There’s all sorts of pots and pans out there and if you’re new to cooking, it can be easy to get confused. Just what is a braising pan and what is it used for? How necessary is a braising pan for my needs?
Braising pans, aka tilting skillets or braisers, consist of a griddle on the bottom and have sides raised from 8 to 11 inches. They are intended to cook soups, stews, rice, pasta, chili and sauces, and of course they also braise food.
They’re a versatile piece of equipment, often misconstrued as a ‘steamer’ pot, they don’t actually cook with steam. As for what they do cook with, we’ll get into more detail on that below.
What Is The Purpose Of A Braising Pan?
Braising pans have plenty of uses and applications across the cooking the process and can help save prep time and energy. Plus they can lead to better consistency among batches. Braising pans are thusly very popular in high-volume institutional applications, due to the volume of meals per hour. It’s said that a single 30-gallon pan is capable of making no less than 350 meals in the span of sixty minutes.
In addition to the typical meals mentioned earlier, operators can also utilize these pans to fry donuts, fish filet, fries and chicken. Being a braiser, they quickly brown food and simmer food products. Meanwhile they can also be used as an oven, allowing them to bake or roast any kind of meat, including poultry. They’re often used for burgers, grilled sandwiches and stir fry dishes too.
Braising pans can even be used as a griddle to prepare bacon, pancakes, french toast, eggs and sausage, making them a great breakfast addition.
What Does It Mean To ‘Braise’ Food?
Braising is a form of slow cooking. To braise food is to put it on a bed of vegetables with a small amount of liquid in a covered pan, then cook on low heat for a couple of hours. A very gentle method of frying and stewing foods, it makes for very soft meat.
It can be said that braising is a method of cooking that arose from the need to turn extremely tough and otherwise unpalatable foods into something edible.
What is the Difference Between A Braising Pan And A Dutch Oven?
The two definitely have a lot in common, including having similar purposes. But they are ultimately intended for something slightly different. A braiser is made primarily for simmering foods in very small amounts of liquid, sometimes just the natural juices of the food itself. Meanwhile a Dutch oven is more made for big soups and stews that require a lot of liquid.
It can be said that a Dutch oven can be used in place of a braiser in some scenarios, but the other way around isn’t as true. The most obvious difference between the two comes from the height of the pan. The braiser is much shorter than the Dutch oven, which is one of the deepest cooking pots out there.
The braiser is a pan primarily meant for browning and simmering, and as such has a big surface area on the interior. It leaves plenty of room for the purposes of searing briskets. Despite it’s lack of height, you can generally fit an entire chicken cut into pieces or around four pork chops into a braiser.
A Dutch oven is a much deeper pot, but is still wider than it is tall, meaning it’s pretty big in general. It is as effective on the stovetop as it is in the oven. One thing that the two do have in common is they’re often made of cast iron and have a tight-fitting lid to help hold in heat, and two handles on either sides.
What Can You Cook Using a Braising Pan?
Now we’re going to get into some of the specific dishes that a braise pan might be recommended for.
Since a braiser is ovensafe, relatively large and has two handles, it’s a great choice for roasting whole chickens. Can be done quick or slow, depending on what kind of result you’re looking for.
A Maghrebi dish, consisting of eggs poached in tomato sauce, the braiser is a solid choice. The reason being because there’s no chance of the acidic sauce stripping the pan’s enamel coating. That might actually be a concern in a typical cast-iron skillet.
The cast-iron braiser is a solid choice for getting some evenly toasted, well-browned sandwiches. A spatula or a Dutch oven can be used to help press the sandwich after the fact. This serves as a good substitute for something like a panini press.
Chili can certainly be slow cooked in a braiser and many would say it’s much better that way. However if you want it done quickly, the braising pan can also do the job there, showing its versatility. Even a shallow pan like this can make for plenty of servings of chili too!
Shallow Fried Meat and Vegetables
That’s of course a wide net to cast, we realize. But we’re trying to be thorough here. That pans egg rolls, pan-fried pork chops, crispy eggplants and crisp breaded chicken cutlets. The moderate walls mean ample protection for some shallow frying, though they aren’t tall enough for deep frying to be a good idea.
Just like a Dutch oven, the braiser comes standard with a lid to keep the heat properly contained. That’s a big plus when it comes to steaming vegetables and, of course, meatballs. Choices like drop meatballs don’t even require browning, making them quick and easy to cook.
Braising pans are excellent when it comes to making homemade fries. Cast Iron Home Fries are one of the most delicious things you could do with a potato. The heat retention once again comes in great here, helping consistently deliver crispy, browned fries each and every time.
This is a pretty inventive way to make use of a braise pan. Toast the buttery, nutty topping with the braiser and then put it to the side for a bit. Cook the fruit until the juices leak out and the sauce has properly thickened. Then add the topping and voila, a fruit crisp that’s ready to be buddied up with a big scoop of ice cream!
The braising pan is uniquely qualified to make apple fritters, thanks to the shape of the pan. The sloping sides allow for easy access so as to reach in to lightly flatten the batter with a spoon. Low-key, that’s one of the more important parts of the process for fritters, allowing for cooked interiors and crispy outer layers.
Once again we’re talking broad now, but remember your braising pan if you ever want to steam vegetables – without a steamer. The braising pan works wonders for such a job.
Painting with a very broad brush once more, but it can’t be understated how great the braising pan is for meats. Braised chicken and braised short ribs are among the first things anyone thinks of when it comes to braised food, and for very good reason. Braising meat is really a great way to get that crispy, caramelized exterior whilst maintaining smooth, tender insides.
Indoor Barbecued Chicken
Barbecue is a beautiful thing, but it’s such a shame that it has to be a seasonal thing, isn’t it? Well, there are options to have a BBQ at any time of the year. Indoor BBQ Chicken can be made with the help of a braising pan. Any suitably hot cast iron pan could theoretically do the job, but the two big handles are a big help for lifting in and out of the oven here.
Skillet Mac And Cheese
Think about those words for a second. Skillet mac and cheese. Doesn’t that just sound amazing? What else is there to be said, really? And a braising pan is perfect for it, of course.
You can’t go wrong with the typical crispy, browned roasted broccoli in a braiser, however charred broccoli is another option that you might enjoy even more. Enameled cast-iron pans like a braiser can be great for browning, so a skillet-charred broccoli can be made in around 20 minutes.
Coq Au Vin
Couldn’t go without mentioning one of the signature foods most closely associated with braising pans. Coming from King Henry IV of France declaring a chicken for every pot, Coq Au Vin is cheap, simple and easy to prepare. Braised with wine, mushrooms, lardons, and sometimes garlic, it’s a natural use for the pan with ‘braise’ in the name!
Now we’re going to quickly address some of the questions most commonly asked when it comes to braise pans.
When Would You Use A Braising Pan?
Braising pans aren’t necessary if you only intend to use stovetop cookware. But if you don’t have oven-safe cookware, braising pans are a good option for stewing, baking, making casserole or, of course, braising food.
What Is A Braising Pan Made Of?
Braising pans are made of enameled cast iron. Enamel of course refers to the glassy substance that serves as a protective coating for the pan and gives it that shiny look. Braising pans have a vitreous enamel glaze applied to their surface.
What Can I Use Instead Of A Braising Pan?
As long as they come with a tight lid, you can also braise food with a deep skillet or a sauté pan. It’s also possible to brown meat in a skillet before moving it over to a Dutch oven for sauce simmering purposes.
Is A Braising Pan Worth Using?
So just what is a braising pan and is it a worthwhile purchase? As with most things, that depends on who is buying and what their needs are. If you’re looking solely to cook stovetop and have no need to brown or slow cook foods, a braise pan might not be your first choice.
There’s alternatives for those situations, and also other ways to slow cook. However the braise pan is a versatile enough tool that it can be used for slow or fast browning and is possibly the most convenient way to braise food.
It’s fair to say that it probably isn’t right for everybody. But if you’ve taken an interest in any of the foods listed above, a braise pan could be a fine investment for you.