Should I Buy a Braiser or a Dutch Oven?

I would never say “no” to a Le Creuset Dutch Oven (aka French Oven), but…

The Braiser versus Dutch Oven Question Answered.

Recently, a comment came in on my ever-trafficked “What Is a Braiser” post. A reader asked which is more important to own: A braiser or a Dutch oven.

When it comes to the Dutch oven versus braiser question, the short answer is that most cooks should have both a Dutch oven and a braiser.

The medium answer is that if you absolutely cannot have both, alas, get a Dutch oven.

But a third and perhaps most useful answer is this: If you can’t afford to have both a high-end braiser and a high-end Dutch oven, I recommend splurging on the braiser, and getting good-quality but affordable Dutch oven. 

…but I cannot live (or at least, I could not cook well) without my Le Creuset braiser.

Here’s Why: The things you cook in a Dutch oven — such as soups, chili, stocks, spaghetti sauces, and other dishes with a significant amount of liquid (more liquid than meat, in fact) — can, quite honestly, be cooked in just about any good vessel that’s stovetop safe and has a lid.

Dishes that need to be braised (that is, cooked tightly covered in a small amount of liquid) — will greatly benefit from the braiser’s specific design:

• The braiser’s wide base allows the meat to gain maximum contact with the heat source, making it easier to get it all nicely browned before it simmers. If you use a Dutch oven for browning, you have less base space, so you have to brown in batches.

• The braiser’s shallow sides are key: Because braising requires less liquid than stewing, the sides of these pans are shallower that those of a Dutch oven. The liquid spreads out for a true braise (cooking with moist steam heat) rather than a stew (simmering covered in liquids). When you braise, you want don’t want the meat to be fully submerged in the liquid, which can happen when you use a Dutch oven instead of a braiser.

And so it might surprise you that I recommend getting a Farberware pot like this, instead of a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. That way, you’ll save loads on the Dutch oven so you can buy a braiser.

That’s why I always use my braiser for all braised meats, including pot roasts, osso bucco, short ribs, beef stews, chicken fricassee, coq au vin, beef bourguignon, lamb shanks, pork shoulder  …. the list goes on and on.

Q: What’s the best braiser? 
A: The Le Creuset Braiser is the gold-standard for braisers. But I also adore the Staub braiser. I own both, and use both all the time. Between the two, simply choose which color you like best, and go from there.

Q: What’s the best Dutch Oven?
A: While purists may say the best Dutch oven is the Le Creuset Dutch oven*, if you’re following my advice to splurge on the braiser and save on the Dutch Oven, I suggest that you get a stockpot instead of a Dutch oven.

Say what? A stockpot is like a Dutch oven, except most Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, and most stockpots are made of steel.

Certainly, I’d never say “no” to a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. However, there are two drawbacks: One, they’re expensive. Two, a cast-iron Dutch oven, when full, is extremely heavy. A stock pot can do almost anything a cast-iron Dutch oven can do, but it’s a lot easier to manage. And it’s generally a lot less expensive.

That’s why I recommend the Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 6-Quart Covered Stockpot. I use this for everything from boiling pasta to making a big batch of soups or chili. I have had mine for over 20 years, and it’s wearing incredibly well. Like new, in fact.

Confused? Let me boil it down for you:

>>>>>>>>>>>>LE CREUSET DUTCH OVEN*         FARBERWARE STOCK POT>>>>>>>>>>

Best Options:

• If you can afford both a Le Creuset Dutch Oven and a Le Creuset Braiser, get them both, but keep in mind that the Le Creuset Dutch oven is heavy, so make sure you’re fine with lifting 12+ pounds.

• If you can’t afford both a Le Creuset Dutch Oven and a Le Creuset Braiser, buy a Farberware Dutch Oven; that way, you’ll save  $300, which you can spend on a Le Creuset braiser.

• If, for some reason I’ll never understand, you simply do not want to own both a braiser and a Dutch oven, then, alas (and it kills me to say this), buy the Dutch oven. You can certainly braise in a Dutch oven, but it’s not nearly as ideal as a braiser (for reasons I mention above). Whether or not you go for Farberware or Le Creuset depends simply on how much you want to spend.

* Actually the Le Creuset Dutch Oven is officially called a “French” oven, because the French aren’t going to call their vessels Dutch, now are they? But because most American cooks call these vessels “Dutch” ovens (not “French” ovens), I’m going to generically refer to these pots at Dutch ovens. Okay?

More questions:
Q: Gimme a break. The Le Creuset Braiser costs nearly $300, and the Staub Braiser costs that and more. Seriously? For a pan?
A: You will use this pan the rest of your life. After you go, your descendants will fight over it. You see, not only is it a durable pan that wears like iron (because it is iron), but it will also be an enduring symbol of the wonderful times they had around the table with you. It’s a workhorse. It’s an heirloom.

But….if that price is simply out of reach, the Lodge Braiser will do. (It’s officially called a covered casserole, but take my word for it, it’s a braiser). I tested one and it’s absolutely fine. Made in China, but designed by an American company, the Lodge Braiser works well, though doesn’t have the French pedigree or gravitas of the Le Creuset or Staub, which are both made in La Belle France.

Q: My adult children all live separately on their own. They don’t cook a lot, they have tiny apartments, and they’ll probably move a lot before they truly get settled. What should I buy them?
A: Get them The Farberware Stock Pot, for now. But when they get married, get them the Le Creuset Braiser and the Le Creuset Dutch Oven.

Q: Which size of braiser should I get?
A: If you generally cook for four to six people, a 3.75- to 4-quart braiser is the way to go. If, however, you often cook for eight or more — or, if you will mostly use your braiser for entertaining 8 or more, then get the 5-quart braiser. I own both sizes, and my 3 1/2-quart definitely gets more use.

Q: How do you know so much about braisers?
A: When I was writing my e-cookbook book on braising, I tested just about every braiser available. Any more questions? Post them below.

Yes! This post provides affiliate links to Amazon.com. That means that I earn a small commission from anything you purchase through one of these links. It does not add to your costs in any way. Thank you for your consideration. 

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5 comments to Should I Buy a Braiser or a Dutch Oven?

  • Beverly Chapman

    I have both.
    I don’t use one more than the other
    I use them both all the time
    I love them both very much

  • OAP

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I found a new Le Creuset 3.5 qt braiser on eBay for $200 shipped and pulled the trigger. I just hope it will be large enough for my purposes. I want it mainly for braising veggies. I spent $35-$40 on a quite large non-stick skillet for this purpose a couple of years ago, but the surface has already begun to peel. What size braiser do you use most often?

    Re stock pots, etc., I own some quite large Faberware pots. I have used them since the 80s. They have been good pots, but in my opinion, nothing cooks as well as cast iron. Eventually, I want to get at least a 7.35 qt dutch oven or better still a 9 qt dutch oven. My recipes for soups, gumbos, creoles, etc., all require a quite large pot.

    • Wini

      I own both the 3 3/4-quart Le Creuset braiser and the 5-quart Le Creuset braiser, and I definitely use the 3 3/4-quart braiser more often! But that’s because I generally cook for two, four, or six people. The larger braiser is the ticket if you often cook for 8 or more.

      I think that nothing beats Le Creuset for sautéing and braising. But if you’re just throwing stuff in a stew pot (like soups) a farberware stock pot will work just fine. Mine from the 80s are still going strong.

      Keep in mind a 9-quart Dutch oven in cast iron would be incredibly difficult to lift when hot and full….

      Enjoy your Le Creuset braiser!

  • OAP

    I just wanted to add that over the years I invested in a variety of cookware. My first set of pots at the ripe old age of 18 were club aluminium. Whilst they were reasonably hard wearing, they left a lot to be desired. After I married in my early 20s, I moved on to large Faberware stock pots/soup pots which were nice, but still not perfect, and Cuisinart pots with copper clad bottoms. I liked these more than the club aluminium pots. I supplemented the Faberware and Cuisinart with a few teflon non-stick pans which I liked, but they do not age well. The coating soon starts to break off though I only ever used wooden utensils and washed in warm soap water with a soft sponge.

    I did try cast iron skillets at least twice in my adult life because I knew from childhood days how good they were for cooking so many things, but, whilst I liked the way they cooked, I did not like the upkeep and never held on to them for long. I cannot abide just wiping out a pot and putting it away. I believe in washing my pots, but regular cast iron did not like being washed.

    I finally have come to the point of investing in the Le Creuset enamelled cast iron cookware starting with a braiser, and I must say, I wish I had purchased Le Creuset from the very beginning. I would have saved a lot of money in the long run. The only thing that held me back in purchasing Le Creuset was the cost coupled with my advanced years. I figure I have less than 20 years left on this earth, so why purchase expensive Le Creuset since I have no one to bequeath them. Finally, I decided to buy Le Creuset knowing that I can always sell them down the line as they hold their value well if one takes good care of them.

    • Wini

      Indeed! Le Creuset is the way to go if you can afford it. I know that in my 20s, I could have never afforded Le Creuset; besides I moved around a lot, so I can’t imagine lugging it to all the places I moved — New York City, England, Ann Arbor, and finally Des Moines. I got the braiser at the age of 41, and have certainly gotten my money’s worth out of it — as you will, even if you bought it later in life rather than earlier. I’m sure you’ll get much joy from it!

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