The Cooking Technique that Helps Me Juggle Mealtime and Working from Home
It’s easy, hands-off and makes a big batch of comfort food — better than your slow cooker!
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I don’t know about you, but when I’m cooped up working from home in my New York City apartment, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’ll eat next. Maybe it’s because snacks and meals break up the day. Or maybe it’s because my "home office" is actually just my kitchen table, which is right next to the fridge. Either way, the amount of time I spend thinking about eating is disproportionate to the minimal amount of time I actually have to prep lunch between meetings. Anyone else?
However, I’ve figured out a smart solution: braising. Let me explain. Typically, braising entails just a few minutes of hands-on time, and hours and hours of hands-off cooking time. It’s a low-lift cooking technique, but you kind of have to be home all day while it’s happening. Meaning it’s normally been a weekend activity. But now that I’m home all day long, I start my braised dish in the morning when I wake up at around seven or eight in the morning, and it’s done by lunch time.
Let’s get into some more merits of braising. First, if you’re a meat eater, it saves money: braising typically starts with tough and inexpensive cuts of meat. Second, braising is hard to mess up. Really. Third, it’s great for meal prep: it makes a lot of meat, which often tastes even more flavorful the next day when you eat it from the fridge. Or, it can be frozen in its braising liquid for later. And fourth, eating a warm, flavorful and tender braised dish is, in my opinion, an ultimate comfort food — and that’s exactly what I’m craving right now.
You might be thinking to yourself: I typically just put my meat in my slow-cooker and it’s done by dinnertime, why are you making such a big fuss over braising? Here’s why. Slow cookers heat up meat evenly and gently from the bottom. On the other hand, the pot you braise in (such as a Dutch oven) has hot spots and heats from every direction. Braised meat and vegetables caramelize and break down much more than slow-cooked ones. Although I used to prefer the convenience of my slow cooker, I far prefer the more tender, flavorful results I get from braising.
Below, I’ve rounded up my three absolute favorite braising recipes. I turn to these again and again. They’re easy, no-frills and deliver dependably delectable results every time.
Some beef stew recipes are fussy: they involve lots of standing over the stove and cooking different ingredients one at a time. Not this version. Just brown your meat and vegetables, then get braising. And when you’re done — is there anything more comforting than a warm bowl of stew?
Pulled Pork (pictured above)
I love this smart recipe for several reasons. It’s flavorful and juicy but doesn’t call for many ingredients. And it shortcuts the braising time by asking you to cut the pork shoulder into four smaller pieces that become tender in just about two hours.
When four pounds of brisket get braised in tomato juice and chicken broth alongside poblano peppers, smoky chili powder, cumin, coriander and oregano, the results are super flavorful. Turn the meat into tacos by following this entire recipe, if you wish, or simply stop cooking when the meat is done braising. You won’t be disappointed with the results.