Braising meat is one of my favorite techniques for preparing venison and other wild game. Combined with cooking in red wine, braising can’t be beat for creating rich flavor and body. Moreover, this low-temperature cooking method helps tenderize even very tough cuts of meat.
This Red Wine Braised Venison recipe is a perfect example! You can watch me cook it on the Monday, September 26th episode of The Sporting Chef.
What does it mean to braise meat?
Braising is a two-part cooking method. First, you brown the meat at a fairly high temperature. Then you simmer it at low temperature in a covered pot for a long time.
It’s really pretty simple to braise meat. The key is patience! For maximum tenderness and flavor, you have to let the meat cook low and slow in the second step.
Braising Step 1: Brown the Meat
For the best browning, pat the meat dry with a paper towel first. Then sear batches of it on the stovetop until golden. Use a sizzling hot, seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet or Dutch oven.
I have found that the meat browns better with no oil in the pan. If you do use oil, make sure it is smoking hot.
You don’t have to brown all the meat at once. Instead, divide it into batches. As each batch browns, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
Finally, be sure to deglaze the pan. Add a little wine or other liquid to loosen the bits of seared meat at the bottom of the pan. Then use a spoon to scrape up all the brown bits and incorporate their flavor into your sauce.
Braising Step 2: Cook in Oven at Low Heat
Along with low temperature, you need sufficient liquid in the pot when braising meat. The muscle and collagen rich connective tissue of the meat dissolve into gelatin. The gelatin, in turn, adds body to the cooking liquid.
How much liquid do you need to braise meat?
For braising, you only need as much liquid as will come up halfway to three quarters of the way up the meat. Though using a pressure cooker isn’t braising, the idea is the same.
Why cook low and slow?
Over long cooking time, the meat at first dries and then absorbs back the fat and gelatin as well as the flavors from the fortified liquid. This process eventually makes the meat both tender and extra tasty.
The optimal temperature for braising is typically between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than most slow cookers go. Often even ovens do not stay this low. If you cut the meat into small pieces, as I have in this recipe, the braising temperature can be higher, around 250 degrees to 300 degrees.
You can even marinate the meat overnight in an acidic liquid such as tomato juice, wine, beer, or even cola before braising. The meat will become more tender and succulent from the marinade.
Braising in wine is especially good for venison and other wild game. In this venison dish, a good red wine not only tenderizes the meat but also creates a silky gravy and elevates the flavor. Of course, you can substitute with stock, but red wine adds depth of flavor. That’s partly because wine dissolves the fats and releases their flavors into the sauce.
What type of meat is best for braising?
You can braise many different kinds of meat — chicken, beef, short ribs, lamb shanks, pork shoulder, and of course, wild game like venison. The key is to match the cut of meat to the cooking method. Like stews, braising works magic on tougher cuts of meat such as venison shoulders, shanks, and neck.
Braising meat, when successful, intermingles the flavor of your vegetables, herbs, wine, and liquids, making it a dish worth savoring!
Learn more tips and tricks for cooking venison in my post Ten Tips to Know When Preparing Venison.
Red Wine Braised Venison
- 1 1/2 pounds venison cut into one-inch pieces
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4 carrots finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 32 ounces whole or crushed tomatoes with their juices
- 2 cups good red wine Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Pinot noir
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
- Dry cut meat with a paper towel for optimal browning. In a sizzling hot Dutch oven, cook venison until golden brown in batches and remove to a plate.
- Add a little of the wine to the pot to deglaze the pan and scrape all the brown bits up.
- Add olive oil to the Dutch oven along with the onions and carrots. Cook the vegetables until they are translucent, then add the garlic cloves. Cook vegetables and cloves for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes and the wine to the pot and stir gently. Add venison to the mixture. Place the pot in the oven and cook covered on for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until fork tender.
- Serve over rice with a side salad and crusty bread.