Essential Equipment for Better Braising

Braising is hard to beat. It guarantees ultratender roasts, deeply flavorful sauces, and satisfying stews—all with very little hands-on cooking.

This week we’ve collected all the equipment you need to master braising at home. Our favorite Dutch oven has a wide cooking surface so liquid evaporates and forms thick, glossy sauces. With a clip-on probe thermometer such as the ThermoWorks Dot, you can monitor the temperature of meat without opening the oven door. It will also alert you when your food is done cooking. Both braising novices and experts will find inspiration in our new cookbook How to Braise Everything. With 225 foolproof recipes, this cookbook illustrates how braising unlocks deep flavors in meat, poultry, seafood, and even vegetables.

With an exceptionally broad cooking surface and low, straight sides, this 7-quart pot had the same advantageous shape as the Le Creuset. It was heavier but not prohibitively so. The looped handles were comfortable to hold, though slightly smaller than ideal. The rim and lid chipped cosmetically when we repeatedly slammed the lid onto the pot, so it's slightly less durable than our winner.  More on this test

Our new favorite won us over with its ultrasharp, moderately flexible blade, which made every task seem nearly effortless. It kept its edge throughout testing, even after deboning an additional 10 chicken breasts. Its slightly shorter length proved especially advantageous with finer jobs, giving us more control as we boned chicken breasts. And although we wish the plastic handle were made of a grippier material, its slim profile made it easy to grasp in different ways.  More on this test

This ball of 100 percent cotton twine tied and held foods without burning, fraying, splitting, or breaking. It made neat, even ties around braciole and whole chicken and stayed in place without slipping. Although any cotton twine might perform as well, this brand releases string from the center of the ball, letting us pay it out with no danger of it rolling off the counter.  More on this test

The scalloped, uncoated pincers on our longtime favorite tongs felt very precise. This model was also comfortable to use, not only because of the silicone-padded handle but also because the tension didn’t strain our hands or wrists. These tongs struggled a bit when transferring ramekins, as the uncoated pincers didn’t securely grip the ceramic, but this is a less common use, and the tongs excelled at every other task. This pair felt like a natural extension of our hands.  More on this test

With a large, tall-sided, highly perforated strainer and a well-controlled release valve, this bottom-draining model defatted the most stock in every test. And its detachable canister made it the easiest separator to clean by hand. It did have hard-to-read measurement lines, and superficial cracks developed around the drainage hole after 10 washes and 150 times opening and closing it, though it remained leakproof.   More on this test

With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.  More on this test

Everything we did with this ladle felt easy and controlled, from scooping chunky stew out of a small saucepan to reaching into a tall stockpot to collect broth. The 45-degree angle of the offset handle put our arms and wrists at a natural angle, giving us full control. The slightly shallow bowl worked well for scraping the bottom of a pot, though it was less convenient for collecting and retaining springy noodles than a deeper bowl would be.  More on this test

A model of simplicity, this clip-on probe thermometer has only one function—a high-temperature alarm—but it performs this function as accurately as our winner. Its stripped-down, three-button interface makes the alarm particularly easy to set; a display with large numbers makes it easy to read; and a pot clip, purchased separately, helps this thermometer fit on a wide range of pots and pans. Finally, it has a handy kickstand and a magnet on the back that allow you to place the interface on a variety of surfaces for handier reading.  More on this test