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Plastic wrap in the oven

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Hi Hounds,

I have a knotty little problem, and I suspect I'm doing something wrong.

In Susanne Goin's wonderful book, she talks about using plastic wrap on the top of a braising pot, and then putting the whole lot in the oven. Sensing that this is a counter-intuitive move, she says 'It really works!'.

Except that it didn't for me, yesterday.

I was making a beef stew with chocolate (see last week's board), which turned out to be a complete winner. But not before I had a minor heart attack.

I prepped everything, then put the plastic wrap across the top of my copper braiser, then topped it with the lid, which is reasonably heavy (Susanne calls for aluminum foil). Next time I checked everything, about an hour later, the wrap had disintegrated. There it was sitting on top of the liquid, in one piece, so I was able to fish it out. There was no remnant of the wrap that was outside the pot.

Any thoughts, expert ones?

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  1. Copper Braiser is the clue I picked up on.

    My copper pan rims are very hot compared to my other pan rims.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Alan408

      exactly what I was thinking. copper.

      when we freeze lasagna and eggplant parm in pyrex, we but a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. The plastic peels off with the foil after we bake it.

    2. a couple of things. Most plastic wraps can't tolerate any kind of heat like that. As far as I know, the only one that can is the original saran wrap - it's much thicker than other brands. However, even that, if I remember correctly, can't go above 250. (it's used by some BBQers for certain smoking applications where the temps are around 225).

      Regardless, in my oven, where temps fluctuate anyway, I don't see much reason not to use aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap for a braise... You can make a pretty tight seal of foil, then top with the lid, if you'd like. I think the differences between that and a 100 percent perfect seal would be negligible...

      good luck.

      1 Reply
      1. re: adamclyde

        I always use plastic wrap (commercial junk, not Saran) under alum foil for any casseroles I bake that have tomato in them, otherwise the acid pits the foil and I'm afraid I'm eating pure aluminum. Never had a problem; as a mattter of fact it cooks up better than just foil as it's sealed up real tight. Just be careful when you open that the steam doesn't get you, and don't leave lots of extra length hanging over as those parts will melt. Never tried with a metal lid though.

      2. For what itÂ’s worth, Molly Stevens in her book on braising describes using parchment to help make a seal. I too wonder how necessary this is.

        1. You used a heavy copper lid (on a copper pot) instead of light foil that was directed.

          I would use foil under that lid.

          1. Oy vey! If you read somewhere to cover a casserole with aluminum foil before heating it in the nuker, you gonna do that too?

            Recipes are like the internet, somethings are true and others are not.

            1. On a non-braise related but plastic wrap in the oven related incident, I learned that forgetting to remove the plastic wrap from the top of one's cinnamon buns before putting them in the oven yields you perfect cinnamon buns with a nice plasticky glaze on top... mmm.... :(.

              Even in the microwave most plastic wraps (and cheap plastic containers) have warped quite a bit from the heat so I would recommend a lid or aluminum foil instead if you're braising in the oven (even at just 200 F oven temperature) or you'll be getting plastic stew again.

              1. just fyi - you can throw an individually wrapped slice of american cheese onto a hot charcoal grill - the plastic will not melt, even as the cheese is boiling inside. Not exactly braising, but interesting as data for the melting point of a certain polymer.

                Link: http://www.cheeseracing.org/

                1. I made that recipe a couple of weeks ago and saw the same comment about putting plastic wrap on top of the braising dish but I refused to believe it. Instead I wrapped the dish in waxed paper and covered it with foil and that worked well. I decided that I didn't know at what temperature the plastic wrap would release fumes and I'd rather not have them infused in my short ribs.

                  Another option would be to do the classic flour and water seal used when making a daube.

                  1. Thanks hounds.

                    The key was the aluminum. I should have used plastic wrap and then aluminum. Truth is, when I just use the lid on my braiser, the dish works very very well, without any help from plastic or aluminum.

                    But I'm glad to know the correct wrap/foil method.