Braising is a method of cooking that really benefits cheaper cuts of meat; the long, slow cooking process allows that meat to break down and become tender and succulent. Now, I'm using beef braising steak but you could obviously use whatever the recipe calls for.
The first thing you need to do is just pat the meat dry of any excess moisture using a paper towel and then lightly coat the meat in seasoned plain flour and put to one side. Remember to go and wash your hands though before you do anything else. Then preheat your oven to 160 degrees C, 140 in a fan oven or gas mark two.
OK, so what you need to do is put a couple of tablespoons in an ovenproof casserole dish and when the oil is really hot, add in your pieces of meat. Now this ovenproof casserole dish is plenty big enough for these four pieces of braising steak but if you were doing more, it's really important to do it in small batches otherwise the pan cools down and you don't get that delicious caramelisation. Brown the meat for eight to 10 minutes on each side, remove from the pan and then lower the heat to medium.
This is the really important thing with braising that you collect all this caramelisation, all the goodness off the base of the pan, so you don't want that to burn. So immediately in with some vegetables. Now, at this point you could pretty much add anything you want such as garlic, tomato puree, mushrooms, herbs and some seasoning. Just sauté these together for a few minutes before adding the meat back to the pan.
And now it's time for the stock. It's really important that the liquid doesn't cover the meat completely. Bring the braising liquid back to a simmer, then cover the pan and place it in the oven. So that goes into an oven for about three hours and check it every 40 to 50 minutes and if it needs more liquid, just add a touch more stock.
For the final 30 to 40 minutes, remove the lid, return the casserole to the oven just to allow the liquid to reduce and thicken slightly.
And there you go, that's what you're looking for: beautifully rich and meltingly tender, and that's a really essential cooking skill to know and that's how you do it. That's how you braise meat.