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Oven temperature for braising? Meat boiling or not?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

After a few years participating in these forums I'm left with the impression that one should never truly boil meat, which would make it tough and rubbery. Poaching or slow-simmering seem like better alternatives. Do you agree with that premise?

 

But then what about the temperature at which you should set your oven for a braise? Some recipes go as low as 200F, while others go as high as 375F. Moreover, those recipe indicate the same cooking time (about 2-3 hours for short ribs).

 

If your oven is set to 375F, isn't there a risk that the liquid in your braising pot will start boiling rapidly?

 

Out of curiosity, at what oven temperature does the liquid inside a pot reach 212F?

post #2 of 16

Assuming the oven can hold a temperature accurately, your roast would boil at 212. But air is a poor conductor of heat. So even at a temp of 350, most braises don't achieve a rolling boil. And ovens are terribly poor at hitting and holding a temperature as well, commonly swinging 25-50 degrees above and below the set temperature. While the air is hotter than the boil, it just can't transfer enough heat into the braise fast enough within certain limits. I've not seen recipe for a braise at 375, they've topped out at 350 in my limited home experience.

 

And the premise of never boiling meat has some caveats. I find a pressure cooker my preferred method for preparing corned beef. At 15 pounds of pressure, the water boils at something around 250 degrees. That's where I'm cooking that corned beef and it comes out tender with great flavor.

 

And there are times I "roast" at low temps, 225 -250. Pork ribs for example, or a ribeye roast/prime rib.

 

The premise of the braise is to use liquid as the heat conductor. it's much more efficient than air. yet moderate the heat so it doesn't exceed "the boiling point".  Same as a bain marie. This allows the meat to come to temperature more evenly than would be possible in a dry heat method, but without running into temperatures that would cause uneven cooking and drying in the outer layers.

 

It's still cooked to the point that would be dry in most other cuts of meat. The water moisture is largely wrung out of the meat by the contracting proteins. If you try braised meats at temps from 160 up to about 175, they're dry and tough. But a phase change happens as the meat moves from 180-190. The collagen melts out and re-wets the meat. The collagen breaking down results in the meat being tender too. YOu'll notice that meat hits that 180 point and just stalls or plateaus for a while.  It's because of the phase change.

 

But if you keep cooking past that point the meat will continue to dry and toughen some more. So even with the pressure cooker, I'm still pulling the corned beef at hopefully the 190 point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the detailed answer. The recipe I linked to in my original post is by Anne Burrel, she says the oven needs to be at 375F.

 

In any case... pressure cooker aside, and considering I am at sea level, am I correct that the meat should not be rapidly boiling? I wonder why different recipes have such a wide variation of temperature.

post #4 of 16

I would never boil for a braise.  I tend to do braises on the stove top so you can more easily keep an eye on it.  Just a gentle simmer is what I use and it seems to end in a tender meat most times.  Doing it stovetop also stops any major fluctuation in the temp. of the oven by continually opening the oven door.  Need to keep the liquid levels up as well, it's just something you have to eyeball.  Not so much as to make it a stew, but say 1/3 the way up the meat or it will get dry. Turn the meat once in a while. You can pour off the majority of juices once the meat is done and pop the lid back on over the meat, put a folded tea towel on the lid to help it stay hot.  Reduce/thicken your jus while the meat rests.

 

Hope this helps somewhat.  It's just how I do it,  works for me.

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks DC. What you describe is pretty much how I've been going about it, except I usually put liquid up to 2/3 and haven't felt the need to add more during cooking.

 

post #6 of 16

I completely agree with DCSunchine. After a few try-outs, years ago, to make a braise in the oven, I gave it up and now make it on the stove top. Same for all stews.

The problem with the oven is indeed which temperature to use and the lack of control and tasting ability. Also what do you use in the oven? A covered pot, an uncovered pot?

post #7 of 16

This thread got me to thinking.

 

While I often talk about braising in the oven, I find that I most often actually do it on the stove top. For all the reasons expressed. Made a cranberry pot roast the other night, for instance, all on the range.

 

I even use my tajines on top of the stove. In theory, that's a dangerous procedure with earthenware. But I've never had a problem.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

I have braised short ribs in the oven right now. I've always made it on the stovetop, thought I'd try another technique. Also I don't have a good cast iron pot so I'm using a stainless steel saucepan - so I believe the heat should be more uniform in the oven.

 

I've set my oven for 300F, it's definitely not boiling (at all). But it sure smells good. smile.gif EDIT: it finally started boiling, so I turned the oven down to 265F.

 

KYH, I've always cooked tajines on the stovetop. I didn't even think that the dish would go in the oven. I use a heat diffusor that does a great job of reducing the heat from the gas burner. I believe it's the variations in temperature that might break the dish, and with the heat diffusor it takes forever for the tajine to heat through. I've never tried placing the tajine straight onto the burner for fear of cracking it.


Edited by French Fries - 3/23/11 at 2:41pm
post #9 of 16

French Fries,

 

If I may just say,

 

Yes , you can use it in the oven on low heat . The point of the Tajine is to capture the aromatic condensation.  I have always started caramalizing my meat , veg. etc in different layers and then finished it off in the stove like a stew with the various layers of flavors for up to 3-5 depending the meat.

 

Alot depends on what type of  Tajine. The clay ones do not take kindly to high temps.


Edited by petalsandcoco - 3/23/11 at 3:28pm

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi Petals, thanks for chiming in on this! Mine is a clay tajine which is painted and varnished. I guess it could handle 250F in the oven? Although I do enjoy having it on my stovetop, it looks so pretty. :)

post #11 of 16

French Fries,

 

When I hear ....Painted, Varnished, and looking pretty.....and you have never used it in the oven....ummmm ...have you ever soaked your Tajine in water for an hour or so and then oiled the inside and baked it 350 oven  for a few hours to cure it ?

Some Tajines are just decorative.

If you have cooked stove top on yours before ( a few times I hope ) , then I do not see any reason why you could not go ahead and cook on a low oven. ( just no high heat )

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

Oh no no, it's a cooking tajine, I've made many tajines on the stovetop with it, never in the oven. I just saw something that looked equivalent that said "Safe in the oven up to 350F" so I should be fine.

 

Maybe varnished is the wrong word, it's clay that has been glazed. I cured it per the instructions, which were as you describe if I remember correctly.

post #13 of 16

The general directions are that an unglazed tajine can be used directly over the flame (we're talking gas heat, now), but a glazed one needs a diffuser. Either type can be used in the oven.

 

In Morroco, however, they are used over charcoal, in special burners designed just for that purpose. So I don't understand the diffuser restriction.

 

The actual danger with clay pots of any kind isn't high heat per se; it's rapid changes in temperature. That's one of the reasons you start them over a very low flame, and do not suddenly increase it. You want the clay to heat evenly (with tajines, that applies to the bottom half, but not necessarily the cone). One reason in-the-oven is considered safer is that it does just that, heat the clay slowly and evenly.

 

BTW, for those who might be confused by this part of the discussion, the word "tajine" refers to both the dish and the specialized "pot" it's cooked in. Come to think of it, that's true for many clay cooking pots; both the name of the pot and the name of the dish made in it are the same.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

KYH, maybe my tajine would be safe directly over the gas, but I don't want to take the risk. As you said sudden changes in temperature make them crack/break, and one thing I noticed is that with a diffuser it heats really slowly: up to 1hr1/2 to take the liquid from cold to boiling. I don't mind, if I make a tajine, I have time, so that's not a problem for me.

 

 

post #15 of 16

French Fries,

This is slightly off topic - as opposed to tajines, with unglazed clay  Dutch ovens/casserole dishes such as "Romertopfs" it is conventional to soak them overnight or even 24 hours before using in the oven.  With tajines, whilst I don't have one nor have ever used one, I've often seen the glazed ones used on stove tops.  I keep my Romertopf for special occasions but by heck they do a nice job on braising.  Nothing (inlcuding flavour) escapes :)  and they are the one dish I can trust to braise in  the oven.  Chicken and pots roasts go really well in them.  They are not cheap, but I've had mine for roughly 25 years and wouldn't be without it.

 

Main point as has been mentioned is to keep them (tagines) at a slow, even heat.  No dramatic changes in temperature.  They can crack and OOPS! there goes your dish and there goes the yummy contents.

 

Stainless steel big pots are much easier - just not as pretty :)  You could braise in a big tainless. steel pot then transfer into a warmed tagine for serving purposes....

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #16 of 16

Romertophs are in a class by themself, DC, so you don't want to extrapolate their care and feeding to other items.

 

Most unglazed clay cooking vessels should be soaked with you first get them. This tightens the bonds and evens the texture of the clay. Then you coat the inside with (olive) oil and go on from there. Soaking is not required after that unles it sits for a very long time between uses. 

 

The primary reason glazed cookware is used with a diffuser is precisely as FF says: It causes very slow heating. The potential problem without one is that the clay and the glaze heat at different rates, and, thus, expand differently. This can cause the glaze to crack, craze, and check. Ultra-slow heating avoids that because it allows the two materials to maintain balance.

 

Question: Why do you reserve your Romertoph for special occasions? Nothing cooks quite like clay. And the more you use it the better flavor it imparts to the food. And the fact that Romertophs are so unGodly expensive is even more reason to use them often. You gotta justify that investment.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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