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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, sauteed, or pan-fried over high heat. Then, it’s covered with liquid and gently simmered at lower temperatures.
“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.
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.
Ready to get braising? Here are the best braising pans to add to your kitchen.
Best Overall: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Braiser
“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 & 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.
Best Budget: Lodge 3.6 Quart Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Dish with Lid
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.
Best Cast Iron: FINEX 5-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven
This high-quality, pure cast iron braiser from Finex isn't as heavy as other cast iron brands, which makes it much easier to work with.
A downside though is the cleaning and maintenance of a cast-iron pan—it’s a commitment. Luckily, this Dutch oven comes pre-seasoned for a nonstick surface that’s ready to use right out of the box. It also has a thick iron base and sides that distribute heat evenly for consistent cooking temperatures.
“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,”
Best Electric: Instant Pot Nova Black Stainless Steel 6-Qt., 7-in-1 One-Touch Multi-Cooker
Lead a busy lifestyle and don’t have time to wait for your meals to cook? Then an Instant Pot may be the best option for you. Though it is not technically a traditional braiser, you can give food a quick sear before adding any liquid and vegetables. Instant Pot’s massive popularity is partly due to its pressure cooking function which halves the amount of time it takes for most dishes. When used to braise, it yields tender and flavorful meat.
The Duo Nova 6-quart model is not only a pressure cooker and braiser, it’s also a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute pan, food warmer, and yogurt maker. It has 14 different preset functions, making it easy for beginners to learn. There's also a variety of safety features like the easy-to-seal lid, a safety lock, and protection from overheating.
Best with Lid: Staub 3.5 Quart Braiser
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.
Best Stainless Steel: All Clad Stainless Steel French Braiser
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.
Best Dutch Oven for Braising: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron Oval Dutch Oven
Easy to clean and easy to cook in, this Le Creuset oval Dutch oven will look beautiful sitting on your stove.
“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.”
It can withstand temperatures of up to 500 degrees and has the impeccable heat distribution and retention that Le Creuset is famed for. Its tight-fitting braising lid helps your food retain moisture and come out super juicy and tender.
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 (view at Amazon). It's a sturdy pan that distributes heat evenly no matter what you're cooking. If you're on a budget, the Lodge's enamel cast-iron casserole pan (view at Amazon) is the next best thing. It's a quality piece of equipment that distributes heat evenly.
What to Look for in a Braising Pan
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 seven 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. Stewing, on the other hand, 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.
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.