added in the last hour. For more, watch the video for Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Popular Slow-Cooked Corned Beef Recipes:

Roasting Your Rump Roast

Roasting is a dry-heat cooking method usually reserved for cuts of meat that are naturally tender, but bottom round rump roasts are one of the few exceptions. Dry roasting is the best cooking method for these types of roasts, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln..

When dry roasted in low heat for a longer period of time, the collagen and connective tissue melt, leaving you with a tender roast beef.

Since you are working with a Choice grade of beef, do not try to cook this as you would a regular roast, as the result will be a piece of meat that is dry and tough. Season the roast, sear it in hot oil and cook it in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for roughly 30 minutes per pound.

One of the keys to keeping it tender is to slice it very thin just as you find in a delicatessen. In fact, if you purchase roast beef in a deli, there is a good chance you are getting rump roast.

Best beef chow fun in a skillet

Here are the keys to making a great beef chow fun without a wok:

(1) Plenty of fresh aromatics to add depth of flavor

Dry spice powders just won’t cut it for stir fry, so please always use fresh aromatics.

In this recipe we use fresh garlic, ginger, and plenty of green onion.

(2) Make a good stir fry sauce using the right ingredients

Namely, you need light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and a good wine.

The light soy sauce will add saltiness and umami to the dish, while the dark soy sauce adds that beautiful dark brown color to give the noodles an appealing look. Shaoxing wine (the unsalted type) is always the first choice to add a rich aroma, but you can get very good results using dry sherry, as well.

(3) Prepare a large skillet with a pair of tongs

If possible, pick a heavy nonstick skillet for your beef chow fun and every other stir fry you cook. We are not using a wok here, but high heat is still a crucial factor to creating a great dish. The reason we need a large heavy skillet is that it will heat up faster on an electric range due to its large contact surface. And a heavier pan always holds heat better, so the pan temperature won’t drop the second you add in the sauce such a drop would cause all your ingredients to be steamed instead of seared.

A pair of tongs is a must-have for tossing noodles, so you don’t end up splashing half of the ingredients onto your kitchen counter.

Is Chuck Steak Healthy?

Chuck steak nutrition depends on how it is prepared, what it is prepared with and the portion size. Easy chuck tender recipes made with butter will be higher in calories and fat than those made with just basic seasonings. Beef chuck shoulder steak that is thin still has the same nutrition as one that is thick because it's about the overall portion size.

The USDA shows that a 4-ounce serving of beef chuck eye steak trimmed to 0 inches fat contains 257 calories, 21 grams of protein and 19 grams of fat. Many other cuts of beef offer a leaner source of protein.

The American Heart Association cautions against eating too much red meat because of the saturated fat content. Though you can safely include it in your diet, it is best to opt for lean cuts and eat more chicken and fish.