The winter season means cold weather and hot cooking. It’s a time to break out your slow cookers and Instant Pots for simple, hearty meals that warm your home and fill your kitchen with the smells of the season. The best winter meals are cooked slowly and fully loaded with rich, seasonal favorites like braised meats, winter stews and filling chilis. Keep reading for tips, tricks and recipes to make cold weather meals that will keep your family full and fed all season long.
Braising is a simple, no fuss way to cook inexpensive, high-fat meats in liquid over a low, consistent heat for about 1½ to 3 hours. You can use wine, beer, stock or water as your liquid but when using stock, try to match it with your protein, if you can’t, use basic chicken stock. When braising, about ⅓ to ½ of your meat should be under liquid, but too much will dilute the sauce and flavors. Select fatty, tougher cuts of meat like pork shoulders, chuck roasts and bone-in chicken thighs and be sure to brown your meat first, then pat dry before braising to ensure the best possible braise.
For full meals, choose the correct size pot that fits your ingredients comfortably without too much or too little space. Braising in an Instant Pot? Check out some of our Instant Pot tips and tricks.
Unlike braises, stews use smaller cuts of meat submerged completely in broth. Unlike soups, stews contain less liquid and can often be served on a plate, not just in a bowl. The most important ingredient in a delicious stew is time. Time allows your meat to break up and become more tender and a richer, deeper flavor to develop. For ultimate stew success, use a homemade broth whenever possible and sear your meat first.
Since your meats will take time to cook and soften, add in your vegetables from least tender — like potatoes — to most tender — like carrots and onions — so they don’t end up watery and over-cooked. Then finish off with fresh herbs like rosemary, parsley or basil for that extra pop of seasonal flair.
Whlle chili is considered a type of stew due to its low liquid content, it’s usually made with chili or chili powders to earn its name. Basic chilis contain chili peppers or powder, meat, tomatoes, and — depending on where you’re from — beans.
For a warm, hearty chili be sure you have time to cook for at least 90 minutes or use a slow cooker the night before so your ingredients have the opportunity to break down and build flavor. To really seal the deal, stir in a tablespoon or two of raw cocoa powder near the end of cooking. Like adding salt to hot chocolate, adding chocolate to chili adds depth and richness, making it both more savory and more satisfying.
Unlike stews, braises and chilis, soup is primary liquid and always served in a bowl. Whether you’re creating a brothy chicken soup or a creamy tomato, soups are delicious, freezer-friendly meals to get you through the winter. Check out some easy soup recipes and tips you can try today!