You’ve probably seen this pan before, but maybe you’ve never thought you needed one. That may change soon. A braiser is a type of pan designed specifically for a cooking method known as braising, but this is far from the only way to cook with one. The braiser truly is a one-pot wonder.
Braisers are wide, heavy pans with high sides and lids that may have a knob or loop for gripping. Braisers feature looped handles for easy transport and sloped sides that can safely hold liquids and that prevent food from getting trapped in hard-to-reach corners.
The sides of a braiser are usually between two and three inches tall and the bottom may be a large circle or oval. Braisers are most often made of cast iron or ceramic that may be enameled or pure, which is oven safe up to 500 degrees and long-lasting. Enamel-coated cookware is easier to maintain than seasoned or uncoated pans, but pure ceramic is a healthier and safer alternative. A braiser pan is heavier and more substantial than the average pan but lighter than lidded cast-iron or ceramic pots.
Every home chef should have a braiser pan of their own because this piece of cookware is endlessly versatile and easy to use. Braisers are multipurpose, convenient pans that many cooks find themselves using 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.
A dutch oven has high sides that make this piece of cookware more like a pot than a pan. This can be useful for soups, stews, and sauces, but dutch ovens can be too bulky for everyday cooking. Home cooks may leave inconvenient dutch ovens largely untouched in favor of lightweight pots or casserole dishes.
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.
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 low and slow roasting, much like a dutch oven. And 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 without needing two or more separate pans. Braisers can go safely from stovetop to oven and are easy to clean without the 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 to finish cooking. The final cooking usually occurs with the lid on. 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.
The heavy material most braisers are composed of offers superior heat retention to other cookware materials such as stainless steel. Retained heat is necessary to cook food through completely. The lid of a braiser allows you to trap steam in the pan for long, gentle cooking. Braising is ideal for softening tough cuts of meat and hearty vegetables that love prolonged exposure to low heat.
In short, braising is a cooking technique that can lend complexity and texture to recipes and heat foods through safely. But even though a braising pan may be made specifically for braising, you can do so much more than braise with this super versatile pan.
How to Use a Braiser
There is no wrong way to use a braiser. Amateur cooks and professional chefs alike can 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:
- shallow frying
- deep frying
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 done.
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 after it has cooled.
Do You Need a Braiser?
The possibilities with a braiser are endless. As soon as you get your hands on one, it’ll likely become your new favorite piece of cookware. When you invest in a great eco-friendly braiser pan, you can 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 be better than ever.