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What is the advantage (if any) of finalizing a stew or other slow-cooked meals in the oven instead of on a hob?

A lot of recipes tells you to set the pot in the oven to cook for x hours after the initial frying has been done on the stove. Why is that, couldn't you just as easily cook it at a low temperature on a hob for the same period of time?

The only advantage I can see is that the dish maybe doesn't burn as easily when cooked in the oven.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

In the oven, that heat is coming from all directions more or less equally. On the stovetop, the heat is coming only from the bottom. This can potentially cause convection, and almost certainly requires occasional stirring (especially for larger batches), meaning that the ingredients are being moved around. The combination of the ingredients being heated more when they're at the bottom and the movement can cause them to start breaking apart, and generally cook unevenly.

Personally, I only find this to be an issue with beans and meat (and it's not something that's going to cause failure; it's really just a refinement) but if you are making an especially large batch of stew, you may want to try the oven.

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Generally speaking, stews are cooked on the hob when the liquid element requires a reasonable amount of reduction.

Casseroles (stews done in the oven) are generally covered for the majority of the cooking time, occasionally being uncovered near the end to thicken up a little.

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IF you're lazy like I am ... to thicken a stew, grate a potato in, then bring up to a simmer ... it'll break down and release starches to thicken the stew. If you have instant potato flakes, those work too. – Joe Aug 17 '12 at 20:11

I can think of two advantages:

  1. Less heat in the kitchen. (if it's cool outside, fine, losing heat to the ambient air might be useful ... other times, it's not so nice)

  2. Convenience. When you keep the stew (or other long cooking item) on the stovetop, you need to stir it occassionally. The heat from all sides helps, but the fact that you don't need to effectively overheat the stuff at the bottom (so that the remaining heat can conduct / convect though ... or be lost to the air), reduces the need to check on it so often and give it a stir.


And, then there's the fact that it's actually the traditional way of doing some stews. Housewives would drop off their assembled dishes with the baker, he'd put them in the oven after he was done with the baking for the day, and leave them in the cooling oven, they'd then collect them in the afternoon. This freed up the housewife from having to slave over the fire all day, so that she could do other tasks (eg, laundry, back in the days when required going out to a stream and beating the clothes)

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I had always thought that an enclosed insulated oven conserves more heat, and hence electricity, than an open stove. When you install your oven, did you pad it with insulation? When I touch the glass door of an over that had been running 450 for an hour - I could barely feel the heat. – Blessed Geek Aug 21 '12 at 1:03

You can only make thin stews in the stove. If the stew is meant to be eaten after it has hardened, you can't make it on the stove. It won't be dry enough, and the topping won't bake.

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