As a member of the ATK Reviews team, there's one question I get a lot: What is a braiser pan? The short answer is that it's one of my favorite kitchen tools because of its versatility and good looks. Here's more about what it is and what you can do with it.
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What is a braiser?
A braiser is like a cross between a Dutch oven and a skillet. It is often made from enameled cast iron, has a wide base and sloped sides, a lid, and two handles for easy transport. It’s a single item with countless uses. For everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to baked desserts, your braiser has got you covered.
Is a braiser worth buying?
Yes! Like the name suggests, a braiser can indeed be used for braising. But if it could only braise, I never would’ve bought one (hey, it’s on the pricier side!)—and it certainly wouldn’t be one of the most-used pans in my kitchen.
Braisers are great for searing, simmering, roasting, and, of course, braising. Best of all, they’re fun to use and cook in. After testing several braisers, we settled on our favorite: the Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 3.5-Quart Round Braiser, which costs about $300. It comes with a lid and has large, comfortable looped handles that make it easy to pick up and transfer into and out of the oven, and are especially helpful when the pan’s full. Best of all, it’s as pretty as it is functional, which means it doubles as an excellent serving dish (and you’ll have fewer dishes to clean up after!).
We also like the Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron Covered Braiser (about $62), which is a lot less expensive but has handles that are smaller and harder to grip. Like our recommended Dutch oven picks, both the Le Creuset and Tramontina braisers are made from enameled cast iron, which has excellent heat retention and will brown everything from meatballs to chicken thighs to sandwiches evenly and thoroughly.
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 3.5-Quart Round BraiserOur top-ranked braiser had a light interior that made it easy to monitor browning; a moderately thick bottom that helped ensure good heat retention and even browning; a generous cooking surface that fit every recipe from whole chicken to meatballs to pork ragu without crowding; and large, comfortable looped handles and a stainless-steel lid knob that gave us a secure grip.
Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron Covered BraiserThis pan performed just as well as our favorite braiser but had smaller handles that were tough to grasp. Because of its thicker cooking surface, it took a bit longer to heat up and to brown chicken thighs. This braiser had the widest cooking surface, which ensured proper liquid reduction and a rich, flavorful ragu.
To give you an idea of what to cook in a braiser and just how versatile it can be, here are 14 of my favorite braiser pan recipes.
1. Roast Chicken
I make this easy Shakshuka recipe once a week in my enameled braiser because there’s no worry about the acidic tomato sauce stripping the pan’s seasoning like it would in a traditional cast-iron skillet. Simply throw on the braiser’s lid to cover the eggs until they’re softly set—perfect.
3. Toasted Sandwiches
No panini press? No problem! Instead, I use my cast-iron braiser to get evenly toasted sandwiches that are browned all over. Then, I put a Dutch oven on top to press the sandwich (or just use a spatula if I’m feeling lazy). And to turn things up a notch, I love cooking Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Gruyère and Chives and Cast Iron Panini with bacon, sun-dried tomato mayonnaise, smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, and arugula.
Like a Dutch oven, a braiser comes with a lid, which is helpful when steaming things like vegetables and meatballs. The best thing about my favorite Drop Meatballs? They don’t require any browning, which makes them weeknight-friendly—and less work!
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5. Home Fries
In my opinion, Cast Iron Home Fries are one of the three best things you can do to a potato (french fry and mashed potatoes are also up there). Thanks to its excellent heat retention, a cast-iron braiser delivers crispy, browned potatoes every time. Your recipe for perfect home fries.
6. Skillet Chili
I love a chili that’s been simmered for hours as much as the next person, but sometimes you want chili and you want it much faster. Our Cast Iron Weeknight Beef Chili is ready in about an hour, but isn’t short on flavor. And because it serves four to six, you can use a shallower pan like, ahem, a braiser.
7. Shallow Fried Meat and Vegetables
8. Apple Fritters
I’ve made this Cast Iron Apple Fritter recipe in my braiser many times, and highly recommend giving it a go. The pan’s sloping sides make it easy to reach in and flatten the batter lightly with a spoon. (Fun fact: Fritter flattening is essential to ensure that you have crispy outsides and cooked insides.)
9. Charred Broccoli
If you’re wondering how to use a braiser, crispy, browned roasted broccoli is great, but charred broccoli is extra special. An enameled cast-iron braiser is great for browning, so it ensures this Skillet-Charred Broccoli recipe delivers a deeply roasted flavor and crispy edges in about 20 minutes.
10. Steamed Vegetables
With its lid and wide cooking surface, a braiser also works well for steaming vegetables without a steamer. Need some inspiration? Try our Pan-Steamed Kale with Raisins and Almonds recipe.
11. Indoor Barbecued Chicken
With our Indoor Barbecued Chicken recipe (and a ripping hot cast-iron pan!), you can have barbecued chicken year-round. But a braiser’s two roomy handles, as opposed to a skillet’s single handle, make it easier to lift it in and out of the oven.
12. Skillet Mac and Cheese
If you’re wondering what to cook in a braiser for dinner, you can’t go wrong with Skillet Macaroni and Cheese—that’s all I really have to say. It’s skillet mac and cheese, people!
13. Fruit Crisp
First, toast the buttery, nutty topping in your braiser and set aside. Then, cook the fruit until it releases its juices and the sauce thickens. Finally, add the topping. And just like that you have a skillet (or braiser) fruit crisp that’s just begging for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I have this dessert on repeat during the summer.
14. Braised Meat
A list of meals you can make in a braiser would be incomplete without giving meat an honorable mention. Let’s be honest, when it comes to braising, there’s a reason why the first dishes that spring to mind are ones like Braised Short Ribs and Braised Chicken. And it’s simple: braising meat really is an excellent way to get that all-important crispy, caramelized exterior and smooth, tender interior.