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Braising, not to be confused with Brazing, is cooking with "moist heat", typically in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid. From the French "braiser".
Braising relies on heat, time, moisture and the presence of an acid to successfully break down tough collagens in meat. It is an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Many classic braised dishes such as Coq au Vin are highly-evolved methods of cooking tough and unpalatable foods. Swissing, stewing and pot-roasting are all braising types.
Most braises follow the same basic steps. The meat or poultry is first browned in hot fat. Aromatic vegetables are sometimes then browned as well. A cooking liquid that includes an acidic element, such as tomatoes or wine, is added to the pot, which is covered. The dish cooks in relatively low heat in or atop the stove until the meat is fork-tender. Often the cooking liquid is finished to create a sauce or gravy.
A successful braise intermingles the flavors of the foods being cooked and the cooking liquid. Also, the dissolved collagens and gelatins from the meat enrich and add body to the liquid. Braising is economical, as it allows the use of tough and inexpensive cuts, and efficient, as it often employs a single pot to cook an entire meal.
Familiar braised dishes include pot roast, beef stew, "Swiss" steak, chicken cacciatore, goulash and boeuf bourguignon, among others.
The preparation of risotto is also a form of braising, albeit a more rustic kind.