I used to think I didn’t like pork…that is until I learned how to braise it. Letting the meat simmer for hours allows cheap, tough cuts of meat to become amazingly tender and fall off the bone. This method of cooking is also very budget friendly. Braising meat uses basically the same steps regardless of what kind of meat you are using, so you can use this general guide.
Braising meat involves searing the meat on all sides and then letting it simmer in liquid, usually a combination of stock, wine, or beer. Browning the meat before simmering it is important because it deepens the flavor and texture of the meat, so don’t skip this step.
Use a heavy pot with a lid. I use the Martha Stewart Cast Iron pot that we got for our wedding, and it works great!
Braising: Step by Step
Finely chop the vegetables. You can do this by hand or in a food processor. I used my Vitamix, which I practically use on a daily basis.
If you are using Pancetta, heat the pot to medium heat and brown the Pancetta. When browned, remove and set aside until later. Depending on how fatty the Pancetta is, you might not need to add any more fat to cook the vegetables in.
If you are not using Pancetta, heat the rendered pork fat (or oil) on medium high heat.
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Add meat to the hot pot and brown on all sides, several minutes per side. Try not to move the meat too much as you do this, just let it sit until it is browned. When it is done, it will no longer stick to the bottom. So if it sticks when you try to flip it, just give it another minute or so. Remove the meat when it is browned. You can work in batches if needed to make sure all the meat is touching the bottom of the pan.
Add the vegetables to the pot and cook until they are browned, about 6-7 minutes.
Add the meat and stock. It is okay if the liquid does not completely cover the meat, as long as is is 2/3 to 3/4 covered it will be fine. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the temperature to low.
Simmer on low heat, with the lid slightly ajar, until the meat is falling off the bone. This will take several hours, depending on the meat. I make ribs most often, and it normally takes about 4 hours. Check on it every once in a while, adjusting the temperature to keep it at a low simmer and adding more stock if needed. Alternatively, you can let it simmer in the oven on a low temperature instead of the stove.
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 shallot
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3½ lbs meat (pork butt, shoulder, ribs, beef shank, veal shank, etc)
- 2 tablespoons rendered pork fat (or olive oil)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- finely chop the celery, carrot, shallot, and garlic. Or pulse in a food processor (I used my Vitamix)
- season the meat with salt and pepper
- heat rendered pork fat/oil on medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook on all sides until browned. Don't move the meat around while it is cooking, just flip it when it is done browning. If you try to move the meat and it sticks to the bottom, it means it is not done browning yet.
- remove meat from heat and set aside
- add the vegetables to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 6-7 minutes.
- add the wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes.
- add the bay leaf and thyme
- add the meat back to the pot along with any juices that may have accumulated
- add the chicken stock. It is okay if it doesn't completely cover the meat, as long as the meat is about ⅔ to ¾ covered
- bring liquid to a boil
- reduce heat to low and gently simmer, with the cover very slightly ajar
- simmer for several hours until the meat is falling off the bone
- serve and enjoy your gourmet meal!