This hearty cooking style is perfect for winter.
Braising involves cooking in a sealed vessel with a small amount of liquid. It combines dry and moist heat as the ingredients are often seared at a high temperature first to colour and flavour the outside before being put in a well-sealed container with a little liquid and cooked for a long time at a low temperature, so that the food roasts, poaches and steams all at once. Pressure cookers and the more contemporary slow cookers are basically braisers.
Braising came about as a one-pot cooking method in the days before home ovens were common, when food was cooked over the hearth fire. Meat and vegetables were cooked together in a sealed pot with embers from the fire piled on top and around the sides (similar to a camp oven) so that heat came from all directions. Stews, casseroles and pot-roasts are essentially braises with more or less moisture.
Vegetables will often cook in their own juices, but a little stock and often something acidic (tomato, beer, wine) are usually added when braising seafood or meat, to prevent the food drying out during the long cooking time. The combination of heat, time, moisture and acid breaks down connective tissue, rendering tougher cuts of meat and old poultry, that would otherwise be inedible, tender and juicy.
As seafood is generally quite tender, braising isn’t applied in fish cookery as frequently, though certain firm-fleshed fish such as Monkfish (similar to Australian Stargazer, see FAQ p.4), Carp and Atlantic Salmon are traditionally braised, and it’s an excellent method for cooking Octopus, Squid and Cuttlefish.
Tips for Braising Seafood
- Use a well-sealed vessel to keep moisture, flavour and aroma in.
- Use flavourings suitable to the food being braised, herbs (thyme, oregano, dill), tomato, capsicum, onion, and garlic work well with seafood.
- Add a little liquid, white wine or stock, to start with, adding more, preferably warmed, later if the food starts to dry out.
- Baste the food occasionally during cooking to keep it moist.
- Use the cooking juices as a sauce, strained or thickened if necessary.
- Serve with rice, pasta, couscous or bread to soak up the juices.
Seafood Suitable for Braising
- Large Octopus
- Gould’s Squid
- Skate, Ray, Guitarfish
- Blue-eye Trevalla
- Murray Cod
- Good dishes for Braising
- Pyrex baking dishes with lids
- Terracotta baking dishes with lids (romtopf)
- Cast iron casserole dishes covered tightly with double thickness of aluminium foil