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I am ready to make a pot roast in an enameled cast-iron dutch oven. I know I should brown the meat on the stove before putting it in the oven. I have heard conflicting advice as to whether or not to preheat the dutch oven before putting the oil in it to brown the meat. Which advice is correct?

As a follow-up question, should the meat be at room temperature before putting in the dutch oven to brown?

(General advice about making a pot roast in a dutch oven also welcomed! I have a 2 lb. roast and some potatoes.)

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

With enameled cast-iron, I don't bother to heat the pot before adding the oil. For something that's open-pored, like plain cast-iron or carbon steel (like an old-school crepe pan), it's better to preheat the pan. I can't see any chemical advantage to preheating enameled, as it's inert and non-porous. Of course everything DOES need to be properly hot before you add the meat.

I can take or leave letting my roast get to room temp when doing a braise. It's going to be in the oven/pot long enough that it's going to be cooked to 200+ degrees all the way through no matter what. The only possible advantage of letting it warm up on the counter is that it will take marginally less time to cook. And by marginally, I mean you probably won't even notice, on the scale of pot roast cooking time. For a steak or a rib roast where you want the middle warm without the outside being totally dry and charred, room temp helps a lot.

The only real tip I can give on pot roast is to use the right cut of meat. You want something from the shoulder, which usually means chuck. It has an excellent mix of rich meaty flavor, collagen/connective tissue (which makes that gelatin thats critical to the silky mouthfeel of pot roast and BBQ), and fat. You can also use something from the leg (shank) or tail, which also have loads of connective tissue, but they're usually a little low on actual meat. If you get the right cut of meat and cook it low and long enough to get that collagen rendered, it's pretty hard to mess up the rest of it.

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Very helpful; I'd upvote if I had the reputation for it. What did you mean by "everything DOES need to be properly hot before you add the meat?" I assume the emphasis is on "before" there. I know to do it, I just don't know why. –  Jason Nov 15 '10 at 1:08
    
You want the meat to go into a nice hot pan so that when the meat hits the pan any water or juices that are on the surface are flashed off instantly, getting the meat proteins in direct contact with the heat right away (you can think of the oil as an extension of the pan in this case, since it's more important for conveying the pan's heat to the meat than as a lubricant). Otherwise, you're going to slowly steam the outside, which retards the browning reaction you really want. –  bikeboy389 Nov 15 '10 at 1:29
    
Also, if you got all the answer you want from my response, you can accept the answer--that's better than upvoting, in my book. And it looks like lots of people forget to do that, and I think accepting answers is helpful to folks who read the thread later. But don't accept just to be nice. :) –  bikeboy389 Nov 15 '10 at 1:41
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Jason - From experience I always preheat my cast-iron dutch oven, then before adding the meat I heat the oil.

As far as bringing your meat to room temperature. It is a good idea to let it sit on a counter after pulling it out of the oven. The meat will cook evenly if the meat is the same temperature throughout.

Good luck!

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