Braising food like meat and poultry is one of the easiest, tastiest ways to cook. The method involves searing food before cooking it in liquid using a slow cooker or Dutch oven. The resulting meat has a delicious, caramelized exterior with a tender inside.
After dinner, it’s tempting to tip out the remaining juices, but they’re packed with flavor. It's better to keep every last drip and save for future recipes. If you need some inspiration, then keep reading to get a complete list of uses for leftover braising liquid.
What meals benefit from unused braising liquid?
If you need some ideas for using up surplus braising liquid, then add it to grains, soups, stews, and dumplings. You can also use it for scrambled eggs, sauces, glazing food, or deglazing a pan. It’s ideal for freezing into ice cubes and keeping on hand for later use.
Cook grains like rice, quinoa, and polenta in unused meat juice. They’ll absorb the liquid and all that flavor, resulting in a flavorful, aromatic meal. Dishes like risotto and pork katsudon are perfect for this use and if you need more liquid, top it up with stock or water.
Also read: our top 12 tips for cooking rice on the stove top.
Intensify the flavor of soup and give it real depth with the leftover juices from your braised dish. It’s great splashed into hearty popular varieties like vegetable, French onion, potato and leek, chicken, or beef soup with some extra bouillon.
Ready to make another braise? Re-using the old juices is a delicious option for bringing new flavor to your braised meats like beef cheeks and pot roast, or added to an oxtail stew. You’ll only want to use the leftovers once though as the liquid can go downhill in flavor with too much re-purposing.
Braising liquid is suitable for repurposing into a bath for dumplings. They’re great for matzah ball soup, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, or Turkish manti dumplings. Some dishes like soup dumplings are better served in a lighter broth (low-collagen), so water the liquid down with stock if it’s too heavy.
Scrambled eggs are exquisite with a light splashing of braising liquid. Not too much though, or they won’t taste good. Adding extras like scallions, bacon, and spinach is also a good idea. Learn more about cooking eggs here.
One of your best options for using surplus braising liquid is to make it into a sauce. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Slurry: Heat the liquid in a pot then toss in a tablespoon on cornflour and stir until smooth. The slurry will thicken deliciously, ready for your next tender skirt steak.
Reduction: To make a flavor-packed meat sauce reduce the liquid in a pan by cooking on a medium heat. Stir until it reaches a thick consistency then drop in a knob of butter.
Roux: Make a roux by cooking flour and butter in a pan then add the braising liquid and stir until smooth. A beurre manié can be used in place of a roux.
Add a glossy shine to meat like short ribs and pork. You’ll need to reduce the braising liquid until it’s thick and sticky, then brush it all over your preferred meat. It’ll turn shiny and deliciously sticky once cooked in the oven.
Instead of sloshing in half a cup of wine or verjuice to deglaze a pan, use braising liquid. It is a tasty, alcohol-free option that will combine perfectly with those leftover bits of meat in the pan.
Split peas, urad dal, lentils, and lima beans are excellent cooked in the unused liquid from your last braise. Their mild flavor is transformed with a shot of robust, umami taste. Meatier legumes will work better with a richer braising liquid.
10. Faux butter
Next time you need to sauté, have a break from butter and oil. Instead, try a little braising liquid. The fats will stop the food from sticking to the pan and you’ll get extra flavor on those leafy greens. A couple of our favorite vegetables to saute are malabar spinach, gai lan, or mustard greens.
Give mashed potatoes loads more flavor by peeling them and boiling in residual braise liquid. Top up with stock or water if needed.
12. Freeze leftovers
There’s no pressure to use up leftover braising liquid the next night. Instead, skim off any fat once cooled and pour into ice cube trays. Wait a couple of hours for them to freeze then pop the cubes into freezer-proof bags for easy storage. Now you have portion-sized blocks of flavor for whenever you need it.
One of the easiest ways to use up the leftovers is with bread. Simply warm the liquid up in a microwave when you’re hungry and use thick, white bread to mop it up. This is a quick and easy snack when you're too busy to cook.
Congee is a smooth rice porridge popular in Asian cuisine. It is often eaten as a savory dish for breakfast and can have ingredients such as chicken or fish added. Instead of just using water, add some braising liquid to bolster the flavor.
If you haven’t got much braised liquid remaining, then use it in dips. One or two tablespoons is a good way to flavor onion dip. Otherwise, reduce it and use it as a French dip au jus, ideal for a meat sub.
16. Pasta sauce
Enrich pasta sauces like a classic bolognese or ragu by including the liquid. You’ll need to cook the pasta first in water, then strain and continue simmering in the liquid until shiny. It’ll taste delicious and speed up the cooking time.
Asian stir-fries are a good match for leftover meat juices. Mix the liquid with your favorite punchy ingredients like tamarind paste or gochujang, before adding to the pan with the vegetables and meat.
Quick tips for using leftover braising liquid
- Whether you’re braising heavy meat, chicken, or vegetables, any liquid that’s remaining in the pot after you’re done can be re-used in recipes.
- To work out how fatty the leftovers are, leave them refrigerated overnight. It is easy to remove the congealed white fat the next day if you want a lighter dish.
- Taste test the leftovers and imagine what meal the liquid will work well in.
Is braising one of your preferred cooking methods? If so, your household should have plenty of flavor-packed juices ready to go. Looking at the list above, you can see there are lots of ways to use it in recipes.
Most food that gets cooked in stock will usually benefit from a little liquid gold. Grains, soups, stews, and dumplings are all excellent ways to use leftover braising liquid.
It’s also well-suited to freezing for another day. Transfer the liquid to a container and freeze it in one solid block if you’re likely to use it all in one go. Otherwise, use ice cube trays to create handy, portion-control cubes of savory flavor.