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Sauerbraten cooked in a crock pot? Plus a bonus rant on cheap enameled cookware.

  • BabsW Dec 20, 2009 10:25 PM

I am putting on a German dinner for Christmas Eve and now I'm flipping out over the cooking method for the Sauerbraten. I had planned on using my brand new Martha Stewart enameled dutch oven...until I read that they don't recommend cooking acidic foods in it. ??!!

What's the point of an enameled cast iron pot in which you can't cook acidic foods?! How does this distinguish it fro regular cast iron? Ugh. So yes, I acted in haste and now am repenting at leisure.

I haven't even used the pot yet but am freaking out at the prospect of bits of enamel floating in what could be a wonderful sauce for the meat. It may be premature - Hell I only just took the thing out of the box to check for chips in the enamel. It LOOKS just fine, but I wouldn't want to experiment with a questionable product on a big occasion, y'know?

So I am thinking of returning the pot to Macy's. I am torn: I'd love a Le Creuset of course, but this IS the holiday season and I have just dropped a load of cash on Christmas AND a kid's birthday, so it isn't as easy as "Just pony up the cash for a LeC already."

I have an enormous crock pot which is really wonderful. Now, I ask Chowhounds, is there a any reason I can not just marinate the meat as usual for the 3 days or so and then cook it in a crock pot? I know it's not traditional and while I do like to stick to traditional recipes and methods whenever possible, if another method produces tasty results, there's no reason to reject them out of hand, right?

What say you?

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  1. Who recommends not cooking acidic foods in the dutch oven? Is it the manufacturer? I have never heard, read or even thought that you can't cook acidic foods in enamel. Cast iron, can be a problem, not enamel. Never a problem.
    So, if it is the manufacturer, return the pot when you can and get something enamel you can use for cooking everything, like Le Creuset or Staub.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/568909
    Now, when you say crock pot, do you mean slow cooker? I have limited experience with them but I know that braising a Sauerbraten slowly, as a slow cooker would, would be just fine. I did make a pot roast in one once and it was great.
    So that's what I say...

    1 Reply
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Yes, that was the manufacturer's recommendation on the Martha Stewart dish. It came with a card that reads (among other tips) "Do not cook or store acidic foods in order to preserve enameled surface."

      I was flabbergasted. What's the point of even enameling the darned thing, then?

      Crock pot = slow cooker, yes. The majority of the recipes I've found recommend a slower braise of the meat, so I figured that the crock pot would be fine, though not traditional. I could always cook the gravy in my stainless steel saucepan when the meat is resting.

      It also would keep my oven free and give me an extra burner, which is always good. I'm planning a lot of dishes for this dinner. :)

    2. Maybe a Tramontina 6.5-Qt. Cast Iron Dutch Oven from WalMart is what you should get instead - at $50, if it doen't do what you want, it's not the end of the world. Cooks Illustrated reviewed dutch ovens and it did well in all their tests. I have a slightly smaller dutch oven made by Chefmate, (Target, $40 - Cooks Illustrated value choice until the Tramontina came along) it's fine, but the enamal has chipped in one place in less than a year, and it wasn't due to obvious misuse.

      1 Reply
      1. re: barrettn

        At this point, I'd rather have something that I KNOW will do what I want (Staub or Le Creuset) than waste my money on something less trustworthy, y'know? I just can't really afford either of those at the moment. I will probably go with using the crock pot for the roast this week and return the Martha Stewart dutch oven.

        I didn't pay a whole lot, I ended up paying $64.00. It had been marked down from $159.99 I guess I mistakenly thought that if it was a bit more expensive than Lodge or Tramontina it must be better quality. As far as I am concerned, if I can't cook acidic foods in it, it's not quality.

        The irony of it is that this dish is beautiful... on the outside.

      2. Babs, I have the same Martha Stewart enameled cast iron dish and have never had any problems with it at all. It's great. No flaking or cracking or anything of the sort. I'm sure the manufacturer is just covering its you-know-what.

        8 Replies
        1. re: ChristinaMason

          That's excellent to know! Have you ever made anything acidic like a tomato-based sauce or even Sauerbraten in it?

          1. re: BabsW

            Yes, I've made chicken braised in tomato sauce, bolognese, coq au vin, etc. No issues. I'd keep it!

            1. re: ChristinaMason

              Good to know! I may give it a while then. :)

          2. re: ChristinaMason

            Of course, now I am torn all over again. lol

            Maybe I'll keep the pot and give it a try on something else somewhat acidic, chili or spaghetti bolognese, but NOT when I'm playing host to a bunch of people.

            1. re: BabsW

              I seriously, seriously don't think you'll have any problems. If you're really worried, marinate the meat in something separate (e.g., a big ziploc or a glass bowl covered in plastic wrap. But do the actual cooking in the Martha pot. I've never had a single problem, and I highly doubt you would.

              1. re: ChristinaMason

                I was planning on marinating in a big ziplock bag anyway.

                It's good to heat a positive review of the pot.

              2. re: BabsW

                I can't imagine that there would be a problem using the enameled pot, but whether or not you decide to keep it, if I were you I would write or e-mail both Macy's and Martha Stewart to complain vociferously. Cooking acidic foods is what enameled cookware is all about. It's as though your ice cube tray came with instructions not to use it below 32 degrees!

                1. re: greygarious

                  I may do that, because you're right about this:

                  "Cooking acidic foods is what enameled cookware is all about. It's as though your ice cube tray came with instructions not to use it below 32 degrees!"

            2. According to this recipe: http://www.beef-cooking.com/crock-pot...

              I can do it just as I thought, marinating for the recommended time, browning the meat on the stovetop and then cooking on a crock pot.

              Ok, one crisis down, I think.

              Oh also, Alton Brown's recipe calls for the meat to be browned BEFORE marinating it. Now I've looked at dozen of recipes over the past few days, and his is the only one that changed the method like that. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

              I have to wonder: Why would you put on a sear like that before marinating? Would that effect the meat's ability to absorb the marinade at all or is it supposed to impart a deeper flavor into the marinade? Why wouldn't you wait to brown the meat until it has already been saturated with the marinade? He usually has a scientific reason for his method, but I have not been able to find anything on his reason for the change in methodology.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BabsW

                Searing meat doesn't keep juices in, and doesn't keep marinade out. Alton said so!
                But the carmelization does improve flavor.

                1. re: BangorDin

                  Good to know. Thanks!

              2. I'm glad you got some positive responses for your Dutch oven. But, even if it it would work perfectly, I would choose the crock pot! I have been using mine for slow cooking coq au cvin, beouf bourgignon, cochinita pibil, etc. with wonderful results. I think it works better than the oven (my oven anyway) to keep the low and even temp. Of course, you do all the other parts of the recipe on top of the stove, no shortcuts.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MazDee

                  I think that I am going to err on the side of the crock pot for the braising stage. I really can use the freed-up burner or oven for the other dishes I've go going on. :)

                2. If anyone is interested, I am blogging about the insanity of this meal. :)

                  http://crisisbrownies.blogspot.com/

                  1. The Christmas Eve Sauerbraten was a huge success. I consulted several recipes and after some finagling and adjustments here and there, came up with a great marinade and method.

                    My one criticism is that, instead of being cut into nice, solid slices, the meat shredded. It was insanely delicious, and absolutely melted in my mouth, so I can forgive the less than gorgeous presentation. I don't know if it was because of the long slow braise in the crock pot or if my carving knife is sub-par.

                    I posted the recipe on my blog, where I chronicled the whole ordeal/event, but I'll post it here as well. My blog includes some of my notes on the process.

                    Enjoy! :)

                    Sauerbraten

                    Ingredients:

                    * 5 - 6 pound eye of round roast

                    For the marinade:

                    * 1 ½ cups of red wine vinegar
                    * 1 cup of red wine
                    * 1 ½ cups of water
                    * 2 bay leaves
                    * 5 black peppercorns
                    * 6 whole cloves
                    * 8 allspice berries
                    * 10 juniper berries
                    * 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
                    * 2 onions, sliced

                    For the braise:

                    * 2 onions, sliced
                    * 2 carrots, sliced into large chunks

                    For the gravy:

                    * ½ - ¾ cup crushed gingersnaps
                    * Sour cream

                    Directions:

                    1. 3 - 4 days before you plan on cooking the meat, rinse the eye of round roast and pat dry. Place in a large, 2-gallon ziplock freezer bag. Put that in a large bowl (I used the ceramic dish from my 8-qt crock pot).

                    2. Put the marinade ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Do not boil. Turn off the heat, take it off the burner and let cool.

                    3. Once the marinade has almost come to room temperature, carefully pour it onto the meat inside the bag. Press out the air and seal it up. Rotate the meat once or twice, making sure each side has had contact with the marinade. Place the bag back into the bowl and put it in the fridge to marinate for 3-4 days.

                    4. Flip the meat at least once every 24 hours as it marinates to be sure that each side of the meat has had extra time sitting in the marinade.

                    5. On the morning of the day you’d like to eat, take the meat out of the marinade and wipe it dry. Strain and reserve the marinade liquid. Brown the meat in olive oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat.

                    6. Place the meat in a large crock pot (8 quart or bigger) and cover with the reserved marinade. Add the 2 sliced onions and carrots, cover and cook on low for 10 hours.

                    7. Every few hours, flip the meat in the broth as it cooks to ensure an even braise.

                    8. When the meat is ready, take it out to rest on a platter. Strain the liquid into a saucepan and heat it up. Whisk in gingersnap crumbs to thicken the gravy to the consistency you like.

                    9. Slice and serve with the gingersnap gravy. Optionally, you can put a dollop of sour cream on top and mix it in with the gravy.

                    http://crisisbrownies.blogspot.com/20...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: BabsW

                      Sounds very good and I'm glad it was a success. I've copied the recipe and thanks for posting it!

                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                        Enjoy! It was a great meal with wonderful people: Definitely the highlight of my holiday. :)