What is a braiser? What is a French oven? Should you invest?

Three Braisers: Le Creuset, Lodge, and All-Clad Braising Pans. In short, braisers are more shallow and have wider bases than Dutch ovens. They also have tight-fitting lids, and should go to from stovetop to oven back to stovetop just fine.

Three Braisers: Le Creuset, Lodge, and All-Clad Braising Pans. In short, braisers are more shallow and have wider bases than Dutch ovens. They also have tight-fitting lids, and should go to from stovetop to oven back to stovetop just fine.

Ever since I stayed in my first French apartment, I’ve been a fool for enamel-covered cast iron cookware. Nearly every furnished French apartment I’ve rented has at least one pan made of this material. I love how sturdy they are (they remind me of my farm-wife grandmother’s cast-iron skillets), how they distribute the heat slowly and evenly, and how tight-fitting their lids are. And they’re beautiful, too—such vivid colors.

I have a few enameled cast-iron pieces in my collection, but few pots get more use than my braiser. I adore it. In fact, I like this pan so much that I’ve written an e-book about it.

What Is a Braiser? 

Le Creuset’s Braiser

A braiser is a wide, shallow pan with a tight-fitting lid. Here’s why they’re great:

• Wide bases allow meat maximum contact with the heat source, making it easier to get it all nicely browned before it simmers.

• 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).

This is not a braiser. It's a Dutch Oven or a French Oven (known as a cocotte, in France).

This is not a braiser. It’s a Dutch Oven or a French Oven (known as a cocotte, in France).

Confusingly, some companies that sell braisers call the something else. Lodge, for instance, offers a 3-quart cast-iron “casserole” that’s perfect for braising (in fact, I’d call it a braiser). It’s also about half the price of the Le Creuset braiser, by the way.

I can wholly vouch for the Le Creuset braisers–I’ve owned both the 3 1/2-quart and the 5-quart braisers for a few years now, and they wear like iron (!). But I would also say that the Lodge “casserole” is definitely worth a look if you don’t feel spending enough for the Le Creuset.

UPDATE: I have now reviewed the Le Creuset, Lodge, and All-Clad Braisers. Here are links to my reviews:
Review of Lodge/Le Creuset Braisers.
Review of All-Clad Stainless Steel Braising Pan.

PS: Looking for great recipes for your braiser? Here’s a page with links to all the braiser recipes on this blog.

Want more? Here’s a list of great braiser recipes in my flagship cookbook, The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day.

Vermouth-Braised Chicken with Black Olives and Prosciutto
Chicken and Rice Grand Cassolette
Chicken Fricassée
Coq au Vin
Osso Buco-Style Chicken Thighs
Beef Stew with Orange and Balsamic Vinegar
Pomegranate Pot-au-Feu
Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Braise Ce Soir
Poulet Bijoutière (the jeweler’s chicken–braised with garlic, wine, pomegranate juice and a touch of currant jelly)
Choucroute Garnie pour le Week-End
Braised Pork Marengo
Choucroute Garnie Mardi Soir (a quick weeknight version of Choucroute Garnie)
Normandy Pork Chops
Lamb Daube with Mustard, Herbs, and Wine
Tuna Steaks Braised with Tomatoes, Olives, and Fennel
Basque-Style Chicken
Coq au Vin Assez Rapide
Braised Lamb Blade Chops with Herbes de Provence, Lemon, and Roasted Garlic

You can also find great recipes in my e-book The Braiser Cookbook: 22 irresistible recipes created just for your braiser-great for Le Creuset, Lodge, All-Clad, Staub, Tromantina, and all other braiser pans.

For a complete list of recipes in that book, see this posting.


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27 comments to What is a braiser? What is a French oven? Should you invest?

  • I *love* my Le Creuset cookware. My skillet is my number one piece followed very closely by my dutch (french) oven. I’m off to check out your link to the baked rice. Sounds delicious.

  • Marcella

    I’ve been debating about getting one of these for years and I’ve never seen the braiser until now. It’s the one for me. It looks big enough for a two pound pork shoulder roast. Thanks for the info!

  • Wini, I’m quite a “cookware geek,” I must admit! And my limited Le Creuset collection was augmented a while back by being a runner-up in the Le Creuset True Memories contest (I blogged about it in February). I’ve eyed that braiser many times, but I don’t know what I’d use it for that I can’t use my smaller French oven for. If I’m going to do a long, slow braise, I’m going to cook a large amount and have enough for leftovers or freezing. I don’t want to waste energy (mine OR the stove’s!) on a piddly amount! All that being said, don’t be surprised if I email you soon saying I just got the braiser!

  • Wini

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jean. Hey–send me the link to your “True Memories” contest. I love that kind of thing!

    As for the braiser, it’s actually quite huge. I can easily make a massive pot roast in it, or, as Marcella suggests, a hunk of pork shoulder. The advantage is that it has more surface volume for browning than does my Dutch oven–if you have a big hunk of meat to bown it’s just more handy to do it in a shallow pan than a deep one.

    It’s truly for braising with small amounts of liquid….but as you suggest, you don’t need one, really, if you have a Dutch oven.

    Merci for writing!

  • […] What is a braiser? What is a French oven? Should you invest …Mar 31, 2011… Chicken with Curry and Comte · Chicken-Comté Spinach Salad with … The most recent addition to my collection is the braiser, what the … […]

  • […] As I’ve posted before, I’m a big fan of my Le Creuset Braiser, which was a Christmas gift a few years ago from my mother-in-law. (If you don’t know what a braiser is, or why you might want to invest in one, let me tell you.) […]

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  • Richard

    Two words…risotto and paella!

  • […] you do not. Certainly, I love this pan for all the reasons I outlined here, but if you don’t have a braising pan, there’s definitely a work-around! Read on: […]

  • Rose Leahr

    I plan on purchasing a braiser and noticed that they come in two different shapes, round and oblong. Is one better for cooking than the other? As an aside, I made the coq au vin (Bonne Femme Cookbook) for Sunday dinner, and it was a big hit!

    Thanks

    • Wini

      I have two braisers (Le Creusets 3 1/2 quart and their 5 quart) and both are round, so I haven’t had experience with the oblong (oval, right?). I don’t see why it would be a problem, as long as the base is wide–it’s all about having room for the meat to brown evenly, and for the liquid to be spread out (you don’t want the liquid to cover the meat entirely, for most braises). Let me know which braiser you buy how it works.

      Thanks for the report, Rose.

      • Rose Leahr

        Yes, that’s it, “oval’. I was full of chemo in January and couldn’t think of the name of the shape, so thank you! After 6 months, I finally have a braiser, Le Creuset 3.5 qt in beautiful red. It was a gift from my sister. Last night I christened it by making your braised chicken with sweet potatoes, shallots and rosemary – scrumptious. The sauce was amazing – leftovers were eaten for lunch today! Other big hits chez moi: ratatouille, any-night baked rice, beef plat unique with coriander and cardamom (my favorite) and chicken and brown rice with mushrooms. Thanks so much for these wonderful recipes and I’m looking forward to cooking more of your dishes.

        Rose

        • Wini

          Thanks for your nice comments! Glad you like the chicken/sweet potato dish and others. Sorry to hear you were ill, and I hope all is well now. Enjoy!

      • Pam

        Which do you prefer the 3.5 or 5 quart. I’m a fan of under the Tuscan gun and he uses his braiser for everything! I just don’t know what size he has or to buy. Any advice?

        • Wini

          Pam–it simply depends on how many people you’re usually cooking for. I say use a 3.5 braiser for four and under; get a 5-quart braiser if you usually cook for 6 or more. The 3.5 quart can be used for up to six servings, though. I say it’s the most versatile, unless you entertain a lot. But then, I have both!

  • Marla

    So excited to find your website. I just purchased your book (Bonne Femme Cookbook)just the perfect book I was looking for. The everyday cooking experience. I love Julia but not for everyday. And spent most of the day reading it as I was snowed in here in the midwest. I love love the way you write about the everyday current experience of food in France from the perspective of the average working woman. Also a question for you—- do they use pressure cookers much in France? I have become interested in this type of cooking as well. Although the flavors in french cooking will always win out with me.
    thanks so much

    • Wini

      Thanks so much, Maria! Glad you’re enjoying the cookbook–I imagine you’re turning to the “Stew, Roast, Braise” chapter after that last blast of winter we’ve had….

      To answer your question: YES, the French definitely use the pressure cooker — “autocuiseur” or “cocotte minute” (en français). I don’t have one myself, but I have given some thought to getting inspired and doing a “French Pressure Cooker Cookbook,” since so many people are interested in this way of cooking. It’s on the back-burner….so to speak.

      Thanks for your interest and enjoy the book!

  • […] You don’t know the difference between a braiser and a Dutch oven? Here’s an explanation. And, for my friends in the U.K., here are some great Le Creuset pans available via mail (er, I […]

  • […] It’s not quite spring, so in my mind, it’s not yet time to put away my braiser. Still, the whiff of warmth in the air makes me crave something a little brighter out of the braising pot. […]

  • […] What is a Braiser? What is a French Oven? Should You Invest? • How to Cook Chicken in Your Le Creuset Braiser • Braises for the Fall and Winter. • A […]

  • […] love using my braiser for Ratatouille. What? You don’t know what a braiser is? Read my post to help you to decide if this is a must-have for you or […]

  • My braiser known as a shallow casserole or buffet dish in The UK is my latest enamelled iron ware . Having used all sizes of Le Creuset cocottes for the last 40 years for family meals, I bought a braiser sold by Sainsbury’s a big supermarket chain in the UK. It is really useful and about half the cost of Le Creuset. In addition to braising, you can use it for tagines and middle eastern dishes.
    I have successfully made Tarte tatin in the braiser using Raymond Blanc’s recipe rather than buy the expensive French tatin pans recommended. Though heavy I was able to invert the dish after cooking the Tarte in the oven. Now I have found your blog I’ll be trying your recipes instead of the versions I have used for the last 40 years.

    Lucky for us we can drive over to France in a couple of hours.

    • Wini

      Yes–“knock-offs” of the Le Creuset braisers from various stores seem to work just fine! Glad you found a good one.

      And great to hear you’re enjoying my recipes. I hope you continue to do so.

      Lucky you–so close to France. But the UK is pretty wonderful, too! (I lived there for a year….).

  • Westy

    Vive le Le Creuset Braiser. I adore mine. The 3 1/2-quart size is great for cooking for four to six. I cook recipes for six; serve two, then stash individual servings in the freezer for nights when we don’t always eat together. Braised dishes freeze well!

  • Guinevere Wild

    Been ogling a LC Braiser for some time now and I’ve been distracted by the LC Buffet Casserole. Both come in 3.5-qt. and as far as I can tell, the only difference is a slight difference in side height and the lid (enameled cast iron v. glass), although currently a $105 difference. I have a solid LC collection, but my french ovens receive most of the work. I’m definitely in need of something with more surface space for braising, rather than doing two batches and creative positioning for the oven leg of the food journey.

  • Wini

    Sacré Bleu! That changes everything. If the glass lid truly stays as securely in place as the enameled cast-iron lid, then this could be a game-changer: A big winner at an amazing price.

    Knowing and trusting the Le Creuset name, I would venture to guess that it’s everything it says it is. An advantage of the glass lid is that it won’t be so DARN HEAVY. That enamel cast-iron lid sometimes makes it a beast to get out of the oven when its full. A glass lid will be lighter.

    Thank you for showing this to me. Let me know what you decide to buy!

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