I was having a discussion recently with someone, and we were talking about an instruction that I usually include in most of my recipes for West African stews and soups, “braise the meat”. I have realized that this is one instruction that needs a little more clarity. As such, I decided to do a little deep dive into how to braise meat properly when preparing to make stews and soups. I also include a recipe that you can follow along with in case you need measurements to start with; I will make the instructions as clear as possible so you can braise any amount of meat you have to get the best flavor out of it.
The following techniques showing how to braise meat when preparing to make soups or stews are commonly employed in Western Africa. People either boil or braise their meats, but braising typically gives more flavor to the meat, and ultimately to the stock that is produced from the cooking process There are a few things to consider when braising meat for cooking West African stews and soups.
What it Means to Braise Meat the West African Way
While commonly braised meat refers to searing the meat in oil at a high temperature, then eventually simmering the meat in some liquid or water, West Africans typically braise meat by flavoring and cooking the meat on low temperature with little or no water in its own juices
Best Meat Types for Braising:
Braising is usually done with meats that can withstand long and slow cooking; specifically referring to meats like beef, mutton (aka lamb), chevon (aka goat meat), old layer chickens, and turkey wings. Meats not ideal for braising would be young chickens, most seafood, or other tender meats that take a short time to fully cook. Tender meats are not ideal because they tend to fall apart after a short cooking time and can sometimes get dry. Meat with the bone in is perfect for this style of braising because it tends to be more flavorful. To prep the meat, it should be cut into stew meat chunks.
Recommended Braising Pots:
Always use a good quality heavy bottom pot when braising meat, as it would prevent the stock produced when braising from drying up too quickly. A deep pot with a cover is also works as a braising pot as it allows the meat to stew in its juices hence enhancing the flavor even more.
West African Braising Recipes/Flavors:
Most of the time when boiling or braising meat for West African stews and soups, the meat is cooked with onions and salt. Each braising recipe usually calls for different flavors depending on what is being cooked. For instance, when making a tomato stew some people season their braised meat with bouillon, onions, salt, curry and thyme. You can get creative once you have tried a few standard braising recipes yourself.
Braising Temperature and Cooking Time:
To get the perfect texture, tenderness and favor in your braised meat, it is important that the meat is braised on low heat for a long time. A low braising temperature enables the flavors that the meat is braised in penetrate the meat properly while the meat gets tender. The range of time that meat should braise for can range from about 1- 2 hours depending on the type of meat being used, the freshness of the meat, and your desired tenderness.
Amount of Water or Braising Liquid used when Braising Meat:
Depending on the level of freshness of the meat you will be braising, you might need more or less water (or other braising liquid) to braise your meat. If your meat is very fresh, you might be able to get away with using no water at all, but it is always safe to use at least ½ a cup of water, that way your meat does not burn. You may add more or less water depending on how dry it gets during the braising process.
This braising recipe that I will be sharing is suitable for most soups and stews but as was mentioned earlier, you can adjust the flavors to suit your preference or to suit the recipe that you are following.
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How to Braise Meat Properly for West African Stews/Soups
- 4 lbs goat meat chunks (or any type of meat)
- 1 large onion sliced
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bullion
- ½ cup water
- Rinse the goat meat, amd place in a heavy bottom pot with the onion, scotch bonnet pepper, bullion, salt and water.
- Place the braising pot on low-medium heat and boil for 30 minutes undisturbed
- After 30 minutes, stir the braising meat and add water if necessary, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.
- After the meat has been cooking for about 1 hour, check the consistency to see if it has reached your desired tenderness. If it has not, cover and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until the meat is tender.
This braising recipe should be all you need to properly braise your meat recipes for West African dishes. Now you’re an expert, feel free to share with your friends how to braise meat properly without losing the tenderness and delicious flavors of West African dishes or send them here and try out your new skills with a couple of delicious stews like this Spinach stew or this amazing eggplant stew. You’ll immediately love the difference it makes!