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Stovetop braising

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aeranis Dec 24, 2009 06:48 PM

Well, I'm just about out of ideas. I've pretty much mastered getting meat tender in the oven or smoker, from turkey to brisket to pork loins. But when it comes to stovetop braising, I somehow manage to always mess it up. Whether it's a stew, like a bourguignonne, or meat braised in its own broth, I can never achieve the level of tenderness as in the oven. I'm always sure to tightly cover my pan, and rarely open it to check on it. Also, I have electric burners which are in good condition.

Do any of you have experience with this? What am I doing wrong? Is it simply the nature of stovetop braising, or am I using the wrong gear?

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  1. MandalayVA RE: aeranis Dec 24, 2009 07:13 PM

    How long are you cooking it? The average stew in my experience needs at least a couple of hours if not more.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MandalayVA
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      aeranis RE: MandalayVA Dec 24, 2009 07:25 PM

      Yeah, I've given stuff 2 hours on low and it's still turned out tougher than it should be.

      1. re: aeranis
        eight_inch_pestle RE: aeranis Dec 24, 2009 11:47 PM

        "Stuff" isn't quite enough info. For example, cubed chuck really shouldn't be tender at two hours. You're looking for the most gentle simmer, nothing more. If for some reason you're having trouble maintaining that, err on the side of less heat, even if you hardly ever see bubbles. Be prepared to give tougher cuts of beef and whatnot a solid three hours.

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      MazDee RE: aeranis Dec 24, 2009 07:24 PM

      I use the crockpot instead. Even temp, no worries about timing. Absolutely the best.

      1. c
        chococat RE: aeranis Dec 24, 2009 07:24 PM

        My guess is that it has to do with the temperature-- if the liquid is boiling, the meat will toughen and never become tender. In the oven, the liquid can easily be maintained at a bare simmer, but I've always had a hard time regulating the temperature on a stovetop-- the liquid is either not simmering, or at a rolling boil.

        I just pulled a pot of short ribs out of the oven-- brought the pot to a simmer on the stove top and then transferred to the oven--braised them at 300 F for 3 hours. Yum!

        1. greygarious RE: aeranis Dec 24, 2009 08:18 PM

          I rarely bother with the oven for braising because I am usually not doing more than 4# of meat. In either a plain or enameled cast iron Dutch oven, on a slow simmer (electric cooktop), seared beef takes at least 2 hrs in a stew, 4 or more for pot roast, depending on the amount of fat and collagen in the particular cut of meat. Check and stir/turn every 30-45 min. I suspect you need to cook it longer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: greygarious
            Will Owen RE: greygarious Dec 24, 2009 10:17 PM

            Perhaps because I have two small wall ovens instead of one big one, I use my top one for braising even though I'm usually cooking no more than 2 lb of meat. I braise vegetables on the cooktop, though, and things such as pork chops and other items that can cook in a covered skillet. I'm very glad I got rid of the electric cooktop when we first moved in, even though the overpriced and underperforming Bosch gas one has been less than wonderful - I can SEE how much heat is under the pan, and interposing a cast-iron flame tamer slows down the process to something like electric heat. When cooking in the oven, I use a remote thermometer - Polder, under $30 from Bad Breath & Beyond.

            One secret weapon that will help no matter what kind of top you're cooking on is to use glass lids. I have enough glass-lidded pots and casseroles that I can find a Pyrex topper to fit almost any vessel I want to cook in, so if something is fixin' to get up to a full boil I can spot it in time. And of course you DO have to pay attention...

          2. chowser RE: aeranis Dec 25, 2009 07:27 AM

            I don't like to braise on the stove because, like you, I have an electric stove and it's hard to get the right setting for a braise. I feel like I'm constantly fidgeting with the setting to get it to the right simmer.

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