Which braiser is best?
Braisers are traditional cookware designed for the cooking method known as braising. Like a Dutch oven, a braiser has a wide bottom, sloping sides, handles on the side for easy handling and a lid to retain moisture while cooking.
A braiser is a great choice for people who don’t want to have a kitchen full of specialty items such as Dutch ovens, roasting pans and stew pots. If you’re looking for a braiser beautiful enough to go straight from oven to table, take a look at the Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron 5-Quart Round Braiser.
What to know before you buy a braiser
The braiser’s ability to cook many different ways makes it a great choice for cooks just starting out. There are two steps to braising foods, and a good-quality braiser needs to do both equally well.
- Browning is the first step, where you sear the food quickly at high temperatures to give it color and crispness.
- Simmering is the next step. Foods are simmered in very little liquid at just below the boiling point in a covered pot for hours to give them added flavor. Like other slow-cooking methods, braising tenderizes tough cuts of meat.
Why use cast iron?
Cast iron is the top choice for braisers because it does several things well.
- Excellent heat retention: Cast-iron cookware is slow to heat, but once it reaches optimum cooking temperature, it retains that heat for a long time.
- No hot spots: Cast iron distributes the heat evenly across the pot or pan.
- Durability: No other cookware is as strong and durable as cast iron.
- Versatility: Because cast iron is so durable, it stands up to high heat and can be used with all kinds of ovens and stovetops.
- Affordability: Cast-iron cookware is less expensive than stainless steel or copper.
Why not use cast iron?
- It is very heavy: Cast iron is the heaviest material used to make cookware. Large cast iron pans are hard to handle and when dropped, can cause serious damage to stovetops, sinks, counters, flooring and toes.
- It stays very hot: Once heated, cast iron stays hot longer than any other cookware. Because it stays hot for so long, you must remember to always use heavy oven mitts.
What to look for in a quality braiser
The more people you cook for, the more you will appreciate a larger braiser with greater capacity. Bigger braisers can also serve as roasting pans, frying pans, casserole dishes and slow cookers.
You avoid some of the drawbacks of cast iron by choosing braisers covered in enamel. Enameled surfaces are non-stick, easier to clean than cast iron and can be made in many colors. Enameled cast iron does need to be handled with care, though, to avoid chipping. The higher the quality of the enamel, the less likely it is to chip and the longer it will last.
Look for wide handles that are easier to grip, hold and carry. Be aware that if you choose heat-resistant handles, they may not be oven-safe at higher cooking temperatures.
Look for tight-fitting lids that retain steam so it circulates to retain moisture and improve flavor. If you like watching the process, choose a braiser with a see-through lid. Lids with large easy-to-grip handles are safer and easier to use than ones with a small round knob.
The higher the temperature your braiser is engineered for, the safer it is to use on stovetops and in ovens. For maximum safety, choose pans that are oven-safe to 500 degrees.
How much you can expect to spend on a braiser
Cast-iron braisers cost anywhere from $30-$400. Better braisers have higher quality and thicker enamel coatings. The enamel used in inexpensive braisers is thinner and subject to chipping.
Do braisers come in different sizes?
A. Yes. The biggest hold 6 quarts, but braisers also come in smaller sizes, all the way down to 1.5 quarts.
Are cast-iron braisers safe to put in the dishwasher?
A. Only when the cast iron is completely covered by enamel.
What things other than braising can I do with a braiser?
A. A braiser’s ability to stand up to extreme heat makes it an excellent choice for roasting, frying and baking, too.
What’s the best braiser to buy?
What you need to know: This 10-inch wide braiser is beautiful enough to go straight from the oven to your table.
What you’ll love: Cast iron heats evenly during cooking and retains that heat, so when you use it as a serving dish, your foods stay hot. The wide base is great for searing meat and vegetables. The curved bottom makes stirring and serving easy. The easy-clean porcelain enamel finish resists chipping, cracking and staining. Choose from nine dishwasher-safe colors to mix and match with your cookware and dinnerware.
What you should consider: It needs to be handled carefully, especially when cleaning.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top braiser for the money
What you need to know: The enameled interior and exterior surfaces are safe and nonstick.
What you’ll love: The extra-wide handles are easy to handle with heavy oven mitts. The pan and lid are both oven-safe up to 500 degrees and come in eight colors.
What you should consider: As with most enameled cast iron, you need to use caution when washing and drying.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This 3.3-quart braiser is the right size for smaller families.
What you’ll love: This 12-inch-wide cast iron braiser cooks foods evenly and the non-stick interior is easy to clean. It is safe to use in ovens up to 400 degrees. Choose from a dozen colors, all with easy-grip handles.
What you should consider: The enamel coating is thin.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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David Van Allan writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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