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Newbie braising question

Hey all,

Just got the Le Creuset round 5.5 qt. dutch oven. Tried to braise a roast at 300 degrees and it was very hot inside the DO, but the braising liquid never simmered. No condensation anywhere, very dry. Tucked a piece of parchment paper in there with the same negative result. No condensation - which I think was the reason for my somewhat tasty but definitely dry roast. As a test the next day, just put water in the dutch oven and set the oven to 350. Still nothing. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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  1. I usually put the pot with liquid and roast on the stove top and heat it up to a simmer before putting it in the oven.

    1. eps,

      So what you are saying is that the Dutch Oven got hot, but the liquid inside is not hot. Is that correct? Let me ask you a question. When you open the Dutch Oven, do you see good amount of steam?

      I do agree with jaykayen that you may want to heat up the Dutch Oven on stovetop through direct heat transfer and then bring it inside the oven to maintain that heat. Otherwise, it makes take too long to get the Dutch oven up to speed by solely relying on the oven.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        That is about correct. The liquid was hot with the oven at 300 but certainly nowhere close to bubbling. When I took off the lid, I would say it wasn't steam coming out, but almost just like smoke from the water -- if that makes sense. I put my hand over the steam/smoke coming out and my hand was still dry. Whereas, when I use the stovetop, take off the lid, and put my hand over the pot, my hand gets damp from the steam coming out. Whaddya think?

        Doing lamb shanks tomorrow. Will try what jaykayen says; see if it works.

        Thanks all.

        1. re: eps1977

          Hi eps,

          The reason I asked those questions are the follwoing. It is not surprising that you don't see much condensation when you removed the Dutch Oven from an electric oven. Condensation is really condensation. :)

          Bear with me.

          When liquid water is heated, it turns into steam, and the steam can turn back into water when cooled down. This "steam to water" part is condensation. This can happen when steam contacts a cool surface. On stovetop cooking, there is a heat gradient, the bottom of your Dutch Oven is hot and the rest is cooler, so the steam get to condense on the side and the cover. Inside an electric oven, the Dutch Oven is heated from all sides at about the same temperature. So even if your water had turned into steam, it could not condense because there wasn't a cold spot inside the Dutch Oven.

          In short, it is not a surprise that you didn't see much condensation inside your Dutch Oven when you first removed it from the electric oven.

          A better indication is if you see white water steam vapor when you open the cover. As you stated, you didn't see/feel much water vapor, so I would guess the liquid probably was not hot enough. I would definitely try to heat up the Dutch Oven on stovetop to the point that it just barely start to boil and then transfer it into the electric oven.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Okay, so much the same (disappointing) result last night. Started it on the stove and brought to a simmer/almost boil where there was condensation. Put the top on and into the oven at 300. When I went to rotate the food 1.5 hours later, with the exception of the braising liquid, the pot was bone dry (the underside of the lid and sides). No condensation.

            Had bought an oven thermometer and the oven temp is calibrated. And I know the seal on the DO is fine because I get condensation on the stove.

            Any thoughts on this? Maybe the pot is too big? Thanks

            1. re: eps1977

              Hi eps,

              Well, when you heat a Dutch Oven on the stovetop, the cover and side are much cooler than the bottom, so you will see condensation. When the Dutch Oven is put into an electrical oven, all surface is heated, so you will actual see less condensation. It is easier for water to condense onto a cold surface than a hot surface. Think of it this way. In a hot summer, you will see condensation on a iced-water glass more so than on a room temperature water glass.

              In short, I won't necessary use condensation as an indicator of the Dutch Oven operation. Instead, do you feel a burst of heat or a burst of steam coming out of the Dutch Oven when you first opened the Dutch Oven? You might have seen the liquid bubbling. If so, you are fine. As long as the liquid is hot, then you are doing fine.

              If the braising liquid is lukewarm, then I have a guess. You probably heated up the Dutch Oven on the stovetop for too short. You will need to heat it a bit longer on the stove top maybe at a lower heat setting but longer.

              The reason is this. If you heat the Dutch Oven too quickly on the stovetop and bring the liquid to boiling, then only the bottom is hot. What you want to do is to heat the Dutch Oven longer to the point where the entire thing is hot and then bring it inside the electric oven to maintain that heat. (You should need oven gloves to bring it into the electrical oven)

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Just did a confirmation on my cast iron Dutch Oven. I were making stovetop slow cooking soap. I bought it to a slow boil on stovetop for ~30 minutes. I opened the cover and noticed much condensation on the cover. The entire cover was wet and dipping liquid. I placed the Dutch Oven in the electrical oven which was preheated to 300F. I left it in for an hour. I took the Dutch Oven out (using oven gloves) and heard the bubbling sound. Indeed, the liquid was boiling when I opened the cover. There were not much condensation liquid on the cover, though it was not completely dry.

      2. I don't want to come off as rude, but, turn up the oven then, silly!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Jemon

          Not rude at all. I would absolutely do that, but I've been told by many (and so says the manual if I remember correctly) to not put the DO in the oven above 350.

          And here's something weird. I took it out of the oven to let cool down on the stove. After about 30 minutes of cooling down, I took the lid off and there was condensation on the inside. Now I'm at a loss.

          1. re: eps1977

            Don't be. It is normal. As stated in my earlier reply, you can only see condensation if there is a cold surface. When you first take the Dutch Oven out, the entire thing is hot, so you won't able to see much condensation. There is nothing for the water vapor to condense to.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              So helpful, thanks. Will give it a try tonight, and I'm sure I'll be happy with the results. Much much appreciated. Will let you know how it turns out.

        2. jfood loves braising and it appears that you never brought the liquids to the hard simmer before placing in the oven, nor did you state how long it was in the oven, so let jfood just give some of his pointers, which are similar to others here.

          1 - bring DO up to a hard simmer, on the cooktop
          2 - carefully transport to the oven, and there is no need to bring above 300, in fact 250-275 is better
          3 - set your timer for 30 minutes
          4 - when timer goes off, open oven and carefully open the DO. If you see steam come out you are good to go. (If not you may need to buy an oven thermometer to check the accuracy and calibrationof the oven).
          5 - Place covered DO back in the oven and relax. A roast in a DO at 275 will probably take >3 hours or so to get to the right texture.

          Couple of other pointers.

          - Do not use lean meat, you need the "lesser" cuts for a great braise.
          - NEVER have the oven temperature above 300, it will not braise it will roast, the liquids will evaporate, the roast will burn and you will spend 3 hours scrubbing the inside of the DO while cursig yourself.

          BTW - make sure youhave some great bread for the juice

          1. bring the liquid up to temp on the stove, then into the oven to cook. it's the only way

            1. I agree with the comments that you should get it to a simmer atop the stove before going to the oven.

              But just to check, how comfortable are you that your oven is at the temp you set it to?

              2 Replies
              1. re: alanf

                Not very actually. Moved into this new place a few months ago and never thought to test the oven. Will give it a test. Thanks for the advice.

                Thanks for everything, Everybody. Will let you know how the next meal turns out!

                1. re: eps1977

                  It may be preferable to braise in the oven, but it's not essential. My mother's cast iron Dutch oven pot roasts and other braises were always done completely on top of the stove. I was doing it that way for over a decade before finding out that people use the oven. You need to turn the meat a few more times and make sure the burner is low enough but once you have the knack it is simple enough. I remove the lid for the last half hour of cooking if the liquid needs reducing.

              2. I braise at 300 degrees F all the time with my LC. If the liquid isn't simmering, then your oven needs calibrating. Use a thermometer and see what the temperature really is.

                The other thing it could be is a lousy seal between the lid and the pot. You could test that by using a flour and water dough to seal the lid. Put about a 1 inch bead of dough all around the edge of the lid and the pot sealing it. break the baked dough off after.

                And Thew is right about bringing the liquid up to a simmer on the stove top first.

                1. Now that I think of it, I do bring the meat to a simmer on the stovetop first. But I do turn the oven up to about 400F. My liquid reduces, but I just add more liquid. I guess it might be practical not to go over 350F, but I don't know if it would reduce enough for me to get that really rich flavor!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Jemon

                    Braising slowly is for the meat and all the chemistry that goes along with cooking long tendoned, high fat content meats, not the liquid. 400 degrees will not achieve the desired results. If the reduced sauce is the desired outcome then after the meat has done it job, remove the meat, place the dutch oven on the cooktop and boil and reduce. Combining the two processes is not the way to go.

                    1. re: jfood

                      I suppose, but when I make beef shanks, oxtails, etc, they always come out great. I don't have a rolling boil, it's still at a simmer in the oven. I will try lowering the temp and comparing. I have never really changed my braising technique since growing up doing it that way, so it's worth a shot!

                  2. IIRC, a cooking show (ATC?) showed how to check the temperature of an oven. Something similar to: 350 degree oven, pot of water in the oven, after an hour (?) the temperature of the water should be 175-180 degrees.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Alan408

                      That would depend on the shape of the pot and the amount of water. In summer, after using the oven I put a metal mixing bowl with 48 oz of water into the turned-off oven. It heats up and I then dump the water, to cool the kitchen faster. It is usually simmering within 45-60 min (matter of fact I have put eggs in the bowl to hard-cook while the water is absorbing the oven heat) and that's in a 350 degree oven that has been turned off.

                    2. I agree with all that say maybe it's the oven. I braise meat all the time at 300 in my LC, and I don't always start on the stove top. Particularly brisket...meat in the pot, braising liquid in too, and then straight into the oven.

                      When I check on the meat an hour or 2 later, there is a lot of condensation and the liquid is simmering.

                      1. So far, there has been a lot of guessing and talk of steam, condensation with little on the ingredients and cooking. Your oven is not the issue since you've checked it with a thermometer. I would post your recipe or if you are winging it, an approximation of what you did: ie, what cut and weight of your roast, amount of liquid at the beginning, amount at the end, total cooking time, taste of the meat and liquid (meat is dry and stringy), how did you slice it? Hopefully with that information, you'll get some good feedback.