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Updated August 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best cast iron braisers

Traditionally used to slow cook large cuts of meat, a braiser is a multifaceted piece of cookware useful for creating a slew of different dishes. They allow you to cook stews, simmer vegetables, pop a pot roast in the oven, sear steaks, and more. You can cook a hearty meal during the cold weather months with a sturdy cast iron braiser. In the summer, you can use your braiser on the stovetop to sauté or simmer a variety of seasonal produce from the local farmer’s market.

While braisers are available in other materials, cast iron is a top choice for those wishing to invest in durable cookware. The tight-fitting lid of a braiser locks in moisture and allows food to baste in its own juices, heightening the flavor.

If you only have room for one or two sizeable cookware items or have a limited budget, a cast iron braiser should be at the top of your list. 

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Braisers are often available in a wide variety of colors. Choose a hue that matches your kitchen accent color or complements your appliances.

Key considerations

What is a braiser used for?

Braisers are a type of flat-bottomed cookware with a shallow design. They often feature handles to enable easy transfer from cooktop to oven. A lid helps retain moisture and prevents slow-cooked foods from drying out. Braisers are commonly used for cooking meats. The closest cookware relative to a braiser is a Dutch oven. The main difference between the two is the shape. Braisers are shallower and slightly wider than Dutch ovens.

Braising is ideal for cooking tough cuts of meat and is a cooking method often used for making stews. A braiser may also be used to roast, bake, simmer, or fry a variety of foods. Braisers are perfect for cooking one-pot meals. Sear meat on the stovetop, add liquid, put on the tight-fitting lid, and transfer to the oven to braise your meal.

Expert tip
Don’t store foods in your braiser in the refrigerator or freezer. Transferring cooked food to an airtight container is best, and then wash the braiser normally.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Benefits of cooking with cast iron

While it’s possible to purchase a braiser in materials other than cast iron, there are several reasons why cast iron is the top choice of many cooks. Here are a few compelling advantages of using cast iron cookware:

  • Versatile: Cast iron cookware is capable of withstanding very high heat. It’s oven-safe and induction-ready so it can be used with all kinds of stovetops and ovens.
  • Adds iron to food: Cooking with uncoated cast iron cookware transfers small amounts of iron into your food. If you’re anemic or iron deficient, it may be beneficial to cook with cast iron.
  • Retains heat well: Once cast iron heats up, it stays hot. This property allows for easy searing and crisping of foods.
  • Nonstick: Foods won’t stick to an adequately seasoned cast iron braiser’s surface. While it’s not as slippery as Teflon, it’s a fairly decent non-stick surface. You can choose an enameled cast iron braiser if you’re not interested in putting in the effort to season or maintain the seasoned surface of your braiser.
  • Durable: Cast iron is an incredibly durable material. In many families, this type of cookware is passed down from generation to generation.
  • Inexpensive: Compared to cookware made of copper or tri-ply stainless steel, cast iron is quite affordable.

Drawbacks of cooking with cast iron

Cast iron has a variety of benefits, but it’s not a miracle cookware material. Here are a few downsides of using this type of cookware:

  • Gets extremely hot: Once it heats up, cast iron retains heat fairly well and takes a while to cool down. Expect even the handles on your cast iron braiser to become quite hot, so having thick oven mitts or kitchen gloves on hand is essential to protect against burns.
  • Cumbersome: Cast iron is a heavy material and may not be easy for all cooks to haul out of storage. Also, dropping your multipound cast iron braiser may cause damage to your floors, counters, or sink.
  • Not dishwasher safe: Cast iron should be hand-washed to keep it in tip-top shape. It must be dried thoroughly after washing to prevent rusting.
  • Needs to be seasoned: Unless your cast iron braiser is enameled, it must be seasoned with cooking oil to maintain its nonstick surface.
  • Reactive surface: Acidic foods, like tomato sauce, react with the iron coating on this type of cookware and may change the taste of some foods.

Features

Enameled cast iron

Avoid the need to regularly season the cast iron surface by picking an enameled braiser. Choose a braiser with high-quality enamel to prevent the coating from chipping away. High-end enameled braisers typically feature multiple layers of coating. The coating should cover the entire cooking surface.

Expert Tip
If you buy a cast iron braiser that isn't enameled, avoid cooking acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons in your dishes. This can create small pits in the interior surface over time.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Heat-proof handles

Some brands offer braisers with heat-proof handles that are covered in a protective covering. These types of handles help prevent accidental burns, but they are not always oven safe, which reduces the versatility of the cooking vessel. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure your braiser is oven-safe.

Lid design

A braiser should feature a tight-fitting lid to prevent moisture from escaping. Choose between a lid with a knob or a standard handle.

Pre-seasoned

If you prefer to opt for a non-enameled braiser, pick one that is pre-seasoned. Over time, you’ll need to re-season the cast iron, but a pre-seasoned model is ready to use right out of the box.

Size

Cast iron braisers range in size from compact to large. They are available in capacities from three to six quarts. If you need to feed a family of four, opt for a braiser with at least a five-quart capacity.

Accessories

Wooden spoon: Avoid scratching your cast iron cookware by using a wooden spoon instead of a metal one. 

Oven gloves: Your cast iron braiser will become very hot, especially if placed in the oven. Purchase one or two high-quality oven gloves to protect your hands from the heat.

Trivet: Protect your countertops and kitchen table with heat-proof trivets. You can choose from plain, utilitarian styles, or you can find decorative designs that complement your home decor in addition to protecting your surfaces.

Cast iron oils: It’s a good idea to season your cast iron cookware with a quality oil designed expressly for this purpose.

Expert tip
Consider investing in a silicone handle cover to help lift heavy pots by the handle out of the oven.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Cast iron braiser prices

While cast iron is a relatively inexpensive material, the cost of a braiser depends mainly on the size of the vessel and the brand. Expect to pay from $30 to $400 for a cast iron braiser.

You’ll pay the least for an unseasoned, non-enameled cast iron braiser. Lower-cost braisers are typically not as heat resistant. Models under $100 aren’t typically as durable as pricier units and often feature low-quality enamel that chips easily.

High-end brands like Le Creuset, for instance, offer high-quality multi-layered enameled cookware with impressive lifetime warranties.

Tips

If you purchased an unseasoned braiser or simply feel like it’s time to re-season the surface, here’s a breakdown of how to season your cast iron pan.

  • Before seasoning, be sure that your braiser is clean and dry.
  • Preheat your oven to 450ºF.
  • Wipe vegetable oil all over the surface of your cast iron cookware using a paper towel.
  • Don’t add too much oil. Using too much may leave behind a sticky film.
  • Remove any excess oil with a paper towel.
  • Transfer the coated braiser into the oven, upside down. Layer the bottom of your oven with tin foil or use a baking sheet to catch any excess oil.
  • Set your oven timer for 30 minutes.
  • When the timer sounds, remove the braiser and set it aside to let it cool.
  • Do this at least three more times to complete the seasoning process.
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Feel free to store your braiser within view. Most are designed to function as showpieces in the kitchen or dining room.

FAQ

Q. Is my cast iron braiser oven and dishwasher safe?

A. Yes, and no. The majority of cast iron cookware is oven-safe, as long as there are no plastic parts. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines to be sure. Cast iron should not be put into the dishwasher, however.

Q. Is braising food the only way to cook with a braiser?

A. No. While braising is the intended purpose for this type of cooking vessel, it’s possible to sauté, fry, bake, and roast foods in a cast iron braiser. You may also use your cast iron braiser to cook casseroles.

Q. Which size braiser is best for cooking for two?

A. Choose a braiser between two to three quarts to cook for two. A braiser that holds four to five quarts will leave you with some leftovers.

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