Braised meat is a beautiful
thing. Thanks to low, slow cooking in
a flavorful liquid, the meat becomes crazy
tender and full of flavor. It’s the perfect choice
for winter dining, when you’re hankering for
a hearty meal and having the oven on for a
few hours is most welcome. A braise is practically
foolproof and only better if made ahead,
so it’s great for both casual family meals and
stress-free entertaining. But what if I told you
about a technique that makes braising even
When braising, you typically sear meat to
brown it for flavor and color, then add liquid and
aromatics before cooking it until tender. With
my “backward” method, you braise the meat to
tenderness first, then brown it in a hot oven.
Porcini-Rubbed Braised Beef
There are several rewards for doing this. You
skip the messy step of searing the meat on the
stovetop and have no chance of burned fat leaving
an off taste. You also create a flavorful broth in the
pot, which means you don’t need to have stock on
hand to braise. How does this work? In my experience,
the initial slow cooking preserves more of
the meat juices in the pot compared to the high
heat of searing, which causes the released meat
juices to evaporate.
With my technique, you can also cook the meat
until tender hours or even a couple of days before
serving. Then it’s simply a matter of reheating
and browning it right in the same pot in the oven.
Finally, during the browning step, the liquid
reduces further, creating a robust sauce to serve
with the meat.
Backward Braising, Step by Step
1. With a paring knife, trace the fat seams of the roast and around the bone to make a series of deep incisions on both sides, without completely separating the muscles.
2. For pork, score any external fat or skin and fat with a series of incisions 1 inch apart.
3. Coat the meat all over with the spice rub, massaging it between the muscles and on all sides of the roast.
4. Put the meat in a Dutch oven or high-sided skillet that fits it snugly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to cook, add the aromatics and seasonings, cover, and cook in a low oven until the meat is fork-tender.
6. Remove the meat, let cool slightly, and separate into large chunks.
7. Skim the fat from the broth in the pot.
8. Return the meat to the pot, arranging the pieces in a single layer.
Cook the meat, uncovered, in a 425ºF oven, flipping once, until the exposed surface is well browned.
Though you could adapt this method to just
about any cut of meat suitable for braising, my
favorite cuts are pork shoulder roast and beef
chuck, which are both deeply flavored, especially
when bone-in, and are also among the least
expensive. Before braising, I like to boost the
flavor by seasoning the meat with a dry rub; a day
ahead is great, but longer is even better.
Chile-Rubbed Braised Beef in Tacos
The meat from these recipes can be served for dinner as is, in chunks or slices along with its sauce and, say, some potatoes. But you can also shred the meat to use in tacos, as a filling for ravioli, or as a topping for risotto, polenta, or pasta along with some of the sauce. I often do both: Serve half the recipe as is and then shred and freeze the rest of the meat to use in quesadillas or to top baked potatoes another night. With a method this easy, you’ll have plenty of tender, flavorful braised meat on hand all winter long.