Shank, chuck, and brisket are best for beef braising. Braise with red wine or beer at 300-325°F (148-162°C) for 3 ½ to four hours.
Also called ‘pot roasting,’ braising beef is one of the easiest ways to make relatively cheap beef taste immaculate.
The best beef for braising should be a tough cut that’ll become tender after a few hours of cooking.
But what we find is that it’s not so much about uncovering the best beef to braise but finding the right method for you.
Using red wine or beer will deliver different flavors, as will using different sauces and ingredients.
What’s the Best Beef Cut for Braising?
Braising beef is typically about taking the toughest cut you can and working it down into a super soft and flavorsome meal.
Tougher beef cuts contain a high percentage of the protein ‘collagen’—a tough protein that strengthens connective tissue and holds cells together.
When heated at 160°F (71°C) collagen begins to dissolve and transform into a new type of protein called ‘gelatin.’
Gelatin is significantly softer than collagen and causes the muscle fibers of the meat to fall apart, making the beef incredibly soft.
Chuck, shank, and brisket are the best beef cuts for braising, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones that you can use.
In a ‘How to Braise Beef’ article by wikiHow, several other types of beef are recommended. They are top blade roast, eye roast, seven bone or center-cut roast, and ribs or short ribs.
They do not recommend using lean steaks or loin because they are already tender.
When you have chosen the right beef, you may want to cut it into equal portion sizes, though some cook the beef whole and cut it after braising.
It depends on how you would like to present the meal after and divide it up.
If you have sliced it up beforehand, more of the meat will have a seared outer layer than if you cut it at the end.
The Best Braising Liquid for Beef?
A proper braising liquid will give the beef much of its flavor and work its way through the meat to deliver the ideal texture.
Ideally, braising liquid for beef should be a mixture of alcohol—red wine or beer—and sauces that are cooked with other ingredients such as carrots, onions, and celery.
Remember, the wonderful thing about braising is not what you use but the method and how it can easily make a cheap meal taste much grander.
The Best Wine for Braising Beef?
Typically, dry red wine is the best for braising beef. White wine is usually used on chicken, fish, or pork, not beef.
Do remember that it is also important to consider how you add the wine when braising. Only add wine when the vegetables are caramelized.
In a video by YouTuber Adam Durham, he recommends syrah but also says that cabernet sauvignon or merlot are good to use. Use a whole bottle, though this may depend on how much beef you must braise.
Despite this, across the web, you will see cabernet sauvignon is often touted as the best wine for beef braising.
Note that the alcohol will cook off and leave behind a great sauce, so there is little need to worry about any alcohol left in the dish.
Lastly, avoid sweet or fruity wines. When it comes to braising beef with wine, red and dry is the best.
The Best Beer for Braising Beef?
A great alternative to wine, braising beef with beer can add sweetness and malty flavor. Remember that beer should be added after searing the beef.
Glen And Friends Cooking has some top advice for braising beef in beer.
While they do braise beef a little differently, they recommend a beer that’s not too heavy on the hops to avoid the beef ending up very bitter.
Ideally, it should be a lightly flavored beer. 500ml or two cups should be enough according to them.
Elsewhere, Melissa Clark of NYT Cooking recommends Belgian beer or brown ale.
WikiHow also agrees that Belgian beer is good to braise beef with, though they also recommend using dark beers, such as ‘stouts, porters, or black lagers.’
If you’re braising beef with beer, Marmite, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard are excellent to combine. Braising beef with beer works well with onions.
Marmite, in particular, is made from yeast extract, a byproduct of beer, and so it is an excellent companion. It is great at bringing out supporting flavors from other ingredients.
Interestingly, Taste of Home suggests that it is also possible to braise beef in non-alcoholic beer too.
What’s a Good Braised Beef Sauce?
Three basic liquids you can consider adding for a beef sauce when braising include:
- Stock—beef stock is the most obvious.
- Water—is the bare minimum you should use.
Worcestershire and soy sauce are highly popular when making a great sauce for braising beef.
Reuse the same pot to maintain some flavor (and save yourself from cleaning another pot) and add your sauce after any wine and vegetables have turned brown and the beef returned to the pot.
Super important: you don’t have to through out the sauce after you’re finished cooking! It can be used on the beef when you serve it.
Remove the sauce from the beef and place it into a heated pan until it starts bubbling, then mix with butter and add it as a sauce on top of the beef before serving.
The Best Temperature for Braising Beef?
When you sear the beef, that pot should be fiery hot. Hot enough to deliver a crust on all sides.
But when you braise it with the rest of the ingredients, you’ll want the pot to be cooler.
After all the ingredients have been added and you leave the beef—it should be cooked at around 300°F (148°C) to 325°F (162°C).
But note that when you put the lid on the top of the pot, you do not want it to boil, you want it to simmer.
Cooking at a lower heat for a prolonged period delivers the best results when braising beef.
How Long to Braise Beef?
How long you should braise beef varies depending on who you talk to.
The shortest time I have seen is one and a half hours, but I have also seen some recipes calling for six to eight hours, which is likely too long.
Braising for three and a half to four hours appears to be a more common method, and probably the best way to ensure the beef is properly cooked and doesn’t dry out.
For longer cooks, cook at a lower heat. For quicker cooks, raise the heat.
You can also flip the beef an hour and a half in—or halfway through the cook—to ensure it becomes evenly tender.
Why Is My Braised Beef Tough?
If you’re braised beef is tough, you have likely not cooked it enough for the collagen to melt into gelatin.
It should be as they say, ‘fork tender,’ which means the meat falls off at the touch of a fork.
If your beef isn’t yet fork tender, you need to braise it for longer—but keep it at a steady temperature and remain patient.
Remember, to get gelatin it needs to reach 160°F, and slow cooking at a low temperature will allow the heat to gently penetrate the meat and not overcook the exterior.
Overcooking braised beef can also be an issue if left too long. If the beef is fork tender, it’s ready to come out.
Despite being cooked in a liquid it is still possible to dry out beef. As Harold McGee writes in Keys to Good Cooking, “Moist heating methods do not guarantee that foods will come out moist.”
He continues: “The key to moist, tender foods is careful temperature control, no matter the cooking method.”
Top Braised Beef Tips
Braising beef is not very difficult, but there are a range of ways to do it that can impact the texture and flavors. Arguably, this is more important than the cut you decide to braise.
- The best-braised beef cuts are shank, brisket, and chuck. But you can also use any tougher beef cuts—avoid braising lean cuts.
- A dry cabernet sauvignon is the most popular braising wine. Merlot and syrah are also good choices—do not use white wine.
- Stock or broth are best to use to create a great sauce (along with red wine or beer). If you don’t have either, water will do.
- Beef should be braised at around 300°F (148°C) to 325°F (162°C) but don’t boil! Ideally, it should simmer.
- Three and a half to four hours is the most common amount of time to braise beef. The shortest you will want to braise beef is one and a half hours.