Braising is great for transforming tough or cheap cuts of meat into tender, juicy meals. But really anything can be braised. It's an easy cooking process that combines wet and dry heat. First, food is seared, sautéed, or pan-fried over high heat. Then, it’s covered with liquid and gently simmered at lower temperatures.
Some commonly braised dishes include the famous coq au vin, pot roast, chicken cacciatore, and beef Bourguignon. Whole fish and hearty vegetables, like leeks, cabbage, and root vegetables, can also be braised.
A braising pan is designed specifically for its task: Sloped sides keep the liquid in and the wide surface is perfect for browning. They come in different sizes and materials, though, so we researched a variety of options and interviewed several experts to help you decide which one should earn a spot in your kitchen.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Braiser
Holds and distributes heat evenly
Will last a lifetime of cooking
Cheerful colors and timeless design
Inner enamel can stain with improper maintenance
“This braiser has a great weight to it that holds heat evenly whether I am searing short ribs for a hearty stew in the winter, browning chicken skin for homemade chicken noodle soup, or making myself duck confit as a treat on my days off,” says Thierry Perez, director of food and beverage of Mainzer in California, who grew up in France. “It lends itself well to being able to reduce sauces and develop flavor consistently over a long period of time."
This 3.5-quart braiser is made to last years, browning and evenly braising meat 20 years later as good as it did the day it was purchased. The enameled cast iron is known for its great heat distribution and is resistant to regular wear and chipping. Le Creuset has made the handles larger than vintage versions for easier gripping. The lid, with its oven-safe knob, fits snugly into its locks, keeping moisture and heat inside. It's absolutely worth the price tag, according to Pflake.
Price at time of publish: $368
Material: Cast iron | Capacity: 2.25, 3.5, and 5 quarts | Lid Style: Cast iron, opaque | Handles: Double | Finish: Enamel | Color: 19 options available
Lodge 3.6 Quart Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Dish with Lid
Similar to Le Creuset
Holds and distributes heat evenly
Wide array of color choices
Complaints about finish chipping/failing, poor manufacture
On a budget or perhaps don’t cook as often as you may want to, but are looking to try out braising? “This is essentially the budget version of a Le Creuset,” says Plafke.
Lodge Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Braiser is a quality piece of equipment that is definitely wallet-friendly. Like a Le Creuset, the Lodge braiser can withstand heat up to 500 degrees. It heats evenly, has good heat retention, and its glass surface does not react to ingredients or need seasoning. This also works on induction stovetops.
Price at time of publish: $80
Material: Cast iron | Capacity: 3.6 quarts | Lid Style: Cast iron, opaque | Handles: Double | Finish: Enamel | Color: Blue, desert sage, gray, oyster, red
Best Cast Iron
Lodge Blacklock Triple Seasoned Cast Iron Braiser With Lid
Cast iron is pre-seasoned and ready to use
Thinner design makes it lighter than similar braisers
Tight fitting lid retains moisture
Requires proper cast iron maintenance and cleaning
Lodge is one of the most recognized producers of cast iron cookware in the USA, and for good reason—the products are durable, well-designed, and reasonably priced. This 4-quart braiser is made in Lodge's traditional rustic style, though it is designed to be thinner and lighter than many other similarly shaped models. It comes triple-seasoned and ready to use, providing a naturally nonstick finish. This braiser comes with a tight-fitting lid that has a raised aluminum knob for easy handling, perfect for locking in moisture during the cooking process.
“Cast iron braisers actually retain heat better than stainless steel, so they're great for soups, stews, jambalayas, and even baking bread due to their even heat," says Sam Marvin of Echo & Rig in Las Vegas. "I like to use cast iron braisers on the stovetop for low and slow cooking, and typically stick to stainless steel in the oven.”
A downside though is the cleaning and maintenance of a cast-iron pan—it’s a commitment. But with the right care, this pan will last for years—likely decades—to come.
Price at time of publish: $150 for 4 quart
Material: Cast iron | Capacity: 4 quarts | Lid Style: Cast iron, opaque | Handles: Double | Finish: Pre-seasoned cast iron | Color: Black
“Not only does it slowly breakdown the intramuscular fat, collagen, and sinew of tougher cuts of meat but a nice braise in a flavorful liquid will add richness to most any vegetable,” says Kimberly Plafke, production manager at The Meat Hook, a whole animal butcher shop and restaurant in Brooklyn, New York.
Zojirushi EP-RAC50 Gourmet d'Expert 1350-Watt Electric Skillet
Ultimate multi-use, goes beyond braising
Wide temperature range
Hogs counter space
Bulky to store
While the Zojirushi Gourmet d'Expert has many purposes, the deep pan included with this multi-function electric skillet is perfect for braising. Use it directly on the stovetop to brown meat, then drop it into the electric housing to simmer your way to a tender braise. This electric skillet has adjustable temperature settings from warm to 480 degrees Fahrenheit, and a circular cooking element that allows for even heating.
Also included is a shallower plate that can be used for grilling. Both the deep and shallow pans are coated with a titanium and ceramic-infused coating that makes it durable and nonstick, and feature handles for easy maneuvering. All the pans and steaming plate come apart from the electric housing for cleaning—simply wipe the heating surface with a damp cloth, and wash the pans and steamer plate with mild dish soap.
Price at time of publish: $125
Material: Mixed | Capacity: Not specified | Lid Style: Glass | Handles: Double on internal pan; no handles on housing | Finish: Titanium and ceramic over metal | Color: Black/white
Best with Glass Lid
Staub 3.5-Quart Braiser
Glass lid for monitoring cooking progress
Nonstick cooking surface still allows browning
Some concerns about manufacturing quality, consistency
This pot from Staub is made specifically for braising and is nonstick, oven-safe, and easy to clean. It comes with a glass lid that lets you check on your food without letting heat and moisture escape. The domed lid construction also allows large pieces of meat and steam to circulate.
Staub makes this with a textured black matte enamel interior, which is great for good browning. The enameled cast iron offers superior heat retention and distribution.
“You can also purchase a custom lid knob for your pot, which is fun,” says Carla Contreras, founder of the online cooking school Cook+Chop and a former "Chopped!" competitor.
Price at time of publish: $270
Material: Cast iron | Capacity: 3.5 quarts | Lid Style: Glass, transparent | Handles: Double | Finish: Enamel | Color: Cherry, dark blue, matte black, white
Best Stainless Steel
All Clad Stainless Steel French Braiser
Distributes heat well and evenly
Allows better sear than other surfaces
Safe in oven, on stovetop, induction
Lid needs to fit tightly to braise
This stainless steel braiser from beloved brand All-Clad is geared towards household cooks and restaurant chefs alike. Rather than enameled cast iron, it is made with 3-ply bonded stainless steel around an aluminum core for evenly heating your food.
“The benefit of stainless steel is that you can get a really great sear on the meat,” says Contreras.
This French braiser can contain a large amount of food within its 6-quart capacity and domed cooking lid. It also comes with a rack and has a wide cooking surface and high sides, which makes for less splattering. Like other braisers, this one is oven and broiler safe up to 600 degrees, and induction stovetop compatible.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 6 quarts | Lid Style: Stainless steel, opaque | Handles: Double | Finish: Stainless steel | Color: Stainless steel
Best Dutch Oven for Braising
Staub Cast Iron 6-Quart Cochon Shallow Wide Round Cocotte
Double duty as proper Dutch oven
Use in oven or on any style cooktop
Great capacity, but really heavy as result
Easy to clean and easy to cook in, this shallow Staub Cocotte (also called a Dutch oven)will look beautiful sitting on your stove. With a shallow and wide silhouette, it's closer in shape to a braising pan but it still has all the features we love about a traditional Dutch oven—higher sides, the ability to work on all types of cooking surfaces, and a tight fitting lid that keeps moisture in the pot.
“This is one of my cooking secrets—I will make double batches of what I’m cooking and freeze them so I only have to cook once,” says Contreras of her pot pick. “The beauty of the extra space of a Dutch oven is that you can cook more in it, meaning you can double recipes, cook large cuts of meat, make soups, stocks, grains, etc.”
During our home and Lab tests, we found this oven to have incredible versatility as it excelled at every task, from baking bread to cooking beans and stews, as well as providing even, deep caramelization when browning meats. (Note: Our Lab tested the Staub 5.5-quart round cocotte, which is made nearly identically to the 6-quart shallow cocotte in materials and construction.) While it does cost a pretty penny, ultimately the performance and quality make it easy to justify the investment on this great looking, multi-tasking Dutch oven.
Price at time of publish: $385
Material: Cast iron | Capacity: 12.54 quarts | Lid Style: Cast iron, opaque | Handles: Double | Finish: Enamel | Color: Cerise, flame, marine, Marseille
If you're looking for a high-quality braiser that'll last a lifetime—and beyond—we recommend Le Creuset's Enameled Cast Iron Braiser. It's a sturdy pan that distributes heat evenly no matter what you're cooking. If you're on a budget, Lodge's Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Pan is the next best thing—a quality piece of equipment that distributes heat evenly.
What to Look for in a Braising Pan
Size and Capacity
Picking a size for your braiser depends largely on how many people you tend to cook for, what you like to cook, and how much storage space you have for your pan. For 1-2 people, a 4-quart braiser offers plenty of room. We tend to find that having more space is better than not enough, so a 5-6 quart braiser is a fantastic size for a small family, or for those who like to cook larger quantities so you can meal prep. If you like cooking large cuts of meat, like whole briskets, opt for a larger pan. Keep in mind that braisers tend to be wide and shallow, and therefore, can take up a significant amount of storage space—something to consider when purchasing.
Braising pans are wide, shallow dishes that have a large flat bottom and sides that are lower than a Dutch oven but higher than a skillet or frying pan. They typically come equipped with a tight-fitting lid to lock in moisture during the cooking process. Since the braising process can oftentimes involve searing and then simmering your meats, you'll want to ensure your braising pan has handles that are easy to grip with oven mitts on for secure transport on and off the stove and in and out of the oven.
Care and Maintenance
The maintenance of your braising pans will largely depend on the vessel's material: Stainless steel and enameled cast iron are typically the easiest to clean, and bare cast iron will need special care to maintain its seasoning. Since braising pans tend to be a bit bulky and not dishwasher friendly, you'll want to be sure the one you choose can be easily washed by hand. Pay careful attention to the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for best results.
Dutch Oven vs. Braising Pan
You can use a Dutch oven to braise foods, but note that it is different from a braising pan (braiser). Braising pans are rounder and shallower than Dutch ovens, and hold around 3.5 quarts. They have sloped slides to make sure the liquid is kept in and a wide surface for browning. Unlike a Dutch oven, braising pans are not meant for stewing or deep-frying.
Dutch ovens are taller than braising pans with a thicker base but smaller circumference. The sides are usually a little thinner too. But Dutch ovens are much larger and can hold up to 7 quarts. In some cases, our chefs' favorite selects for braising pans are Dutch ovens.
Other Names for Braising
Braising is sometimes referred to as pot-roasting. The difference is what size the meat is: If it’s cut up, it’s braised; if it’s whole, it is pot-roasted. On the other hand, stewing means the food is totally immersed in liquid; it’s not necessarily seared or sautéed beforehand. Stewing is performed on the stovetop, and braising can be done on the stove or in the oven. Pressure-cooking and slow cooking are forms of braising, too.
What is braising?
Braising uses both dry and moist cooking techniques, typically starting off by searing or frying the meat and then simmering it slowly in liquid in a lidded container, usually augmented by aromatics, and deglazing the fond from the searing process. This process produces a tender, moist, and very flavorful dish. The process is very similar to stewing, but braising uses less liquid and is done with larger, tougher cuts of meat, like brisket or chuck roast.
Can braising be done on the stovetop or the oven?
Absolutely. Once the searing process is done, you can finish your braise either on the stovetop or in the oven. The process is the same: sear, deglaze by adding the water, stock, or desired liquid, add appropriate aromatics and seasonings, then cover and simmer for the time allotted in the recipe.
What liquid is used in braising?
Most commonly, some type of stock, such as chicken, beef, or vegetable, is used for braising. But some recipes call for wine, beer, vinegar, coconut milk, vermouth, or even just water. Whatever liquid you select, note that you only need enough liquid to partially submerge your meat, as the intent is to concentrate flavor while retaining moisture—your braising liquid can eventually become the sauce for your final dish.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Marisel Salazar is a food, restaurant, and travel writer, and video host based in New York City. She spoke with industry professionals, chefs, and home cooks for this comprehensive review, in addition to performing a cross-section analysis of consumer and editorially rated braising pans.
Catherine Russell, who updated this article, spent much of her time in her grandmother's kitchen growing up, and that’s where she first experienced the complex and satisfying connections between food, family, and culture. On those many afternoons spent in a small kitchen warmed by the oven and redolent of spices, she learned to bake, roast, broil, and cook most anything from scratch, and often with only the recipes as grandma remembered them.