There are few things more satisfying than a bite of wonderfully cooked braised beef. It just melts in your mouth instantly. It's relatively simple to do but there are definitely some tricks to making sure you create restaurant-quality braised beef right from the comfort of your home.

What is braising?

Braising is the method of cooking less-tender cuts of meat by partially submerging them in liquid and cooking them over a low heat for an extended period time. The big difference between this and 'stewing' is that stewing involves smaller cuts of beef completely submerged in the liquid and have an assortment of vegetables tossed into the mix, all to be consumed together. Braising uses larger cuts of tough meat and the slow-cooking process allows the meat to break down and become incredibly tender. Then the liquid is used to help season and flavor the beef to make a rich, mouth-watering dish.

braised beef on plate surrounded by sliced boiled eggs

A recipe on how to make braised beef

What you need:

To make a simple but delicious braised beef, you're going to need:

  • 1 pound of tenderloin beef
  • 1 cup of tomato puree
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • ½ cup of fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup of rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons of black peppercorns
  • A slow cooker
  • Time. Patience is a virtue!

How to do it:

  • Put some oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Give the beef a good sear on all sides (we're looking for a nice brown color)
  • In a slow cooker, place the beef and fill the slow cooker with the beef stock. Add in your tomato puree, parsley, rosemary, and peppercorns.
  • Place the slow cooker on high heat for 4 hours. Be sure to flip the beef every half hour so that the entire cut cooks evenly.
  • Remove the beef when it is extremely tender. A good way to know that it's cooked perfectly it to take a pair of tongs and attempt to pinch them at the center of the meat. If you can pinch the tongs without using much pressure, your beef is good to go! Place the beef in a stainless steel bowl and use your tongs and a fork to pull the meat apart.
  • Place a pot on your stove with a strainer over it. Empty the beef stock from the slow cooker into the pot, using the strainer to remove the parsley, rosemary, and peppercorns from the stock.
  • Reduce the stock over low heat. You want to remove some of the water from the stock to make it richer. A trick to knowing when it's sufficiently reduced is to take a spoon and dip it into the stock. If there's a noticeable coating around the spoon, the stock has been reduced!
  • Pour the reduced stock into the stainless steel bowl a little bit at a time and mix it into the shredded beef. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and you have yourself a simple but very delicious braised beef!
bowl of braised beef with mashed potatoes

Now that you know the basics of a good braised beef, you can explore and experiment to make all sorts of variations and styles of braised beef. Here's a good start to expand your knowledge of braised beef is the cuts of meat you can use and what you can add to it.

Variations of Braised Beef

Different cuts of meat:

A huge factor in how your braised beef turns out is the cut of beef you choose. Different cuts of beef require different cooking methods to get the highest quality flavor out of them. For braised beef, the tougher the cut of beef, the better it will tenderize during the braising process.

Beef cheeks are one of the best cuts of meat for braising, being extremely tough and the perfect size. Top sirloins and eye-of-round roasts are also high-quality cuts of beef for braising and only require a little bit of work to clean them up and get them into the proper sizes for braising. Flat-top steaks and thinner cuts of beef are not the best for braising due to already being fairly tender and being a little too small to withstand the long, slow cooking process. You want something tough and firm that won't dry out!

With all cuts of beef, take the time before cooking to cut out the white fat and the clear sinew on the beef. These won't break down when cooked and will make for a very unenjoyable eating experience if you don't get rid of them!

Different flavors of braised beef:

While the reduced stock and basic seasonings will make a dynamite braised beef, you can take it to the next level with a few simple ingredients!

Balsamic reduction is a wonderfully cheap and effective way to give your braised beef a nice tang and make it even juicier. Take a bottle of balsamic vinegar, put it in a pot over low heat and reduce it until only about a fourth of the balsamic is left in the pot. You're looking for a syrup-like consistency when it's finished. Then, just add a couple of tablespoons of the balsamic reduction to the braised beef along with the stock and seasonings, and you'll have yourself an incredibly flavorful braised beef. It also adds a nice dark color to your beef, so it will look as good as it tastes!

beef cheek preparing for braising

What goes well with braised beef

Of course, braised beef isn't the be-all, end-all for a dish. It needs other things to compliment it. An assortment of veggies, mashed potatoes, and braised beef is a classic dish. Of course, if you're cooking for other people, you want to show off your cooking skills. Here are two incredible dishes that have braised beef at the core of them that are bound to impress anybody you cook for:

Braised-beef hash (also known as 'The Hangover Cure')

A fantastic dish for brunch and to save your soul after a night of too much drinking, a braised-beef hash is pretty easy to put together, so it can be made even in a defeated hangover state. Make homefries seasoned with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika, then add an over-easy egg on top of the homefries. Grab your tongs and place a heap of braised beef on top of all that (however much you want!). Grate some old cheddar cheese on top of it all and throw some pickled red onions on there for good measure. Is it unhealthy? Absolutely. Will your taste buds thank you? You bet your bottom dollar they will.

Braised-beef sandwich

A simple but unbelievably delicious sandwich! Take two slices of multi-grain bread, then toast and butter them up. Add your braised beef on there, and then add some red onions, Havarti cheese, and cherry tomatoes. Other toppings could include pickled vegetables and hot peppers. Cut it in half and dine away to the easiest and tastiest sandwich you'll ever eat.

braised beef sandwich on white bread with hot peppers and tomatoes

Braised beef isn't too hard to make amazing, but it requires patience and a good eye. Keep things simple and focus on taking it slow. Once you're able to make quality braised beef, your palette of dishes you can make will increase beyond anything you could ever imagine!

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