If you’re looking for a cast iron pot for your kitchen, there are many options to choose from.
You can opt for a Dutch Oven and take advantage of its natural versatility or go for a braising pan instead (also called a braising pot or a braiser).
Both of them have many benefits like functionality, durability, and they can be used to prepare delicious food.
In this article, we’ll take a look at both pans in detail so you can determine which of these two pans is the right choice for you.
What is a Braising Pan?
A braising pan is essentially made of the same material as a Dutch oven but it comes in a much different shape.
The sides of this pan are shallow whereas the top has longer sides that are necessary for cooking whole cuts of meat.
One thing you need to know about braising pans is that they’re better for searing or browning your food as opposed to a traditional Dutch oven.
Braising is a specific form of cooking, but the finished dish is almost the same as any dish you’d be able to prepare in a Dutch oven.
A braising pan can be used to cook a more tender cut of meat with no uneven spots and better browning.
The broad base of the pan allows the food to be more exposed to the heat source resulting in nicely browned meat that doesn’t need to be moved around as much.
How Does It Work?
A braising pan has a wide opening that makes it perfect for searing and sautéing ingredients before actually cooking them.
It’s especially ideal for cooking tough pieces of meat and it’s similar to a Dutch oven in the sense that they both require a low temperature to soften the meat.
Braising food is a little bit like slow cooking except the meat ingredients don’t need to be covered completely and the liquid only has to cover the meat halfway. As the liquid bubbles away, the steam produced helps break down the food.
A braising pan is typically used to prepare dishes like risotto, beef bourguignon, paella, lamb shanks, bean dishes, stir fry, coq au bin, etc.
What is a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens, on the other hand, are ideal cooking pots for slow cooking and making stews and casseroles. They’re made of thick cast iron and have a thick base with high sides.
The sides are thinner and the lid is quite heavy and tight-fitting. Even though seasoned cast iron pans are non-stick, if you buy anything less than a good quality enamel-coated iron, it won’t stay non-stick for long.
It’s advisable to go for brands like Staub, Le Creuset, or a few other less expensive brands if you want a pan with a non-stick and porous surface.
How Does It Work?
Using a Dutch oven to cook tougher cuts of meat involves making sure the food is fully submerged in the liquid. Cook on low heat for a longer period of time until the meat becomes tender.
It’s also advised that you use a heavy self-basing liquid to ensure that steam doesn’t escape the pan and condensation seeps back into the dish that’s being prepared.
Dutch ovens are popular for their high level of condensation during cooking and exceptional heat retention properties that make them incredibly versatile for any heat source.
A Dutch oven can be used to prepare a host of dishes such as roasts, soups, beans, and chili.
Braising Pan vs. Dutch Oven – Similarities
To determine which one of the two cooking pans is the right choice for you and your cooking requirements, you need to take a look at some of their similarities.
As we’ve established, both Dutch ovens and braising pans are made with the same material.
For instance, Le Creuset braising pans and Dutch ovens are made from cast iron and they’re both enameled.
Both of these pans are lidded which is an important contributing factor to their overall performance. The tight-fitting lids help keep the moisture and steam locked in.
They can both be used to sear meat and can be moved from the stovetop to the oven with ease.
Braising Pan vs. Dutch Oven – Differences
Even though a Dutch oven and a braising pan are basically the same type of cookware that looks different, they differ in terms of overall performance.
Braising pans are intended for the purpose of cooking meats specifically. They are short and wide and they come with thick sides, a heavy lid, and a heavy base. They typically have sloped sides as opposed to straight ones, unlike Dutch ovens.
Dutch ovens, however, are taller in size but they also have thick sides, a heavy lid, and a heavy bottom. They are also used to brown meat but they’re a lot less convenient to use.
They can be used to steam cook the food but a braising pan is more efficient in terms of performance. These pots can carry out different types of cooking styles such as baking, roasting, deep-frying, and more.
Since the meat is fully immersed in the liquid, Dutch ovens help achieve that fall off the bone tenderness that you can generally expect from slow-cooked meat dishes.
Whereas the wider design of the braising pan allows all the ingredients to cover the base of the pan and they’re exposed to an even distribution of heat.
It’s important to note that a Dutch oven can also be used to prepare flavorful braised dishes, but in smaller quantities because of their relatively smaller circumference.
Which One Should You Buy?
It’s advisable to get both pans to prepare a wide variety of dishes, but if your budget is limited, it’s better to opt for the Dutch oven only because it’s a lot more versatile and can be used for a wide range of cooking styles.
If you can afford one high end and one affordable pan, you should go for a high-quality braising pan because there are fewer companies manufacturing this style of cookware.
You’ll be able to find a durable yet affordable Dutch oven quite easily.
If you spend most of your time cooking, it would be wiser to upgrade both these pans eventually because they’re worth the investment and can last for generations if you take great care of them.
When Do You Need to Use a Braising Pan?
Let’s take a look at a few basics of a braising pan that you’ll have to consider if you end up choosing it over a Dutch oven:
Remember to preheat your cast iron braising pan before cooking food so you can get an even temperature. You can place it on the stovetop or in the oven, but make sure you’re leaving enough time for preheating.
Since the lid is tight-fitting, it will keep the juices of the meat you’re cooking from escaping and make sure all the ingredients are browned nicely.
There’s no need to use high heat as you would use for traditional pots.
Here’s when a braising pan can come in handy:
- You’re mostly interested in browning meats
- You don’t want to simmer the meat in a lot of liquid
- You want to sear the cuts of meat without needing to turn them over
When Do You Need to Use a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens are great for simmering vegetables and tougher cuts of meat. They’re also the ultimate cooking pans for preparing delicious stews and soups.
Since the have taller sides, they have a lot more space for liquids. It’s also a lot easier to stir the ingredients around.
It’s important to note that you should also preheat a Dutch oven before getting started with cooking. Make sure you’ve set the oven or stove to a lower heat and let it preheat for around ten minutes for even cooking.
Exposure to high heat can also damage the enamel coating.
Here’s when you need to use a Dutch oven:
- You mostly simmer your foods or like to use more liquids in your dishes
- You’re looking for an all-purpose cooking pan
- You wish to prepare stews and soups
Do You Really Need Both?
You may need both a braising pan and Dutch oven depending on the kind of functionality you’re looking for in these pots as well as the storage capacity in your kitchen and your budget.
You can’t determine whether you should opt for one over the other unless you’ve understood their similarities and differences.
The two pots that we discussed in this article both fall into the category of enameled cast-iron cookware.
Both a braising pan and a Dutch oven are essential for professional and amateur cooking. When you find the right tools for your kitchen, you’ll be able to expand your options and serve excellent food.
Regardless of the type of food, you’re interested in cooking, it’s important for you to find a kitchen tool that allows you to get comfortable while exploring a wider range of cooking styles.
Remember to purchase a high-quality pan that’s within your budget before you can start experimenting. It’s important for you to care for and clean your cookware regularly if you wish to extend their shelf-life.
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