When it’s autumn, you’d like to prepare a delicious stew to fill your home with wonderful aromas that remind you of Sunday dinners as a child. When it’s a summer afternoon, you might want to cook the fresh vegetables that you just picked from your garden or purchased at the farmer’s market. When you come home from a busy day at work and driving the kids around town, you still want to serve a healthy and delicious meal for the family without spending too much time on cleanup. When you’re looking at ways to cook that keep your food the safest and healthiest it can be. When you want the best, you want a braiser
A braiser is a must-have tool for every serious chef. It makes your best recipes even better. Braisers are highly functional, decorative and economical. You can use one to craft almost any dish of your choosing. And if you don’t have a lot of money for high quality ingredients, you can still make it taste expensive with a braiser. Because of the unique way that the braiser heats food, a limited budget does not mean limited taste or imperfection with the final dish. If you already have a skillet in your kitchen, you might think that you can achieve the same results. But, in fact, the braiser can transform your cooking experience from the everyday recipe to the weekend masterpiece.
Definition of a Skillet
Most people have several skillets in their cupboards. They come individually or in sets of gradated sizes to accommodate different amounts of food and various burner sizes. A skillet is a flat pan made of aluminum, carbon steel, copper or cast iron. Cast iron skillets (and some very well made skillets) conduct heat nicely, although they can become quite heavy and fatiguing as you cook with them or move them about the kitchen. The Ceramcor Xtrema skillet is 100% ceramic and is unusually light for its size and quality.
Skillets do come in multiple sizes, but are typically no larger than 12 inches in diameter and two and a half inches tall. Because the sides slope in toward the center, the flat base of a 12-inch diameter skillet will generally be no more than nine inches wide. Skillets usually have a long handle on one side of the pan, though there might be a smaller handle on the opposite side to help you get a grip on it while you’re cooking. Some skillets have handles designed to go from stovetop to oven. Larger skillets are not likely to fit into your refrigerator.
Skillets are useful when you want to cook in smaller batches. They don’t hold large amounts of food. So if you have a big family or like to entertain big groups of people, a skillet might not be the best choice for you. Some skillets are coated with a non-stick material that some people don’t like to use in their cooking out of concern that the coating leaches into the food.
Why Design Matters for Different Meals
If you need to use a spatula to flip the food you’re cooking, such as an omelet or pancakes, the skillet with its low, sloping sides is ideal for getting underneath the food at the right angle. You want to be able to come in with your spatula as low as possible to the pan’s surface to make flipping a food easier. The skillet is perfect for this technique.
Skillets are nice for sautéing and frying. They are great for cooking food dry, meaning you don’t add liquids to your recipe or you want the natural liquids in your ingredients to escape during cooking. This allows you to sear and brown meat, fish or tofu very easily. Because the sides of a skillet slope away from the center, you can place food in the middle of the pan and the steam that’s generated can easily escape up the sidewalls. On a pan with straight sides, such as a braiser, condensation from steam tends to run back down into the pan. If you want steam to escape, a skillet can be a better tool than a braiser can. On the other hand, if you want the steam to stay in your skillet for wet cooking, you can use a lid. Most don’t come standard with lids but you can use one from any other pan you have that fits nicely.
The Maillard Reaction
When you want to cook a piece of meat, sear a juicy steak or brown a burger on the stove, a skillet can be a good tool to achieve the Maillard Reaction. The Maillard Reaction is the production of the delicious flavors that only come from browning the meat over a dry source of heat. The reaction can only happen at very high temperatures, temperatures higher than boiling water — 212°F. If the temperature of the pan is too low and the food has natural moisture in it, as meat does, the cooking process will just create steam, inhibiting browning. This, of course, affects the flavor of your food. Therefore, the pan to do the job has to be able to take the heat. The presence of steam in a pan that does not allow moisture to escape will slow down the Maillard Reaction. The skillet allows you to cook the meat in just that type of environment. Ideally, the temperature in your pan should be 140C/284°F for the meat to cook quickly and brown nicely.
Quality Important for Success
When choosing a skillet, it’s important not to skip on quality. A cheaply made skillet with thin sidewalls relative to the bottom of the pan can ruin your recipe. When you’re cooking on a gas stove, the flames underneath will heat up the skillet sidewalls to a much higher temperature than the bottom. Therefore, anytime your food touches the sides, it will cook much faster than the food in the middle. On an electric stove, the sidewalls tend to stay cooler than the bottom of the pan. This is because a poorly made skillet is not efficient at conducting heat up the sides of the skillet. So in order to evenly cook all of your food, you need to keep stirring. This will require undivided attention on your part. Moreover, if you’re working with delicate foods such as fish, it can be a problem because the food will break apart easily if you stir it too much. If you’ve taken the time to prep your food into nice sizes or shapes, you’ll buy its final plated appearance when cooking with a cheap skillet on an electric stove.
How Braisers Are Different Than Skillets
At first glance, you might confuse the braiser as being just a fancy skillet with a lid. However, a braiser has many advantages over a skillet. It’s shaped like a pan but is made out of very sturdy, scratch-resistant, heavy-duty ceramic. The non-toxic glaze creates a very glossy and easy to clean dish. It’s deeper than many skillets, and because of its rugged construction, it easily goes from stovetop, to oven, to table and to the refrigerator for storage. And all with style, brilliant color and charm!
The braiser can have similar dimensions to a large skillet, but they usually have a greater overall capacity. Braisers can be 10.5 inches to 12 inches in diameter. They are approximately 2.5 inches deep, and range from 2.5 to 4.75 quarts. The sides of the braiser are straight up from the bottom of the pan. This design allows water that condenses on the side of the pan to slide back onto the food to keep it moist, especially when used in conjunction with the snug lid. But you don’t have to worry about giving up the incredible flavor of a nicely browned piece of meat. It’s definitely possible to brown meat in a braiser and achieve the Maillard Reaction, just as long as the pieces are kept small enough to allow steam to escape from the food and the pan.
Braisers have short handles on the sides so that they can easily fit in the oven or the refrigerator. They’re perfect for roasting, frying, sautéing, browning and searing. Because of the size, you can also prepare a casserole in the dish and bring it right to your table for serving. They are microwave and dishwasher safe, and a great tool for vegetables as well!
Braziers come with their own tight fitting lids that offer a splash of color and the ability to keep the liquids in the pan while you’re cooking. The lid can also protect you from the messy or hot splatters as you prepare your meal. When you put the braiser on your stove, you can be confident that its ceramic material allows it to withstand extremely high temperatures up to 2500°, which is more than most home ovens or stoves can reach.
The Benefits of a Braiser
The braiser can make your food dollar go further. If you purchase tougher and less expensive cuts of meat to feed your family, you can still make your meal quite tender by cooking it in the braiser. First, you’ll want to brown the meat for the wonderful flavors that come with it. After that, you can add liquids to the pot and put the lid on to let the meat slowly roast.
Braiser Cooking Techniques
The braiser makes it easy to get a quick sear on the meat. To do so, place the meat on the heated braiser, and resist the urge to touch it. The meat will naturally stick to the bottom of the braiser until it is browned and ready to be turned. When it’s done, it will release easily, so you can turn it over to brown the other side. Then, while the meat is still in the pan, you can add liquids such as beef stock, vegetable broth or water along with some fresh vegetables and spices. When you place the lid on the braiser, the food will cook slowly and your home will be filled with the wonderful aroma of cooked food.
When the meat becomes fork tender, you can transfer it to a platter and then use some more liquid or a small amount of butter and flour to help you deglaze all of the wonderful brown bits on the bottom of your brazier. Simply use a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen the brown food off the bottom of the brazier. Keep stirring gently in the braiser until you have created a flavorful sauce. Pour over the platter of meat and vegetables. Your family will think you have been working all day to prepare dinner. Although it will seem like the classic “Sunday” dinner, you can certainly prepare amazing meals like this any day of the week.
An added benefit of the braiser is that the glossy and smooth finish on the interior means you have no need for oils and butter in your recipe to prevent foods from sticking to your pan. If you’re looking for ways to cut calories and fats from your diet, the braiser is just the tool for you! Moreover, it does the job without leaching unhealthy metals or toxins into your meal.
The Ceramcor Xtrema Braiser
At xtrema.com, you can purchase our 10” or 12” Ceramcor Xtrema braiser in a gorgeous glossy black and we will include two silicone potholders to help you carry your freshly cooked meal to the table safely. You can also use the bonus potholders to transport your delicious dish to a party or family gathering.
Our braisers are 100% ceramic — a very natural and healthy way to cook without harmful chemicals leaching into your food and altering the flavors of your culinary creations. Furthermore, they all have a black base with an option of colors for the lid. The black color on the base comes from safe metallic oxides in the glaze that contain no metals. Our Ceramcor Xtrema Braisers do not contain lead or cadmium. We test for heavy metal leaching and can assure you that our products are completely safe. We want you to have peace of mind that the food you’re preparing for your family is the healthiest it can be when cooked in one of our Ceramcor Xtrema products.
All of the materials for the dish are from the United States, Australia, Africa and Asia. Your Ceramcor braiser comes with a tightly fitting shiny lid in your choice of colors depending on the size or purchase of a bakeware set:
- Apple Green
- Sunlight Yellow
- FireBrick Red
- Sky Blue
- Midnight Black
- Starlight White
We even offer a divided braiser in glossy Midnight Black to allow you to cook and serve two dishes side by side in the same elegant pan. This can be a big help to you if you need to prepare a dish for the meat lovers and the vegetarians in your house. The divided braiser is also useful to prepare a main dish and a side dish at the same time.
The braiser is large enough to prepare a large quantity of food but not so large that it won’t fit easily in your sink, oven or refrigerator. When the skillet doesn’t quite fill the bill, the braiser can make the difference. We are confident that you will find a Ceramcor Xtrema braiser to be the perfect addition to your kitchen whether you’re a beginner or an experienced chef.