You've probably seen this pan before, but maybe you've never thought you needed one. That may change soon!
Braiser pots are designed specifically for a cooking method known as braising, but this is far from the only way to use them. The braiser truly is a one-pot wonder. They are wide and heavy with high sides and lids that may have a knob or loop for gripping. Braisers also feature looped handles for easy transport and sloped sides that can safely hold liquids and prevent food from getting trapped in hard-to-reach corners.
The sides of a braiser are usually between 2 and 3 inches tall, and the bottom may be a large circle or oval. Braisers are most often made of cast iron or either enameled or pure ceramic, the latter of which is long-lasting and oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Enamel-coated cookware is easier to maintain than seasoned or uncoated pans, but pure ceramic is a healthier and safer alternative.
Every home chef should add a braiser to their wish list — this piece of cookware is endlessly versatile and able to be used every day. Here's what sets them apart from other types of cookware and why you may want one in your kitchen.
Is There a Difference Between Braisers, Dutch Ovens and Skillets?
When you think about a heavy pan with high walls and a tight-fitting lid, you may think of a Dutch oven or a deep skillet. And while these three items share many similarities, they all serve slightly different purposes:
- Dutch oven: A Dutch oven has high sides that make it more like a pot than a pan. They're perfect for making soups, stews and sauces, but some home cooks find them too bulky for everyday cooking. They may prefer lightweight pots or casserole dishes.
- Skillet: A skillet is a shallow piece of cookware used most often for searing and sauteing. This type of pan offers efficient heat transfer to whatever you're cooking but is limited when it comes to adding liquids or cooking for longer periods of time. Skillets are used daily in most kitchens, but their limitations can mean having to reach for multiple pots and pans when cooking certain recipes.
- Braiser: What makes a braiser so useful is that it essentially combines the most helpful features of Dutch ovens, skillets and other pans into one piece of cookware. The thick ceramic or enameled cast iron of a braiser allows for low and slow roasting, much like a Dutch oven. The braiser's wide cooking surface can act like a skillet to expose ingredients to higher heat, allowing them to fry, brown and render to perfection.
You can use a braiser in much the same way that you'd use a Dutch oven or skillet, and you can cook meals without needing multiple pans. Braisers can go safely from stovetop to oven and are easy to clean — there's no need for special precautions.
What Is Braising?
Braising is a cooking method that involves, at its most basic level, searing something first over high heat on the stove until color develops before lowering the heat and allowing the food to simmer in a bit of liquid. Then, the food is covered and transferred to the oven to slow cook. Between searing and braising, you may choose to saute aromatics, deglaze your pan with liquid, or even boil your liquid to reduce and develop flavor. Braising is ideal for softening tough cuts of meat and hearty vegetables that love prolonged exposure to low heat.
4 Steps for Braising
These four steps will help you create countless meals:
- Sear your meat: Season your meat on all sides, and heat some oil in your braiser over medium-high heat. Add the meat, and leave it in the pot until it develops some color.
- Saute some veggies: After searing the meat and removing it from the braiser, add some chopped veggies — like onions and carrots — and let them cook in the left-behind liquids.
- Add your liquid and deglaze the pot: Once the veggies are soft, scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon and add the braising liquid of your choice, such as chicken stock.
- Braise: Return the meat to the pot and bring the liquid to a simmer. Finally, cover the pot and let it slow-cook in the oven for a couple of hours.
With this simple process, you can mix and match different proteins — like beef, chicken and lamb — with lots of delicious veggies like onions, carrots, potatoes and celery. You can also take things to the next level by reducing your sauce or adding additional ingredients like tomato puree or tomato sauce.
The heavy material most braisers are composed of offers superior heat retention compared to other cookware materials such as stainless steel. Retained heat is necessary to cook food completely and evenly. The lid of a braiser also allows you to trap steam in the pan for long, gentle cooking.
In short, braising is a cooking technique that can lend complexity and texture to recipes and heat foods thoroughly and safely. However, even though a braising pan may be made specifically for braising, you can do so much more than braise with this super versatile pan.
What Is a Braiser Used for in Cooking?
Braisers are used for countless recipes, and there's no wrong way to do it. Amateur cooks and professional chefs alike enjoy the benefits of this handy pan.
Because a braiser is almost like a cross between a pot and a pan, you're not limited to braising. This single piece of cookware can be used for any of the following types of cooking and more:
- Sauteing: Saute everything from veggies and ground beef for chili to apple slices for caramelized apples.
- Searing: Sear meat like protein, chicken, beef and lamb in your braiser.
- Simmering: Create delicious-smelling potpourri by simmering apples, cranberries, and cinnamon sticks or coffee beans and vanilla.
- Shallow frying: Prepare single portions of fish or potatoes in your braiser with the shallow frying method.
- Deep frying: When you're craving homemade french fries, onion rings or donuts, make them using your braiser.
- Roasting: Use your braiser to roast your favorite veggies, like Brussels sprouts, carrots, zucchini and squash.
- Boiling: For a simple one-pot meal, boil some pasta inside your braiser.
When you first get a new braiser, test it out with a recipe that requires a few different cooking methods. For example, sear a protein such as tofu or chicken thighs in the pan on the stovetop. Then, add a stock of your choosing to the pan and simmer to reduce before adding your favorite vegetables. Cover with the braiser lid, and while wearing oven mitts to grasp the hot handles, carefully place the braiser in the oven. Let the vegetables and protein bake together until they're ready to go.
There are no tricks to using a braiser. Just remember to always protect your hands when gripping the handles and to hand-wash it gently once it has cooled.
Xtrema's Dutch Ovens Are an Excellent Alternative to Braisers
The possibilities with a braiser are endless, and it'll likely become your new favorite piece of cookware. When you invest in an excellent eco-friendly braiser pan, you may be able to replace a few of your beat-up pots and pans and cut down on your daily dish cleanup time. You'll get a long-lasting piece of versatile cookware that looks as great as it cooks. Your kitchen will thank you for getting a braiser, and your food will taste better than ever.
If you want all the benefits of a braiser while being able to create meals with a lot of liquid, like soups and stews, consider investing in a Dutch oven. These pots are very similar to braisers, except that they are larger and have deeper walls — so you can use them the exact same way while having more space for bigger meals.
Xtrema's Dutch ovens are made of pure ceramic, 100% nontoxic and designed to last a lifetime, making them a worthwhile investment for the home cook who prioritizes eco-friendly, safe cooking. Shop our Dutch ovens online today!