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A braise is when you sear food and simmer it in liquid. This produces extra flavor compound while at the same time keep food moist and succulent. Braising is usually done on tough cut of meat, where long stews are necessary. As a result, the tough sinew will turn gelatinous giving it a rich texture. In my experience the Best Cast Iron Braiser are usually enamel coated. Models from Le Creuset and Staub are the best in the industry. However, budget models like those from Tramontina and Lodge can give them a run for their money.
What is a Cast Iron Braiser?
A Cast Iron Braiser is a pan with two loop handle. Height usually average around 2-3 inch tall with straight sidewall. They are designed so that you can sear and simmer food in the same pot. The height should be shorter than a dutch oven. This makes it easy to turn and move food around. Most braiser will have a tight fitting lid so that it can go into the oven. The heavier it is the better.
A Cast Iron Braiser is perhaps one of the most versatile tool in the kitchen. You can use it as a skillet of even as a shallow soup pot. I even use it as a deep fry pan sometimes. But of course, the best use for it is braising. After its finished in the cooking, just pop it on the kitchen table for serving. The pretty color of the Enameled coated model make it the perfect center piece.
Bare Cast Iron vs Enamel Cast Iron
There are two type of cast iron cookware on the market, bare and enamel. Most people dont even know that at its core, theyre both the same. The difference is that enamel is coated in Enamel Painting.
In terms of performance, Bare Cast Iron is actually better. The enamel coating actually inhibits the transfer of heat. As a result, food sear at a slower rate and it also heats up slower.
Seasoning is another thing that makes bare cast iron better. After a while, the bare cast iron will develop a seasoning that makes it virtually nonstick.
However, dont count enamel cast iron out. Whats great about the enamel is that it acts as a protective layer. As long as it stays in tact, the coating will protect the pan from rust. You can also wash it with soap and water. Where as the bare cast iron can rust.
The colors is also what sets them apart. Le Creuset has built a whole industry based on this. They can match any decor and they are simply beautiful to look at. A important factor if you plan on serving it on the table.
How to use a Braiser
To use a Cast Iron Braiser, start by preheating the pan. Once it gets up temperature add oil. You should see it shimmer in the light. Add food and brown it. You want a nice maillard reaction. It will turn a dark brown color. Add liquid and simmer briefly. If you plan on doing it on the stove, lower the heat and cover. For the oven, cover and set the temperature based on the recipe. Let it sit in the oven and once its done, remove and serve. You dont have to remove the content for another platter, just use the braising pot.
Best Cast Iron Braiser List
Below, you will find a list of some of the Best Cast Iron Braiser on the market. There are a few different variation, choose one that best suits you.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Braiser (Best Overall)
Le Creuset has perfected the braiser design. Beautiful colors, wide comfortable handle and oven safe knobs makes it the perfect braising pan. What sets them apart from other manufacturer, is there is no upper oven temperature limit. This means you can get a maillard reaction even in the oven. There are many sizes to choose from but for a small family of 2 or 3, the 3.5 qt models are the best.
Staub 40511 472/0 with Chistera 28 cm Cast Iron Black (Best Straight Sided Braiser)
While Le Creuset is nice, it does have a slight curve. For something more like a Rondeau, Staub makes a great choice. Their colors rivals that of Le Creuset and they have the same great quality that you expect from a French Brand. Handles are not as comfortable but still plenty wide. And the lid has a chisera drop which baste your food while it cooks.
Lodge 3.6 Quart Cast Iron Casserole Pan (Best Buy)
French Braiser are nice, but theyre also expensive. Thankfully, Lodge makes a affordable option at a fraction of the price. Performance wise, it should be similar to what you get from the French Brand. The only downside is the color choices are a bit limited. Nevertheless, these pans are still gorgeous to look at and works great as a braiser.
Lodge Cast Iron Dual Handle Pan (Best Bare Cast Iron Model)
If you dont like enamel cast iron and just want a traditional one. Then Lodge wins again. This pan has a two loop handle with a sturdy body. However, handle is not as comfortable nor large as its French counterpart. It also does not come with a lid. The good thing is that you can source one from one of their many glass offer. If you can, you might even be able to find a metal lid. I would get this only if you intend to use it more as a skillet. Its not as attractive on the table than the other pans.
A Cast Iron Braiser can be one of your most used pan, its beautiful and versatile. In my opinion, Le Creuset makes one of the Best Cast Iron Braiser on the market. However, counterpart such as Staub is great if you like a straight side. If those two are too expensive, the lodge makes a very affordable option. It perform just as well at a fraction of the price. For a bare cast iron model, lodge makes a dual loop one. However, its not as good as the enamel models.
Want to know more about our winner? Check out our Le Creuset Braiser Review.