This Versatile Pan Is the Unsung Hero of Cookware

It’s perfect for one-pot dishes, can easily go from stove to oven to table and deserves a spot in your kitchen.

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May 04, 2021
By: Frances Kim

As someone with a tiny kitchen and minimal storage, I have been forced to become ruthless with my cookware. Every pot, pan and appliance has to prove itself as a workhorse; otherwise, it’s going back to the store or to a friend with more space. I’m rarely tempted by the latest gadgets and felt certain I wasn’t in the market for anything new — until I watched Alexandra Utter’s One-Pot Mediterranean Chicken and Farro class on the Food Network Kitchen app.

Alexandra makes this brilliant chicken-and-grains meal in a braiser, a pan that’s almost never specifically called for in recipes or included in must-have kitchen equipment listicles. Since the Dutch oven typically hogs the limelight as the big-ticket cookware to invest in, the braiser doesn't get nearly the amount of attention it deserves. A braiser is a round, enameled cast-iron pan with a wide base and sloped slides that are lower than a Dutch oven but higher than a skillet. It also has two generously sized handles that make it easy to lift and move around, and a tight-fitting lid that locks in moisture and flavor.

As its name suggests, the braiser is ideal for braising, but it’s also great for sauteing, searing, browning, simmering, steaming and shallow-frying (don’t miss Alexandra’s Crispy Cauliflower Tacos class!). In the One-Pot Mediterranean Chicken and Farro class alone, Alexandra uses the versatile pan to sear chicken thighs, sauté aromatics, simmer farro and finish cooking the dish in the oven. A braiser works particularly well for searing because “the increased surface area reduces the steam factor that can happen in a Dutch oven,” explains Alexandra. “Plus it means fewer batches for browning or frying, which reduces the cook time.”

A braiser can even double as a roasting pan since it is large enough to hold a 5-pound chicken. “Take out the roast chicken to rest on a cutting board, then use the pan to make a gravy,” advises Alexandra. She also recommends building casseroles such as lasagna or eggplant parm in a braiser, or using it to bake a skillet cookie or brownie. But her favorite selling point about the braiser? It cuts down on dishes every step of the way. Not only is it beautiful enough to use as a serving dish, but it’s also great for storing leftovers — once they’ve come to room temperature, simply pop the lid on and transfer to the fridge, no Tupperware necessary. The braiser is also easier to clean than a skillet because of its enameled surface AND easier to clean than a Dutch oven because it’s more lightweight. Talk about a win-win!

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