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The Truth About Braising

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2011

It’s a common misconception that braising—cooking food half-submerged in liquid in a covered pot at low heat—results in moister meat than dry cooking methods do. Here's the reality.

It’s a common misconception that braising—cooking food half-submerged in liquid in a covered pot at low heat—results in moister meat than dry cooking methods do. The reality is that despite the wet conditions, braising does not add moisture to meat. To see the dynamic at work for ourselves, we set up a test designed to simulate braising. We placed samples of beef chuck, along with measured amounts of broth, in individual vacuum-sealed bags to eliminate the possibility of evaporation. We then submerged the bags in water held at 190 degrees (the temperature of a typical braise) for 90 minutes. We found that the weight of the meat decreased  an average of 12.5 percent during cooking while the volume of liquid increased, demonstrating that moisture had been pulled from the meat into the surrounding liquid, not the other way around.

So why, then, does braised meat seem so moist? Gentle cooking helps break down the meat’s connective tissue and collagen, which lubricate and tenderize its fibers. The resulting soft, tender texture is (mistakenly) perceived as moist.