What Is A Cartouche And How Do You Use It?

If you've ever known the pain of making a homemade sauce, only for an unappetizing skin to form around your pan, you no longer have to worry. The answer to your kitchen woes was probably right in front of you all along — a cartouche.

What is a cartouche, you may ask? Well, according to Cook's Illustrated, a cartouche is essentially just a parchment paper lid that gets placed on top of your food while cooking. It works by trapping in steam while preventing unwanted condensation. Now you may be wondering, why not just use the lid your pot came with? Cook's Illustrated explains the reason this might not be the best option is because the standard metal lid absorbs heat faster than parchment paper does. This causes condensation (aka those little water droplets) to form on the underside of the lid, which takes away some of the steam inside the pot, making cooking take a lot longer and discouraging browning.

A cartouche, on the other hand, keeps more of that steam in the pot, while allowing just enough to escape. As Serious Eats notes, this crates the perfect conditions for food to brown nicely, and is ideal for stewing or braising.

You can easily make a chartouche at home

Whether you're looking to whip up a tasty sauce or cook perfectly glazed carrots, a cartouche can surely make life a lot easier. Best of all, they're pretty inexpensive and simple to make: Per Jamie Oliver's YouTube channel, all you really need is enough parchment paper to cover your pot or pan and a pair of scissors.

You can make your own cartouche by cutting a sheet of parchment paper to fit the opening of your pot or pan. Next, you'll want to fold that same sheet in eighths and cut a tiny semi circle from the tip so some of the steam can escape while cooking. Alternatively, you can prepare one with an accordion style fold (via The Culinary Pro). When you open the finished product, it may look a little something like a child's art project or coffee filter, but it will work just as well as the other method.

To prepare your cartouche for use, Fine Dining Lovers recommends dampening it slightly with cool water to help it better stick to the pot. You can then drape it over your food during the cooking process to help everything cook evenly and avoid that unappealing skin. Just be sure to make a new one with every use, since Serious Eats says they're unfortunately not reusable.