What is a Braiser? It is a traditional piece of cookware that has made a resurgence in recent years.
Normally constructed in cast iron, they have wide bottoms with sloped sides. They have very heavy bases which is part of the design. They are not as tall as Dutch ovens.
They have very tight-fitting lids which prevents steam and moisture from escaping the dish. This means that it has the effect of tenderizing very tough meats. It also, helps to retain flavor within your dishes which makes for a great experience. It also retains the moisture within the pan which means your food retains its moisture too.
They are designed to move between stove top and oven. The reason why a braiser is so popular is that that they allow you to sear and brown meats at high temperatures on your stove. The same dish can then be placed in the oven.
This has the advantage of limiting the clean up and also helps with convenience. They are known as one pot dishes.
Braisers normally have the same construction as Dutch ovens except the sides are much shallower.
They are also enameled for two reasons.
Firstly, they stop the iron leaching into the food. This can introduce a metallic taste into the food. Secondly, it can be dangerous to some people to have additional iron introduced into their diet. The enamel forms a protective barrier to the cast iron.
Why is a Braiser designed like this?
I answered what is a Braiser above…a braiser is wide and shallow with a tight-fitting lid but let’s look further into it.
The wide base is by design and serves an important purpose. They are designed to fit meat into them so they can be seared and browned. This allows for a large area of the pan to be used for this purpose.
They are shallower because of the types of food generally cooked in them. They tend to be used for meat dishes. There is actually a form of cooking called braising. There is less need for liquid added to the dish as the food is cooked with its own juices. If it is added, it is a minor amount.
The food is therefore steamed in that the food cooks with moist steam heat. This is different to stewing which involves simmering food in liquids.
How does a braiser differ from a Dutch oven?
A Dutch oven in some ways is very similar to a braiser.
They are both constructed from enameled cast iron. They are both made in the same factories using the same cast iron.
They both have handles to the side and tight-fitting lids. Both can move from the stove to the oven.
They differ in a couple of ways. They tend to be wider although this can be dependent on the size you choose. They are also shallower as they are purposed to do different things. The sides of a braiser are also sloped.
Braising is a specific type of cooking. Generally, people choose a Dutch oven if they want a general functional piece of cookware.
What is a braiser made from?
Braisers are made from cast iron and in most cases have a coating of enamel. This means that you no longer need to season them. The enamel surface protects the cast iron and prevents rusting.
The quality of your braiser will depend on the manufacturer. All cast iron is not the same and comes in different quality. The amount of cast iron used is also different between manufacturers.
Premium brands use more cast iron hence why their cookware is heavier. They have thicker walls and a thicker base. This means they retain more heat with a more reliable and consistent delivery.
In terms of enameling, the premium brands deliver products with more coats of enamel. This means they should last longer…in theory anyway.
What can you do with a braiser?
What is a Braiser…you can do amazing things…that is the simple answer. I’m guessing that you’re looking for a little more information!
Aside from its core task of braising…something no other cookware comes close to beating, you can also do a few more things.
You can fry in them, sauté in them, poach and even use it as a casserole dish. Potentially you could bake a no-knead bread in them too…technically you could, albeit it I have never tried.
Use your imagination when deciding whether your braiser is suitable. The large surface area a ability to retain heat make them easy to use and very versatile.
What brands make a braiser?
There are many manufacturers of braisers. They serve most budget and come in a range of quality to suit.
Historically, there are a few major manufacturers that sit in the premium end of the market.
The most famous of these manufacturers is the French company Le Creuset. They are universally famed as the leading company making Dutch ovens. Their pricing reflects their status in the market as well as their reputation for quality. They make a large range of products including braisers, delivering products in a range of sizes and colors.
Another popular company is Staub. Again, a French company, they are also a premium supplier in the market delivering a modern range of products. Again, their commitment to quality and their customers makes their products very desirable.
Lodge is a famous American manufacturer with a long history and loyal following. If your looking for a pure cast iron braiser, this is the go to company. They also have a range of enamel braisers which are very reasonably priced in comparison to Le Creuset and Staub.
Within the medium to lower end of the market, there are a host of suppliers such as Wagner, Petromax, Cuisinart, Tramontina, Kenmore, Artisanal, Threshold, Calphalon, Dansk, Mario Batali, Kohls, Kitchenaid…and a host of others.
It really is worth doing your homework before deciding what you want.
What can you use instead of a braiser?
The answer to this really depends on what you are doing. The simple answer is breaking down what the cooking steps are and then working in this manner.
The simple answer would always be, a piece of cookware that is similar to it…such as a Dutch oven.
Just think of the options you have…frying pans, griddles, skillets, saucepans, casserole dishes and other bakeware.
You can always make do but know that it will be difficult to replicate the quality of the end results if you are not using a braiser for braising.
What should I look for when buying a braiser?
When you are looking to buy a braiser, there are a number of aspects you should consider.
First will obviously be your budget. You can buy a braiser from as little as $40 and they can go up to $400.
The quality will be different so look at the thickness of the cast iron and ensure the walls have a consistent thickness all the way around. This means an even heat all the way around.
The base should be thick as the best quality ones are. This retains heat and prevents heat spots. It also prevents burning and scalding of the food when you are searing.
Make sure the lid fits tightly. This is an important factor as you need to retain the heat and moisture within the pan to braise successfully.
If it is enameled, ensure that the covering is consistent all the way around. The premium manufacturers put at least three coatings of enamel.
If you are considering buying a more expensive one, have a good look at the warranty on offer. Some offer a limited time warranty but manufacturers like Le Creuset offer a lifetime warranty. This does have some limitations but if it is a product failure, they will repair or replace.
Remember, if cared for and maintained properly, a braiser can outlast your lifetime. You choose your Braiser with care. They also retain a value and can become collector’s items in years to come.
I hope I have answered your question…what is a braiser. You can cook amazing dishes in a braiser and they are a robust bit of kit. It is worth having a look around at the best prices and prices can vary for the same product depending on where you buy it.
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