It’s a debate that has no right or wrong answer 🙂
Some are fierce advocates of browning meat prior to slow cooking it … while just as many are fiercely against doing so.
At the end of the day it comes down to your own personal choice 🙂
But let’s look at the reasons on both sides of the debate so you can decide what YOU want to do …
Reasons to brown:
- Faster cooking time – meat that is pre browned will mean the overall recipe won’t need as much cooking time
- Lock in moisture – sealing the surface of the meat can seal in extra moisture
- Increased flavour – those caramalised, brown yummy bits on the surface of your meat that come with browning have lots of flavour that would otherwise be missing from your finished dish. Browning with herbs or spices can also increase the richness of these flavours in your recipe.
- Appearance – sometimes despite no change in taste, having a meat ‘look’ browned appeals to the presentation of the final dish. The release of meat juices from unsealed meat can sometimes also change the look of your dish when it mixes with sauces etc and can appear almost as if cream based sauces have split, when they have not.
- Fat Removal – browning meat prior to cooking and then discarding those liquids produced is a great way to discard some of the fat from your finished dish. Especially when browning mince/ground beef etc and discarding that liquid fat produced.
- Thickening – meat dredged in flour, then browned prior to slow cooking will add to the thickness of the sauce in the final dish
Notes on browning if you choose to:
Use a good cast iron frying pan. They retain the heat better and if you look after them well, they’ll last a lifetime. The cheap ones will be in the bin in a month.
Be patient. Wait until the pan is incredibly hot before adding the meat. This is because you remove the heat from it when you add big chunks of meat to the pan. You should even think in terms of almost overheating it initially.
Make sure you have enough oil in the pan. Without sufficient oil, you scorch rather than caramelise the meat. When the pan’s not hot enough, the meat releases water so you’re really just boiling it.
Reasons not to brown:
- Convenience – this would have to be the #1 reason. Many of us are drawn to slow cooking by the sheer convenience of pouring a collection of ingredients into the bowl, turning on the machine and walking away. This convenience is lessened when one has to add extra steps to pre brown
- Time Factor – as well as saving you time not having to pre brown, the act of browning that then reduces the cooking time can work against many slow cookers who rely on the extended slow cooking period to make it work for them eg when they work all day
- Less Mess – while many new slow cookers have the option to sear in the same bowl as you slow cook, the traditional ceramic bowl slow cookers don’t have this option. So browning a dish means dirtying a fry pan or some sort of similar pan. Lets face it … who likes extra dishes? Not me!
- No Option – we see many of our members using slow cookers when they don’t have access to stoves/ovens. In this instance they may not have the option to brown their meats but shouldn’t think that means they can’t slow cook a dish that asks for it.
It really is up to you 🙂
Personally I very very rarely brown. Maybe 5% of the time that I slow cook and then it’s mostly only those recipes which call for thin strips of meat to be flour coated and browned prior to slow cooking.
Some days or some recipes you will want to – others you’ll want to just dump in your ingredients, set and forget.
Neither way is right or wrong.
But hopefully today we have given you the information to decide what’s right for you 🙂