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Braising is a cooking method that involves slow-cooking meat or vegetables in a liquid. There are several factors to consider when choosing the best braising pan, including its shape, the material from which it is made and how it is going to be used. Braising pans can be made of cast iron, anodized aluminum or non-stick coated stainless steel. A household kitchen may benefit from a small braising pan that can fit in an oven, whereas a restaurant kitchen may get more use from a tilting braising pan unit.
Household kitchen braising pans are typically round with a flat bottom and a sturdy lid. Deeper braising pans with high sides hold larger cuts of meat and distribute heat evenly to cover more of the meat's surface area during cooking. Cast iron braising pans are sturdy, but they are often heavier than other types of pan. They also need to be seasoned, or pre-treated, before you can cook with them.
The shape and size of the braising pan should be considered to find the best one for your particular needs. The pan should be able to hold many different types of food, from whole chickens to a rump roast. If the braising pan has handles, then you likely will want to make sure that they are sturdily attached to the pan, to avoid accidents, and that they are ovenproof for those times when a recipe calls for finishing a dish in the oven.
Non-stick pans are not suitable for braised dishes that require de-glazing of the pan for a sauce. Stainless steel pans with an aluminum core tend to be more expensive than other types of braising pans. The aluminum core promotes an even distribution of heat in the pan to cook the food evenly. Cast iron Dutch ovens also can be used as braising pans.
Restaurant-style or commercial braising pans are large tilting fry pans that can hold up to 40 gallons (152 liters) of water or broth. They consist of large, flat stainless steel griddles with 7-inch- to 9-inch (about 18-cm to 23-cm) walls and a hinged cover and bottom. The hinges allow the tilting braising pan to pivot at an angle to allow for ease of pouring and cleaning. These types of braising pans often have a spout on the front wall panel. Such pans can be either gas- or electric-powered.
In addition to braising, restaurant-quality braising pans are used to fry, steam and griddle-cook food. While cooking or braising meat, the pan can tilt to drain the fat away from the meat. Steaming also can be done by bringing 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) of water in the bottom of the braising pan to a boil, adding the food to be steamed and closing the cover.