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Best pan for braising?

VAfoodie Jan 21, 2008 06:55 AM

My dh and I have started to do a good bit of braising. We have a glass corningware (not the original stuff) dutch oven and a smaller farberware dutch oven, both of which we've used with mixed results. Do we need le creuset or a knockoff? If so, please advise.

  1. b
    blondelle Jan 21, 2008 07:12 AM

    You will get much better results with an enameled cast iron braiser or Dutch oven. I would get the 6 qt. Mario Batali on sale now for $59.99 on Amazon. That's a great price. I like the shape on it. It's a low wide oven, but high enough for soups and stews. I just got one for my mom in the Pesto color, a gorgeous green! Amazon keeps changing their prices so grab it while you can.

    If you want to go higher end to Le Creuset or Staub, Williams Sonoma has a sale now on the Sonoma blue and Dijon colors and you can get a 5.5 qt. for about $140. Good deals on Staub on Ebay.

    Those are your basic standard sizes, and will serve you well as a first oven. I say first because...well, I'll bet you can't just get one. Warning! They are VERY addicting...LOL!

    1. c
      Cary Jan 21, 2008 07:28 AM

      I don't think you need a new pan/pot at all. If you do most of the "stewing" portion of the braising process in the oven, then both are fine. Just make sure you have a good seal on the lid. If you do it on the stove, then I probably wouldn't like the glass corningware one as much because of uneveness of heating (but I haven't seen the glass one, so it might be okay).

      Simmer/subsimmer temperature, lengthy cooking time (depending on what you're making), and lid seal (liquid evaporation control) are generally the keys. You can try doing your braising in your stockpot, 5-6qt sauce pan, or even your saute pan. Almost any pan will work perfectly.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cary
        b
        blondelle Jan 21, 2008 10:12 AM

        Well, you can cook in a coffee can too over a hotplate, but it doesn't mean that you should or that the results will be great. Heavy stainless pans with copper or aluminum cores as well as cast iron have more thermal mass and hold the heat better, and give a better result in braising. You can braise in a throw away foil pan with a tin foil "lid" but you won't get great results. They tested all these over at egullet.com for braising. The posts and results are still up in the top section of their forum. Go for an enameled cast iron pan of nice quality and it will serve you well for braising for the rest of your life.

        1. re: blondelle
          c
          Cary Jan 21, 2008 11:19 AM

          I don't disagree, however, if the original poster already has a high quality stockpot, big saucepan or sautepan, there is no need to spend extra money on a dutch oven.

          Indeed, quite a few posters on one egullet thread detected no difference between their high quality thick metal gauge saucepan/stockpot and a creuset oven. The key points under discussion for the braising threads on egullet were the key points I mentioned earlier: temperature control, length of time, and liquid control. A thick metal pot, or a pan/pot with a thick base and using foil WITH the lid for a tight seal is perfectly fine.

      2. grampart Jan 21, 2008 07:42 AM

        I recommend a "doufeu" if braising is your main interest. Le Creuset makes them and they are pricy. I got mine on eBay (made by Cousances/France) for under $50 and it does a better job than my cast iron Dutch oven. Check them out.

        1. paulj Jan 21, 2008 09:30 AM

          Without knowing the nature of your 'mixed results' it is hard to say what, if anything, is wrong with the pans you do have. I think I could braise in disposable roasting pan with aluminum foil 'lid' just as well as an expensive enameled steel 'dutch oven'.

          Or you can wrap the everything in a tight foil bundle - see the Good Eats chuck roast episode.

          If the seal of the lid isn't that great (as is likely to be the case with the Corning, you can improve it with a piece of foil. Or you can just be more vigilant about watching the liquid level.

          paulj

          1. BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jan 21, 2008 10:57 AM

            I don't see the point of enameled pans in general, but if you must, Lodge has started selling enameled cast iron pans for hundreds of dollars less than Le Creuset. Personally, I wouldn't trade my plain Lodge cast iron for anything, and I plain on braising a stew in one of my Dutch ovens...actually, I should go put that on right about now, come to think of it...

            1 Reply
            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
              paulj Jan 21, 2008 11:14 AM

              Enamel handles long cooked acidic sauces better than plain iron. A well developed seasoning on cast iron falls somewhere between. On the other hand, enamel can chip, or become pitted, either due to excessive heat or mechanical misusue.

              paulj

            2. JoanN Jan 21, 2008 11:46 AM

              I prefer my All-Clad Sauteuse for braising to my Le Creuset.

              http://www.surlatable.com/product/bra...

              I chose this over an All-Clad Braiser for two reasons: (1) no flared sides so the bottom is as wide as the top and I can fit more in it and (2)it’s deeper than a braiser so it can hold larger chunks of meat. There’s something about it’s comparative width to depth that make it perfect for braising. I don’t understand the physics of it, but braising recipes that I used to make in an LC Dutch oven just come out better in the sauteuse. And of course, you can sauté in it and it’s lovely enough to bring directly to the table. It wasn’t cheap, but I love this pan and to me it was worth every penny.

              3 Replies
              1. re: JoanN
                paulj Jan 21, 2008 12:21 PM

                In shape and size this Sauteuse is similar to my current favorite, a 10" anodized aluminum dutch oven. I also have a 10" cast iron 'chicken fryer', though of late I've used that mostly for a no-knead bread.

                Ideally the pan should match what you are cooking, especially when the meat is in a few large pieces. You don't want it so crowded that it is difficult to stir or rotate the meat. On the other hand, if too wide, you have to fill the space with more cooking liquid.

                paulj

                1. re: JoanN
                  b
                  blondelle Jan 21, 2008 04:35 PM

                  Joan, is your pan about 12" in diameter? I think it's the same pan that AC is now calling their French Braising pan. Right now it's exclusive to Williams Sonoma. It looks the same, but comes with a heavy gauge round roasting rack.

                  Here's the link:

                  http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                  1. re: blondelle
                    JoanN Jan 21, 2008 04:48 PM

                    Mine looks similar, but it's only four quarts and 10-1/2 inches in diameter. I bought mine at a Broadway Panhandler (NYC store) sale quite a few years ago. Didn't come with a roasting rack. Hard to keep up with the new lines and the new names. That looks like a great price, though. I think I paid not a whole lot less for the smaller size on sale. Love, love, love that pan. I bought it on a whim and, except for my cast iron skillets (and specialty non-sticks or stock pots), it's the pan I reach for most often.

                2. r
                  renov8r Jan 21, 2008 03:00 PM

                  The advantage of cast iron is that holds heat and re-radiates it -- think old-fashioned heating systems, camp fire cooking, coal stoves -- the mass of the metal is not just evening out the heat it is actively breaking the flow of what would be direct heat and redirecting it in different path.

                  Thus if you put an oval shaped roast hen or roast into an oval shaped braising pan the distance from the meat to the pan is more uniform than dropping that meat into a round pan. All that SHOULD result in a more evenly cooked meal for roasting and braising.

                  Of course if the meal is really a stew than that difference is minimal, as liquid would fill the whole pot much more evenly.

                  You don't NEED to have a special pot, but it can make things go better.

                  Hope that helps.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: renov8r
                    paulj Jan 21, 2008 05:06 PM

                    One my best pots when it comes to holding heat and moisture is a Chinese sand pot, a very inexpensive clay pot with glazed interior and wire cage. I usually use it on a butane hot plate. Once it is up to heat, I have to use the lowest gas flame. But being clay I do have to be careful with handling, and I don't expect it to last a lifetime.

                    paulj

                    1. re: paulj
                      c
                      Cary Jan 21, 2008 05:16 PM

                      My mother (Chinese) loves those pots. She uses it when she feels nostalgic for some of her childhood dishes: simple one pot rice with meat and vegetable dishes.

                      She warns me everytime I get near the pot, to be careful or I'll break her favorite pot.

                  2. VAfoodie Jan 21, 2008 03:56 PM

                    I remembered the type of Corning DO I have: Visions. I think it might not be wide enough to do the kind of braising/roasting etc. I've been doing lately and it does burn easily on the bottom.

                    I like the looks of his Mario Batali pan. Tell me what ya'll cook in these pans.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: VAfoodie
                      paulj Jan 21, 2008 04:17 PM

                      Visions - was that the smoked glass with nonstick coating on the base? I have a small sauce pan of that type. It's buried in the pantry now; replaced by inexpensive restaurant aluminum and enameled steel pans.

                      paulj

                      1. re: VAfoodie
                        c
                        Cary Jan 21, 2008 05:05 PM

                        I think you will have good results with any of your pans/pots if you braise in the oven at 200 -250 degrees for 2.5-3 hours. You won't experience any burning that way.

                        1. re: Cary
                          b
                          BBQPHILE May 26, 2009 03:03 PM

                          I cook regularly with All Clad, La Creuset, and high quality old black iron like Griswold. Each does certain things very well. In respects to non stick surfaces the La Creuset and a very well seasoned griswold is your best solution. The All Clad is a very nice cooking medium with good response to heat, but can be troublesome with foods that can easily burn. Black iron is excellent with heat distribution and is a good non-stick cooking surface. Acidic foods will lessen your seasoning to some extent with cast iron, but a well maintained seasoning can be easily returned to its optimal level by following a few simple do's and don'ts with cast iron. Cast iron will also last a very long time with proper care. La Creuset and all other enameled cast iron are very good dealing with the down falls of the other two types of pots. You just need to be careful when cooking and cleaning enamel to not chip or scratch it, and be mindful of temperatures above 425. So, overall, cast iron is the winner. You can find good deals on cast iron like Griswold, and you might need to put some work to bring some very fine cast iron back to its good working condition. For the advanced casual chef I think if you have to pick one to invest in overall with low maintenance the La Creuset is the best of both worlds if you can handle the hefty price of $200. If you decide to go with cast iron remember its heavy! The All Clad is very well made stainless steel all clad base, but it would come in third because of the high price and tempermental aspects of cooking with some foods with stainless steel. The worst feeling in the world is when you burn something badly on All Clad Cookware. Best advice learn everything you can about anything you cook with. That way you will avoid the pitfalls involved with each. Good luck :)

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