When it comes to warm and comforting wintertime dishes, nothing quite beats a hearty braise for a filling dinner party dish that doesn’t require a lot of attention (or can be made in advance) and can be brought directly to the table from the stove or oven. Braises are also a nearly foolproof dish; all you need to do is to sear the meat, add the vegetables and liquid, and let it cook long and low, until the meat falls off the bone. Yet, many home cooks shy away from braising meat, intimidated by either the technique, or discouraged because they think they don’t have a big pot to cook with — but we advise you to think again.
The perfect pot for braising meat is both stove-top friendly and oven-proof so you can first sear off your meat on the stove. While some transfer their braises to the oven for cooking, others let the dish cook directly on the stove; as long as you have a tightly-sealed lid and a low temperature setting on the burner, either technique works. Your pot doesn't have to be deep either, just as long as the meat is covered halfway by liquid.
Here are three of our favorite pots for braising that are elegant enough to bring to the table, and suggestions on what to use them for.
Credit: Le Creuset
Many home cooks grew up using Le Creuset’s durable enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens for soups, breads, sauces, and more. Yet, when it comes to braising meat, some prefer a wider, more shallow pot over a deeper pot. A shallow pot allows for maximum contact between the food and the heat source when searing, and the cast-iron effectively keeps the liquid at a steady temperature for a slow and even braise. This pot is also pretty enough to bring directly to the dinner table.
What to use your braiser for: The shallow pot is perfect for braising turkey legs when making a braised turkey ragù, as the legs need to sit in about two inches of liquid. Once the legs are braised, add the shredded meat to the reduced braising liquid to create this delicious sauce that is a different alternative to a classic Bolognese. You can also do as we do, and add the pasta directly to the braiser pot with the ragù, so you only have to bring one pot to the dinner table.
Credit: Emile Henry
While some might have grown up using their grandmother’s cast-iron Dutch oven, many cooks are transitioning over to ceramic pots. While cast-iron pots are unwieldy heavy and can scratch if cut with a knife or dropped (yes, we’ve seen ones with cracks down the side), ceramic Dutch ovens are significantly lighter and are a material that is best suited to slow cooking methods, like braises. Emile Henry’s flame-top Dutch ovens are made from all natural materials, and are suited for both cooking on the stove and in the oven. They, too, are beautiful enough to serve from at the table, and they’re dishwasher safe!
What to use your Dutch oven for: Braising short ribs, as the clay materials ensure the temperature is steady and low during the long cooking process, ensuring that the meat will be meltingly tender (short ribs will remain tough if cooked at too high of a temperature). These Dutch ovens are also perfect to use when making risotto or a side of polenta to serve with your short ribs in the Dutch oven.
You wouldn’t necessarily think of a sauté pan as a suitable dish for braising. It’s a versatile pot, good for sautéing vegetables, steaming corn, or for reducing sauces. Yet, with a wide diameter, a depth of about three to four inches, and a snug fitting lid, a sauté pan that can go from stove-top to oven is perfect for braising, too.
All-Clad’s 13-inch, six-quart sauté pan has both aluminum and stainless steel layers, ensuring that heat is conducted — and maintained — evenly, while the lid keeps moisture in while you’re braising. As well, there are two handles on either side of the pot (one stick, one loop), so that you never have to worry that your hot pot will slip out of your hand.
What to use your sauté pan for: This wide and shallow sauté pan is a suitable alternative to fry pans and skillets (which usually have rounded sides, and no lid), and it’s the proper pan to make these moist and tender braised pork chops. If you make the chops a day in advance, you can also use the pan to sauté a variety of green vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, green beans, and zucchini, as a side dish for your pork.