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Jan 6, 2005 10:40 AM

parchment paper as a lid for braise

  • t

Lots of cookbooks recommend using piece of parchment paper with a hole in the middle as a pot lid when making a braise.

Having always been satisfied with my braises when I simply use the pot's normal lid, is there anything I'm missing by not trying this?


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  1. I sorta remember something or other about how the condensation that forms on the lid and then drips back down into the food can have acidic/off flavors. I'll have to consult my McGee..

    1. I used to cut a circle of paper from a brown paper shopping bag and place that under my stewpot lid. I think I got that idea out of one of the Romagnoli's Italian cookbooks. Last time I made a pot roast, I used a piece of tin foil.

      I think the purpose of using paper or foil under the lid of the pot is simply to create a better 'seal' between the pot and its lid and to keep the moisture generated by cooking the stew from seeping out.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        I'm actually talking about using a parchment lid INSTEAD OF the pot's normal lid, Not in addition to.

        In the "French Laundry Cookbook", Thomas Keller explains that PP lids "allow some evaporation as well as a long cooking time, and they also protect the surface of the meat from becoming carmelized as it cooks. It's like having a lid and not having a lid at the same time."

        I accept that all of this may be true, but can't one accomplish the same thing by simply leaving the pot's lid slightly ajar? What about braises in which you're using no liquid at all (besides whatever liquid exudes from the meat)? Won't the PP lid allow too much moisture to escape?


        1. re: Tom Meg

          Although I would never challenge the wisdom of Chef Keller, I have never heard of braising or stewing without a lid on the pot. Does Keller recommend cooking this dish in the oven or on the stovetop? I could see doing it if you are cooking in the oven, I suppose.

          1. re: Tom Meg

            I have been utilising this technique since reading about it in Keller's book. I have not noticed a difference in flavor of the braising liquid but it keeps the bits of meat poking out of the liquid from drying out and darkening. I think this improvement is worth it- I will use foil if I don't have parment on hand.


        2. In the new book "All About Braising", Molly Stevens discusses the reason for a parchment lid. She recommends parchment (no hole in it) put directly atop the meat in *addition* to the pot lid. According to her, the condensation which drips back down into the pot to baste the meat is key (some braising vessels have pegs on the underside of the lid to encourage it). She says that putting the parchment on keeps the vapors more concentrated and thus heightens the flavor (even with a tight pot lid, she feels the vapors diffuse too much). I'm not fully sold on this, but I've started doing it. It's hard to tell whether it really makes any difference, though.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Spade

            Actually, maximizing the condensation will help reduce ever so slightly the temperature of the main body of liquid so that it is less likely to reach the boiling point. Parchment paper works better than foil because it does not conduct heat well -- thus making condensation more likely -- but foil will be better than nothing, and is more easily made a bit concave than parchment paper.

            1. re: Spade

              This technique works pretty well, allowing for a bit of evaporation, but keeping most of the moisture in. At the cooking school where I assist, we show our students how to make these parchment circles, using a large square piece of parchment paper, folding it over and then over again to make a small square, then folding it over again twice the way you'd make a paper airplane. Once you've done this, you cut or tear the resulting folded piece so that it is exactly the length of the radius of the pot -- and when you unfold it, you have a perfect circle, which you can either pierce once in the center, or leave intact. It's pretty quick and easy.

              Actually, there is a pictorial demo of this technique at:


              1. re: ddruker

                The books I learned from in the 60's and 70's (David, Child, Olney, Beard) all recommended adding a layer of parchment to increase the seal, decrease the evaporation, in a braise. They generally pointed out that this was an easy substitute instead of sealing a pot with fresh dough around the rim. Keller and Stevens have ignored this and moved on, without much additional benefit.

                There are few table presentations any better than releasing a pastry sealed daube or coq or pheasant from its hermetically sealed pastry enclosure.

            2. Here's a page from Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art, that explains the use of the Japanese 'drop lid', and a parchment paper substitute


              1. I think I remember seeing Alton Brown doing this on one show. I would assume it has to do with allowing some evaporation.