My Recipe Box

Backward Braising

Slow cooking followed by a blast in the oven creates tender meat with an appealing crust, all without searing.

How to Reverse-Braise Meats
Braised Pork Shoulder with Fennel, Garlic, and Herbs

by Lynne Curry

fromFine Cooking
Issue 145

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 easier still?

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
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
How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats How to Reverse-Braise Meats
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.

Chili-Rubbed Braised Beef
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.

Photos: Scott Phillips

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