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?
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).
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.
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
Coq au Vin
Osso Buco-Style Chicken Thighs
Beef Stew with Orange and Balsamic Vinegar
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
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.