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Dumb question: crockpot, same as braising?

If you brown the meat before it goes in the crockpot, is it the same as braising?

I'm just curious why I couldn't adapt any old braising recipe to the crockpot...

~TDQ

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  1. I do this all the time; works great.

    1. I adapt my regular braising recipes to the crockpot all the time. The one thing you need to be careful of is adjusting the amount of liquid-- since cooking in the crockpot generates so much fluid, you need to radically decrease the amount of liquid when you adapt a regular recipe to the crockpot.

      1. Disclaimer: I am anti crockpot except when being used as a food warmer. I believe technically it's considered the same, but the results are far superior braising on the stove or in an oven.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          I'm just curious why the results are different and the "excess" water is an issue with the crockpot? Braising is cooking over a long period of time with liquid, covered, right? And so is crockpot cooking. Is temperature the difference? I'm just curious why the results aren't the same.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I'm not sure why the results aren't the same, but the sauces are far more watery and not "rich" and the meat tends to be overcooked into mush. Braising on the stove takes 1.5-3 hours or so depending on the dish whereas a dish will be in a crockpot for 4-8 hours or more. The higher temperature of the stove/oven will reduce a sauce and keep the meat from becoming a shadow of it's former self is my best guess.

          2. re: Janet from Richmond

            I agree. The results are superior braising on the stove or in an oven. But the crockpot makes a decent alternative for days when I want some hearty comfort food but won't be around the house long enough to watch the braising.

            1. re: Shawn

              The ability to leave it unattended, as well as the not-heating-up the house+energy savings (vs. in the oven) is what appeals to me...

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Me too. I enjoy making "real" braises on weekends in the winter, but it is too hot here in Texas in summer for me to even think of making a long cooking dish on the stove or in the oven. The crockpot doesn't heat up the house the way the oven does, and I also think it is much cheaper to run, what with the price of gas nowadays.

                1. re: Chile Pepper

                  I live in Virginia and I would assume in Texas you have central AC, but having said that I don't see braising on the stove top as less energy efficient (or heating the house significantly) than using a crockpot with far, far, far superior results, especially since the crockpot takes longer.

                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    Don't assume that everyone in Texas has central AC. I don't, and anything that keeps the heat down in the kitchen is a great tool for me.

                    1. re: danhole

                      I have central air, but it really makes a HUGE difference on how hard it has to work when you don't turn on the stove or oven, believe me!

                      I made red-cooked chicken last summer, on a very hot day. First you brown it on all sides in the wok, then you braise it for an hour, I think. It took the AC 3 hours to bring the house back down. I won't be doing that again!! (although at least I had some good insulation put in this winter)

          3. In a crockpot, if the liquid level is "over" the meat, its often considered "stewing", whereas braising the liquid is usually just up over the sides of the meat.

            Doesn't make that much difference... it might be a bit tied to the cleanup - braising, you can do the browning of meat, sauteing of veggies - all the stuff necessary to get a sauce going - in a single pan, then throw it into the oven for the braising part. With a crock, you have to use a separate pan for that prep work.

            12 Replies
            1. re: grant.cook

              Ah, yes, the stewing distinction is important.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                It might.. stewing is basically simmering inside a hot liquid medium, whereas braising seems more like roasting in a very humid environment with liquid dripping back down on top of the protein. A lot of cooking methods can morph into something else easily - stir-frying becomes steaming, for example, if not done right. You'd have to ask someone with far more experience than I.

              2. re: grant.cook

                I have a crockpot that can brown meat on the stovetop....

                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  You mean you can remove the crock and set it on the stovetop? Does that work for any removable crock?

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    No! Only certain ones with stainless steel "crocks" and a few other specially designed inserts.

                      1. re: ChowFun_derek

                        Ok, thanks for the clarification on that Caitlin and Derek! I won't try to use my ceramic crock on the stove top! But, I have to say, those crockpots look pretty awesome, though I'm just not sure I'm willing to spend $250 on one! (Thankfully, the cheaper models are much more affordable!)

                        Derek--convenience aside, do you think these crockpots that enable you to brown the meats stove-top, like the one you have, yield results that are closer to traditional braising. Or, is it about the same as any other crockpot except for the convenience of not having to do your browning in a separate pan?

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          I have the West Bend crockpot that Derek linked to, and while I do think it is really convenient to be able to brown the meat in the same pan, I don' t think the actual results are closer to traditional braising. It's just one less pot to clean. I have been happy with that model, though.

                          1. re: Shawn

                            Thank you, Shawn. So, it sounds like in order to get results closest to a traditional braise people are saying, 1) brown the food first, 2) use less liquid, and 3) use higher heat, shorter cooking time.

                            I also noticed one of the of the crockpots on Amazon forms a tight seal around the lid. Do you think there's any advantage to that? I'm guessing no, because the crockpot method already seems to retain too much water somehow.

                            Do people think more steam must be escaping when you braise compared to the amount of steam that (doesn't) escape when you use a crockpot?

                            The truth is, for the convenience and energy savings reasons, especially with summer coming (and I do have central air, but on the hottest days I still have to crank the central air and I can't imagine adding more heat to the kitchen at that point...) I will probably continue to use a crockpot, but I'd just like to figure out how to make it as close as possible to actual braising.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Theoretically, a seal will form with the steam/water between the lid and the top of the crockpot. I don't know how much more the one on Amazon is that tightly seals but any decent crockpot should do it. I'd say one of the drawbacks of the crockpot might be the excessive moisture for some foods. But, it's not tighter than using my All Clad stainless steel pot in the oven for braising. If you are in the market for a crockpot, the most important feature to me is that timer. And, if I were to get a new one, I'd check out the new Hamilton Beach one that has three different crock sizes for the same base. A small crockpot is great for fondue.

                              http://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beach-...

                              And, I agree about summer cooking. I only use my crockpot in the winter. It gets too hot in the kitchen, plus who wants stews and the like in the heat of summer?

                              1. re: chowser

                                I'm not really in the market for a new crockpot (we have 3! a classic one, a mini-one we use for dips at parties, and a newish 6 quart one), though, the lid on our 6 quarter crockpot just broke... More than anything, I'm just trying to figure out how to achieve the best results with the crockpot I have. I have some braising recipes I'd like to adapt and I'm just trying to figure out how to do that.

                                ~TDQ

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            It is more convenient.. (no additional pot to wash, and you can deglaze very easily)....I sometimes crack the lid a little later in the cooking process to let some steam escape and thicken the sauce somewhat.....but all the 'braising' family including pressure cookers have unique peculiarities which need to be tested and mastered...

                2. I think that the meat in the crock pot comes out with a very different texture than it does with a traditional braise method. I prefer the oven to the stove top as I beleive it is a drier heat and the flavors of the dish develope more.

                  1. If I sear the meat first and use the timer on the crockpot so it doesn't overcook, I think the results are the same as on the stove or in the oven for a lot of foods but you can't just cook all day with the crockpot or all the food gets mushy and tastes the same. Depending on what I'm making, I will also take out the meat and cook the sauce, either on high on the crockpot (not optimal but better than getting another pot dirty) or cook it on the stove to thicken. Or, I'll use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables. But, usually I dredge the meat in seasoned flour first and then add more of the flour to the mire poix that I've sauteed on the stove. Deglaze w/ wine, add the liquids and cook until it starts to thicken and then transfer all to the crockpot.

                    You can't beat the convenience. It's taken me years to get used to using it but now that I have, it's most most used appliance during the week in the winter. I love coming home to stews, chili, etc. and having little to nothing left to do. As Shawn said, you do have to adjust for the liquids, about 1/2-1 cup depending on what you're making. It's not easier than braising on the stove (too many people just pop everything together and cook) but it works.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chowser

                      I agree. I use my crockpot at least once a week, especially in the summer. I sear any meat in a frying pan, brown any veggies that need browning, pour off grease, deglaze and put the whole mess in the crockpot with whatever other liquids, seasonings and veggies the dish needs.

                      Usually I put it in the fridge at this point overnight. The next morning I put the very cold crock in the crockpot and turn the timer to come on a bit later.

                      I have a nice hot dinner, that tastes wonderful, ready when I get home. The house isn't hot, I'm not worried about it burning down while I am at work and I am not eating the easy summer food every night.

                    2. Braising is actually a combination of dry heat and moist heat. First the food is seared (dry heat) and then it is cooked with liquid (moist heat). The crock pot doesn't give that searing to carmelize the outer layer of the food. So it is more like steaming/stewing. Maybe you could sear before putting in the crock pot and don't cook the life out of it. Use the higher setting for a shorter time. I never use a crock pot unless I'm making my delish pear butter.

                      1. In Praise of Crockpot: 1) Dinner is ready when you get home from work, and nothing beats that. 2) You can make chicken stock overnight with no labor at all. 3) I disagree that braising is always better than the CP. When I make beef curry or barbecued beef in the crockpot I LIKE the almost melting quality of the meat. And I don't brown it first, either.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Querencia

                          Yes, like short ribs where the meat falls off the bones. You can't beat that. And, coming home and smelling dinner that's already done.

                        2. The single most important criterium for braising is that the temperature of the meat must be above 225-25-40 for about 2 hours for a dish to "braise".. this temp is necessary to break down the connective tissues in most cuts that one would be braising. Some crock pots just don't get hot enough to do it right. also, If you are covering the meat with liquid, then I agree with grant.cook that you're stewing not braising.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chazzerking

                            Thank you for that! Very helpful. I should check the product info for my crockpot and see what the temps are.

                            I think some of the more advanced crockpots let you set the actual temp, although, I'm not sure at the higher temps it would be safe to leave it unattended...

                            ~TDQ