saute pan vs. braiser
On another thread I was asking about which saute pan to buy, and mentioned what I have and what I need: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/564724
(taken from the aforementioned thread): " ... lI have a glass ceramic kitchen stove, and the largest burner I think measures 9.5"... a standard, crappy glass ceramic kitchen stove (I miss my gas stove).
I need a suate pan... It's going to be used mostly for a) stews (which we usually have with rice) and b) whenever I want to fry something and don't feel like using my cast iron, since no matter how I season my cast iron and keep seasoning it and keep making bacon in it, food still sticks on it and takes ages to clean.
I have a bunch of cookware, but the ones I use are my 10" cast-iron skillet, a non-stick frying pan (mostly for eggs), a 12" deep non-stick skillet (I think 8" at the bottom, and I believe it's actually a stir-fry pan, but I hear some places calling it a deep skillet) that I desperately need to get rid of, and two cuisinart classic stainless steel saucepans of different sizes.
My budget: around $100. I want something that can last me for 5-10 years, and somewhere down the road I can upgrade to somethign better like copper..."
But someone suggested I forget about buying a saute pan and instead go with a brasier, like a Le Creuset 3.5qt buffet casserole. I can't find any for $100 like I was told, but still, is going with a braiser casserole really a better move?
I wouldn't use an enamelled iron pan for saute. Wouldn't want to get it that hot. I have a stainless braiser that would work fine for saute, but I have stainless saute pans, too, so don't use it that way. For a cheaper version of the buffet casserole, take a look at the Tramontina 3-quart, available from Wal-Mart for $29.86. I've got one on the way.
You need to use Ebay to get one under $100. There's even a 5 qt. one there (VERY heavy) that's $75 now and two smaller ones around a $50 bid. Just be sure to check feedback and ALWAYS pay for it using your credit card. Never pay by using funds from your bank as Ebay's buyer protection is very iffy.
I have one of those stir-fry pans. By now its nonstick qualities aren't that great. With an extra lid, it works pretty well for stews. I start the onions and other vegetables in this pan, and sear the meat in the cast iron skillet, then combine everything in the stir-fry pan.
My other favorite for stews is a 10" hard anodized aluminum dutch oven. For larger quantities I have a 5qt enameled dutch oven (Copco brand).
For stews, any covered pan that is big enough will do. If it can go in the oven, so much the better. If the lid isn't that great you just have to keep a closer eye on the liquid levels.
I have the LC buffet pan...I also have a 3 qt copper saute.
To be honest I use the buffet pan more. I use it for braises(it's holding a pot roast for dinner as I type), pasta sauces, risotto.
It doesn't sear nearly as well as my saute pan though...so for instance I wanted to glaze some veggies to go with the roast and wanted them to get nice and crispy brown before braising and glazing so I used the saute pan for that. I also typically sear whatever I'm goign to braise in the buffet pan in one of my skillets for this reason.
So...it kind of depends on what you use it for.
Hope this helps.