Stewing and braising are so similar that they are almost identical. Both are cooked over low heat, in a liquid in a covered pot, for a long period of time. Both are easily prepared, relatively low in cost, flavorful, and hold up well. They are great do-ahead items, taste better the next day, and freezes easily. In other words, both techniques should be on of your list of go-to meal ideas.
The difference is braising calls for less liquid and meat that is either whole or large pieces. Stews are usually made of small meat totally covered with liquid, most often water. The meat may or may not be browned first, and the cooking liquid becomes the sauce, which can be thickened with flour.
Braising is a combination of cooking methods. The meat is first sautéed in fat for color and extra flavor and then slow-cooked in a relatively small amount of liquid until tender. Any casserole with a tight-fitting lid such as a Dutch oven is suitable.
Stews and braises offer the cook many creative opportunities when vegetables are added. Harder vegetables such as onions, carrots, and parsnips hold up well when cooked for a longer time. More delicate additions that will lose their color and shape when overcooked, like mushrooms, potatoes, peas, and green beans, should be mixed in during the final 20-30 minutes stage. If the dish is made ahead, these vegetables can go into the pot during the reheating period.
One of the most attractive features of stews and braises is while they take extra time to prepare, once done, they keep well and need only to be reheated to serve. Try our quick and easy beef stew recipe.
Easy Beef Stew with Mushrooms - Serves 6