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The Difference Between Braising and Roasting

Cooking large cuts of meat can be intimidating, whether it’s a whole chicken, a rack of lamb or a large beef roast. You want to do this big, beautiful piece of meat justice — but how can you make sure you’re cooking it safely and preserving the most natural flavor?

May 5, 2020

That’s where the popular cooking methods of braising and roasting come in. Both of these methods are ideal for larger cuts of meat because they often utilize longer cooking times. But what’s the real difference between them? And which is the right choice for your meal?

Let’s investigate.

Roasting

The roasting process uses dry heat and can be done on both high and low temperatures. For larger pieces of meat (like a roast chicken, for instance), your best bet is to roast at a lower temperature for longer. However, for smaller pieces of meat — or even vegetables! — higher heat and shorter cooking times does the trick.

The popularity of roasting comes from the delicious caramelization that ideally develops on the outside of the meat, while the inside remains tender. However, one danger of roasting is the outside surface of your meat getting too dry. To avoid this, try basting with liquid throughout the cooking process. Not only will this keep the outside from overcooking, but it will also help to enhance the flavor and prevent scorching. 

Braising

While roasting is a mostly hands-off process, braising requires a few extra steps. Ideally, braising is done in a Dutch oven or deep pan with a lid that is both stove top and oven safe. After searing meat on all sides on the stove top, you’ll use braising liquid to deglaze the pan. Then, the meat is added back into the pan with the lid on and finished in the oven or on the stove top using a lower temperature.

In order to fully develop flavors while braising, many recipes recommend incorporating a variety of vegetables into the second step — after searing, before adding liquid. There are also several options for braising liquid that can add additional flavor, with common choices being broth or wine.

Braising brings out big flavors thanks to the initial searing, but then keeps meat tender and juicy through the lower and slower cooking process. This option is ideal for tougher cuts of meat where you really need to coax out tenderness.

With both of these methods, the end result is a delicious and impressive meal — just make sure you utilize a meat thermometer to ensure the thickest parts of your cut are safely cooked.

Still feeling intimidated by whether to roast or braise? Take comfort in knowing that both options will yield a delicious meal, then consider trying this recipe for the ultimate leg of lamb or this fennel and rosemary crusted pork roast. Remember: one of the most important things to remember while roasting or braising is to be patience. It can take time to develop the depth of flavor that makes these cooking methods so prized, so sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine and relax while you wait.

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