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A stew recipe I was using said to brown the meat in the Dutch oven first. I tried to--added oil and let it get hot on the stove top with lid off. However, the meat did not appear to brown as much as, I think, broil. I am unsure if I waited long enough to get the Dutch oven hot all the way--but the oil seemed to get hot in it. I was wanting to let the meat stay longer in the Dutch oven but it began to stick to the bottom without looking browned. I made sure not to crowd the bottom of the oven and the oven itself is a 4.3 quart cast iron enameled one.

Is there a particular approach to browning meat in a Dutch oven vs a pan?

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  • Are you heating the Dutch oven inside an oven or from below?
    – dbmag9
    Mar 13 at 13:07
  • 6
    I suspect you just needed to wait longer after the meat stuck to the bottom; often once it has browned it will release by itself.
    – dbmag9
    Mar 13 at 13:08
  • Did you per chance close the lid?
    – Stephie
    Mar 13 at 14:16
  • I was heating it on stove top. Mar 13 at 14:22
  • I did not have lid closed Mar 13 at 14:23
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A few things that I would suggest for browning in general, some of which moscafj has already hinted at:

  • Dry your meat: Any surface moisture has to be evaporated, cooling down the meat and the pot. A dry piece of meat will brown more easily. For grilling, many people use paper towels, but for stews you can also roll the chunks in flour so it later acts as a thickner ... but if you do this make sure to shake off any loose flour before adding it to your pot.

  • Work in small batches. You want to have a bit of space around each piece of meat so that any moisture given off can quickly evaporate, rather than pooling and cooling off the pan. (if you're not using flour). Generally I try for at least 1cm (about 1/2 an inch) gap between the various chunks when browning meat.

  • Be patient. Browning takes a little bit of time. If the food sticks, just leave it alone. This is a sign that the proteins are starting to change. Once they're fully browned, they'll release their hold. (this is a useful test for if it's browned in a large pot, as you can't easily see under it ... just wait until you can prod it from the side and see if it releases ... but don't push too hard, as you can end up ripping the crust that's starting to form and leave that stuck to the pot; if this happens, deglaze before your next batch, and save the liquid (to add back to the stew later).

But specifically for a dutch oven:

  • If you have a fan near your stove, use it. The high-sides of a dutch oven prevent the moisture from escaping easily, leaving you with steamed meat. If you don't have a fan, you may want to leave a little more space between your chunks of meat.

If you're crunched for time, it's often quicker to brown large batches of meat chunks under the broiler (grill / top heat) of your oven, rather than in a dutch oven, but you need to keep a closer eye on it.

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Heat the pan over medium heat for a minute or two. Add fat. When you barely see it smoke, add meat without crowding the pot. Wait. Sticking means it has not yet browned. It will release with gentle prodding when a crust forms. Too much movement will not give it a chance to brown. When it releases (or when brown, sometimes it does not stick), turn pieces, and continue. The advantage of cast iron is that it retains heat well. Keep the heat at medium high and be patient.

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  • 4
    Preheating “for a minute or two” is definitely not enough with a thick bottom pan (such as a Dutch oven), and might explain OPʼs disappointing results. Oh, and many materials (including enamelled cast iron) don't cope well being heated dry. Add fat before preheating. Mar 14 at 0:23

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