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I own a Le Creuset French/Dutch oven, but I'm considering getting a Le Creuset braising pan also.

I understand the oven is great for large/tall braising and stocks, soups, chili and the like. I also understand that the braiser has a wide base and is good for smaller quantities.

What other advantages am I missing?

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There are only three advantages that I can think of for a brasier:

  • The lower sides result in faster evaporation when cooking on the stove top, as it doesn't hold in the steam.
  • It's typically not as heavy for the same surface area.
  • You should be able to fit two of them in your oven (on different racks), which is unlikely for a dutch oven.

Personally, I don't have any of that shape pan in cast iron, and the ones that I do have, I don't use for braising; I use them for pilaf-type dishes or casseroles where you want a wide but shallow covered dish. I don't know if a cast iron vessel would work as well for those dishes, as the thermal mass could make it more difficult to cook the middle sufficiently without overcooking the outside, unless isn't something that you can serve immediately after coming out of the oven.

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I have this shape (without lid) as a cast iron pan, not enameled. I mainly use it in the oven, not on stovetop.

It's a great pan for gyvetch, moussaka and generally Middle eastern oven dishes. You can brown the meat and sweat the onions in it on stovetop, then add the other ingredients and put it in the oven. All the juices stay in the pan - if you brown in a frying pan and then transfer to a ceramic pan for the oven, you lose some juices even with good deglazing, and it's logistically simpler to continue in the same pan. Also, the stovetop browning preheats the pan, saving time and energy.

When it is in the oven, it has the advantage that the hot air moves freely over the surface of the food, so you get the benefits of convection. The Dutch oven's high walls prevent that. Also, as Joe said, you could theoretically fit two of them in the oven at once.

I also find it great for baking bread, its thermal mass gives it a function similar to a bread stone. When it is used open, it doesn't give you the pseudo-steaming advantage of baking in a closed Dutch oven, but on the other hand, it produces a nicer shape than a Dutch oven.

For stovetop, it can double as a paella pan. It can also be used as a substitute for other pans - especially if unenameled, because it's nice to have something which can withstand scorching temperatures but is larger than a steak pan. It can even double as a wok in a pinch. But these are side benefits. You can probably use a large Dutch oven for the same purposes anyway.

If you don't do much of Balkan or Middle Eastern cooking, it's not so important to have one of those. Especially as a cooking beginner you can find other equipment with higher ROI. If you are looking at those just because you noticed them in the shop, have the money, and want to enjoy your new hobby - I understand you, because I used to be in the same position. My advice: don't start with the gear. Start with a few simple, cheap items, and dive headfirst into cooking. When you find that your success with a recipe is hobbled by missing gear (as opposed to your skill, bad ingredients, etc.) and that you make this food style frequently enough, that's the time to invest in high quality items.

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Hello Charles and welcome to Seasoned Advice! As @Stephie notes in her comment, this is probably opinion-based, but I find it to be a relevant question that a newer cook may have. So, as a more experienced cook I am going to answer.

I have several Le Creuset Dutch ovens as well as a LC braiser pan. I always end up using the Dutch oven for braising, even if I am cooking smaller or thinner pices of meat.

The Dutch ovens have higher sides and, when searing, keep more spatter off of the stovetop and I never have any boil-over or leakage in the oven. Also, even though they can hold more, they don't have to.

I find with the LC braiser pan (as well as the LC tagine that I love) that often-times they just will not hold as much as I need to cook.

Anyone can give you pros and cons but each person's experiences are their own. You will need to give it some thought, weigh it out, and then make your decision. Good luck! :)

  • Thanks Cindy. I hope my attempt at re-phrasing the question is helpful to others and inline with community practices. The high sides of the dutch oven definitely prevent spillage. I wonder though, if the high sides might have a negative effect on cooking smaller portions or using specific techniques. – Charles Gilliland Jan 1 '15 at 22:39

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