HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Pot roasting

When making pot roast in oven instead of on stovetop is it ness. To bring it to a simmer before goes in the oven? What is the reason for it.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What does "is it ness" mean?

    1. Is it necessary, I assume.

      IME, yes. It get all the items to same temp which should allow more even cooking in the oven.

      1 Reply
      1. Well, I heat stove top too to bring to a simmer but I don't think it's necessary. I would expect the little bit of liquid would reach a simmer in a short time relative to the long braising time

        1. I do mainly because with all of the browning of the meat and sweating of the veggies, I have a hot pan to begin with before putting in the oven.

          1. The deeper question might be, is it necessary ever to put it into the oven at all?

            I have some real experience with that question and my conclusion is, unambiguously, NO. The difference in results from stovetop vs oven cooking -- assuming you have a good heavy pot in both cases, and know something of what you're doing, of course -- is nil.

            In fact, some checking of old European cooking traditions, where this all came from, revealed that they use both methods interchangeably, and the custom of choosing either oven or stovetop was essentially about what stove facilities were available and convenient. In really ancient times, all this happened in a fireplace anyway. Oven is convenient if you were already running it for some reason, or want to warm the place up in cold weather.

            Not that there isn't plenty of cooking dogma out there of course, on this as on everything else, and people ready to rationalize it ad infinitum. But I use stove top unless there's a particular reason to choose the oven.

            The concrete advantage is that it takes many times less total energy to maintain a stovetop pot at simmering temperature than to do the same thing in an oven.

            6 Replies
            1. re: eatzalot

              But it's easier to walk away from a pot in the oven for a couple of hours than a pot on the stove.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                Yes, that's a practical argument for it. Which may be more important sometimes than saving energy or causing unnecessary kitchen heat.

                I do find, though, with experience (and -- again! -- a good heavy pot) I have no trouble adjusting the heat so that a large pot can also simmer properly for hours on a stove top.

                1. re: eatzalot

                  Agreed. I can get my gas rangetop to a very low simmer but like the idea of a braise getting heat from all sides in the oven.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    The problem with the heat-from-all-sides argument (here I'll put on my applied-scientist hat, which is real) is that meat braising, by definition, cooks water-bearing food by moist heat at atmospheric pressure. Under those conditions, the ambient temperature applied to the roast's surface never exceeds boiling-water temperature, 100 °C (212 °F), even in the oven, unless the pot dries out (bad news anyway). Given a heavy pot with a tight lid, the roast will see more or less the same temperature all around, even on stove-top.

                    You will notice a bit more browned residue on the pot's inside walls, afterwards, with oven cooking (from splashed liquid drying). But the meat doesn't "know" whether the moist heat surrounding it during cooking was conducted from the sides of the pot or just the bottom, as steam. (Same way vegetables, stuffed dumplings, etc. get cooked by "steaming.")

                    1. re: eatzalot

                      I would suggest that a true braise could at least slightly exceed atmospheric pressure. I do not believe that a true braise can be achieved stove-top; even a crock pot does better. A true brasiere (old school) has a concave lid, fit tight, and the whole thing went into the fire. Coals were placed on top, so that the entire item was surrounded by heat. The item was elevated to come very close to touching the bottom of the lid and create the smallest space possible for cooking the item.

                      I'm not saying that the process is adiabatic, but there's a technique for raising the pressure: make a paste of flour and water and completed line the rim. That seal can be maintained without failure for hours in the oven under braise. Heat is applied, so the temp has to rise above the boiling temperature. But that might not even matter.

                      The rest is about water management, and I think that this is the most important thing. On the stove top, there's an inverse thermocline (this is off the top of my head but it is what I've been thinking for years). The top of the lid is exposed to room temperature, yet heat is applied at the bottom. With this, you get a water cycle, where water condenses on the top and drops down over the item. Since I don't want this to occur, I would want heat completely surrounding the container.

                      Using the paste, the entire container is under constant temperature and pressure, and that eliminates water cycling. No moisture is lost to the atmosphere, because we're not looking for a reduction here in this braise. So there's no liquid drying effect on the side walls. We want to start with little liquid in the first place, and the liquid volume will increase from the juices released by the item. The item almost looks dried out when you open it. It is kind of fun to do a braise, seal it up, and pray, knowing that you won't see it again til you are about to serve your guests.....

            2. To make sure that it actually gets to that state. It probably would anyway, but if you start with it simmering, then you know that it has.

              1. FYI, rudeboy:

                1. I've been doing official, "true" braises, specified for stovetop cooking in classic cookbooks (some mentioned below), for 41 years, since I first made "braised beef gourmet" out of the 1965 Fannie Farmer. I last made that same one (somewhat evolved) 3 days ago. (It's one of the best stews I know -- amazingly, since in principle it's just beef and mushrooms. Relies on an unusual, wide-pan braising technique.) If the diversity of authoritative braises specified for _stovetop_ cooking is unfamiliar to you, I suggest reading more cookbooks. Seriously.

                (I already outlined here the historical reasons for various recipes ending up on stovetops or ovens more or less interchangeably. E.g, the glorious Alsatian, rim-sealed, "Baekeoffe" stew of mixed meat and vegetables was baked because, where it originated, the best high-capacity heat source was the village bakery, which was used, after the day's bread baking, for the purpose -- whence that dish's name). Likewise, historically, Boston baked beans.

                2. Fanny Farmer explained, even earlier, that braising by definition means cooking by moist heat. It's really, really, NOT necessary to exceed boiling-water temp. to cook ANY meat; needed is only a heat source exceeding the target internal temperature, around 160 °F or even lower. That's how sous-vide, poaching, even crock pots work. Crock pots, which you mentioned, are just dedicated cooking vessels with electric heat and timers. Variation on the technology used for generations for electric skillets, popcorn poppers, waffle irons.

                3. Yes, certainly you can get casual overpressure transients, even without sealed lids, in covered vessels containing boiling liquid (whether stovetop or in oven). No, that's not particularly important to the larger scheme of things; what's important is to have steam inside the vessel, to carry heat -- unless of course the food is fully immersed in liquid. Which is one of the meanings of the broad term "braise" in some printed recipes.

                4. The final authority for my comments on suitability of stovetop cooking for pot roasts (not to mention stews!) is my own experience of having done it (1500 times? counting stews) with superb results. That's even more persuasive to me than both my Fannie Farmer and Joy-of-Cooking cookbooks taking for granted that pot roasts are cooked stove-top; or that both the Gourmet Cookbook (1950) and the USRCB (mentioned in the recent Russian-Dressing thread) show both oven and stovetop braised-beef recipes. There's mainstream 20th-century kitchen American cookbookery's viewpoint, in a nutshell.

                ETA: Agree with 512window on the OP's question.

                2 Replies
                1. re: eatzalot

                  Somehow, eatzalot, I missed this. Just saw your thoughtful response when letsindulge replied. I wish that you were my neighbor, so we could eat all these stews and braises!

                  Anyhow, I think that wonderful stews etc can be made on the stove. I have done it many times. I got interested in braising years ago, and I've been tinkering with my own technique for a while. I started with the New Professional Chef when I was in my early twenties, greatly influenced by Madeliene Kamman in my early thirties, and then I had kids and dropped out of my education for a while. Recently, I've been studying Escoffier, which is interesting (and popular to throw his name about), because the method prescribed there differs from what I'm currently doing. His technique is here:


                  (search for, in quotes, "Braising, Poaching, Sautes" to take you right to the braising method


                  Also search for "Daube"

                  Not really into to many 20th century American cookbooks directed toward mid-century housewives. Too many of the preparations result in boiling the meat in liquid. The meat can be fall apart tender, but it isn't the same to me. A lot of current website recipes also confuse the term "braise" with sear. I've even seen grill pans advertised as braising pans.

                  All reputable cookbooks in the French Tradition call for moving the braising pot to the oven.

                  Anyhow, being a scientist, I think about it all the time. My goal is to do my next braising outdoors, old school, on a fire. For oven cooking, I need to procure this:


                  Note the clamps on the side. Escoffier's method for daube includes the following instruction (just discovered this, and I originally got the idea from Kamman):

                  "close the daubiere, and seal down the lid by means of a thread of soft paste, in order that the steam may be concentrated inside." then "put the daubiere in an oven of regular heat (a baker's oven if possible) that the cooking process may be gentle and steady, and cook for five hours."

                  It is my understanding that these were earthenware. Here's a copper "daubier." Note the fluted lid.


                  This is what I want to cook outside. There are references to placing coals in the top of the pot. Interestingly, Williams Sonoma has the following product that I didn't know about:


                  Note how they describe the lid as formerly containing embers and "placed directly onto a heat source such as burning wood or embers. Cooks would pile coal or embers on top of the vessel in order to surround the food with heat, creating an oven effect." But then they promote putting ice in the lid to promote condensation. There are even dimples inside the lid so that condensed liquid will drip onto the cooking item. I disagree with this....they give a nod to the old way to create an oven effect, then jack up the desired oven effect by promoting condensation. Every boy scout knows how to properly use a dutch oven with coals on top. Trying to emulate an oven over an open flame.

                  I'd like to do a braise on a camping trip, so I'm interested in trying it over an open fire.

                  My thinking is, that with even heating all around, and a good seal on the cooking vessel, then there is no moisture loss and the cooking item is surrounded by saturated vapor. And if the pressure is higher than atmospheric, then the temp can be raised without boiling the liquid. I feel like this eliminates the need for any stirring or basting. Remaining liquid is either reduced on the stovetop or thickened as desired.

                  Not saying that my way is the right way or the only way. It's just what I'm doing now. Still learning and experimenting.

                  1. re: rudeboy

                    I'm with you re keep learning and experimenting.

                    (N.B.: "Not really into to many 20th century American cookbooks directed toward mid-century housewives." Maybe you aren't; however my point there -- evidently unclear -- was just to demonstrate established US perception of pot roasting, in which the different heat sources are used interchangeably.)

                    (N.B.: Most cookbooks, including in France, are directed at housewives, because they often cook.)

                    For sources like Escoffier I go to the books directly. In Escoffier's "Guide Culinaire" professional reference, and three editions of the "Larousse Gastronomique" that were handy, the daube / estouffade recipes indeed assume oven cooking. (The '88 LG further traced the word "daube" to the Spanish "dobar," "to braise.")

                    None of those sources offers any particular rationale for choosing oven as heat source, but bear with me. Further to something you mentioned, the LGs say (this appears in '88 and '01 editions) the daubière ("braising pot of stoneware, earthenware, or galvanized copper" -- the '61 mentions "tinned copper") was, "like the braisière (stewpan), originally designed for cooking over charcoal" -- whence older daubières had lids with raised edges that could hold "burning charcoal."

                    The seminal Elizabeth David, writing from France on French cooking (David, as you probably know, influenced among others Julia Child, Alice Waters, and the start of the current US "artisanal bakery" movement, which Steve Sullivan credited to David's bread book), took for granted that stovetop braising was equivalent if it was more convenient.

                    All of this supports my basic position: it's chiefly about what heat source is conveniently at hand. Again, I have experienced no significant, consistent difference when cooking in the oven. (I don't know what sort of science you work with routinely, rude one, but frankly the suggestion of sustained pressure-cooking effect even in a dough-sealed lid -- and most oven braising recipes, including French ones, don't even do that -- strikes me as essentially fanciful. I've no doubt there are minor pressure changes inside such vessels, but great doubt that they matter. Compared to the moist heat convection by steam that is the traditional meaning of braising.)

                    Separately from the current question I STRONGLY recommend Elizabeth David's books to anyone seriously interested in braises. She managed to uniquely notice and explain some of the traditional French and Mediterranean sensibilities -- for one trivial example, using whatever good herbs are fresh, rather than using _particular_ herbs, to season braises. I've gotten serious insights from David's 3-cookbook combined edition sold as "Elizabeth David Classics" (Knopf, 1980). Of maybe 1500 cookbooks, food histories, and food reference books I use, it's one of the best and most useful.

                    I'd missed the hilarious online misusage of braise to mean "sear." Doesn't surprise me, given pop culture's eagerness to adopt new words without bothering to learn what they mean (parameter, penultimate, epicenter, cusp, etc etc). Summarized that in another recent thread as NERTM: Not Everyone Reads The Manual. For words, any more than for anything else.

                    ETA: There IS a standard English word "brazier" (2ndary spelling "brasier"), a heating source such as charcoal. This word is variously used in the US for charcoal grills such as hibachis, and in traditional cookbooks for the heat source of a chafing dish. Maybe that has caused some confusion about "braising." The two words have the same root in the French for hot coals (says the AHD -- hardcopy of course) but in English they're very different cooking terms.

                2. It shortens cooking time but that's about it. Not necessary.

                  1. Talking about pot roast does anyone have a recipe that doesn't use soup sachets and it has to be no fail!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      Most recipes didn't use soup mixes, Ruthie789, until soup mix makers started promoting that as a marketing tool.

                      You can always translate a processed-food pot-roast recipe into a more traditional one, by substituting homemade soup broth for the commercial soup, or for the commercial soupmix + water.

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        That is a great alternative. I do not like the salt content of dry soup packages.

                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          I make the classic 'BB' about once a month to feed about ten people. I have a very heavy cast iron/enamel pot with a good lid.
                          As everyone knows 'BB' is simply a braise.
                          I always make it on the stove top.
                          Sometimes I use a large piece of chuck/shoulder which is a 'roast' as such. Sometimes I cut the chuck/shoulder into three inch cubes.
                          As others here have pointed out 'braising' isn't difficult if you start with the proper cut of meat and only if you keep the temp down below 212 F.
                          IMO dry soup packages are for making soup.

                          1. re: Puffin3

                            I have yet to make a good one, thank you for sharing your method.

                    2. Ruthie789: "That is a great alternative. I do not like the salt content of dry soup packages."

                      You and me both! Some notes from my experience and reading:

                      - Traditional pot-roasting recipes use flavorful braising liquids: meat broths, various wines, tomatoes or tomato juice, lemon juice. Belgians and Germans are famous for using beer; Germans sometimes diluted vinegar. Italian technique often starts by browning a piece of meat, then adding white or red wine AND cooking it down to a syrup. Then chopped tomatoes or tomato puree, vegetables, and herbs are added for the long slow cooking. In Italian custom, the recipe yields a lot of tomato-based sauce or gravy, it may be used with pasta, the meat served as a separate course.

                      - Meats themselves, long cooked, render out around half their weight as juices, many vegetables even more. Therefore, it's not _fundamentally_ necessary to add any liquid in a braise, if it's well covered and cooked gently enough to sweat the ingredients. A published gulasch recipe and a published pork-braise recipe I've used both add no liquid. The pork braise is simple & interesting: smear a pork loin (not tenderloin) with paste of garlic, chopped fresh rosemary, olive oil, some salt; let marinate overnight, refrigerated, inside a covered Dutch oven. Then heat and slowly braise until tender (meat sweats out juices); THEN cool, chill, serve cold, sliced. Homemade fancy cold cuts.

                      - Recently I wanted some braised chicken with intense juices, to go with something starchy. Browned a cut-up chicken in a skillet, transferring the pieces to a deep heavy pot where I'd already cooked down some unsalted chicken broth about 2:1 so it was starting to get syrupy. Added vegetable bits and mixed fresh herbs (deglazed the skillet with white wine, cooking it down, then adding to pot); covered, cooked gently until meat was tender. Removed the pieces, separated meat from bones and skin (which takes just moments), returned meat to juices, for a versatile chicken stew. Delicious and cheap! (Skin and bones were used too, to make new chicken broth.)

                      I don't know if any pot-roasting is strictly fool-proof, but they almost always work well if you use decent ingredients, don't burn the meat, and cook till tender (time varies with the meat). I've read that pot roasts developed in Europe to use tougher meat pieces, which still could become tender and delicious with slow moist cooking.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: eatzalot

                        I will have to try one again,thank you for posting.

                      2. For meat braises/pot roasts, I like Harold McGee's trick: put the (prepped) ingredients in a tight-lidded pot into a cold oven, turn it to 200, after 2 hours raise heat slightly (215 on my oven gives me a single lazy bubble and great results). Using enameled cast-iron pot with a tight seal. I prefer the oven for being able to walk away from it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Aromatherapy

                          That technique is new to me, and strikes me as particularly useful where the ingredients will sweat out their own liquid (i.e. little or no liquid is added, in one type of recipe that I mentioned earlier), which demands gentle heating.

                          Anyway, the technique does show one special feature of (modern) ovens -- shared by electric crock-pots, more or less, but not by conventional stovetop cooking: temperature regulation by a thermostat.

                        2. A little more background scholarship.

                          Mariani in the new edition (Dec. 2013) of his "Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink" reports that the term "pot roast" dates to 1880 and was used historically to tenderize "beef from beasts that had been work animals rather than food animals, or other inferior" meat cuts. Beef brisket, bottom or top round, and chuck being customary choices today. (Mariani explains the process of cooking "in a deep pot or saucepan, usually covered," but specifies no particular heat source in the definition.)