Culinary Arts

Cooking 101: Learn How to Cook With a Cartouche

Written by MasterClass

Jun 24, 2019 • 2 min read

Spending a few minutes to make a lid out of parchment paper can seriously benefit a braise or long-simmered dish.

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What Is a Cartouche?

A cartouche is a parchment-paper lid that allows for some evaporation during braising while keeping the meat (or other food) submerged. It’s a French technique that’s also handy for poaching fruit and other long-simmering applications, when you want just a bit of liquid to escape.

What Does Cartouche Mean?

The French word cartouche comes from the Italian cartoccio and can also refer to oval-shape ancient egyptian monuments that frame hieroglyphics, typically of a royal name, or a gun cartridge with a paper cover. British home cooks use cartouche to refer to a parchment-paper lining for cake tins, baking pans, and pie crusts.

What Is the Purpose of Cooking With a Cartouche?

Unlike a metal lid, which can absorb heat and slow down cooking, as well as create uneven patches of condensation, a cartouche allows braised, poached, and glazed dishes to steam quickly and evenly. The cartouche is a good way to get the benefits of partially covering a dish, without the uneven rate of evaporation that results from tilting a lid. It helps with browning and reduction of moisture, since steam can escape from the sides and center of the parchment lid. A cartouche is also useful for preventing skin from forming on a sauce.

How to Make a Cartouche in 5 Easy Steps

  1. Cut a square piece of parchment paper, or greaseproof paper, that’s larger than your cooking vessel.
  2. Fold it in half, then fold it in half again.
  3. Starting with the folded tip, fold on the diagonal, like a fan, to form narrow triangles.
  4. When you’ve folded the entire piece of paper into one long triangle, measure how large your cookware is by placing the tip of the triangle above the center of the cookware. Cut off the folded tip to make a hole in the center. Then make two cuts on the outer edge of the fan to form a point.
  5. Open up the cartouche and place inside of the pot. Lightly press the parchment paper directly onto the surface of whatever you’re cooking.

9 Recipes for Using a Cartouche

You can use a cartouche in place of a lid in any recipe that calls for braising, poaching, or slowly steaming. Try using a cartouche instead of a lid for:

  1. Chef Thomas Keller's Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
  2. Sauce Velouté
  3. Rice pilaf
  4. Ratatouille
  5. Tarte tatin
  6. Slow-cooked vegetables
  7. Braised chicken legs
  8. Poached fruit
  9. Gravy

Learn more culinary techniques in Chef Thomas Keller’s MasterClass.