equipment
14 Things You Can Make in a Braiser That Don’t Involve Braising
This pan can braise, simmer, roast, and sear, making it a lot more versatile than you might expect.
02-18-2020
Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

A braiser is like a cross between a Dutch oven and a skillet. Like its name suggests, it can indeed be used for braising, but if a braiser 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. They’re fun to use and cook in. Our favorite braiser, the Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 3.5-Quart Round Braiser (which costs about $300), 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. 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.

Our Favorite Braisers

Winner Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 3.5-Quart Round Braiser

Our 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. 

 

Best Buy Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron Covered Braiser

This 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.

 

You can read more about how we tested braisers here, but I wanted to give you an idea of just how versatile a braiser can be. Here are 14 of my favorite things to do in mine.

1. Roast a Whole Chicken

Because a braiser is ovensafe, has two handles for easy lifting, and is rather large, it’s great for roasting a whole chicken. A basic Weeknight Roast Chicken never fails and this recipe for roasted chicken with warm bread salad feels extra-special.

2. Shakshuka

I make this once a week. Because a braiser is enameled, there’s no worry about the acidic tomato sauce stripping the pan’s seasoning like it would in a traditional cast-iron skillet. Throw on the braiser’s lid and cover the eggs until they’re softly set—perfect.

3. Toasted Sandwiches (Pressed & Otherwise)

I don’t own a panini press. Instead, I use my cast-iron braiser to get evenly toasted sandwiches that are browned all over and then I put a Dutch oven on top to press the sandwich (or just use a spatula if I’m feeling lazy). Grilled cheese is a favorite, as is this panini with bacon, sun-dried tomato mayonnaise, smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, and arugula.

4. Drop Meatballs

Like a Dutch oven, a braiser comes with a lid, which is helpful when steaming things like vegetables and meatballs. These meatballs don’t require any browning, which makes them weeknight-friendly—and less work!

5. Home Fries

In my opinion, home fries are one of the three best things you can do to a potato (french fry and mashed potatoes are also up there). A cast-iron braiser = excellent heat retention = crispy, browned potatoes for the 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. This skillet 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 Fry

I’m talking about chicken cutlets, pork chops, egg rolls, and crispy eggplant. Braisers don’t have walls nearly as high as a Dutch oven, so they’re not suitable for deep frying. However, their moderate walls provide ample protection for shallow frying.

8. Apple Fritters

In that same frying vein, I’ve made these apple fritters in my braiser before. The pan’s high-but-not-too-high sides make it easy to reach in and flatten the batter lightly with a spoon. (Fritter flattening is essential to ensure that you have crispy outsides and cooked insides.)

9. Charred Broccoli

Crispy, browned roasted broccoli is great, but charred broccoli is extra. An enameled cast-iron braiser is great for browning, and ensures this Skillet-Charred Broccoli has a deeply roasted flavor and crispy edges in about 20 minutes.

10. Steam Vegetables

With its lid and wide cooking surface, a braiser also works well for steaming vegetables, such as in this steamed kale recipe.

11. Indoor Barbecued Chicken

Thanks to this 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 Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe is great—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 the braiser and set aside. Then cook the fruit until it releases its juices and the sauce thickens. Add the topping and 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. Take It to the Table

Our favorite braiser by Le Creuset is as pretty as it is functional, which means it doubles as an excellent serving dish (which means fewer dishes to clean up after!).