Braising Meats for Tenderness and Flavor in a Dutch Oven

Meat cuts (tougher cuts) that are ideal for braising include pork shoulder, beef chuck, short ribs, lamb shanks and of course brisket. These cuts are marbled with fat and connective tissue, which will convert to gelatin after long and slow cooking.

Many cooks in years past called it “gentle cooking”. The cuts mentioned are also the more heavily worked parts of the animal. They have more flavors, but of course, they are also the tougher cuts.

Start with a hot oven with a little oil or lard. Place your meat in the oven and leave uncovered as it sears on both sides. In some people’s minds searing holds in the juices, which may be the case if cooking a steak over an open flame, but when it comes to braising, or searing a pot roast the juices will end up as gravy.

The meat will break apart after hours of cooking, making it impossible for the juices to stay contained in the meats. Braising adds flavor and color to the meat, and once you have seared the outside you would reduce the heat and put a lid on your Dutch oven.

Pot roast is a term that was used to describe meats browned and then cooked with vegetables in a covered pot. Vegetables are usually added toward the end of the cooking process, usually the last hour, so they retain their shape and color and yet are cooked thoroughly. Carrots, potatoes, celery, onions, turnip, parsnips and even cabbage can be added.

You can also add garlic cloves, olive oil, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, or even tomato paste for flavor and to help tenderize the meat. The acid in the tomatoes will act as a tenderizer. Leftover meat can be added to pasta for another meal if you add tomatoes.

When cooking off-grid over a campfire you want to look for meals that can be cooked in the same pot at virtually the same time. Any meat can be a “pot roast”, but your thinner cuts would do better if cooked quickly over an open flame.

Once the roast is cooked, the drippings can be turned into gravy or a sauce for pasta if you had added tomatoes or paste. Leftover meat and vegetables can also be used to make savory meat pies that can be carried with you if you are on the move.

Making Gravy

You can easily make rich flavorful gravy from the meat drippings using a little cooking oil, olive oil or lard and flour. For added flavor add a splash of red wine to the drippings while the oven is still hot. Wine adds flavor and helps to deglaze the bottom of your pot.

In a separate pan heat your oil or lard and slowly mix in flour to create a Roux, which is nothing more than a mixture of flour and fat that will be added to the pan drippings. Once the Roux is added to the drippings heat until bubbling and then reduce the heat and allow it to thicken.

Once cooled off the gravy will gel or even form into a solid, but warming it slowly up will bring it back to the right consistency. In some cases, you may need to add some water to thin it down.

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