The first time I rendezvous-ed with a rondeau was when I was a fresh-faced prep cook tasked with making a big vat of gumbo. The sous chef gestured towards the stove, where the stainless steel monstrosity sat across two burners, burnished, but well-loved. It was nearly my wingspan from handle to handle and, when full of the Lowcountry dish, I needed a helping hand to lift it off the burner.
But once I started making gumbo on a weekly basis for the eatery, I began to see just why a rondeau was so useful (beyond its obvious large capacity). And, thankfully, more home-friendly rondeaus exist (that don’t require two burners to heat or biceps the size of volleyballs to lift). Let’s dig into why you might consider adding a rondeau to your kitchen cookware arsenal.
What is a Rondeau?
In short, a rondeau (a.k.a a brazier) is a wide, semi-deep pan (often made of stainless steel) with raised, straight sides. While they’re somewhat similar to stainless steel skillets (with their broad surface) or saute pans (with their raised sides), what differentiates a rondeau is capacity (restaurant offerings hover on the plus side of 18 quarts) and the lack of a single, long handle. Instead, rondeaus sport two wide handles on either side, making them a little easier to maneuver. All that said, they’re not stockpots, which are much deeper and taller.
They Have A Large Surface Area
The 6-quart rondeau from Made In has a 10.62-inch cooking surface, while the 10-quart rondeau clocks in at 12.75 inches. Both are far from the size of the massive rondeau I used in the restaurant but still feature one of the pan’s greatest assets: a large area to cook on. The more surface area your skillet or pan has, the less crowding happens and the more Maillard reaction (i.e., lovely, golden browning) you can achieve. For example, if you’re searing chicken thighs before braising them, a rondeau is an excellent choice, since you can easily fit a good number of thighs flat inside it—no crowding or steamed, flabby chicken.
They’re a One-Pan Wonder
Combine a wide bottom and ample surface area with tall-ish sides, and it opens up a world of cooking abilities: braises, paella, stews, curries…and yes, gumbo. Unlike many stainless steel skillets, which tend to be around 1.75 inches deep, rondeaus often have higher sides, with the 6-quart Made In’s at 3.18 inches deep. This combines the searing abilities of stainless steel with the low and slow abilities of a braiser; plus, you can pop some rondeaus into the oven; the Made In is heat-safe up to 800°F, while the 8-quart rondeau from All-Clad is safe up to 600°F—both way above any temps you’d likely subject them to. And, like a Dutch oven, you can also use a rondeau for shallow or even deep frying (they’re great for making doughnuts).
They’re Lightweight, and Two Handles Make Them Easy to Lift and Move
While they are similar to a Dutch oven in that they have a spacious capacity and are oven-friendly, rondeaus are often much lighter. For example, our favorite Le Creuset 5.5 quart Dutch oven weighs around 11 pounds, while the Made In 6-quart rondeau is only 5.3 pounds—and that’s with the lid. The other great thing about rondeaus is their handles, which are quite similar to a Dutch oven: square-ish and wide. Senior culinary director Daniel Gritzer says, “A rondeau is basically a saute pan with two looped handles instead of a long handle, which can be quite nice for serving at the table, and arguably easier to pick up as sizes get larger, compared to the straight handle-plus-helper-handle on a big saute pan.” Overall, if you’re looking for a pan that’s easy to maneuver and isn’t super heavy, a rondeau is a great choice.
Okay, I’m Convinced—So, Which Rondeau Should I Buy?
While we haven’t formally tested rondeaus, I’ve used (and really liked) the 6-quart option from Made In (if you couldn’t already tell! What can I say, it was my first rondeau after using the restaurant behemoth). At a little more than 10.5 inches wide, it will fit comfortably on most home stovetop burners, and its wide diameter also makes it ideal for getting a nice sear on meats. Plus, while it’s super responsive, it also heats up quite evenly and won’t scorch your food. I love using it as a pasta finishing pan, in addition to making more traditional braises, meatballs, and other stewy dishes. The All-Clad rondeau is a good bet too, since they are a reliable retailer as far as stainless steel cookware goes.
What is a rondeau?
A rondeau is a large (often stainless steel) pan with raised, straight sides that is great for searing, braising, stewing, and more. It sports two rectangular-shaped handles rather than one long handle.
What is the best size for a rondeau?
We think a 6-quart rondeau is a good size for most folks, but if you frequently serve up a lot of food to a lot of people, an 8-or 10-quart option might be better for you. Any bigger and you’re verging on restaurant rondeau territory, which might require heating that thing over two burners.
How is a rondeau different from a skillet or a stockpot?
Skillets are often shallower than rondeaus, which up the game in terms of depth and capacity; you wouldn’t want to make gumbo in a 10-inch stainless steel skillet! That said, rondeaus are not saucepans (which are smaller and deeper) or stockpots (which are larger and deeper), or even sauciers (which have deep, curvy sides); they’re more like braisers, if anything, in that they have tall-ish sides, a wide surface area, two handles, and are oven-friendly.