Sometimes it feels like recipes require too many cooking vessels and utensils. This week it’s a Dutch oven, next week it’s a braiser, but why? Is it necessary to have both? Don’t they just do the same thing?
Many people have been using the term Dutch oven to describe braisers, probably not even knowing that these are two different vessels that perform different functions.
So, what is the difference between a Dutch oven and a braiser? Dutch ovens and braisers are very similar in almost every way except for the height of their sides. Dutch ovens have higher sides and can hold much more food, while braisers have shorter sides and hold less but are better for browning food. This means that these two pans also have differing uses.
In this article, we will have an in-depth look at the differences between Dutch ovens and braisers and what exactly they are.
We will look at a side by side comparison and give you more information on which is best to use under what circumstances.
Pictured here for reference is a highly-rated enameled cast iron Dutch oven from NutriChef which holds 5 quarts.
Dutch ovens come in many forms, shapes, and sizes, each fulfilling a specific need.
There are two main types of Dutch ovens; indoor and outdoor.
A traditional Dutch oven (the outdoor type) is made from thick cast iron and has a very heavy and tight-sealing lid. The shape and size varies but they are generally large, round pots (almost like a cauldron).
These pots can either have a flat bottom that is placed directly on coals, or they can have peg legs that provide distance between the coals and heat.
Outdoor Dutch ovens were originally designed for long cooking times over a low to medium open-fire heat source. Any dish that has to stew is perfect for outdoor Dutch ovens.
As time and technology evolved, so did the Dutch oven. Today, there are a ton of indoor, extremely fashionable, Dutch ovens that can perform the exact same task; cooking foods for a long time in a durable cooking vessel.
These Dutch ovens are still made from cast iron, usually porcelain enameled for a naturally nonstick surface that eliminates the need for seasoning the pan.
And if you’re not into boring metal and black, their porcelain enamel coating can allow for hundreds of different colors to suit your kitchen.
If you’re planning on buying yourself a Dutch oven, be aware that cast iron is incredibly heavy compared to other cookware items and should be handled with care to avoid hurting yourself or your kitchen tiles.
It’s unlikely that you’ll hurt the iron at all, but you could chip its lovely coating.
The design has changed slightly as the indoor ovens all have flat bottoms, and almost always have two grab handles on each side to help with easy transportation.
These vessels do vary in shape and size and you can choose any to meet your specific needs. If you are stewing food for one person, use a 4 qt vessel, but if you are making food for a lot of people, you can opt for an 8-10 qt Dutch oven.
No matter their size, they all have very high walls to contain the large amounts of liquids and foods they are cooking. They also have a heavy lid that helps trap moisture.
These Dutch ovens are able to handle high heat from the oven for a long period of time and are great for many different tasks including making stews, soups, breads, cakes, casseroles, and braised or roasted meats.
Now that we’ve discussed Dutch ovens, let’s move on to braisers, sometimes confused also with casserole pans.
Pictured here for reference is an enameled cast iron braiser from Bruntmor, a high-quality pan that holds 3.8 quarts.
Everything is about to make sense. Braisers are basically Dutch ovens, only with one major difference – the height of the walls.
Let’s break down their design. Braisers are also made from cast iron and are more often than not given a porcelain enamel coating. They come in hundreds of different colors to give your kitchen a pop of color and style.
Braisers also have a very heavy lid with two grab handles on each side to help you easily maneuver the heavy vessel in and out of the oven.
This cookware is meant for the oven, not direct flames, so stick to indoor use only. You can get outdoor braisers that are just made from raw cast iron, but they are very hard to come by.
The slopes, however, are where the main difference between Dutch ovens and braisers come in. Their sides are much lower and at a sloping or curved angle.
But doesn’t that just make it a shorter Dutch oven? Well, no, because the low sloping sides cause this vessel to function in a completely different way.
Because of the sides, braisers cannot hold the same amount of food and liquid Dutch ovens can. This means that they won’t be able to function as a stewing vessel as well as Dutch ovens do.
However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its perks. Braisers are the perfect cooking vessels to, you guessed it, braise foods.
Because of their large surface area and shallow height, air has a much smaller area to circulate in, allowing the item to braise, brown, and sauté much more evenly and effectively.
Uses of Each
Dutch ovens can be used for a variety of purposes, the most popular being to stew meats.
They are also great cooking vessels for slow-roasting large pieces of meat, braising very large pieces of meat, broiling foods, and baking casseroles.
Dutch ovens can also be used to bake bread, cakes, and various pastries depending on the size and cooking method required.
They can also be used on the stovetop to make soups and stews, brown meats, sauté vegetables, and even perform simpler functions such as making sauces or just cooking pasta.
Braisers, on the other hand, are like specialized Dutch ovens. Their main purpose and function is to braise meats. They can also perform very similar functions to Dutch ovens if the size and amount of food allow for it.
Braisers are much better for browning food, as their surface area is much bigger and the ventilation is much better. The domed lid and sloped sides help with the ventilation and will cook the food much more evenly.
Braisers can also be used on the stovetop, however only for browning various food items. When making sauces, the large surface area might cause the sauce to reduce too quickly and even cause unwanted changes in texture.
The only baking you might do in braisers is to make certain flatbreads like naan or focaccia. Other than that, they are way too shallow to make proper leavened breads.
To recap, the main difference between a Dutch oven and a braiser is the height of their sides. Dutch ovens have tall straight sides, whereas braisers have low sloping sides.
These differences mean that they will be able to perform different functions that the other won’t be able to as well.
Dutch ovens are best for large pieces of food and large amounts of stewing meat. They can also perform several other cooking functions like baking and roasting. The range in size and tall height makes them very versatile.
Braisers are perfect for braising food in the liquid instead of simmering. Because of their design and materials used to make it, they can also perform similar functions to Dutch ovens, if space allows for it.
Dutch Oven Vs Braiser Comparison Chart
|Size||Different sizes ranging from 3-16 qts||Fewer size options, average 3-6 qts|
|Shape||Oval or round||Round|
|Bottoms||Flat bottoms or peg legs||Flat bottoms|
|Sides||Tall, straight sides, 4-5 inches||Low sloping sides, 2-3 inches|
|Handles||Bucket handle or two grab handles||Two grab handles|
|Materials||Raw cast iron or porcelain or ceramic enameled cast iron||Porcelain or ceramic enameled cast iron|
|Lid||Cast iron or enameled cast iron||Cast iron or enameled cast iron|
|Best used for||Stewing, roasting, baking leavened bread, making soup or stew||Braising, boiling, browning, making flatbreads|
Can These Be Substituted With Each Other?
Generally, it is much easier to substitute a braiser with a Dutch oven than vice versa.
Because of the large size of the Dutch oven (especially the high walls), it is much easier to cook smaller meats inside than to cook bigger meats in a shallow braiser.
Braisers also braise items much better than Dutch ovens do, so we wouldn’t recommend substituting them. However, if you’re in a pinch, you can definitely improvise.
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