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My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

l
LavenderPeony Aug 8, 2010 03:16 PM

Hi there!

Been browsing Chowhound posts for the last year but this is my first time joining and posting! Excited to be part of this cool community. ; ) I only started cooking at home full-time for the last year or so. So, a lot of the intricacies of cooking techniques are new to me.

Sorry... this is a bit long... I'm new to all this!

I need help with braising/pot roasting... badly! (Is there a difference between the terms, BTW? It seems that oven roast/pot roast is used interchangeably as well. All so confusing for a newbie!!) I've already done a search on Chowhound for tips to help me but felt that I really need some personalized advice... hope you all don't mind.

I've attempted either a beef or pork roast almost once a week for the last couple of months and they never turn out right. I can manage to get portions of each roast to come out well, but not the entire piece of meat.

Right now, I have a 2.5 lb chunk of pork loin sitting in the fridge. This is a recipe I've tried 3 times now with beef chuck roasts: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Pakistan.... I looove the flavour of it so thought I'd try it with my pork loin.

This is the process I usually go through, cooking it in a pot: season with salt/pepper; brown on all sides; pour in liquid of choice, covering up to half of meat; cover and bring to a boil; turn heat down to a rolling simmer; let simmer for 2-3 hours... during this time I will open the lid to rotate the meat to different sides several times. Then, I serve it right away.

I'm suspecting these are the reasons for my failures:
- the cheap, thin-bottomed pot I'm using
- the heat is too high... but I have no idea how much of a simmer it's supposed to have?
- not cooking long enough... but I'm also afraid of overcooking
- shouldn't be lifting the lid to rotate the meat

ANY advice would be much appreciated by this newbie!

Thanks!

  1. chefj Aug 8, 2010 03:49 PM

    Pot roast is a braised dish.
    For Braising meats you need lots of connective tissue, a good amount of marbling,(pork loin does not fit this profile) and usually a low and slow cooking in a moist environment.
    If possible always sear your meats and deglaze the pan (you should have a good quality heavy dutch oven or the like). This adds depth and color to your sauce.
    No "rolling" simmer. just bring to a simmer and put in a 300-325 oven covered. Time has a lot to do with the cut of meat and the size of the cut. Most take from 2 hours up to 6hours
    Basting helps glaze the meat and reduce the sauce as well as giving you a chance to check for tenderness.
    When looking for recipes start with a trusted source. Not Betty- Joes favorite that you find posted on some random web site or recipe posting board.
    Braising is pretty easy and should yield great results when done properly. Good luck

    1. hotoynoodle Aug 8, 2010 03:51 PM

      the cut of meat matters too. pork tenderloin is relatively lean and not your best cut to braise. that would do much better on a grill or roasting in hot oven.

      braises are for tougher cuts, like shoulder and shank. no need to get the liquid to boiling. just get it up to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away. with these kinds of meats it's almost impossible to overcook them. they should be falling apart tender and that may take several hours.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle
        l
        LavenderPeony Aug 8, 2010 04:08 PM

        Thanks chefj and hotoynoodle. I feel more educated already! Argh... I've been going to a local butcher shop for the last few weeks just so I could get this kind of advice on different cuts but the guys there who know this stuff are always too busy cutting up the hunks of meat to give me any advice... the workers who actually take my order don't know anything... hence selling me a piece of pork loin for my pot roast. Sheesh.

        chefj... thanks for giving me a totally justifiable reason for buying a new, good quality pan. Hopefully I can find one before the next pot roast!

        hotoynoodle: sooo good to know I can't overcook. But, is there any kind of general guideline for how long, at what temp, depending on how many pounds? It just hurts my head to try to figure out how to cook the hunks of meat I buy, if I always have to consider the type of meat (beef/pork), the cut, the weight, etc.

        1. re: LavenderPeony
          hotoynoodle Aug 8, 2010 04:25 PM

          if i put the pot in the oven it's at about 300 degrees. the last time i bought pork butt, it was about 3 pounds or so, i think, and it took at least 4-5 hours to cook. buy a decent sized hunk of something. this stuff gets better as it sits, like soup, and will serve for several meals.

          think of the parts of the animal that work the hardest, like the shoulder and legs, and consider those for braising. they are also much cheaper cuts and packed with flavor. big bang for buck here with very little labor on your end. the heat does the magic.

          this may help you:

          http://www.gatewaygourmet.com/beef_cu...

          1. re: LavenderPeony
            yayadave Aug 10, 2010 08:03 PM

            I read through this whole thread and everything I was thinking got said ... except ...
            If you're spending your money in their shop, they have time to talk to you. OK, maybe you're hitting the shop right when they are the most busy. Then ask when would be the best time to come in to talk about preparing THEIR product well. It is to their benefit that you do that. If they still can't/won't help, spend your money elsewhere. You're paying a premium for going to their shop in stead of the big store plastic wrapped meat display cooler. A reasonable amount of extra service on their part is ... reasonable.

            I guess that sounds a little strident. The truth of the matter is that most of those people in specialty shops, butcher, fish monger, tea shop, like to talk about their product once they find out you are interested. You won't have to push them to get them talking.

        2. Hank Hanover Aug 8, 2010 04:15 PM

          I agree with Chefj. I prefer the oven for braising. I especially think it is a good idea on your part because you have a thin bottomed pot. Stovetop is not good without a very heavy bottomed pot.

          You should probably flip it once or twice but you lose heat every time you do it. Does your pot seal well? If you end up with less liquid than you started with then your pot doesn't seal well.

          The other thing you could try. You could cover the meat with liquid. Technically, this becomes stewing not braising but most people actually stew when they think they are braising anyway.

          Even Cook's Illustrated says they can't tell the difference between stewed and braised meat. The biggest problem is there is too much liquid and it will take a while to reduce to a sauce or gravy.

          The advantage will be that the meat won't be dry on the side that wasn't soaking in liquid.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Hank Hanover
            sbp Aug 9, 2010 05:16 PM

            Re having too much liquid and taking longer to reduce to sauce -
            If you don't have prime grade chuck, your meat can still dry out if you braise it for too long. What I do is remove the meat and vegetables as soon as it's fork tender, then crank up the heat to really reduce the liquid to a nice thick sauce. Then recombine.

            1. re: sbp
              greygarious Aug 9, 2010 05:30 PM

              Good point. Alternatively, shred the meat and gently simmer it in the liquid as it reduces. This is done with brisket. It allows an inherently dry-ish meat to absorb some juices.

              1. re: sbp
                jfood Aug 9, 2010 05:59 PM

                jfood has never used "prime" only choice and this has never been a problem

                1. re: jfood
                  c oliver Aug 9, 2010 06:09 PM

                  Silly me, I never heard the term before :) And I always remove the meat before reducing the liquid. Can't imagine doing it any other way.

                  1. re: jfood
                    sbp Aug 10, 2010 06:17 AM

                    It didn't use to be a problem for me, but I've had several (not all) occasions where a low-heat, slow cooked stew has yielded dry-yet-tender meat. As they've bred the fat out of all meats, it's become more of an issue. I don't buy prime chuck unless it's on sale (can't imagine paying $8/lb and up for stew meat), but it often is at Fairway.

                    1. re: sbp
                      r
                      ratgirlagogo Oct 30, 2010 02:24 PM

                      This just happened to me this week making a green chile pork stew. I used cheap pork stew meat that looked a little lean, but I thought, whatever, I'll try it anyway. The meat turned out tender but so dry, and didn't add too much flavor either. The main taste was of the roasted peppers and onions and the chicken broth. So disappointing.

              2. Quine Aug 8, 2010 04:20 PM

                Braise is a method of cooking pot roast is a recipe, so you can also braise veggies, like cabbage.

                Check this out:
                http://www.chow.com/stories/12026?tag...

                It's a good guide with pictures.

                Definitely you need to use "cheaper" tougher cuts of meat,as others suggested here. And use the saved money on a new good heavy pan. It really is a lifetime (and style) investment.

                Welcome to the Chow community.

                1. greygarious Aug 8, 2010 04:35 PM

                  Too hot for too long. After browning, bring the meat and liquid to just bubbling, then cover and lower to where it quivers with only an occasional bubble, if any. For that amount of meat it should only braise for about 2 hrs. You have to keep checking - when it's fork tender to the core, it's done. Off heat and covered, it will still cook for a while. You can do it all on the stove only if you have a heavy enough pan. If you don't want to spend a lot on a Dutch oven, get the highly-rated (by Cooks Illustrated) 6.5 qt Tramontina enameled cast iron one at Walmart for around $40. Or check for bargains at Home Goods, Marshalls/TJ Maxx, and thrift shops or tag sales. Enameled is more versatile than naked cast iron because acidic ingredients impart a metal taste from the latter. Someone will surely tell you to brown on the stove in a skillet, then braise in a slow cooker. In that case you have to crack the lid open a bit during the latter part of cooking, to allow the liquid to reduce.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greygarious
                    c oliver Aug 8, 2010 06:09 PM

                    I got an induction cooktop range a few months ago. One of the really nice things is that I have a super-low setting. I can get it as low now on the cooktop as I've been able to in the oven.
                    PS: Mailing it soon :)

                  2. jfood Aug 8, 2010 05:17 PM

                    add jfood to the list of the loin is too lean. You need a piece of meat from the animal that did a lot of movement, i.e. the butt. The loin come from the center of the pig that went along for the ride but was not an active participant. Likewise jfood has NEVER and will NEVER use the stovetop for his briases. He uses a 275-300 degree oven (thermometer as well) since the heat stay constant all around versus just on the bottom.

                    couple of pointers:

                    1 - yes searing the meat brings out more flavor but it is a myth that it traps in the juices.
                    2 - cookingthe vegetables gets the water out and intensifies the flavors before the braise starts
                    3 - the liquid is the flavor inducer (sic). jfood does not drink but tastes wines just to get a list of wines he will use in his short ribs braise. a good beef stock is also a great addition
                    4 - patience - you CANNOT rush the breakdown of the collagen. it takes hours
                    5 - cook day 1; serve day 2. the fridge is your friend for really bringing the tenderness back. In beef there is an interesting occurence (sic). Whenthe meat passes through the different phases of colors, the last phase is almost a purply color. If you see that in you beef braises, you have succeeded.

                    As others have stated, go to goos websites to get some recipes. And they freeze great as well.

                    1. John E. Aug 8, 2010 06:01 PM

                      For roasting meat the best kitchen tool is an instant read thermometer. Learn to trust it. For a pork loin, pull the meat out of the oven at about 145 degrees, cover with foil and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. For a beef roast like top sirloin, prime rib etc. pull it out at 125 degrees, cover it and let it rest for medium rare. Don't let anybody tell you that roast beef is rare at 140 degrees. The temperature of the meat continues to rise after it is pulled from the oven.

                      I think the reason your pork loin dried out is because it is the wrong piece of meat for a braise, buy a pork shoulder for a braise. (Others have already mentioned parts of these tips).

                      For a beef braise, buy a chuck shoulder roast. In this case, roast is the type of meat, not the cooking method. That's part of what has you a little confused I believe. The beef has to be cooked long enough for it to be tender. Sometimes the meat is tough when you don't cook it long enough. A fork or knife should easily pierce the meat when it has cooked long enough. If you want simple recipes for meats like this, I suggest these websites: americastestkitchen.com, cooksillustrated.com and cookscountry.com.
                      They are all a part of Cook's Illustrated. Their TV programs on PBS are helpful in learnoing cooking methods too. I've learned a lot from them about cooking techniques. I don't always cook all of their recipes, but even if you don't, you can learn from watching.

                      1. s
                        smtucker Aug 8, 2010 06:59 PM

                        If you want to braise, as clearly you do, consider finding Molly Steven's All About Braising. Take it out of library, make two or three recipes, fall in love and then buy the book. It is absolutely worth the effort. Best of luck!

                        1. chefj Aug 8, 2010 07:33 PM

                          Oh i had another thought and was to lazy to read through all the new posts so if it was covered already....
                          It also helps to let what ever was braised cool in the braising liquid and then reheat the next day.

                          1. l
                            LavenderPeony Aug 8, 2010 08:00 PM

                            Ohhh my goodness! ; ) I am so appreciative of all of your responses to my post. Thank you all so very much. I'm slowly re-reading each of them now and, literally, taking notes. I know I'll still have to do some trial and error but I have a MUCH better idea of what I've been doing wrong and the whole braising mystery has become much clearer now.

                            I also appreciate the specific references to good resources like Cook's Illustrated and Molly Stevens' book. Excellent, excellent information.

                            I'm making a mental reminder to try to come back and update this thread when I have a chance to properly apply all this new knowledge to a proper cut of meat! Many thanks!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: LavenderPeony
                              Quine Aug 8, 2010 08:04 PM

                              TY! That is what we hope for! We want you to succeed!

                            2. k
                              KiltedCook Aug 9, 2010 10:14 AM

                              Here's a braised Pork alternative.

                              I make Pulled Pork a lot, using the braising technique as I learned it from Sam Choy.

                              2-3 lb Pork Shoulder or Butt. Remove excess fat cap if there is one. The meat is well marbled anyway.

                              1Tbsp per pound of Liquid Smoke.
                              1 Tbsp per pound of Kosher salt (1 tsp if all you have is table salt).

                              Pre-heat oven to 275F. Slash the roast all over in a 1" diamond grid - like a ham is slashed - 1/4 deep. Rub the Liquid Smoke all over the meat. Rub the salt all over the meat. Place in a relatively close fitting covered dish or pan. Add beef or vegetable broth to come half way up the meat. Place covered dish in oven and cook for 1 hour per pound. Remove meat from juice. Shred. Pour juice over the shredded meat, it will absorb most of it. Serve on buns of your choice with BBQ sauce, cole slaw and a big dill pickle.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: KiltedCook
                                2
                                2haveaplanq Apr 11, 2011 09:03 AM

                                Kilted have a preserved lemon question thought you might be able to help. I have a skimof mold on the top of a batch I made. Any thoughts of if I can take top layer off and still use the rest??? acraigevents@gmail.com

                              2. LindaWhit Aug 9, 2010 01:29 PM

                                What everyone else has said about the pork loin - roast that sucker; no low-and-slow braising.

                                For beef pot roasts, I use chuck roast. And for the recipe in the link below (the actual recipe is linked by the OP), you'll see that a 3 lb. beef chuck roast is cooked for at least 2-1/2 hours on top of the stove (I use a Farberware dutch oven). I flip the beast at least once to make sure all sides get into the braising liquid.

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/279722

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: LindaWhit
                                  o
                                  ospreycove Aug 9, 2010 01:36 PM

                                  As stated above the best way to achieve a succulent braise is to cook,( if oven braising), 250-275*F and cook at least 6 hours for a 5-7 lb roast. To braise on a cook top, use a heavy cast iron/enameled dutch oven type pot, and after searing allow to simmer on the lowest heat you can get, use a diffuser. The simmer should be a bubble or two every second, no more! Again, about 6 hours should do it.

                                  1. re: ospreycove
                                    LindaWhit Aug 9, 2010 01:49 PM

                                    Perhaps that works for you, but I've been making my mother's lemon pot roast for about 30 years, and 2-1/2 hours in the Farberware pot works just fine (I will give you using a diffuser, which I've also done, but the cooking time pretty much stays the same). I've not had anyone complain.

                                    As to the "best way" - this is why I tend to dislike Cooks Illustrated. They say their way is the ONLY way, when it's obvious from this board that there are many ways to cook things.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit
                                      o
                                      ospreycove Aug 11, 2010 06:30 AM

                                      My personal preference is a truly fork tender piece of braised shoulder, shank, etc. Look at what Alton Brown does with a 2 lb roast he uses a 4 hour very, very low termp.sealed braise in the oven.

                                      1. re: ospreycove
                                        LindaWhit Aug 11, 2010 06:53 AM

                                        And the pot roast I make is truly fork tender. The pot roast as I make it often falls apart as I remove it from the braising pot, and I can often use a fork to "cut" it into serving pieces.

                                        But here's the difference in what we're discussing - I'm specifically speaking about pot roast, using a chuck roast cut, and have only been speaking about a beef pot roast.

                                        But you're now talking pork shoulder and/or some kind of beef shank - which I agree need a *much* longer braising time than a chuck roast. If I'm making either of those - 4-6 hours is the norm.

                                2. s
                                  Sherri Aug 9, 2010 03:53 PM

                                  I've just read the recipe that you linked and a couple of things jumped out at me.
                                  The recipe calls for beef chunks, not a whole single piece. The cooking time is quite short for this reason.
                                  I have no idea how you could have browned the wet yoghurt-marinated meat (without wiping it dry???)
                                  Translating beef chuck to pork loin doesn't fly. They're entirely different cuts of meat and not interchangable.

                                  You've received some excellent advice so far.
                                  I believe that jfood mentioned using parts of the animal that are most exercised for braising, saving those "along for the ride" for "hot & fast" methods. This is Golden advice regardless of the animal and should never be forgotten, no matter what someone else may tell you.
                                  Molly Steve's book "All About Braising" is excellent and will answer so many of your questions that reading it should be high on your list

                                  You mention your second-hand, el cheapo cookware. OK, at some point, you'll need a braise-worthy utensil. It will make successful braising more of a regular thing in your kitchen. Lodge has been making quality cast iron cookware for many years, ditto Le Creuset and Staub. All three manufacturers use cast iron, the difference is the second two coat the CI with enamel. This greatly affects the bottom line. My (unsolicited) advice would be to visit a sporting goods or camping store and buy the Lodge if cost is a factor (which I believe you mentioned). Otherwise, you cannot go wrong with the second two.

                                  Your "rolling simmer" is too high. Lower the heat to "bare simmer". You should have better luck.
                                  Size of the braiser is also important. A small piece of meat will not braise well in a large pan. You'd have better luck with a large piece in a small pan but, down the line, having a couple of choices makes the job much easier. You want the liquid to cover part of the meat, neither barely covering the bottom of the pan nor do you want the meat to swim.

                                  Welcome to the Chowhound community. We look forward to hearing how things are going.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Sherri
                                    b
                                    beethoven Aug 9, 2010 07:02 PM

                                    Go on ebay, search under Descoware/Dru Holland/Copco and get yourself a vintage dutch oven for about 1/10th the price of new LeC -- but watch the shipping charges, those suckers are heavy! Get someone who will ship it low and slow ...

                                    1. re: beethoven
                                      Hank Hanover Aug 9, 2010 09:13 PM

                                      He can just buy a Tramontina for $50.

                                    2. re: Sherri
                                      l
                                      LavenderPeony Aug 9, 2010 09:29 PM

                                      Hi Sherri... thx for the great advice on my other thread re: choosing good cookware for braising!

                                      Ha ha... typing with red cheeks... I stink of newbie-ness! I have done that recipe twice and... he he... yeah, I "adapted" it a little! Thought I would "experiment" with a beef chuck roast and see how it went! Yes, I did "wipe" off the marinade using a silicone spatula then added the marinade back in with the beef broth. I'm learning now that was probably not the best thing to do but nonetheless, both times, the flavour was excellent. But the texture of the meat was crap... hence my posting of this thread.

                                      I definitely need a smaller pan for the 2-3 pounders I usually get. Beethoven, I did a search for all three of the brands on Amazon (because many products have their Free Shipping offer) and did find some Copco DOs "by" Mario Batali and Giadda de Laurentiis. I wanted to do the vintage route but DH nixed the idea... he can't get over thinking he doesn't know what was in the pot before we bought it. Oh well...

                                      I've since learned that the pork loin I bought is not suitable for braising anyway so I won't be doing anymore silly experiments with that recipe!

                                      1. re: LavenderPeony
                                        LindaWhit Aug 10, 2010 05:31 AM

                                        LavenderP, for a 2-3 lb. beef chuck roast, a 4 quart stockpot/dutch oven should do you just fine.

                                        1. re: LavenderPeony
                                          hotoynoodle Aug 10, 2010 06:41 AM

                                          don't waste your money on cookware endorsed by food tv celebrities.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                                            LindaWhit Aug 10, 2010 07:23 AM

                                            ^^^ Ditto that. Spend the extra money on a good, sturdy ***non-celebrity*** brand. Calphalon. Farberware. Le Creuset. All-Clad.

                                            http://www.cooking.com/products/shpro...

                                      2. Funwithfood Aug 9, 2010 09:58 PM

                                        Oven, with plenty of moisture: long & low = success.

                                        1. b
                                          balabanian Aug 10, 2010 01:45 PM

                                          pretty thorough responses on this already, but i just want to second a few of them:
                                          1. Molly Stevens All About Braising is a great great book, will teach you a lot.
                                          2. You want the fatty, cheaper meats. My favorite by a long way is pork shoulder.
                                          3. My favorite foolproof recipes for really easy/good braises (apart from the molly stevens ones) are:
                                          - black velvet braised pork shoulder
                                          http://www.chow.com/recipes/11621-black-velvet-braised-pork
                                          - pork shoulder braised in milk
                                          http://www.chow.com/recipes/28720-por...

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: balabanian
                                            chowser Aug 10, 2010 02:54 PM

                                            I've braised in so many different liquids (beer, wine, coffee, tomato base, etc.) but never milk. Is it creamy in the end?

                                            1. re: balabanian
                                              l
                                              LavenderPeony Aug 10, 2010 09:09 PM

                                              Just printed off both of balabanian's delicious-sounding recipes! I've actually cooked a similar pork braised in milk recipe before and I like that balbanian describes it as "a little ugly"... ha ha... when I made it and saw the curds, I thought I screwed up as the recipe I went w/ didn't note that! But balbanian's right... it was so delicious!

                                              Err... I'm feeling kinda lazy... would it be alright to not cut it up into chunks?? : )

                                            2. l
                                              LavenderPeony Aug 10, 2010 09:01 PM

                                              I think I'm set to go off on my braising "adventures" now! I've got the Molly Stevens book requested from the library, got my eye on a few different DOs, and scribbled down the cuts of meat to get from the butcher next grocery run. Can't believe I'm getting this excited about braising a piece of meat!

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: LavenderPeony
                                                chowser Aug 11, 2010 05:22 AM

                                                If you don't have a good pot yet, Alton Brown has a nice recipe for one done in aluminum foil.

                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

                                                1. re: LavenderPeony
                                                  jfood Aug 11, 2010 06:48 AM

                                                  Mrs jfood has used the Turkey Sized Reynold bag for her brisket for years. That may be a good bridge for you until you want to spend the $s on a DO

                                                  1. re: LavenderPeony
                                                    s
                                                    smtucker Aug 11, 2010 10:36 AM

                                                    See? To me getting excited about a piece of meat seems normal. It is getting excited about shoes that puzzles me. I do hope that you enjoy the Stevens book. It was a Cookbook of the Month so there are lots of reviews right here on Chowhound to look at as you go through the book. Enjoy!

                                                    1. re: smtucker
                                                      LindaWhit Aug 11, 2010 11:00 AM

                                                      To me getting excited about a piece of meat seems normal. It is getting excited about shoes that puzzles me.
                                                      ~~~~~~~~
                                                      OMG, I could have written that, smtucker. ;-) I just heard someone say "Every woman loves shoes!" on TV, and I thought "Umm, no they don't."

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit
                                                        Bada Bing Aug 11, 2010 12:30 PM

                                                        I heard that TV thing about women and shoes, too. Not being female, I could not relate, either.

                                                        Let me add, however, that ALL men like barbecue. No exceptions allowed. :)

                                                        1. re: Bada Bing
                                                          LindaWhit Aug 11, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                          ROFL! Well, I can think of some men who might not like barbecue, but we won't go there. ;-) (The other phrase I was going to use was totally inappropriate! LOL)

                                                  2. Foodielicious Aug 11, 2010 11:32 AM

                                                    Consider a crock pot/slow-cooker for braises. I've had success with them because they keep perfect temp and are designed for long/slow cooking. With a pork shoulder, i typically just put the cut in the cooker with a diced onion, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and garlic: no liquid necessary. Leave it on low for 8 hrs or so and come back to perfectly pullable braised pork. For beef, I tend to prefer a chuck - seared in a hot pan first - then put in the slow cooker with some red wine and stewed/canned tomatoes and fave seasonings (again, on low, about 8 hours or so, depending on the size of the cut).

                                                    If you don't have a slow cooker, go for the low-temp/Dutch oven method for 4 hours or so. If you don't have a DO, you can put your meat in any kind of baking dish that's large enough to accommodate w/ the other ingredients, then seal it up super tight with foil. 9x13 pyrex works great like this for flat cuts like brisket, etc.

                                                    13 Replies
                                                    1. re: Foodielicious
                                                      l
                                                      LavenderPeony Aug 11, 2010 03:03 PM

                                                      My... what an interesting conversation!

                                                      I like the "make do" solutions for the DO! I'm going to try my slow cooker first. I do have several dishes that would work well with your idea, Foodielicious... I'll give that a try too. If a slow cooker is pretty good at braising, why do most cooks prefer a DO?

                                                      1. re: LavenderPeony
                                                        greygarious Aug 11, 2010 04:02 PM

                                                        With a slow cooker you have to sear in another pan - so more to clean. The tight seal means more liquid builds up in the slow cooker so you have to uncover for some of the time, or reduce more at the end. It's a whole other appliance to store. The D.O. is more versatile.

                                                        1. re: greygarious
                                                          l
                                                          LavenderPeony Aug 11, 2010 08:49 PM

                                                          Ahh... got it! I was a bit confused because I understood that DOs are great for braising because they seal well but I didn't realize that a slow cooker sealed "too well". Makes sense now! I certainly don't like having to clean and store more pieces... a DO is more versatile!

                                                        2. re: LavenderPeony
                                                          chowser Aug 12, 2010 05:44 AM

                                                          As greygarious said, you don't evaporate the liquids as much so you need to cut them by at least 1 to 1 1/2 cups. But, then you don't get the concentration of flavors w/out the evaporation. I fold a kitchen towel in half and put it under the lid. That allows the liquids to evaporate and the towel absorbs it but it takes longer to cook that way. I love the crockpot for when I'm leaving the house for a few hours but if I'm going to be home, I go with the DO or my All Clad pot.

                                                          1. re: LavenderPeony
                                                            Foodielicious Aug 13, 2010 12:04 PM

                                                            I like to use the crockpot because it's easy to leave behind. Greygarious is right about the pre-sear, but that's not a big issue for me (I don't mind it and don't find it necessary for every application) and no one in my house is complaining about excess pot liquor. The DO works beautifully, of course, hence the many recs for it, but there's more than one way to braise and it can be done with great success even in the absence of a good DO.

                                                            1. re: Foodielicious
                                                              o
                                                              ospreycove Aug 13, 2010 12:24 PM

                                                              Uh oh...... Here comes the purist in me. The Dutch Oven has been around for hundreds of years, controlling the braising liquid level is easy, heat diffuses easily, cooks in the oven or on the cooktop or in a wood fire, cleans with no trouble, sears all meats and poultry, can be used as a deep fryer, bread baking pan,(no knead bread), Soup/ stufato pot, and is unbreakable.
                                                              I guess I am by no means an" early adopter" when it comes to this cooking tool

                                                              1. re: ospreycove
                                                                Hank Hanover Aug 13, 2010 02:22 PM

                                                                Is is nice to be able leave the crockpot for hours at a time and not worry about it. I still think the D.O. turns out better food.

                                                                It is hard to get a true simmer (190 degrees F) in the dutch oven. Even if you have the oven set at 250, it is still hotter than 190 and is still going to boil in there.

                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover
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                                                                  LavenderPeony Aug 13, 2010 02:33 PM

                                                                  I just read the first part of Molly Stevens' All About Braising (thanks so much for the recommendation!) I already knew a lot of what she discusses (thanks to all you Chowhounders) but it was still very informative to read... she explains things so clearly. Gonna look for those book reviews now and see if there are any particularly highly recommended recipes in the book!

                                                                  I definitely plan to get myself a DO in the future... it is a pain to have to brown in a separate pot, deglaze it, then add on 2-3X longer for the slow cooker to cook. But, I've needed to invest in a new SS pot for a long time now so that's where my new collection will start. A Le Creuset DO is in my sights... one day...

                                                                  1. re: LavenderPeony
                                                                    Hank Hanover Aug 13, 2010 02:39 PM

                                                                    I don't care for the All Clad slow cooker, if that is what you are talking about getting. Read the reviews on Amazon. People have been having a lot of trouble with the ceramic insert cracking.

                                                                    Also, I have a Le Creuset but if i was going to buy another, I would probably go with a Tramontina for $50.

                                                                    With the money, I just saved you on that All-clad slow cooker and the dutch oven, you can buy both! maybe?

                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover
                                                                      Foodielicious Aug 13, 2010 03:47 PM

                                                                      Yeah - no need to invest that kind of money in a slow cooker! I have a Rival CrockPot that I bought at Target for $20 and it works like a champ. I also have a Le Creuset DO, which is awesome and worth every penny. Coming in a close second, though is a Chantal DO that I got on the TJMaxx clearance table for a pittance: it's a bit small (5qt), but does the trick for smaller cuts.

                                                                    2. re: LavenderPeony
                                                                      s
                                                                      smtucker Aug 13, 2010 03:33 PM

                                                                      <whispering> duck ragu </whispering>

                                                                      1. re: LavenderPeony
                                                                        chowser Aug 13, 2010 04:11 PM

                                                                        You can get a Lodge cast iron DO from Costco for under $40 (I think it's much less but can't remember exactly how much) and it works great for the no knead bread, too. Added to which, I think of it as strength training since it gets heavy pretty quickly!

                                                                        1. re: chowser
                                                                          Hank Hanover Aug 13, 2010 05:25 PM

                                                                          Try getting my Le Creuset goosepot off the floor of the pantry.

                                                            2. chef chicklet Aug 13, 2010 03:16 PM

                                                              I go with the cheaper cuts that have fat and connective tissues. I seaon the meat and brown on all sides, then deglaze the pan. My metod of braising is that I add broth and or water to the deglazed pan. I almost cover the roast, but not completely 1/2 maybe. The temperature is low, and I don't allow it to boil. I also cover the pan with a lid or a pot in the beginning and check it periodically. It's only natural that if the heats too high, or there's too little liquid the meat will be dry. Holding the meat past the ready time will be a killer too. Done that with osso bucco- a disaster. Timing is essential even with a large roast, cooking it too long is going to dry the thing out. You will make a perfect roast with practice that's how you get the feel of when a roast is done. I can't tell you how long, what temp, too many variables! When you put a fork in the meat, and the meat is so tender it falls apart, its ready. Take it out of the oven tent it with foil, and serve it with the sauce left. Strain the juices, then make the sauce/ just always strain the juices or you'll end up with bit chunks of onion and what-not.

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