A braising pan is a cooking pan which is specifically designed for braising. If possible, try to handle the pan before you purchase it, to make sure that you are purchasing a high quality pan which will stand up to years of use. If this is not possible, order the pan through a reputable company which will allow you to return the pan if it is not satisfactory.
Braising is a two step process which results in extremely tender, flavorful food. In the first step, the food is seared with fat and dry heat. In the second stage, the food is partially covered in water and cooked at very low temperature for a long time. Braising is ideal for tough meats, since the slow cooking process gently breaks down the meat, making it more tender and allowing it to absorb the flavor of the dish.
Some examples of braised foods are coq au vin, chili, and beef stews. In all of these cases, the long, slow cooking of the dish is crucial, since it creates a rich, complex flavor and very tender meat. Braising is not generally suitable for meats which are already tender, and when used for vegetables, it can tend to make the vegetables fall apart entirely. Unless this is the intended goal, cooks may want to explore alternative cooking methods such as sauteeing.
Several things distinguish a braising pan from other pans. The first is a very solid, sturdy construction which allows the pan to withstand prolonged heating. Typically, the handle is made from an oven proof material, so that the braising pan can be used in recipes which call for oven use. A braising pan also has a snug fitting lid, which may be made from glass so that the cook can check on the food without disturbing the contents of the pan by lifting the lid.
Cast iron is an excellent material for braising pans, since it withstands searing and slow heating very well. Nonstick cookware may be acceptable in some cases, although it may not be oven safe, and cooks need to be careful about using fats and oils, as well as metal utensils. If a braising pan is going to be used in the oven, make sure that it does not contain any plastic components, although silicone cool grip handles are quite useful and oven safe.