100 Techniques

Technique #59: Braise Burnished Meat Without Searing

Do less while adding flavor and saving time—yep, it’s possible.

Published Sept. 3, 2023.

This is Technique #59 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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When it comes to braising meat, most recipes follow the same road map: Sear the meat, sometimes in batches, on the stovetop to build flavorful browning, add a modest amount of liquid, transfer it to the oven, and simmer it all gently until the meat is tender and the liquid has reduced to a concentrated, deeply savory sauce.

Part of the beauty of braises is that they’re hands-off—except, that is, for that searing step, which can be messy and time-consuming. We often do go through the effort of searing because the process forms thousands of new flavor compounds.

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What Does Searing Do?

Searing develops browning through the Maillard reaction and creates fond in the pan that gives the braising liquid depth of flavor. But sometimes we just want classic long-braised flavor without having to stand over the stove or clean up multiple pots. 

When Braising, Elevate, Don’t Sear

For times like those, there’s good news: For long-cooked oven-braised meats that have robustly flavored braising liquids, you can forgo that step—that is, as long as a portion of the meat sits above the surface of the liquid. The oven does all the work of browning the exposed meat as it braises, and the strongly flavored braising liquid ingredients make up for skipping the searing step.

Given enough time, whether the pot is covered or uncovered, and provided the pieces are not fully submerged in the liquid, the meat that sits above the surface will develop plenty of flavorful browning because the pieces’ exposed surfaces will eventually reach 300 degrees—the temperature at which meat begins to brown.

Turn the Meat as It Cooks

Only the exposed part of the meat will brown, so often it makes sense to turn the meat partway through cooking (as for a large roast) or stir the ingredients (as for a stewy dish) to expose new surface areas of the meat for browning.


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Step by Step: How to Braise Burnished Meat Without Searing

This is one of those great techniques where you have to do less in order to achieve a better—and time-saving—result. Skip the searing step and add your meat to the braising liquid, simply remembering to keep it elevated above the moisture-dense ingredients. Then, let the oven do the rest, turning the meat partway through to allow both sides to brown. You can follow our step-by-step guide below for all the details.

Step 1: Cook Aromatics 

Cook aromatics in fat in Dutch oven until softened and browned.

Step 2: Add Meat and Transfer to Oven 

Deglaze pot with wine or other liquid, scraping up any browned bits. Add meat and bring to simmer on stovetop. Make sure meat is not fully submerged, cover pot if directed, and transfer to oven.

Step 3: Stir 

Partway through braising time, stir or turn meat to expose more surface area of meat above liquid.

Step 4: Add Ingredients, or Skim Fat 

For stew, stir in any final ingredients (such as vegetables or garnish) at or near end of cooking time. For roasts, skim fat from cooking liquid and simmer cooking liquid to reduce and serve as sauce.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Seems pretty simple, right? Well, putting this newfound technique to the test should be a cinch in these two recipes that employ it. Give them a go tonight and see how much time and mess you can save.


Catalan-Style Beef Stew with Mushrooms

When we took a closer look at the way Spanish cooks make beef stew, we found a whole new approach to one of our favorite winter dishes.
Get the Recipe

Classic Pot Roast

These days, pot roasts come in all styles and flavors. But when we went looking for truly beefy taste, a simple 19th-century recipe proved the best guide.
Get the Recipe
Equipment Review

The Best Dutch Ovens

A Dutch oven is an essential investment for serious cooks. We find the best options at every price and in every size.
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