What’s the Difference Between a Braiser and a Dutch Oven?

published Dec 9, 2020
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Whats the difference between dutch oven and braiser
Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Staub, Shutterstock, Graphic: Kitchn

I’ve made braised dishes — like pork chops with peppers and my mother’s pot roast — for dinner countless times without ever owning a braiser. See, it’s entirely possible to braise in a deep skillet or a sauté pan (you just need to make sure it has a tight-fitting lid and is oven-safe). You can even brown meat in a skillet and then transfer it to a Dutch oven to simmer it in a sauce. So what is a braiser? And why can’t you just do all your braising in your Dutch oven? Allow me to explain.

The Difference Between a Dutch Oven and a Braiser

A braiser and a Dutch oven have a lot in common, but the bottom line is they’re each intended for a different, if slightly similar, purpose. While a braiser is made for simmering foods in a small amount of liquid or even in their own juices, a Dutch oven is designed for soups or stews that call for cooking the ingredients with a lot of liquid. A Dutch oven can pinch hit (in part!) for a braiser, but a braiser can’t substitute for a Dutch oven. The main difference is in the height of the pan.   

Credit: Courtesy of Staub

What Is a Braiser?

A braiser is a pan that can be used for both browning and simmering. It has a big surface area inside the pan that usually gives you plenty of room to sear a brisket, an entire chicken cut in pieces, or at least four pork chops. And the side walls are low enough to prevent steaming as you brown. However, a braiser is still deep enough to add a load of vegetables to your seared brisket and enough broth, water, or wine to partially cover your piece of meat. With its tight-fitting lid, a braiser holds in heat to help tenderize tough cuts of meat. It has handles on either side that make it easy to lift and easily pop in the oven for simmering. 

Read more: What Is a Braiser, Do I Need One, and Which One Should I Get?

Most braisers are made of cast iron, which gets good and hot for searing and then holds a steady temp for simmering. The only disadvantage of a braiser is that because it’s not high-sided, it can’t accommodate a tall item like a whole chicken or a pork butt. 

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A braiser is used for dishes like lamb shanks, chicken cacciatore, and pork chops in wine. You can also braise vegetables in a braiser. And Kitchn defaults to braisers when it comes time for one-pot-pasta recipes!

Credit: Arina P Habich | Shutterstock

What Is a Dutch Oven?

A Dutch oven is a deep pot — that is wider than it is tall — that can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven. Generally made of cast iron, it has a tight-fitting lid to hold in heat and two handles on either side to make it easy to maneuver and place in the oven. While it can be used for browning, because of its depth, it can hold in moisture and cause meat to steam instead of brown. That’s why even though a Dutch oven can be used for braising, you may want to sear chicken pieces or short ribs in a skillet before adding them to a Dutch oven for the simmering part. 

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A Dutch oven is great for dishes like minestrone soup, chili, beef stew, and more. If it is 4 quarts or larger, it can also be used to boil water for pasta. Its ability to hold in heat and its snug cover also make it a good choice for steaming rice.