Did You Know?

So, I’m slowly making my way through Michael Ruhlman’s “Elements of Cooking”, and I read that a lidded pot in an X-degree (F) oven can be counted on to be X +20.

Considering that we try to do braises so that the collagen breaks down slowly, and around 180F is ideal, it makes me wonder: have the recipe writers missed this? Or have they taken it into account, just never accounted for the actual in-pot temperature being higher?


I assume so.

I work in centigrade and that gives me 85°C which is sub-boiling. Given that cooking tends to be a combination of time and temperature I suspect that 85 for a couple of hours gets a pretty good result, maybe better results from a sous-vide bath at 55°C for 24 hours…but i get too hungry…!

The lid also keeps the moisture in the casserole. I wonder if there is an even bigger temperature effect if you seal the lid with a dough (slightly lore pressure?) as some classic recipes do.

I assume that you are referring to the in-pot temperature of the empty space inside the pot, not the actual contents? Obviously the liquid in the pot can’t go above 212F (or thereabouts, whatever the boiling point of your chosen braising liquid is), but the air/steam mixture inside the pot above the liquid is likely a good deal hotter. This may be useful to know if a substantial portion of your food is sticking out of the braising liquid, but it likely doesn’t matter much if the food is mostly submerged.

Are there any stats on how long it takes liquid to come to the boiling point in an oven set to various temperatures, and/or at what rate water converts to steam at various oven temps? I would think that would be much more useful information in terms of braising. Since air is not the greatest conductor of heat, it’s not like you can set your oven to 212F and expect water inside the oven to maintain a steady boil.

I’m not so sure. Excluding the minor variables of evaporative cooling/heat loss and in-vessel pressure, I think you probably can count on a steady boil at a constant air temperature of 212F. The rub is the fact that most ovens do not maintain a constant temperature–they cycle.

To me the more interesting question, based on my reading in Ruhlman (and attributed to McGee), is whether we would have a boil at a constant oven temp of 200F or 210F (at sea level).

Thermoworks makes a waterproof thermometer intended for in-dishwasher use. Someone should throw one into a pot of water in 200 and 212 ovens, and see…

I think, in either case, the temperature is still X degree. Probably, in one case, there is a lot more moisture/water contain within the container, and therefore cook faster… (less evaporation and better heat conduction). Maybe like 15oF with wind feels like 0oF (but nevertheless is still 15oF)

Maybe. Or maybe the radiated heat, confined within the pot’s airspace, really is 10F hotter than the air in the oven.

I’m not prepared to call BS on Ruhlman and McGee, and I caution anyone against it.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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