Published March 1, 2006. From Cook's Illustrated.
Can a few cups of ice take the guesswork out of braising?
Le Creuset's oval-shaped Doufeu oven comes with a recessed lid meant to be filled with ice cubes during cooking. The ice creates condensation on the lid's dimpled underside that rains back down onto the food. By efficiently recycling the steam as a basting liquid, you can cook with less water or broth, yielding a stronger-flavored sauce.
Well, that's the theory. Intrigued, we pitted the Doufeu against our favorite traditional Dutch oven (also Le Creuset) on several batches of braised meat. Even though it starts off with less water, the Doufeu ended up with more liquid every time. The meat was tender enough, but the extra retained liquid made for thinner and less flavorful sauces than those cooked in the regular (ice-free) Dutch oven. (Apparently, the Doufeu does its job too efficiently.) We'll stick with the regular Dutch oven, which allows moderate evaporation from the crack between the lid and the pot--our tried-and-true method for concentrating flavor.