Best pan for braising?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...