Basic Methods - Stews, Braised Dishes and Casseroles

Basic Methods - Stews, Braised Dishes and Casseroles

Stewed meat involves slow, moist cooking on the stove. The meat is cooked in its own juices with the addition of a liquid, herbs and vegetables. Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. A casserole is not a cooking method but the container in which a stew is cooked in the oven. However, today many people call any stew that is cooked, covered, in the oven a 'casserole'.

Braising means browning a piece of meat quickly in hot fat or oil before adding liquid for the rest of the cooking process. Stews and casseroles are economical. They often use the less expensive, tougher, coarser cuts of meat, which become tender in the slow cooking process. Meat is stewed in liquid in a covered pot. This keeps the meat moist and provides a gravy.


Veal: All veal cuts are suitable for stews. Knuckle is a favorite cut; neck is also delicious.

Beef: Choose cuts such as topside and rump, or stewing steak. Before serving, you must cool the cooked stew or casserole and remove any fat that settles on top.

Mutton or Lamb: Chops are good cooked in this way, and you can use the less expensive cuts as stewing will tenderize them. Also try neck or shin.

Pork: Buy lean pork. Belly pork and chops from any part of the beast are good for using in stews and casseroles.

Basic method for Stews and Casseroles

1. Trim meat of all visible fat and cut into neat, even-sized pieces, about 2.5cm (1 in). If meat is very tough, cut pieces even smaller.

2. Place meat in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole which has a tight-fitting lid.

3. Prepare vegetables and add to meat.

4. Add water or meat/ vegetable stock. Use approximately 1 liter (1.75 pints) liquid to 1kg (2lb) meat.

5. Add herbs and flavorings as desired.

6. For stews: Bring to the boil. Reduce heat immediately and simmer for 90-120 minutes, or until meat is completely tender: Stir the stew occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.

   For casseroles: Bake, covered, in the oven at 160-180C/ 325-350F/ gas 3-4, for 2-3 hours, or until meat is completely tender.

7. Thicken (as below, or according to your recipe) and serve.

Note: Stews and casseroles improve in flavor if left to stand. This means you can store the cooked dish in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, skim away any fat that has settled on top, reheat the dish and serve.

Thickening and Reducing Stews and Casseroles

If you like a thicker gravy for a stew or casserole you can do this in one of three ways.

Thickening with flour/ cornflour (cornstarch): Use this method at the beginning or end of the cooking process. To keep fat content down, the stews and casseroles been thickened with a blend of liquid (stock, water or milk) and flour or cornflour. the mixture is stirred in and cooked briefly just before serving. Cornflour is less likely to cause lumps, so we use this in preference to flour.

If flour is to be used as thickening at the start of the cooking, meat can be tossed in flour before being seared (sealed) in hot fat, or dropped into boiling water or stock.

Thickening with a beurre maniť: At the end of the cooking period you can add a beurre maniť (a stiff blend of fat and flour) to thicken a stew or casserole. However, we do not recommend this as it adds fat to the dish.

Reducing: Remove the lid from the saucepan or casserole during the last 30 minutes of cooking-time. This allows the cooking liquid to evaporate, leaving a thicker gravy. Reducing is most successful in dishes containing plenty of vegetables which break down during cooking and help thicken the gravy.

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