My first time doing a braise, I ruined a weekend’s worth of octopus.
I was a young, over-confident line cook who—until this particular catastrophe—was convinced I was allergic to mistakes. So, when I placed two trays of wine-bathing octopus into a 400°F oven for four hours, I felt great. I closed that oven door and thought, “Wow, it’s going to be hard for the chef not to promote me after this.”
Of course, 400°F is way too many degrees when you’re braising and so, after a ~chill~ four hours at high heat, my optimistic octopus became concrete. “Braised Octopus” was swiftly crossed off the menu that weekend.
Since my visit to braising rock bottom, I’ve worked tirelessly to perfect the technique. After years of practice, I’m confident that I can braise with the best. Today, I’m proud to say it’s become one of my favorite cooking methods, especially when hosting. It just makes so much sense. The work is front-loaded, meaning you can pull yourself out of the kitchen and relax as your party gathers. Better yet, there is a conveniently significant overlap between braising and crowd-pleasing recipes.
Put plainly: I am now a practicing braise believer and you should be too. When you, too, begin your braising journey, you’ll need the proper equipment. Below you will find everything you need from our Shop for the best braise.
But First, A Braising Refresher
Before we hop into equipment, here’s a quick refresher on the five main components of braising.
- First, is the prep. Typically, this will be some combination of measuring liquids and chopping vegetables—it's the most boring, arduous component, so having good equipment will make it much less annoying.
- Second is the sear—a process that entails using high heat to create a crust around what will ultimately be braised. The crust will then help the soon-to-be-braised ingredient retain moisture inside as it cooks.
- Third, is the braise itself. For a consistent, flavorful, and tender braise, you’ll need to create an environment that is stable in heat and high in moisture (this is where a Dutch oven comes in handy).
- Fourth, is the sauce. Post-braise, you’ll find yourself rich in excess braising liquid. Do not throw this out; it’s the most delicious part of your braise. Instead, reduce the liquid in a hot pan until it coats the back of a spoon, stir in cold butter, and season to taste.
- Last, is the plate. Braises are pretty and deserve to look nice. Honor your hard work by giving your meal a dish fit for a braise.
A Dutch oven is a braiser's best friend (it can sear and braise), and our collaboration with Staub produced one of the best I’ve seen. It looks great, gets extremely hot, and will truly last you a lifetime.
This griddle is perfect for when you need to sear something like pork shoulder or napa cabbage that is too big for your Dutch oven. Unlike the electric griddle your parents made pancakes with, this slides right over your gas stove, meaning it will get hot enough to sear.
When braising something larger than your Dutch oven: chapter two. This eight-quart stock pot from Hestan is the perfect option for tackling large braises, as in it's big, well-made, and gorgeous.
Good prep starts with a sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d always pick the cutting board (a dull knife can be sharpened). This olive wood board—particularly the large, rectangular model—is sturdy and big enough to hold more than a few sliced onions.
Gravy separators will speed up and improve sauce making. This funky-looking tea kettle and measuring cup hybrid is perfectly adept at separating unwanted fats from the liquid that will eventually become your sauce. Two things I like about this particular separator: It's made of glass and comes with measurements by the quarter-cup.
Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a platter my mom has, but I think this serving dish from Vietri gives the perfect contrasting backdrop for a juicy braised short rib, pork shoulder, or eggplant.
Let us know what you use to braise in the comments below!
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