CT 014| What is the Difference Between Braising and Stewing?

In this Culinary Q&A, I answer a viewer question on the difference between braising and stewing. The original question was:

What's the difference between Stewing and Braising? Is it simply that braises are done in the oven and stews are done on the stove top? To me it looks like the exact same technique; tough meats cooked low and slow in liquid until they're falling apart tender. What am I missing?

Jenny M.

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There are 25 Comments

GreenBake's picture

There is a type of cast iron “French Oven” that has an indented top that sounds like it would be ideal for braising, but Doufeu ovens are supposed to be filled with ice cubes rather than coals. Presumably this is because Doufeu cast iron is typically used indoors.

 

I wonder if using these ovens outdoors would damage the enamel typically used in these types of ovens...

 

... or if using the technique gives a better end result.

jacob burton's picture

Do you have a picture of said dutch oven? I think the hot coals might effect the enamel. If doing an "old school braise," I would probably use a cast iron dutch oven without the enamel finish.

jacob burton's picture

Interesting. I like the idea of the ice on top, which cause the moisture on the inside to condense. I'd like to play with one of those. They seem to make it pretty clear though that this vessel is used for ice, not coal. I'm sure direct contact with coal would mess up the finish. I might order one of these though to play around.

GreenBake's picture

 

Cook’s Illustrated has some interesting comments on these ovens:
 
 
I think the reason why I haven’t seen non-enamel versions of the Dofou is water/ice sitting in the top for an extended period of time. It might mess up the cast iron Dofou’s that are seasoned with fat (if such a thing exists). Maybe I just need to search a bit longer to find a non-enamel version.
jacob burton's picture

Interesting that the lid actually works "too good." I guess there is something to be said about evaporation. I'd still like to play with one of these though; I think once the concept is harnessed it could yield some unique results.

GreenBake's picture

I don’t know what the underside looks like, but outside dutch ovens (camp dutch ovens) have room for coals on the top. There are also double dutch ovens, combo cookers and even some cast iron skillets that will work in a pinch.

 

Some, but maybe not all, of the Doufeu ovens have a self-basting lid (bumps on the underside of the lid).

jacob burton's picture

All this talk about dutch ovens and coal cooking makes me want to go camping. At this point though, I'll have to wait until the snow melts in May.

Marco099's picture

Thanks. Very informative. 

 

Given all this, then technically what do I call my traditional Irish lamb "stew", in which I make a lamb stock (I love lamb neck and other joints for this) and prepare the stew meat by searing lamb chunks in a pan and adding to the pot? I'm not technically braising or stewing at all. Is this technically a soup or a goulash (not what is referred to in the US as goulash with macaroni)? Or, anything called a "stew" that is not prepared by braising (or stewing) but is commonly referred to as a stew, like an Irish stew?

jacob burton's picture

If the end product is a hearty soup, I would still call it a stew. It's nice for us nit-picky cooks to know the technical difference between braising and stewing, but at the end of the day, the words we use to describe our food are simply there to communicate an idea. Since so many people think of a stew as a hearty, thick soup with flavorful pieces of tender meat, I would label such soups accordingly. But if anyone ever brings up the subject, you can explain to them the finer points of braising and stewing.

Marco099's picture

Thanks Chef for clarifying. I appreciate the food science you share. As you say, most people who are unfamiliar with formal culinary concepts often refer to a hearty soup as a "stew", which prompted my question (formal technique vs. a common term used in our culture). 

dave12345's picture

Chef, 

Was wondering whether to sear the meat before braising or stewing it.

It wasn't mentioned and I was thinking it made sense from a flavour standpoint.  dave

jacob burton's picture

Yes, meat in generally served first before braising and stewing for additional flavor.

Margaux's picture

Jacob, Good Morning,

 

Awesome video and exemplary presentation ... Truly very informative, and a pleasure to watch too.

 

Thank you for your fine job in coaching, mentoring with concise clear explanations.

 

I have an interesting question; would Tagine Moroccan earthenware vessels be considered a braised dish ? I prepare chicken lemon Tagine quite often at festive occasions ...

 

Enjoyed very much.

Have nice Sunday.

jacob burton's picture

While there are some differences, cooking with a tangine, assuming a lid is used, is very similar to pot roasting/old school braising.

ChefPain's picture

Hey, Chef Burton!

Can you review usage of pressure-cooking with regards to braising/stewing? Is the result comparable to a braise? what factors should I consider  when I use a pressure-cooker for this application?

thanks!

jacob burton's picture

A pressure cooker raises the atmospheric pressure in a closed environment, causing water to boil at a higher temperature (250F at 15 psi instead of 212F at sea level). For more information on the effects of atmospheric pressure on water's temperature, check out the first video in our high altitudes cooking series: http://stellaculinary.com/podcasts/video/high-altitude-baking-cooking-th...

Because the boil point is higher, braised meats can be finished faster (about 90 minutes). However, you could still have issue with the meat drying out if you're not careful. I've had best luck when cooking a tough cut of meat for 45-60 minutes at 15 PSI, turning off the flame, and allowing the pressure to dissipate naturally as the pot cools.

GreenBake's picture

Here is a current page on lecreuset.com which explains how the Doufeu(r) oven works (it does have dimples on the underside of the lid). Doufeu is a trademark of Le Creuset, btw:

http://www.lecreuset.com/content_Doufeu

& this Amazon page has a view of the underside of the lid (it’s the 2nd image, so you have to hover over it or click on the graphic):

http://www.amazon.com/Le-Creuset-Marseille-Enameled-Bakeware/dp/B00HS2XU...

Not sure how it would compare with a double-oven by such manufacturers such as Lodge:

http://www.lodgemfg.com/seasoned-cast-iron/dutch-ovens/double-dutch-oven...

Since the top can be used as a skillet, there are no dimples on the underside. I suspect (only a guess) that the condensation would be centered in the center of the oven.

Randy658's picture

Hello Chef,

I was reading somewhere on the site about how braising in the oven that the max temp would be 212.  This seems to be an optimal (or close to) temp because of the way it effects the protein strands (not drying, and also loosening the collogen). 

The read had also mentioned (I don't know where I saw this) that store bought stock doesn't contain much gelatin which makes it difficult for sauce to thicken.  

I experienced this when making the braised chicken dish the first time, it did not thicken at all, even with the help of some roux.

  The second time I had picked up some gelatin packets and added a quarter of an oz to the sauce when adding the stock. I also finished with a tad of blonde roux, however, is it possible that the integrity of flavor was affected?  The sauce turned out wonderfully. 

Any suggestions for acheiving thickness without the gelatin aside from making stock?

Also, what kind of difference can I expect by making the braised chicken be replacing the store stock with the homemade stock?

Thanks again Chef.      

jacob burton's picture

212F is the max boiling temp of water at sea level, so your braising liquid will never be able to get hotter than 212F, unless you're using a pressure cooker.

At 155F, protein strands fully coagulate and squeeze our most of their moisture. This is why a long, slow braise at a low temperature (like an oven set to 225F) is preferred. I demonstrate this approach in my braised beef short ribs video.

For the best sauce possible, home made stock should be used. When it comes time to thicken the sauce, it is done by reduction. This gives the cleanest possible flavor.

However, roux can also be used. For braised dishes, I prefer a brown roux.

JG613's picture

Thank you Chef I really learned a lot from this lesson. a few Qs

  1. SO to clarify is it technically only braising if the liquid covers the aromatics but NOT the meat?  Or at what point does it go from a braise to a stew?  Is it when the meat is totally immersed?
  2. Do you get the same tenderness if you (cook low and slow and) immerse the meat completely in liquid  (that sounds like boiling to me -- is it not boiling bc the temp is so low?) as you would from "braising" with less liquid?  Is there any correlation whatsoever to the amount of liquid and the flavor/tenderness result, as long as you cook it low and slow?
  3. I read on kitchn.com that, "Braising cooks large cuts of beef in enough liquid to partially cover the meat as shown in Classic Beef Pot Roast with Root Vegetables. Stewing uses small, uniform pieces of beef pot roast or beef for stew meat that are totally immersed in liquid. This technique is used in Beef Bourguignonne." is this true?
  4. Llast Q :-)  is there math for brisket -- at what temp and for how long per pound should it be "braised" and again does the amount of liquid come into play at all?

THANK YOU SO SO SO SO MUCH!

jacob burton's picture

Hey JG,

Since there was a lot of information to cover based on your questions, I did a quick audio response. Please let me know if you have any follow up questions.

JG613's picture

Chef I can not thank you enough.  Your video was SO informative and now this individualized audio answer/lesson?!??! More than I could have hoped for.

You have really demystified the topic for me and I am so appreciative.  I found you via google when I typed in "what is the difference between braising and stewing" and now I feel so lucky.  I actually run a website and would love to invite you to guest blog with a few recipes and pics if you would like to promote your amazing website. Please email me privately and let me know. 

MANY MANY THANKS!

jacob burton's picture

Right on JG, glad I could help.

I'll shoot you an e-mail and we'll get in touch.

patbkkth's picture

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS VERY CLEAR EXPLANATION.
Though the difference may be only slight, I will use the proper term when I cook now.