I have a habit of buying braising steak, when intending to stew some beef (be it to eat as a stew, or to later use as a pie filling), but I've always wondered what braising actually is?

3 Answers 3


Braising uses minimal liquid to achieve a moist, slow, cook. Stew is soup with attitude: it's much more liquid, with chunks of the star of the show floating in it.

  • That works as a difference for me... Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 20:16

From The Professional Chef:

To braise meat, first sear it in hot fat to the desired color, then simmer it in a covered vessel in stock or another cooking liquid. The amount of liquid used in the braise is crucial to the success of the finished dish.

One of the benefits of braising is that tough cuts of meat become tender as the moist heat gently penetrates the meat and causes the connective tissues to soften. Another benefit is that flavor is released into the cooking liquid to become the accompanying sauce, thus virtually all of the flavor and nutrients are retained."

  • That sounds a bit like how I'd stew it, which is where I wonder where the distinction is? Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 19:56
  • Sounds to me like it's nothing more than the quantity of liquid -- adding liquid would turn a braise into a stew, I guess.
    – offby1
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 20:39
  • @Rowland - stew would (more often) be cubed meat, braised would more likely refer the a larger cut done at once (e.g. pot roast)
    – sdg
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 23:10
  • the rule of thumb is: if the meat comes from a part of the animal that moves a lot , it'll be tougher and therefore braise it; otherwise roast leaner cuts.
    – dassouki
    Commented Jul 19, 2010 at 16:57

Braising is a combination of fast dry heat and long slow moist heat.

The fast dry heat is able to create the flavorful crust on meat in ways that slow heat can't. The dry heat can be extremely hot air in the oven, direct radiation from a broiler, or contact with a hot steel or cast iron pan.

The long slow moist heat creates a steaming process. Importantly, the meat is NOT submerged and boiled in the liquid. The long heat helps break down the tough connective tissue, and the steam helps the meat not dry out. The steam, rather than immersion means more flavor stays with the pieces of meat instead of leeching out into the broth like a stew.

Braising is best used for meat that is too tough to use as good steak, but good for more than just becoming stew meat.

  • I'd say the defining difference is in the size of the meat pieces. A Swiss Steak for example, is a braised tough steak. If you were to chop the steak first, you'd be making stew. Braising - Whole cuts, to be presented whole. Stew - chopped cuts, to be served in a bowl or over potato/rice/barley Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 19:33

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