stovetop vs oven braising
- Tom Meg
Another braising mystery:
Why do many recipes tell you to cook your braise on the stovetop at the BAREST simmer, OR put in the oven at 300F (sometimes higher)?
Putting braises in the oven at 300F always causes the liquid to boil quite vigorously.
Is this a contradiction or is boiling meat in an oven somehow gentler than boiling meat on a stovetop?
Some observations which may or may not be relevant:
---if I braise chunks of meat on the stovetop in my Creuset Dutch oven, some pieces of meat will become tender sooner than others (I'm guessing it's because some spend more time closer to the burner, and so maybe I should stir more often).
---if I braise in the oven at 225-250, the meat becomes incredibly succulent and tender, but this usually takes over 2x as long as the recipe states.
---if I braise in the oven at 300, the liquid boils like crazy. Meat turns out OK. Not amazing, but still good.
--braising on a stovetop has worked well for me when the recipe calls for a lot of liquid, and a single hunk of meat--eg. brisket, tafelspitz, boiled beef, etc. and I use a tall narrow pot and several flame tamers to keep the liquid well below the boiling point, and I set aside most of the day to let the meat cook until it's tender. I guess that would be more like 'extended poaching' rather than classic braising.
To braise or bbq correctly requires the correct temperature. Too hot or cold and the connective tissue doesn't break down like it should. Just right and the connective tissue melts away into the meat and becomes amazing.
I go with the longer time period and the lower heat. It's been my experience that that works best. I've had shin of beef come out tender enough you could almost cut it with a fork. As you say, you can get away with higher heat and a shorter time, but then the meat just comes out okay.
I also like oven braising because it allows me to put together a dish early in the day and ignore it for long periods of time.
Below are the oven braising stewing instructions for my preferred recipe for Boeuf a la Bourguignonne. The meat always comes out beautifully tender.
Cover and cook in a very slow oven: forty minutes at 300ºF, then 40 minutes at 275ºF, and finally 40 minutes at 250ºF. Total time is 2 hours. The secret of a good boeuf bourguignonne is a slow, gentle cooking.
Remove any obvious fat from the sauce. Add the beurre manie to the casserole in small lumps and stir into the casserole. Cover and cook at 250ºF a further 2 hours.
Well, in trying to actually answer your question, I would have to understand the mysteries of the writer's mind. You're right--braising something in the oven at 300F will cause it to boil--generally a no-no.
Because oven heat is not direct, the cooking does tend to be gentler and boiling at 300F with all-round oven heat is not quite the same as boiling on the stovetop with direct heat beneath. Therefore, yes, you can get away with allowing it to come to a low boil in the oven. I do allow that and it's generally fine. Even at 275F, it will eventually come to a low boil.
I have two assumptions I've made about the 300F directive (a directive I usually ignore):
- Because oven braising takes longer, the author jacks up the oven heat a little, knowing most people are too impatient for the time oven braising really takes. They want to give you a time similar to the one you'd get with a stovetop simmer.
- The author has never braised anything in the oven, and thinks 300F sounds like a reasonable temperature.
I would never try to braise over 275F in the oven; over that point you increase the risk of steaming the collagen (which boiling would represent), depending on the heft of the pot and the density of the flesh being braised -- though you do need to get the temperature of the meat slowly over 200F in order to melt the collagen. Placing foil, slightly concave, over the top of the pot before covering it can also help with proper recycling of condensation to reduce the likelihood of boiling.
Seems like no one is even trying to answer your question but you bring up a good point.
I would think 300 in an oven would be much faster than a very low simmer and thus change the cook time a great deal.
Maybe they see those instruction as basic guides and not gospel.
Since everyone else is guessing...my shot.
It takes a lot longer for the contents to boil in an oven than on a stove. Even though the meat has been browned, it is still cool in the center (whether a pot roast, or individual stew pieces). And all the liquid is room temp or lower. The oven slowly raises the temp from the outside in.
The stove is more efficient as heat rises from the bottom. And the usual tendancy is to bring to a boil then simmer.
So where the 300 comes in is that it speeds up the time to boiling, and thus the cooking time. That is, while the contents may take two hours to boil when oven is 225, it may only take an hour at 300. So in two hours at 225 you have only 45 minutes 'real' cooking time, while you have 1 1/4 hrs 'real' cooking time in the first two hours at 300.
I tried oven once, against better judgement, and have returned to stovetop. Someday I may try again at the 225-250.