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Le Creuset dilemma: 3.5 or 5qt buffet/braiser?

Hi everyone -- I've found so many of your posts helpful in other decisions, but can use some feedback on what size braiser to buy. I have two round french ovens, 4.5 and 7.25, and just bought the 5 quart braiser ... but once I got it home to my tiny Manhattan kitchen it seemed too big. I cook for two regularly, and entertain a few times a month. I don't cook meat, just fish and vegetables. Any thoughts on which size would be better? (I can exchange it this weekend.) Also, neither size will fit squarely on the center of the burner, if that affects your response. Any and all advice is appreciated!

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  1. I was in the same situation earlier in the year. You may have already read this thread, with the advice given me. If you haven't read it, it may be helpful to you and your situation:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585674

    And to update my experience since then, I am happy with the 3.5 qt braiser, and haven't found a situation yet where I wished I had the 5 instead.

    18 Replies
    1. re: souvenir

      I did see that thread on my initial search, but the feedback seemed evenly split -- I was hoping you'd chime in w/an update! (I didn't add to that thread since it was nearly a year old, but please let me know if that's what I should have done. I'm new to this.) I'm still torn; I think I could make good use of the 5qt, but worry about the amount of oil/butter I'd need to coat the bottom if I'm not actually braising. The entire surface needs to be covered, right?

      1. re: herring

        I have the 5-quart and the 2.5 quart, herring.

        First of all, what I usually do with both the braisers and my LC skillets is simply put a SMALL amount of oil in them (maybe a teaspoonful or two) and then spread it around with a paper towel. That way, I always have the whole surface covered, but not with excessive oil. If a particular recipe or food call for more oil, then of course I'll add it, but not for something like cooking fish.

        As to the sizes, sometimes I'm cooking for our family, but often now because the kids are older, I'm cooking just for hubby and me. Tonight, I'm braising chicken thighs for him and me, and four of them plus two cut-up pototoes and an medium onion filled the 2.5 quart properly for cooking.

        I DO get use out of my 5-quart braiser, but then I may be cooking different things than you do. First of all, I usually do some kind of pasta-veggie toss once a week. So I'll saute the veggies in the five quart, and once the pasta cooked (separately), I'll put it in the braiser with a little bit of the pasta liquid and whatever I want to add to make an impromptu sauce. I also can use that braiser to roast a whole chicken, and I make my own roasted tomato sauce in it, to keep in the freezer. I fill the braiser with either canned San Marzano's (sans liquid) or fresh plum tomatoes, cut up, a little oil, wine, herbs and let it roast.

        Of course the 2.5 will be ideal for meals for two, but I also use it for sides for the whole family, and last week I made a single layer snacking cake (not fancy-no frosting) in it--it rose beautifully.

        So you really have to think about what it is you cook. If you don't do things like pasta tosses, or roast whole chickens or larger pork or beef roasts, you might prefer the 3.5.

        1. re: Normandie

          Normandie, thanks so much! A very useful tip regarding the oil, and good info on the sizing. I'm surprised you can get all that into the 2.5 quart. Makes me wonder if that's something I should pick up at a later date (ie, the next time the outlets have another 40% off sale), or if I should exchange the 5qt for the "happy medium" 3.5.

          1. re: herring

            (Oh, and I'm totally trying a pasta-veggie toss!)

            1. re: herring

              I meant to tell you that the amount of pasta I usually do in the 5-quart is about half a pound...so that's what? Generally, four servings, but more when stretched with veggies? Hard for me to judge because hubbie alone wolfs down, like, two double-servings. :-D Anyway, the thing is, I don't think I could do the pasta dishes easily in a 3.5 or 2.5, but again, if you don't do that often, then it wouldn't be a priority.

              I know...it's a hard decision to make, and I'm not sure what to tell you. There are times when I think the 3.5 would be *perfect* for whatever I'm doing, but I really don't want to have three braisers, so I make due with one of them or use my 3.5-quart FO.

              And, yes, I did get that much into the 2.5-quart, and it wasn't squished in there, either. I wouldn't be able to do that with bone-in breasts, but for thighs or legs or maybe even boneless breasts, it was just the right size. (Remembering the LC recommends you have the utensil at least one-half to three-quarters full for things to cook properly.) It turned out really well tonight, but I'm sure it would have worked in the 3.5, too.

              1. re: Normandie

                Nomandie, how wonderful you advise is! Thank you for posting!

              2. re: herring

                Similar to Normandie, I pour a small amount of oil, turn on the heat and tilt the pan so that the surface is covered by a thin amount of oil.

                To your request for an update, I think we may have different priorities for the LC buffet/braiser, so my experience may not be as useful to you. I do use it to braise meats and vegetables quite a bit. Most recently a cider-braised pork shoulder, 3.4 lbs, with 1.5 pounds of sliced onions as the main ingredients. Served 6 with left-overs. Plenty of room in the 3.5 qt for this. I do have 6 qt and 9 qt enameled cast iron pots, so if I were going to make something like a fish stew, I would probably use one of those pots, depending on how many servings I was making. We tend not to roast chickens in the oven, instead put them on a Weber rotisserie.

                I also make a lot of risotto, farroto, pilaf type dishes in the LC buffet/braiser. I think of the LC when I want heat to be retained longer than it does in All-Clad or Calphalon pans. I only tend to make risotto using 1 cup or 1.5 cups dry rice, so the 3.5 qt is plenty big enough for this too.

                For most of the fish dishes I make, I tend to use the AC petite braiser, saute or casserole pans, or a 4 or 6 qt Calphalon buffet/everyday pan, depending on how many servings I am making.

                Hope this is helpful.

                1. re: souvenir

                  Thanks for all the great tips, Normandie and Souvenier. I think I'm going to exchange the 5 for the 3.5 ... if they have it in the same color, that is. That may end up being the deciding factor!

                  1. re: herring

                    You are very welcome. Whichever one you end up with, I hope you'll post a bit more about your experiences using it. I'm interested to read how you use it and like it compared to what you are using now.

                    1. re: souvenir

                      I wanted to update this thread because I finally had a situation where I wished I had the 5 quart rather than the 3.5. I usually make au gratin potatoes in a covered ceramic or glass casserole type dish, but read somewhere about using an enameled cast iron pot, and thought I would try the 3.5 qt braiser instead. It turned out beautifully, both in looks and taste. We had people over for dinner and ended up with just a little bit left over. Since this is the first time I've felt the need for the 5qt, I'd say it was a good call to go with the 3.5 qt, but still...

                      1. re: souvenir

                        Thanks! I ended up exchanging the 5q for the 3.5 and haven't regretted it at all. I use it all the time, often as a large skillet but sometimes even for braising fish and big mounds of greens. Like you, Souvenir, there was one time I wished I had something bigger, but for the most part I've been able to use it for dishes serving two to six, depending, of course, on what I'm making. Glad you're (generally) happy with your decision as well.

                        1. re: herring

                          Glad to hear that it's working out well for you. I am happy with the decision. I think there probably would have been more times that I felt the 5 qt was too big for whatever I was making, than this one time (so far) where I wished I had the larger one. On the other hand, if the 5 qt goes on super sale at one of the LC factory stores, I might have to make space for it too.

                          1. re: souvenir

                            Hah! I was thinking the same thing!

                            1. re: souvenir

                              Just wanted to let you know, the outlets are still having a promotion for additional percentages off.
                              I stopped off at the one in Orlando this weekend. They had easter eggs with slips for either 20, 25 or 30% additional off (tip.. pick an ugly color egg.. that's where we found the 30% off).

                              For what it's worth.. I've only now visited 2 of the LC outlet stores.
                              One above Atlanta and now the one in Orlando. the fellow in Orlando did go and pull a few boxes for me to inspect the different pots.. however, I had the feeling he wanted me to take whatever he handed me. I did not get his name, but I'm sorry.. I understand they are seconds and there will be minor paint flaws.. but I do want the opportunity to know I'm getting a minimal flaw and not chips. A few he handed me had paint divots.
                              Ultimately, I found a 5qt oval in Flame I was happy with.
                              Originally was looking for the 4.5qt round but there were none I was happy with.

                              Comparatively to the service I received at the outlet near Atlanta, the staff was much more helpful and went to the trouble to find minimal paint deviation for me.. I was tickled with what they brought out and showed me what they found. They have also always been most helpful on the phone. Michael is who I dealt with there.

                              Of the two stores.. if I were to call and order an item from one or the other, I would call Michael at the Georgia outlet rather than the Orlando as I feel much more comfortable they would take the time to pick out a nice item.

                              Hope this is helpful to anyone in the market!

                              1. re: grnidkjun

                                Thanks for sharing what you found! I haven't been by an outlet in a few months. Did you happen to see if there was there a $99 special for April?

                                1. re: souvenir

                                  No, I didn't notice one.. but if you go to the LeCreuset web page and look for the retailers.. look up dawsonville, ga or wherever you may have an outlet close by.. the phone numbers are listed.. give them a ring and they will tell you. :)

                          2. re: souvenir

                            Souvenir,

                            Please post you au gratin recipe. Thanks

                            1. re: lulou23

                              lulou23,

                              I don't really make them the same way twice in a row. It depends on what else is on the menu. My simplest version is pretty similar to the one in Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html...
                              though lately I've been preferring russet potato texture to yukon or other waxy potato textures.
                              Here is a good thread on the Home Cooking board about different versions:
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/388666
                              Hope this helps you, -sou