What's the difference between a dutch oven, casserole, and brasier?
I am a cooking ignoramus. I was inspired by Julie & Julia to dust off "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and am more confused than ever.
On WS, (which has great pictures for reference), they have Le Creuset cocotte, dutch oven, and brasier. What is the difference between these? I need some guidance, as I don't want to buy them all!
Cocotte and brasier are fancy names for variants of the Dutch oven. Casserole dishes are not as deep, and can be of many sizes, materials, and shapes; not all have lids. A Dutch oven is versatile and will suit stewing/braising/deep-frying uses. It's not routinely used to bake casseroles because of its size and weight, but it certainly would work. An oval one is slightly better than round for whole poultry or fish but you'd have to decide if it's worth a hefty price premium. Cooks Illustrated's Best Buy is a $40 Tramontina round 6.5 qt Dutch oven from Walmart. Although I had 4qt ones, I bought it to make bread and am happy with it for all-purpose use. Unless you are cooking for a large family, no need to go larger. Enameled cast iron is more versatile than uncoated but either way these are heavy pieces, so keep that in mind. The enamel on the cheaper ones may chip more readily, but since all enameled pieces shouldn't be banged about, as long as you are careful a cheap one will work just fine. You put a rubber-coated rack, a mat, or a towel in the sink and wash it by hand - don't use it as a dishpan for other dirty cookware.
E M Just to clarify one small but pertinent point, look again at the W-S site and you'll see they are featuring the LC "braiser", versus "brasier" (that being a device to hold charcoal, such as a Hibachi).
Just want to forewarn you that you will see some other retailers' sites that refer to that LC braiser as a "casserole". I guess it's really kind of both, as greygarious described them. It's low-walled and curved, which makes it good for braising, but also suitable for casseroles and the other applications greygarious mentioned.
If you don't already have a pot of this general type, I agree with greygarious. I think it can be useful to start with one of the higher sided "Dutch oven" pots. (Note that LC and Staub call them "French ovens". So when you see a recipe, "Dutch oven" and "French oven" are interchangeable.)
The first enameled cast iron pot I ever bought was a 5-quart round French oven (manufactured by Staub). I have used that for all the techniques greygarious mentioned, including bread-baking (both yeast and quick breads). The sides are a little high for optimal braising, because in braising you don't want your liquids to evaporate or escape by steam. But that problem is easily solved if you have only that one shape of pot with the higher sides by layering some foil or parchment right on top of the food and then putting a heavy weight such as a heat proof plate on top of the foil/parchment before putting the lid on.
If you're like a lot of us, you'll try one shape first and branch out after you've had a chance to appreciate the virtues of enameled cast iron and the many uses for these pots, and which ones would be most suitable for what you like to cook. Now I prefer my oval FO to my round ones (although tonight, I thought my bigger round one was the right pot for the job).
So I guess where you really need to start answering your own question is, what types of things do you think you would like to cook in your first enameled cast iron pot? What do you like to eat?
Thanks so much, both of you, for your help. I keep kosher, so I can begin by saying that this heavy-duty item will be used only for meat.
Brisket is a favorite...normally, I brown the meat in a frying pan, then transfer it to a roaster, which I cover with tin foil to cook away in the oven. Stews I make in a stock pot.
However, I come from a family that knows the meal is done when the smoke alarm goes off. Not to mention, all of our roasting pans have been Pyrex, which I suspect are useless. Having seen Julie & Julia, and the expressions on their faces when they tasted their beef burgundy....I decided its time for an overhaul.
Along the same lines, what is the difference between a stainless steel frying pan with a lid and a sautee pan? What about a sauce pan and saucier? I just can't figure it all out.
A saucier is shaped like a mixing bowl. They're preferable for things that require a lot of stirring or whisking, as it's easier to move the utensil around quickly in this shape. A saucepan is probably what you currently have -- a round pot with straight vertical sides.
The term "saute pan" is sometimes used to mean different things, but generally speaking they're deeper than an average frying pan and have straight sides. Given your earlier questions, it's worth noting that (while not always preferable) it is possible to use a saute pan for most things you'd use a braiser for.
I think pothead and greygarious did an excellent job of explaining to you the differences between the next four types of pans about which you asked. It does get confusing, since the same pan shapes can be called by different names. But you'll get the hang of it; don't worry. ;-)
JC does include a little bit of information in the first chapter of Mastering the Art, with a few diagrams (at least, in my 1967 edition she does).
But here's something I think might help you straighten out at least some of the things that you're asking for immediate information on.
Go to the Le Creuset site itself. Use this link: http://www.lecreuset.co.uk/en-us/Prod...
You'll see a brief description of each pan shape and what it's used for. Look through those and then click on the link that says "Browse [pan type]". That will take you to a page that shows the sizes they sell for each pot shape. Click on one of those pot images and you'll get a page that has some more information on how each shape is used.
And then note that the Le Creuset site has a picture-glossary like that for each material in which they make cookware. Look at the stainless steel section, because that will contain some of the other universally used pan shapes.
Now that you mention you're looking for a pot that will be used exclusively for meat...let me ask you a question, since I only know a few very basic things about keeping kosher. Is it permissible to cook poultry in the same pot you'd use to cook brisket and other beef dishes? And, if it is, do you see yourself wanting to use the pot you buy more often to cook cut-up chicken or, say, a whole chicken instead?
If your primary goal for right now is a good vessel to make the brisket and other not-too-tall foods in, I'd say, maybe you want to start with LC's braiser. But if you see doing both lower profile foods and higher ones, then you could use a French oven for both.
Now...have you thought about the size? What size cuts of meat (pound-wise) are you looking to do in your new magic pot? (Because--JMO--they *are* magic. Well, almost, LOL. But I do love 'em!)
I wouldn't say Pyrex is useless. Many of us started out with Pyrex, I suspect. I still keep one for marinating, or if I get desperate because I've used up every other piece of cookware on Thanksgiving, or something like that. By now, though, I've had plenty of time to collect most of exactly the pots, pans and roasters I want for what I tend to cook, so I don't use the Pyrex too much anymore. But I was grateful to get it at the time and it served me well.
Btw, I laughed out loud when I read your litmus test for the meat's completion. No lie...two houses ago...two little design glitches regarding the unfortuitous placement of the smoke sensors. The one in the kitchen was placed too close to the stove. The one in the upstairs hallway was placed too close to the family bathroom. Our local little volunteer fire department had a tendency to pull into our driveway, sirens wailing, when I broiled lamb chops or when someone showered upstairs and forgot to open the bathroom window a crack. Fortunately, it was a tiny community so they didn't fine us and were patient until we fixed the situation. But after the first few visits, one of the firemen poked his head in the door and asked, "Are we dining or bathing this evening?" :-D
You wise people are the best. Normandie, what would happen if one was bathing and one was cooking? LOL!
I looked at the details of the LC site. Poultry is considered meat. I have been known to, on occasion, roast a cornish hen. But for low profile dishes, I really thought a deep sautee pan would be best. I could fry in it, sautee chicken or beef in it, and if I got the right kind, could slide it into the oven. Right? I was thinking I would use a French/Dutch oven for briskets & stews.
One of the "issues" I have with Julia's book is that, for example, she mentions that to sautee the mushrooms I should use an enameled skillet. Why enameled? I find the LC heavy enough and wanted to use a regular all clad skillet. I can't get a skillet in every material!
Lastly, I noticed that all clad and LC make stainless casseroles/dutch ovens. Which material do you recommend, and why?
THANKS SO MUCH!
:-D re your question in the first paragraph. And the answer is, "Why, stereo, of course."
Re the cookware, it seems to me we need to step back here, re-organize our thoughts and revisit some fundamentals. In doing so, I may not understand all of your questions. So if I happen to answer one you didn't ask, or miss one you did, just re-ask. This may get a little long, so forgive me for that.
Before we get into any of the specifics, just remember that you can do many kinds of things in most kinds of pans. After all, people bake breads in tin cans, sometimes. It's not that you usually *can't* cook something in a pan that's different from that which the recipe specifies; it's just that when possible you want to use the pan that's best designed to do a particular task. However, few of us would want to buy a different pot or pan for every cooking task we do over the course of the year. It's too expensive and it takes up too much valuable cabinet "real estate" to equip one's kitchen that way. I will buy hardly *anything* that does only one task. As an example, I won't invest in special "double-boiler" pots, because I only need to use one maybe once a year. So I make do by sticking a heat-safe bowl or a saucier over a saucepan with some water in it. So don't feel that you can't cook what you want in what you have, if you have to.
Having put out that disclaimer, it's true that good quality, sturdy, substantial pans, designed for the specific jobs you do most, can make cooking easier and more pleasurable, can help the product be better, and can make cleanup much easier.
It seems to me that you're really wrestling with two separate questions right now: 1) What is the best pan SHAPE for my cooking priorities?, and 2) What is the best MATERIAL for my cooking priorities?
When I read your posts, I think your two most important cooking priorities at this point are: 1) to improve the dishes you already like to make; and 2) to expand your cooking repertoire by trying some of the other dishes in Mastering the Art (and maybe some other sources?). So, if I'm right about that, you want to purchase a pan or pot that will accommodate the briskets, etc., plus various recipes of as yet undetermined choice that you might find in Mastering the Art, etc. That means to me that you want to find, to the extent possible, a general purpose pot or pan that will handle as many cooking techniques as possible as well as possible.
So let's talk about materials first. One of the most important things you need the material to be is a good heat conductor. You want this for dry-heat tasks (roasting, searing, etc.) because the quicker the outside of the food is sealed by the heat, the less likely it is to scorch or stick. By sealing the food quickly with high heat, you also keep its natural juices inside it, which helps the finish product to be moist (as long as you rest it once off the heat). You want also want the good heat-conductivity for wet-heat tasks (braising, simmering, boiling, poaching, etc.) because you want to be able to achieve and maintain the desired state the liquid should be in while it is in contact with the food.
The best overall heat conductors for cookware are: 1) copper; 2) aluminum; and 3) cast iron.
Each one has its advantages and disadvantages; therefore, you have to pick out the material whose advantages most often match up with the tasks you want to do.
Most people tend to think copper pots are the best cookware. They conduct heat well, and they also respond very quickly when you need to turn the heat up or down in a hurry. However, they are *extraordinarily* expensive; they need to be lined with tin or stainless steel for most uses; and if you want them to look pristine, they need to be polished.
Aluminum is the next most agile heat conductor, but it reacts with acidic foods and is pitted by things like salt and other corrosives.
Cast iron takes a longer time than the other two to heat up, or to cool down, but once it does, it retains those temperature states better than other materials. Therefore, during a long stovetop braise or long oven braise or roast, it maintains an even cooking temperature. And if you need it to keep something cool or cold in the refrigerator or on a buffet table, it can do that, too.
But uncoated cast iron also reacts with acidic foods, and it needs to be seasoned with oil or lard in order to prevent it from rusting, so some genius discovered it could be coated with enamel, and....presto! Enameled cast iron doesn't react with acids, it doesn't rust, and it's a breeze to clean up. It is heavy, but other than the lifting, heavy isn't a bad thing when it comes to cookware. On the contrary. It's another thing that helps to minimize hotspots and scorching.
Thus, for my money, for *most* (not all, but most) things I do, enameled cast iron is my preferred cookware material. IOW, if I could only have one pot, ever, I'd choose enameled cast iron.
But you also asked about stainless steel, so let's talk about that. It's a poor heat conductor. It doesn't get to or maintain some of the temperatures you need to sear properly on its own, and it can develop hotspots and/or warp, so that the bottom doesn't stay in even contact with the heat source. To improve the heat conductivity situation, you see the premium brands of stainless steel pans combined with some layers of copper or aluminum (like All Clad). OTOH, stainless steel is one of the most sanitary, durable, inexpensive to manufacture, and easily cleaned materials, so it has its advantages, too.
But since enameled cast iron can achieve the high temperatures I want in cooking, can maintain them very well, can produce a good sear, deglazes well so you get those interesting bits and flavors in sauces, gravies, etc., and cleans up very easily, that's why for *me* and for the type cooking I like to do, it seems like the best overall general purpose choice for me. I think you'd enjoy it, too, for what you're interested in doing.
Re your specific questions. Many, many people love All Clad and produce great food out of them. I have two All Clad pans, and I'm not enamored of them. One is a chef's pan (rounded bottom, All Clad's pseudo-wok) and the other is a 13" skillet. I bought it because I wanted one pan in that large size for browning or sauteeing big batches of vegetables. However, it warps with the heat and food sticks. Food doesn't stick as much to the rounded chef's pan, but it never seems to get hot enough. Just my experience, and other people love their AC.
I honestly believe that the best dutch ovens, all things considered, are cast iron, and I like enameled cast iron (for its non-reactivity to acids and ease of clean-up). I think the best casseroles are enameled cast iron. Ceramic or porcelain casseroles are also great in the oven, but you can't use most of them on the burner, so, again, I prefer enameled cast iron for the versatility. I'm not crazy about stainless for anything in which a tight seal of the lid is important, such as braising. It just doesn't weigh enough, and the liquid escapes via steam. A cast iron lid is heavier and better at keeping the braising liquid and steam inside.
Re the mushrooms, yes, you can certainly sautee mushrooms in a stainless or All Clad skillet. However, since you won't get and maintain the hot temperature you can with copper or cast iron, you don't have the best material to get that quick sear (browning) on the outside to seal the mushroom. That's what prevents steaming the mushrooms, which is not what you want to do when you sautee. You want a nice caramelization, which is what optimal, steady heat gives you. So I imagine Julia recommends enameled cast iron for that reason, and also because you can use acids in ECI--very important if you want to give the mushrooms a shot of either a nice vinegar or a wine, for seasoning.
Regarding the shapes, it seems to me in your third paragraph from the end, you seem to be getting the hang of them. Were you thinking of this as one of your options for the deep sautee pan? http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc... I think you could also use that for (smaller) briskets. I don't know how big the ones you do are. Or were you looking at one of the stainless models?
And yes, you could definitely use the FOs for briskets, too, and stews. The FO is probably the best choice for stews, because the higher height allows for steam to form and keep recycling back into the food. That's what allows the seasoning of the herbs, spices and other additions such as wines or stock or juices to keep flavoring the food through the whole cooking time. It also allows the steam-heat to break down the connective tissues in meats, thus tenderizing them. You certainly *can* make stews in deep sautee pans, but, yes, you're right, the FOs would be ideal for the job.
So...sorry for the length, but I hope some of this helped. Let me know if I didn't answer something, or if I--LOL--answered unnecessary things. ;-) And now I see I've been a naughty girl and stayed up *much* too late, but fortunately tomorrow morning is Saturday and we don't have to be anywhere until the afternoon. :-)
Well, I spent all day yesterday making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon--sans bacon--in a too-large roaster that resembled aluminum foil in thickness and using a saute pan that was so warped it looked more like a wok. It was not easy, but on the other hand, the meal turned out superb anyway.
The last factor in my hunt for proper cookware concerns my stove, which is electric. (Ah, for the day I am a homeowner and can install gas.) In other words, I have this feeling that I can't get the stove to the proper temperature anyway, so I think cast iron would be an overkill at present. Also, I am a weakling. Yes, I admit it. I find cast iron just too heavy to use regularly. However, since talking to cooks and other foodites, I concede that CI is the best for briskets, stews, and the like. Therefore, I have (sort of) committed myself to a FO in ECI, but keeping to all-clad for pots and pans, especially those that involve tossing. I just can't easily lift--much less toss--a cast iron pan.
N, you hit the nail on the head. I am looking to buy as few pots as possible, but I didn't want to come to the forum and ask, "which are the most versatile cookware" thinking that it varies for everyone. Hence, my original working of this post.
Julia Child recommends two FO--a 2 qt and 7 qt oval (I think, I don't have my book handy. Let's just say, a small and a large.) In my unoriginality, I am going to defer to her experience. For a saute pan (that will double as a fryer) I was looking at the all-clads.
I really like your advice concerning putting foil over meat that must be braised if the pot is too high. Those are the tidbits I was looking for--how to make as few pots/pans as possible serve the most uses. Unfortunately, I know too little about cooking to ask pointed questions.
Thanks again for all your help. I will be back soon, I am sure. I am, naturally, grateful for more tips!
Here's what I would get for fleishig pots if I were setting up a kitchen from scratch (for dairy you need less, and you probably have a better idea of what it is that you need):
1) 2 enameled cast iron Dutch/French ovens: 1- 5-8 quart and 1- 2-3 quart
2) A 5-6 quart stainless saute pan
3) Stainless skillets -- whatever size and number you usually use (but remember that the saute will double nicely as a 12-inch)
4) A few stainless sauce pans in various sizes
5) A 12 quart stainless stock pot -- this needn't be very good quality, and will boil water faster if it is on the thinner side.
6) A heavy stainless roaster. Everyday briskets are awesome in cast iron, but when you need a huge one for Passover, it won't easily fit in a dutch oven of any normal size. The roaster does a very nice job, and if you get a good stainless one then you can use it to brown on the stovetop.
Also, there exist plenty of very good stainless options that aren't All-Clad (and are much cheaper). I'm a big fan of the Cuisinart Multiclad, for one.
Hard-anodized aluminum has better heat-retention and costs less than the pretty, shiny stuff. Stainless beats it in only one respect - that it is easier to tell how dark your fond is on stainless than on black. This is not a big problem once you have some experience with the Maillard reaction.
I consider a Dutch/French oven under 4 quarts as impractical - never owned, nor missed, one in 40 years of home cooking. My basic list is smaller: a 5-6 qt enameled CI Dutch oven, a 10-12" nonstick saute pan, a 1-1-1/2 qt saucepan. The dutchie could be used for everything I cook in my nonstick, lidded 4qt saucier/chef's pan, but since the former is heavy, the latter is more convenient and is my first choice for soup, chili, etc.
I noticed that Cuisinart Multiclad is one of few clad product lines that still seems to offer a small saucepan--what is it, pothead? 1 or 1.5 quarts? Most I've found start with 2 quarts, and that's just unnecessarily large for a few of the things I do. I've noticed around the Internet that a lot of people who have the Cuisinart Multiclad *really* like it and think it's a good value.
I also have one 2-quart saucepan and one 3-quart saucier Calphalon copper multiclad (copper exterior, aluminum-clad, stainless steel interior) pans that I *LOVE*. I know the copper's thin and there for show, probably, but the alumininum guts are really responsive to my gas burners and I find the stainless in this to be very easy to clean. A couple of times I've used the 3-quart to make a quick pick-up soup and used it at the outset of those to brown stewmeat. It did a good job with the browning. These pans have good weight, too, and the handles truly stay cool burner-top. They're reasonably priced and Calphalon normally has at least a couple of the pans on "try me specials".
Also, I needed a ten-inch stainless skillet for sauteeing veggies, etc., so I bought one of the new Marcus tri-ply pans on an intro special. I love this thing, too! IMO, anyway, it delivers exactly as promised. Good weight, responsive, handles stay cool, easy to clean, and though I usually use my Demeyere or Le Creuset skillet for main dishes, once I needed to sear some chicken thighs while those two were in the dishwasher, so I used the Marcus. It did an excellent job of searing, I thought. I frankly like it much better than All-Clad, but, again, every cook has different needs and priorities, so maybe that's just me. The Marcus is made by Regal in the US, and Marcus Samuelsson is donating the proceeds to charity (I think for fighting hunger) and has made a commitment to green products. So I liked all that, too.
Here's the company link http://www.marcuscookware.com/ and here's a vendor link http://www.metrokitchen.com/category/... in case anybody's interested and would like to get an idea of the pricing. I'm just really impressed with this pan and would buy more of it, if I weren't already pretty much set in the burner-top (versus ovenware) department. P.S. Goes in the dishwasher, too.
I also noticed on consumerreports.org that Emilware has a recommendation from them.
So I agree with you very much. There are various good options out there, at less cost and with just as many features, without having to spend the money for A-C or any of the more expensive lines. (I'm still not surrendering my Demeyere saute pan or my LC, though, LOL. Maybe the Staub, and I'll definitely give up the A-C, but not the Demeyere. That Silvinox coating is post-space-age wonderful.)
I'm very hungry. Your boeuf Bourgignon sounds mighty good right now. Mail me some! (Ravenous beast forgets to say "please.")
You are right. Cast iron IS heavy, and you have to know if you don't want to deal with that on a daily basis. Not everybody either can or even wants to, and that's fine. You have to know your own priorities and not be swayed by anybody else's. Again, every cook is an individual. Take me, for instance. If it doesn't go in the dishwasher, you can be pretty sure that I'm not interested. If it says, "handwashing recommended" (versus "required"), it's going in the dishwasher. Not just because I'm lazy (even though I am), but I want the pans sanitized, too. So now you know why I prefer enameled CI to naked CI (though I have two treasured unadorned CI pans--one griddle, one skillet).
So stick to your guns and get what you're comfortable buying and using, for whatever factors. I think you're on to something re Julia's experience, and it's not like you can't buy another one later if you find a particular type of pot that you fall in love with using. FWIW, in my experience what you're going about in the right way is just thinking about buying one or two better pots at the moment. Pick one (I'd suggest the larger one to start with), get it, use it for a while and it will virtually tell you where you need to go next. At least, that's what I've found as I've built my cookware inventory. (Something along the lines of the following will occur to you as you use it: "Gee, I really like this pan, but it's a little large for *most* things I do...or I wish I could use this in the oven...or I wish the handles stayed cooler."
As for the tips you seek, just let us know what's frustrating you and somebody will come up with a tip to help you. I've learned so many little practical things from folks on these boards.
So what are you making next?
Maybe a crusted lamb?
I started by buying two pieces a year ago, both all clad: a non-stick frying pan and a 4 qt. soup pot. I hate them both. Everything sticks and I can't get a good sear on either. The non-stick doesn't work nearly as well as the $20 thing my sister bought from BB&B.
I went through all the links provided, thanks!
This is looking appealing: http://www.kitchenclique.com/54828.html. I think I can cook my favorite dishes in it: fish, stir fry, and stew. Perhaps I will also buy a small frying pan to saute additional mushrooms. ? If I am going to saute things, I like a handle. But long handles aren't good for table serving.
You might want to check Cooks Illustrated's equipment tests. You can get a free trial membership to the website, which would allow you to search for their very solid recommendations. I have some of the knives and pans they've selected as either top performers or best buys, and found them to be excellent choices.
Now *that* (the Demeyere Apollo) looks like a nice pan! It's an everyday pan. You could do all the things the Kitchen Clique ad says plus saute, braise, etc.
Here's the description of the same pan from the cookware.com site. I'm only putting it up because it gives you a lot more detail on the specs and technical info re the pan:
I see that cookware.com says it can be used on electric burners and gas, which will be great if you ever do get gas burners.
These are the two Demeyere pieces I have. They're from the "Atlantis" line. Atlantis and Apollo are the two more deluxe product lines from Demeyere (though they're all pretty nice).
I have in the Atlantis:
The small saute-- http://www.125west.com/p-5698-demeyere-atlantis-saut-pan.aspx
5.5 qt Casserole http://www.125west.com/p-5695-demeyer...
I LOVE the Silvinox lining, which the Apollo pan you picked out also has. Very easy to clean; don't need a lot of fat to cook (a little bit, but not a lot); it's very reflective so you can tell the progress of the contents if you're browing something; deglazes well. With the gas burners, I just put them on low or medium-low to preheat if I'm using them to sear something; they get plenty hot. I used to use the casserole to cook pasta before I got a small stockpot, so that I put up higher when boiling water. These pans are *extremely* well made.
Yes, I like that Apollo you picked out, a lot.
How does the LC 5 qt wide FO (http://www.amazon.com/Creuset-Quart-Wide-Oval-French/dp/B001KKBRHO/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1252944162&sr=1-16) differ from the casserole (http://www.amazon.com/Creuset-Enamele...)?
Can anyone ID this SS pot? The video is linked on the left side of the page, and it is a recipe (suboptimal IMO, but that's another post!) for red beans and rice. The pot is seen at 03:00, and you can see the lid on it at 05:01. WHO makes that pot? I must have it!! Look at the handles....