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This newbie needs help buying a good piece of cookware for braising meat!

This is only the second thread I've posted on Chowhound! Just posted one yesterday asking for advice on braising and received a tremendous amount of great advice. Based on some of the tips I read, I figure that I need to get myself a new piece of cookware to properly do pot roasts/braise meat.

I've never bought pots and pans before. I've been making do with a set of cheap hand me downs for the last several years. I plan to just replace each piece one by one... I don't care if they match or not. I'm focusing on getting function and quality but at a reasonable, affordable price.

Is a Dutch oven the best cookware to use to make good braised meat? Or, is a small stockpot also suitable?

I don't really know where to look for cookware here in Vancouver. I hate paying retail so I've enjoyed browsing the pots and pans at Homesense... the products they have in stock seem like good quality cookware at good prices.

One item I noticed today was this 5.5 qt Paderno enameled cast-iron roaster: http://www.paderno.com/us/products.ph....

I also really liked the Bodeux France line of pots and pans... they're beautiful looking, oven-safe, feel nice and hefty, and come with "5 Ply Copper Bonded" bottom. Can't seem to find anything about the brand online though except for two conflicting reviews on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bodeux-France-P.... Other brands I saw that had nice-feeling pots and pans: Potobelo, Palm and Lagostina.

Any tips, suggestions, or reviews on brands would be much appreciated!

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  1. My stockpot(s) aren't heavy enough for braising. Re DOs I probably equally love my Lodge, Le Creuset and Staub. And Lodge is a ton less expensive. Plus you can find them at thrift stores, yard sales, etc.

    I think you're very smart to replace a piece or two at a time as you find the things you like to cook alot. I also love my slow cooker which can replace a DO at times. Just the other day I deeply browned a piece of lamb shoulder and then put it in the slow cooker. Didn't have to heat up the oven, used less electricity, etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Thanks c_oliver... I recognize your handle from my first post. Lucky you with the new induction cooktop... I have a lowly electric coil range!

      Thx for the suggestions for brands. I'm familiar with Le Creuset and I'm not quite ready for that kind of investment... but I did notice Lodge DOs on Amazon and was amazed how affordable they are. I'll do a Craigslist search and see if I can find secondhand DOs!

      I do have a Hamilton Beech slow cooker. I haven't used it very much because I didn't succeed very well at making a beef stew in it. Perhaps I'll give it another go, this time with braising, and see how it does! I'm very eco-conscious so thanks for reminding me that slow cookers use less energy and perhaps save me from having to purchase another item.

    2. A bare cast iron Dutch oven is a good choice. It is pretty cheap.

      http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Logic-Pre...

      1. You've received excellent advice from c.oliver and ck; you cannot go wrong with any of their suggestions.

        One thing to keep in mind is the stove-to-oven capability of whatever you buy. Their three brand recs (Lodge, Le Creuset, Staub) all fit this requirement. You may not want to brown on the stove and use the oven for every single braise that you make, but having that capability is wonderful and saves you from having to change pots mid-cook. Also, you will likely use this pot for more than just braising. If you choose something with plastic handles, you'll eliminate high temperature foods like baking "No-Knead Bread" etc. in that piece.

        There is a lot of lightweight, albeit "cute" junk out there. Steer clear. This is one piece of cookware that will likely last your lifetime. Don't cheap out because you like the color of a particular affordable piece. Quality counts. This does not mean you must pay top-dollar. There are outlet stores, e-bay, yard sales and thrift shops all offering terrific bargains to those willing to search and wait.

        1. Cast iron is fine, but if you're going to spend a few bucks you might want to get something more multi-purpose. I have a lodge dutch oven, but for braising I'm more likely to use a SS-clad aluminum pot, particularly if I want to brown the meat before braising. I also prefer not to challenge the seasoning of the cast iron by cooking lots of watery things in it. Aluminum gives you the even heating you want for braising without all the weight of cast iron.

          The pots I use are stainless clad on the inside and anodized on the outside. The fully-clad (stainless inside and out) are prettier, but too expensive for me.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Zeldog

            "The pots I use are stainless clad on the inside and anodized on the outside. The fully-clad (stainless inside and out) are prettier, but too expensive for me."

            The hard anodized exterior ones (LTD) also give you slightly faster heat response than the triply (stainless-aluminum-stainless) cookware.

          2. I'm a huge fan of the Le Creuset French oven for wonderful braises. I also understand your concerns regarding the cost of LC, so let me say that there are ways to acquire LC without the huge investment. First of all, depending on where you live, there might be a LC outlet store nearby. Not only are their prices lower than the regular retail prices, but several times during the year they have special "coupon sales" where they mail coupons to people on their mailing list which are good for a hefty percentage off their lower prices. In addition, TJ Maxx, Home Goods and Tuesday Morning often have LC pieces at tremendously marked down prices. So don't despair -- LC might be more affordable than you think.

            1. Thx everyone! Sherri, I do agree I've received excellent advice so far. Unfortunately, though, it's given me MORE to consider and ponder over! ; )

              (CindyJ: I live in Vancouver, BC so no outlets here... when I plan my next trip down to the outlets in Washington State, I'll remember to be sure I'm added to their mailing list!)

              I have cooked with a cast iron frying pan and wok for many years (seasoned both myself). I steam fish in my wok on a regular basis and the seasoning holds up quite well... but then, steaming fish takes 20 minutes at most... haven't ever cooked a watery dish in either my pan or wok for hours at a time. If I properly season a bare (un-enameled) cast iron DO, would it hold up to hours of braising? Or is enameled cast-iron the best way to go for braising?

              Sounds to me like a SS-clad aluminum pot is more versatile than a DO - better bang for the buck? But I'm a bit confused... I understood that one of the features that make DOs ideal for braising is that they have heavy lids that keep in the moisture. A SS pot wouldn't perform the same way, lid-wise... so does a SS pot still do braises well?

              Also, someone's got to "school me" on all this stainless-clad, anodized, aluminum/SS, triply business! ; ) What?? It's like you're speaking another language! Any recommended links for learning about all this stuff? I didn't realize how much I didn't know until I found ChowHound!

              3 Replies
              1. re: LavenderPeony

                When you bond two or more metals together, then you are cladding, plying. That is where the name "All-Clad" came from.

                A triply cookware means it has three layers of metal bonded together. A 5-ply cookware has 5 layers. There are 7-ply, 9-ply.. on and on. The standard All Clad stainless design is a 3-ply cookware with a 18/10 stainless interior, a plain aluminum core and a 18/0 stainless steel exterior:

                http://images.amazon.com/images/G/01/...

                Aluminum is a great heat conductor, whereas stainless steel has poor heat conductivity. However, plain aluminum is reactive. It reacts with foods. It changes color. One way to solve this problem is to intentionally oxidize the aluminum by electrolysis, so the surface is all oxidized. This oxidized layer is more stable and stronger. This process is called anodization and the produced oxidized aluminum is called anodized aluminum. Calphalon business took off when it adapted this anodized technique to its aluminum cookware.

                1. re: LavenderPeony

                  what about 'winners'...i've visited that store in victoria and they carry 2nds of le creuset and other good brands.

                  1. re: LavenderPeony

                    LP there is a LC outlet at Tulalip outlet stores. Just make sure you go to the outlet first, then the casino, not the other way around.

                  2. You really can spend all the time in the world researching this. I'd just save the trouble and pick up a Lodge Color enameled cast iron pot. Enameled cast iron is not expensive to produce so I wouldn't pay Le Creuset or Staub prices, but if you are so inclined you can - after all they do have great quality control and may just be 2-5% better than the lodge, who knows.

                    1. Hi:

                      There is right now a copper/stainless Mauviel 6Qt Dutch Oven listed on Vancouver Craigslist that would be an outstanding choice. It's part of a set, but they might part it out. Also, at CDN $1,000, the set is a pretty good deal, too.

                      Cheers.

                      1. Most of the cooks on these boards will tell you to go with Staub or Le Creuset enameled cast iron for braising based on experience and versatility. I too have many pieces. However,there are very good quality alternatives out there now that are much less expensive, and your Paderno link seems to illustrate one of them. I also have, for example, a Mario Batali pot that was probably half or less of the cost of a comparable LC or Staub. If cost is an issue and you don't already own a French/Dutch oven made of enameled cast iron, I would encourage you to buy one of the new Lodge, Batali or Paderno alternatives now available. I can't speak personally of the quality of the Lodge or Paderno, but they seem worthy of a shot. OTOH, I have had some of my LC pieces for 25 or more years, so if you are worried about lifetime service, one of the reasons you hear so many positive things about LC is because it is proven. Same with Staub. My feeling is that at these reduced prices, I would give one of them a chance, and I'll bet you will be happy with it because the construction is so similar to the more expensive alternatives. Just be sure to check for a good warranty. They are all prone to chipping if they are mishandled, LC and Staub down to the least expensive alternatives. Also, really cheap pots may not be made well. My mother had a Techniques from QVC that did not have a flat bottom. You need to spend at least what Batali, Paderno or Lodge charge for these things it seems.

                        As for the set you have pointed out, I was never happy with a cheap set, no matter how well made they appeared to be. It is my personal preference to buy one or two better made pieces. I have some SS that are very worthy of long braises, but they are really expensive. Do you have a Costco or Sam's Club near you? Each has SS sets made by Tramontina under their house brand (not the Wolfgang Puck) and if they have them in stock,they are worth a look if you decide on a set. Avoid non-stick sets, as these are used for special purpose pans best.

                        1. If you're going to buy Le Creuset and you get south of the border, there is a LC outlet (seconds) store at the Seattle Premium Outlet Mall in Marysville. Good prices last time I checked.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Yes they are, but jeez you should have seen the backup on I5 NB. On a sat. no less. Bought my bro in law a 5qt. round for 150.00 so he can cook for us at his new home. Good thinking huh?

                          2. Lodge makes good, inexpensive pots but they can be heavy. Staub and LC tend to be lighter because the metal on the sides is thinner than the bottom. Williams-Sonoma (of all places) is having a good sale on their new Staub stock.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: redbeanbun

                              Whatever brand you settle on I would recommend cast iron - it retains the heat and enables one to cook at low temperatures. I have Creuset and they are a joy to cook in but any brand will do. You don't have to spend big $$$ for what is essentially a cast iron pot!

                              Incidentally the cast iron frying pans are equally good.

                            2. I was very resistant to paying the high price for a Le Creuset dutch oven but one day they were on sale and i just did it and i have to say i have never regretted it. I use it almost every day, for pasta sauces (nice to toss the pasta in the big pan and it's pretty enough to serve the food in it), everyday chicken stews, long braises, soups, etc. It's incredibly versatile, heats evenly, handsome and VERY easy to clean. I got the 5 1/2 quart one and that is great for most uses for my family of 4, though recently i was given a smaller one (maybe 4 qt.) and that has also been great.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: balabanian

                                Wish I had time to individually reply to each of you. I'm gobbling up everything you've all shared with me! You've all saved me a lot of time and headache... if I tried to research all that info on my own... YIKES.

                                I've let it sink in some... and I'm feeling like a less $$ cast iron enameled dutch oven is the way to go for now. I will aim for Le Creuset or Staub once I'm more experienced and can notice the difference in quality. For years now, I've always admired the prettiness of LC stuff but never fully got why they were so revered. I understand now!

                                I notice that Chowhound now lists other discussions relevant to the topic of the thread you're reading... there's SOO much more to read about braising, cast iron cookware, etc. etc. etc! I better get reading!

                                BTW... I've admired Chowhound from afar but now that I'm finally a part of the community, I must say I'm astounded by how wonderful Chowhounders are... so happy to share and offer support! Thanks!

                                1. re: LavenderPeony

                                  Braising is so easy and so rewarding. Have fun!!

                              2. I recommend an enameled cast iron dutch oven. You can pay $200 for a Le Creuset or $50 for a Tramantina. I own a Le Creuset but if I had any money concerns, I would go with the Tramontina.

                                You could also use a slow cooker. Most of us have both.

                                Make sure what ever you use, it has a very tight fitting lid. That is probably the most important factor. It is critical in braising to minimize moisture loss through evaporation.

                                The advantages to the heavy cast iron ones is minimal heat fluctuations. The thinner the pot, the more the temperature will vary. The enameled cast Iron ones are far easier to clean and maintain than the pure cast iron ones that have to be seasoned and cleaned very carefully.

                                Like Mistral says braising is very rewarding. It gives you the "biggest bang for the buck" or the best tasting food with very little effort and even better, it requires cheap cuts of meat. You only have to be willing to wait the 3-5 hours sometimes but the result is memorable and worth it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  Also two other nice things about braising: often the cheaper cuts of meat (pork shoulder, brisket, etc) are preferable (so over time, you can earn back the cost of that Le Creuset pan, sort of), and there's usually very little last minute prep, so they're good for parties where you don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. enjoy!