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Unattended Dutch Oven Cooking?

j
jackflibb Sep 21, 2011 05:19 PM

I reallllly don't want to go out and buy a slow cooker, and I just got an awesome Staub Cocotte.

I really want to be able to set it up to cook all day so a delicious stew is ready when I get home from work. I've been scouring the internet for advice on leaving the oven on all day, and have also considered getting a single induction plate for it.

Since you all are the amateur experts and expert amateurs, what's your opinion of how best to do this? Should I just break down and get yet another kitchen appliance? (my kitchen is small and already filled with too many kitchen aid attachments).

Thanks!

  1. chowser Sep 21, 2011 05:41 PM

    It depends on how cautious you are. I've asked fire fighters who all immediately say not to do it. I have a friend whose oven has caught on fire. But, they have made ovens that will keep food cold and then turn on at a designated time and cook your dinner. I heard they didn't sell well so they might have discontinued them. I use a crockpot but there are people who are cautious about that, too.

    1. j
      jaykayen Sep 21, 2011 05:44 PM

      I'd try it once at the temperature at amount of food you plan to do when you are at home, to make sure all your water doesn't evaporate or that your oven runs much hotter.

      1. Will Owen Sep 21, 2011 05:51 PM

        Is your oven's temperature control reliable, and can it hold temperatures of 225º or less? If you've browned your ingredients and brought your stew to a simmer, an oven setting between 200º and 225º for 8-10 hours should yield a fine dish. My best-ever cassoulet was made with soaked beans, onion, tomatoes and lamb neck put into the oven at bedtime and taken out the next morning. The only hard part was picking the bones out!

        Granted, this is not as economical of energy as a crockpot, which you might think about getting. A really good one, say a Westinghouse with a carrying cozy and fancy controls, will cost you a fraction of what your Staub pot did*. The pot-in-the-oven thing, though, does I believe produce superior results, though I've not tested this by any proper scientific means. Maybe I need to make two batches of cassoulet? H'm, I think I could get into that …

        *And you can keep it under your bed, in the bathtub, hall closet …

        3 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen
          Tehama Sep 23, 2011 04:55 AM

          Will - do you have a recipe you can share for your cassoulet? I'd be most appreciative. Thank you!

          1. re: Tehama
            Will Owen Sep 23, 2011 11:39 AM

            Kinda long, but then cassoulet is!

            This is timed for cooking from late afternoon into late evening - I started before supper and took my own sweet time, putting the pot into the oven at around 11.

            2 lbs dried beans
            1 red onion and 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
            handful of diced bacon
            olive oil
            black pepper, dried thyme to taste

            salt - add later (Note: Harold McGee says salting beginning with the soaking actually works better, and that it's a myth that this toughens the beans)

            Soak the beans or not, according to your personal feelings on the subject. If you do, drain them before proceeding. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot, then add the vegetables, bacon and seasonings. Stir and cook over high heat for a minute or so, then reduce the heat and cover the pot for about ten minutes, or until the bacon and onion are both transparent. Then raise the heat back to high, put in the beans, stir well to mix and pour in enough water to cover by 2" if beans were soaked, 4" if cooking from dry. Bring to boil, cover pot and adjust heat to induce a simmer.

            Cook until beans are just tender and add salt to taste. Continue cooking until they're tender clear through but not mushy, adding boiling water if necessary to keep the top layer covered.

            olive oil or duck fat
            salt and pepper
            3 lbs lamb, neck slices or shanks (neck was used here, and is strongly recommended)
            2-3 slices smoked pork shank
            large can Italian tomatoes in juice - break up and discard seeds and hard cores

            Oven at 200º

            Place your braising pot over high heat and put in about 1/4 cup of fat or oil. When the fat is hot, brown the lamb, salting and peppering as you go, and then do the same with the pork shank. Set the meat aside and pour off the excess fat. Now cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of beans, and cover this with as much lamb and pork as will fit in a single layer. Strew some of the tomatoes over that, then more beans, more meat and so on. Finish with a layer of beans. Pour the tomato juice over all, then pour in enough bean broth just to cover the top. Put the lid on the pot, and place in the center of the oven (with a small cookie sheet under it if your pot is really full), and then go to bed. Set your alarm for 7 to 8 hours...

            cooked or uncooked pork sausages (brown well if uncooked)
            duck confit, optional
            panko crumbs or breadcrumbs

            Oven at 350º

            The house will smell very good when you wake up. When you're good and ready, take the casserole out and check out the contents. With a wide slotted spoon, carefully scoop everything out of the pot, down to the bottom bean layer. Check to make sure there are no little bones left behind. Remove all the meat from all the bones. Now rebuild your layers, this time including some sausages (if you're using precooked, you may want to put them on top towards the end, pushing them down amongst the beans). In the top layer include only the confit, if you're using it, and sausages, all pushed down into the beans and barely showing. Adjust the amount of liquid so it comes up to just below the top layer and then spread on a good layer of crumbs. Set back into the oven uncovered, and cook until bubbly and beginning to brown on top, an hour or so. For best effect, cover this and let it sit all day in a cool but not cold spot, then return to the oven and reheat for dinner.

            1. re: Will Owen
              Tehama Sep 23, 2011 12:50 PM

              Will, you are wonderful! Thank you! It is finally starting to get cool so this will be on the very top of my cooking to-do list a.s.a.p. Many thanks to you!

        2. r
          robertpasadena Sep 21, 2011 05:59 PM

          Pot in the oven is the way to go. You can brown everything in the pot. Deglaze it and let it cook for 6-10 hours at 225. The low temp will not evaporate as much liquid as you think. I would do it a few times when you are home to observe and adjust. I promise the flavor will kick the haggis out of any slow cooker meal.

          1. hotoynoodle Sep 21, 2011 07:00 PM

            i frequently do all sorts of confits and braises while i am sleeping. time it so it's done for when you wake up, then it simply needs to be reheated later on. i don't feel comfortable having the oven going all day when i am not at home.

            8 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle
              chowser Sep 22, 2011 04:29 AM

              I love this suggestion. I could also do it and put it in the crockpot to keep warm, but not to cook.

              1. re: chowser
                hotoynoodle Sep 22, 2011 04:30 PM

                i don't have a crockpot, but got converted to this overnight cooking when i made spoon lamb for the first time a few years back for a holiday party.

                1. re: hotoynoodle
                  chowser Sep 23, 2011 04:48 AM

                  Once I learned to use a crock pot correctly (ie not throw everything in and let it cook), it worked great for braises because I have free time mid-day but get home late and too tired too cook at 7 or 8 pm. But, because liquids don't evaporate as much as they do in a dutch oven, I still prefer that, if I cab. So, doing it overnight in a dutch oven and then keeping it warm in the crock pot might be the best of both worlds. I can just imagine the smells at night, though. Might be good enough to keep me up.

                  What temperature do you use, for all night? I don't want to overcook it either. Would 225-250 work?

                  1. re: chowser
                    hotoynoodle Sep 23, 2011 07:57 PM

                    more like 200. I'm well into la-la land before any aromas begin to waft.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      chowser Sep 24, 2011 05:15 AM

                      Thansk--I'll give it a try. I'm still thinking the smell could wake me up, i'm such a light sleeper. I even set my coffee to brew, if I have to wake up early, and the smell gets me up before my alarm.

              2. re: hotoynoodle
                Bada Bing Sep 23, 2011 07:33 PM

                I've tried overnight crockpot cooking a few times--pulled pork, braised pork shoulder with tomatillos, etc. Much as I love savory flavors, I find it hard to deal with those cooking smells at night. Just not what I'm used to at that time. Worlds collide!

                1. re: Bada Bing
                  chowser Sep 24, 2011 05:14 AM

                  Years ago, when I used my breadmaker to bake bread, I'd set it before going to bed. In the middle of the night, the smell of it baking would wake me up and keep me awake.

                  1. re: chowser
                    Bada Bing Sep 24, 2011 06:27 AM

                    Now that you mention it: I've been in that position, too!

              3. j
                jackflibb Sep 23, 2011 08:51 AM

                You all are giving me great info--I really appreciate it. My wife nixed the idea of away-from-home cooking so sounds like we'll be doing the overnight version, and leave the windows open. I'll also be looking at that Westinghouse. Also found this delicious looking all clad slow cooker that you can use on the stovetop for browning too. http://www.cnet.com/8301-13553_1-1019...

                1. j
                  jeanmarieok Sep 23, 2011 09:13 AM

                  Neighbor's house burned to the ground a couple of years ago - ham in a dutch oven on the stove boiled over and caught fire. I'll never leave anything on a stove top unattended. Please don't do it!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jeanmarieok
                    Will Owen Sep 23, 2011 11:49 AM

                    "On a stove" and "in the oven" are two very different things. I will leave the house briefly if I've got a pot of mostly liquid on a low burner, but not for any longer than I'd go upstairs. But an oven is made for unattended cooking. Even some gas ranges from the mid-to-late '50s had timers so that food could be put in a cold oven and the timer set, and the oven would light itself. My mom used such a one when we'd go to church on Sundays, and come home to a perfectly-cooked meal.

                    1. re: Will Owen
                      j
                      jeanmarieok Sep 23, 2011 11:54 AM

                      I agree, stove top is much different than oven. I am still not keen on leaving the oven unattended for very long. Not as bad as my mom, who won't leave the first floor of the house (where the kitchen is) when she's using the oven. But close!!

                  2. p
                    peanuttree Sep 23, 2011 11:59 AM

                    you could use a thermal cooker. They're popular in China/Asia

                    They're basically a pot that has a larger vessel you can put it into. The larger vessel is a vacuum flask, so there is very little heat loss. The idea is you put your food into it boiling, and it stays at that temperature for a while.

                    I bought one but haven't actually used it for cooking yet. But with my test, I put water in maybe 2/3 to the top after boiling, and 2 or 2 and a half hours later, the temperature was down to 165 farenheit. So it doesn't work perfectly, but it's still a viable option if you can spare the time to re-boil every 2-3 hours. You could cook something but still do errands let's say on the weekend when you're generally around the house.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: peanuttree
                      chowser Sep 23, 2011 12:29 PM

                      I was thinking this, too. My mom has used one for years and loves it. It's a great energy saver, too.

                    2. a
                      AsperGirl Sep 23, 2011 08:01 PM

                      Induction burners have a lot of great features, like mine will turn itself off if the plate gets too hot (I can't get a really hot skillet going on it -- I think the temp limit is just under 500 degrees). So I can't burn stuff on it even if I try.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AsperGirl
                        Caitlin McGrath Sep 27, 2011 07:32 PM

                        A portable induction burner isn't really suitable for all-day unattended cooking, because they will turn themselves off automatically after a specific amount of time, like 2-3 hours.

                      2. s
                        sylvan Feb 15, 2012 06:49 PM

                        what you've described is what slow cookers are for, I'd get one.
                        Perhaps you have some kitchen appliances you really don't need. Pick the ones you use once a year. You can donate them to thrift shops that aid animal shelters or people in need.

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