When the weather gets cooler and we can finally stop using our air conditioners 24/7, it’s the season for cozy stews, hearty braises, and roasted meats. Enter: the braiser. Made from enameled cast iron, it looks like a Dutch oven (and shares some of the same traits), but with shorter, flared sides and a larger cooking surface. In fact, many of the same companies that manufacture Dutch ovens also make braisers. It’s worth noting that unlike Dutch ovens, though, braisers are not available in uncoated cast iron, only enameled—possibly because the acidic ingredients (i.e. tomatoes) present in many braises can strip cast iron’s seasoning. 

But braisers aren’t just for braising, despite what the name suggests. They can be used to shallow-fry chicken piccata, sear and simmer meatballs, roast a whole chicken, bake casseroles, cook a skillet chili, and more. Like a Dutch oven, they retain heat well (read: even browning) and come with a lid and have two handles on either side for easy stovetop-to-oven transferring. Unlike Dutch ovens, though, braisers have lower walls, making them more appropriate for some things you’d reach for a skillet for. 

Almost all braisers come in a range of beautiful colors, so what makes a good one? To find the best models, we tested eight popular braisers—all made from enameled cast iron and priced between $59 and $370—to find the best ones.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Braiser: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Braiser, 3 1/2-quart

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

The classic, French-made Le Creuset braiser performed extremely well and had a spacious cooking surface, a large lid knob, and roomy handles. It’s incredibly durable (it didn’t chip or scratch) and comes in a range of colors. Plus, it makes a pretty beautiful addition to any dinner table. It’s also available in a larger, 5-quart size for those cooking for five-plus people.

The Best Budget-Friendly Braiser: Crock Pot Artisan Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

Crock Pot Artisan Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

With wide looped handles and the same size cooking surface as the Le Creuset (though the surface is small for a 5-quart braiser), this is a great low-cost option. Its durability isn’t on par with Le Creuset or Staub, but at $66 (at the time of publish), it’s still extremely well-priced. 

The Best Large-Capacity Braiser: Misen Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

Misen Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

When you’re cooking for a crowd (but don’t want crowding), the Misen braiser has huge capacity and super-wide surface area. It fit four more meatballs than the Le Creuset—cutting down on the need to cook in batches.

The Most Durable Braiser: Staub Cast Iron Braiser

Staub Cast Iron Braiser

The Staub’s matte black interior was impossible to stain, making it an excellent choice for heavy-duty use. The upturned, more angled handles provided excellent leverage for moving the pan around the stove and in and out of the oven, though we did find them to be a touch too small.

The Tests

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


  • Searing Test: To determine how evenly each pan can sear (if there were any hot/cold spots), we made meatballs, evenly spacing them 1/2-inch apart. We counted how many meatballs each pan fit. After searing, we added tomato sauce and simmered the whole thing for 10 minutes, or until the meatballs were cooked through. 
  • Braising Test: To see how the pans did with a longer braise, we made braised pork cheeks in each one. First we seared the cheeks, noting how many fit in each pan and if we had to do so in batches. We placed each pan into the oven at 300°F for exactly 2 1/2 hours, let it cool slightly, and evaluated the final braise. We checked to see how tender the pork was and what the texture of the final sauce was like. Finally, we separated the liquid from the solids to see how much reduction occurred (measuring it in ounces).
  • Durability Test: To test the durability of the enamel, we gave each pot 25 whacks with a metal spoon to see if we could chip or crack it.
  • Usability and Cleanup Tests: Throughout testing we evaluated what each braiser was like to handle and use, both on the stovetop and transferring it into and out of the oven (how easy it was to lift and hold, if the lid’s knob was grippy, etc.). After each test, we cleaned each braiser by hand, noting how easy or difficult it was to scrub and if any staining occurred. 

What We Learned

Surface Area Impacted Braise Quality

The Misen braiser had super-straight sides, with yielded a large cooking surface.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


While all of the braisers we tested were between 3.5 and 5 quarts, they had varying cooking surface areas. The slope of their sides determined how much actual cooking surface there was. Some braisers, like the Misen, had straight sides and corner turned at a right angle. This allowed for more surface area to cook on, and so it fit more meatballs in one go. However, with more liquid spread over a greater surface, it evaporated things faster and it had the least amount (6 ounces, compared to the Le Creuset’s 10 ounces) of liquid left after a long braise. 

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


Other pans, like the Edging, had super sloped sides and smaller cooking surfaces. Not only could we fit less food at once, but they evaporated liquid a lot slower. The Edging had a whopping 17 ounces left at the end of its long braise, leading to a less concentrated (and flavorful) braise.

Not All Enamel Was Durable

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


To some, it might seem like enamel isn’t that different from brand to brand, though we know from our Dutch oven review this isn’t true. After putting each pan through our performance, durability, and cleanup tests, we found the braisers coatings varied in quality. Before we dive into that, though, let’s briefly cover what enamel is. Enamel is a material created by heating powdered glass into a liquid and fusing it to the surface of an item. In the case of cast iron, it protects the metal and eliminates the need for seasoning or oiling (though it will never become more seasoned, like a traditional cast iron surface will after repeated use).

Because it’s glass, it can chip and/or crack. Of course, the best pans resist this. To simulate long-term wear and tear, we whacked each pan 25 times with a metal spoon. The best braisers (Le Creuset, Staub, and Misen) did not chip. Other models (Lodge, Crock Pot, and Tramontina) did. This doesn’t bode as well for their long-term durability and it is, historically, why we’ve thought it’s well worth investing in heritage brand enameled cast iron.

As far as staining went, the heritage brand models (Le Creuset, Staub) resisted staining the best. This also speaks to the quality of their coatings. However, all enameled cast iron will stain (both its interior and exterior) after repeated use. If you want to mitigate this, choose a darker colored exterior and a pot with black enameled interior, like that of Staub. If it does stain, you won’t be able to tell. 

Handles: Not Just for Aesthetics

We preferred wide, looped handles. They were the easiest to grip, even with bulky oven mitts on.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


Braisers are designed to braise, which is a process that involves cooking on a stovetop and taking the pan in and out of a hot oven. Well-designed handles made it easier to cook in the braiser as well as clean it. During our testing, the best braisers had side handles that were at least four inches long and two inches wide. Any smaller and large hands had a hard time grabbing the handles. When grasping the handle on the lid, any knob smaller than two inches wide was tough to grab with a potholder or oven mitt. 

The Criteria: What to Look for In a Braiser

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray / Grace Kelly


The best braisers brown evenly and have a large surface area that fits a good amount of food without crowding. Durability is a key factor as well. We want braisers to be well-made and able to perform without chipping or staining easily. Since these pans have to be maneuvered in and out of a hot oven, it’s important that they have wide handles that are easy to grip and large knobs on their lids. 

The Best Braiser: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Braiser, 3 1/2-quart

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

What we liked: The Le Creuset enamel braiser is the Cadillac of braisers. Its wide, flat surface area allows ample room for searing without crowding the pan. The durable enamel would not chip or stain no matter what we did to it. When maneuvering the braiser in and out of the oven, its wide, looped handles and large lid knob made it easy to grapple with. This braiser is also available in a larger, 5-quart size for feeding five-plus people.

What we didn’t like: Of course, it’s expensive.

Price at time of publish: $368.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 12 lbs, 11.5 oz
  • Dimensions: 16 in x 12 in x 5 in
  • Cooking surface diameter: 9.5 in
  • Capacity: 3.5 quarts
  • Induction compatible: Yes

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


The Best Budget-Friendly Braiser: Crock Pot Artisan Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

Crock Pot Artisan Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

What we liked: Compared to some of the other models, the Crock Pot braiser performed very well for its price point. It has a cooking surface just as large as the Le Creuset and its wide, looped handles make it easy to maneuver in and out of the oven. It comes in a handful of nice colors.

What we didn’t like: For its capacity, its cooking surface isn’t all that big. It chipped significantly when we hit it all over with a metal spoon, which calls into question its long term durability. It was the second heaviest pan that we tested.

Price at time of publish: $66.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 14 lbs, 12 1/2 oz
  • Dimensions: 15 1/2 in x 12 in x 5 in
  • Cooking Surface Diameter: 9 1/2 in
  • Capacity: 5 quarts
  • Induction compatible: Yes

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


The Best Large-Capacity Braiser: Misen Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

Misen Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

What we liked: The braiser features a huge surface area that could sear 14 meatballs at once or an entire batch of pork cheeks. It cleaned up like a dream and food residue washed away without heavy scrubbing or soaking. No matter how many times we whacked it with a metal spoon, the enamel did not chip or scratch. 

What we didn’t like: This pan is heavy, and we mean HEAVY. The weight definitely contributed to super-even browning (lots of cast iron, lots of heat retention), but it may make it too difficult to handle for some users. The size could also be a turn-off for those who don’t plan to ever cook in large batches or who have a limited amount of space in their kitchen.

Price at time of publish: $140.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 18 lbs 2 oz
  • Dimensions: 10 1/2 in
  • Cooking Surface Diameter: 16 1/2 in x 13 1/4 in x 5 1/4 in
  • Capacity: 5 quarts
  • Induction compatible: Yes

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


The Most Durable Braiser: Staub Cast Iron Braiser

Staub Cast Iron Braiser

What we liked: Like some of the other high-end braisers, the Staub pan scored top marks in every test. It’s hefty without being awkward, easy to clean, and performs just as well braising as it does searing or sauteing. We liked the wide, open surface area that could sear a dozen meatballs at once without trapping steam and interfering with browning. Unlike other braisers, the interior is matte black enamel. This tough coating is impossible to stain and cleans up easily with only minimal scrubbing. Though the handles are smaller than some of our other winners, we still found them to be easy to grip because of their upward angled positioning.

What we didn’t like: This pan’s lid knob is small. This braiser is also, of course, expensive. 

Price at time of publish: $340.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 13 lbs 
  • Dimensions: 15 1/4 in x 12 in x 5 in
  • Cooking Surface Diameter: 10 inch
  • Capacity: 3.5 quarts
  • Induction compatible: Yes

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


The Competition

  • Lodge Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Dish: This was nearly a winner, but it chipped significantly and its handles were too narrow.
  • Tramontina Covered Braiser: The Tramontina braiser came up short in many tests, but ultimately how bad it stained and chipped was the clincher for us.
  • Edging Casting Enameled Cast Iron Braiser: This braiser was a bit too small to keep up with the other pans we tested. The small surface area required many batches of searing and the pork braise didn’t reduce nearly as much as we would like.
  • Merten and Storck German Enameled Iron Braiser: This braiser had poor heat distribution. It was the most lightweight option by far, however, which may make it the right choice for some. It’s also worth noting that the enamel did not chip or ding whatsoever during our durability test.

FAQs

What is a braiser?

A braiser is a pan specifically designed for braising meat or vegetables. Braising refers to the low-and-slow cooking method used for things like coq au vin or short ribs. These pans usually feature a solid cast iron core for even heat distribution and a heavy lid to manage reduction.

Can you use a braiser for more than braising? 

Braisers can absolutely be used for more than just braising. Roasts work exceptionally well in braiser pots, especially when paired with chopped root vegetables to soak up all those delicious juices. You can also shallow-fry, sear and simmer meats, bake casseroles, and more in a braiser.

What’s the best size braiser to get?

Choosing the right size of braiser ultimately comes down to how many people you often cook for and how much space you have in your kitchen. A 3 1/2- to 4-quart braiser is good for three to four people and a 5-quart is the right size for five-plus people.

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