Why Buy a Dutch Oven Pot? An Essential Addition to Your Kitchen Or Simply Useful?

what dutch oven to buy

Gracing the stovetops of cooking elites as well as (possibly) the stovetop of your childhood kitchen, Dutch oven pots are everywhere, and they aren’t going away any time soon.

What makes this unique cooking container beloved by so many?

Is one brand worth the cost over another?

Do I need a Dutch oven?

In a word, yes.

And there are a whole lot of reasons why.

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We’ve condensed the buying guide into the most important steps, tips and points. They are just what you “need to know” to choose the dutch oven that is perfect for you. Get The checklist

What is a Dutch oven pot?

Dutch ovens are heavy, cast iron pots.

They feature a tight fitting lid, and come in a few varieties and finishes, though the concept remains the same. Cast iron is an incredibly useful material for cooking, as it heats food evenly, and is particularly known for superior browning capabilities.

The all metal design can go from the stovetop to inside your oven, and the beautiful design is elegant enough to serve your food, as well.

The most popular types of Dutch ovens are made from an unfinished cast iron like the more traditional skillet, as well as an enameled cast iron, which is generally the more popular of the two models.

One brand in particular is known for their enameled cast iron: Le Cruset. These pots are typically brightly colored (Le Cruset boasting a signature orange red) with a creamy white interior, and a hefty price tag.

Le Cruset and other brands are often a highly requested item on wedding registries, as these expensive investments are known to last a lifetime, and have warranties to back up those claims.

Why should I buy a Dutch oven?

As a cooking vessel, few kitchen products can compare to the even heat distribution, and durability of Dutch ovens.

Given the appropriate size, these durable pots can handle nearly everything one might throw its way. From braising meats, to baking bread, making a batch of soup, deep frying, simmering a cider, or boiling potatoes, there are no disadvantages when it comes to having a versatile, sturdy and reliable cooking vessel in your home.

Dutch ovens can handle high heat, as well as function just as well in inside your oven, as on your stovetop. It’s a good choice for nearly any home cook, as the Dutch Oven can work in many ways, even if they aren’t taking full advantage of the heavy sides and materials that the Dutch oven offers.

Boil pasta! Make a curry!

What makes for a good Dutch oven?

Good Dutch ovens are made with a high quality iron, and detail-oriented craftsmanship. One should seek out a model with a well fitting lid, metal handles, and evenly applied enamel coating, should that be your Dutch oven of choice.

Our recommendations meet all of these requirements, and are an excellent addition to any chef’s kitchen.

What material should I choose?

That depends on your needs. The most popular Dutch ovens are enameled, however some might prefer the rugged durability of a seasoned cast iron Dutch oven instead. Each have their own limitations.

There are also other materials which make up a small portion of the Dutch Oven market, namely models made from stainless steel or ceramic.

The shape may be the same, and the heat distribution can be good, however the greatest benefit to Dutch oven cooking comes from the all encompassing heat and distribution only found in cast iron cookware.

Download The Dutch Oven Pot Buying Checklist

We’ve condensed the buying guide into the most important steps, tips and points. They are just what you “need to know” to choose the dutch oven that is perfect for you. Get The checklist

Enameled vs Cast Iron Dutch ovens: which is best?

The answer to this question will vary according to your needs!

The biggest factor to consider is what you anticipate cooking in your Dutch oven, and what your preferred surface may be.

Enameled Dutch ovens have a smooth, easy to clean surface that require fairly low maintenance. Enamel can serve as a slick, low-stick cooking surface, which many prefer. Their light interior help you see when food is browning properly, and they are excellent for making soups, sauces, and other liquid items.

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Enameled Dutch ovens can be used for food storage, and easily transition from stove, to oven, to tabletop.

Non-enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are excellent for cooking a variety of foods, though prolonged exposure to liquids is not advised. Once seasoned properly, cleanup is handled differently, utilizing physical abrasives to remove excess food debris, and relying on baked in oils to form a somewhat nonstick surface.

If one were to share a home with a non-meat eater, cast iron Dutch ovens might not be a preferred choice, given the pot’s seasoning frequently involving the fats baked in from cooking meats.

Non-enameled cast iron does need to be seasoned, however the surface does not experience scratching in the same way that enamel does, and one is not limited by choice of utensil.

Ultimately, this decision will come down to your personal preferences and needs, however both might be a good option, given their unique abilities. Some might find that purchasing an enameled cast iron, and a non-enameled cast iron dutch oven pot can meet both needs.

What size Dutch oven do I need?

It is generally recommended that you not purchase a Dutch Oven smaller than 2.75 qts, which is a good size for a couple or small family. Even chefs cooking for one are advised to stick within the 3 qt range.

For families with 3-5 people, or those cooking larger amounts of food on a regular basis, look for Dutch ovens in the range of 5-6 qts. This is enough for a hearty amount of soup or a nice stew, without being too heavy or unmanageable to handle.

Dutch ovens with a capacity of 7qts or above are excellent for larger families or groups, however this size and weight can average 15-20+ lbs, for the pot alone!

What shape Dutch oven should I buy?

Most chefs and home cooks prefer a round dutch oven, for even cooking, and heat distribution. Oval shaped Dutch ovens can still provide balanced and evenly distributed heat, however the shape might cause food to come into more contact with a cooking surface, than with a round oven.

There is one shining exception, however: roasting meats is especially useful in an oval shaped Dutch oven, particularly when looking to cook a whole bird, or large cut. The oval shape allows for these items to fit properly, without the constraints set by a circular oven.

What should I avoid when shopping for a Dutch oven?

There are two big items to look out for, when purchasing a Dutch oven: manufacturer and warranty information, as well as the type of material used as a handle on your Dutch oven’s lid.

Some models come with a plastic handle, which is generally heat safe up to a certain temperature, but is not recommended for high heat, or to be used in the oven.

When making an investment into a Dutch oven, buy a model with a metal handle on the lid. You won’t regret it.

It’s also important to consider who makes your particular model, and the kinds of enamel coating used to give your Dutch oven its familiar design, durability, and low stick properties.

In an attempt to cut corners, some manufacturers might not coat the interior or exterior of the pot properly or evenly, which can lead to cracking in the enamel, as well as chips and uneven wear over time.

Do your research, and stick with a known brand, which often offer lifetime warranties.

Are the Le Cruset or Staub Dutch oven pots worth the very high price?

A frequently asked question, with an interesting answer.

It really depends, but generally no, it’s not worth the hundreds of dollars price difference between some higher and lower end models.

When purchasing a Le Cruset or Staub brand of enameled Dutch Oven, you’re paying for a brand reputation, as well as items with incredible craftsmanship, and attention to detail.

In side by side comparison tests, users found that there was little to no difference between how the top Dutch oven models performed during cooking tests, though there were some barely noticeable differences when it comes to texture of the product, such as the unfinished rim of the oven, where the lid meets the pot.

Other differences between models can come down to things like shape, design of the handles or body of the pot itself, style of lid, color selection, warranty, and ultimately the brand recognition.

Le Cruset in particular is known for making the best enameled cast iron products in France, as they have been for many, many years. They offer lifetime warranties, and their products are often handed down through families as an heirloom.

If you were to invest in one model in particular, this would be our choice in terms of high end brands.

What accessories do I need for my Dutch oven?

Similarly to nonstick cookware, it’s wise to choose utensils which will help preserve the enameled coating of your Dutch ovens. Recommended products are wood or bamboo, as well as heatproof rubber or silicone.

When it comes to cooking with a non-enameled surface, metal utensils are fine.

Be mindful of placing an extremely hot container onto surfaces which might not be heat safe; trivets or pot holders are generally the only other recommended “accessory,” allowing for true Dutch oven flexibility.

If you have purchased a Dutch Oven which has a plastic knob on the lid, metal knobs are typically available to replace, ensuring higher heat safety for your Dutch oven. You can find some of those here.

Download The Dutch Oven Pot Buying Checklist

We’ve condensed the buying guide into the most important steps, tips and points. They are just what you “need to know” to choose the dutch oven that is perfect for you. Get The checklist

Cleaning Dutch ovens

Cleaning is an important part of regular maintenance and hopefully your Dutch oven is getting regular use!

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As there are two types of finishes, both have unique cleaning directions.

For enameled cast iron, be aware of the finish, and choose cleaners which are not overly abrasive, in order to prevent scratches. Hot, soapy water and a little bit of elbow grease put behind a sponge should clean up most messes.

If that isn’t cutting it, boiling a few teaspoons of baking soda with water should loosen remaining stuck on food or stains. If you’re still working on a particularly challenging spot, many users recommend Bar Keeper’s Friend, a minimally abrasive cleaner known to work wonders.

Whatever you do, do NOT use highly abrasive items like steel wool, which can scratch and damage your Dutch oven’s enamel. Your enameled Dutch Oven is generally considered to be dishwasher safe, however hand washing is recommended.

If you have a non-enameled Dutch oven, your cleaning process should look a bit different.

General cleaning directions recommend wiping the surface with a cloth, and if more cleaning power is needed, some salt and a sturdy brush to clear away excess debris.

You can rinse if you choose, but be aware that non-enameled cast iron is prone to rusting when in contact with water. Non-water cleansing methods are preferred, however one can also clean with their desired method, and dry the pan thoroughly with a cloth or lint free towel, applying a thin coat of vegetable oil, and sticking it in a medium-low oven for 20 or so minutes.

Seasoning Dutch ovens

Enameled Dutch ovens do not require seasoning, as their surface is non-porous. If your Dutch Oven is not enameled, it should be seasoned just like one might season a cast iron skillet.

This process typically involves baking thin layers of oil and fat into the pan over time, in order to help it with nonstick qualities, as well as add wonderful flavor to your foods.

Dutch oven cooking tips

  Dutch ovens truly shine when it comes to low and low heat. If you’re looking to fry or saute, thinner, metal pans might be better choices in those areas.

  Let the Dutch Oven work for you, by providing an even, balanced heat, as well as thick sides, to cook your foods from a variety of angles.

  When cooking with an enameled Dutch oven, be mindful of extreme heat which could cause cracking or damage to the enamel.

  It’s recommended to warm the pot up slowly when working with two extreme temperatures, and to never heat the pot up while empty.

  The lighter color of enameled interiors can encourage browning and caramelization of foods in ways that are more pronounced than thinner, metal pans which are in closer contact to the heat source. Take advantage of this low and slow, to get better flavor and color on the foods you are cooking.

Dutch ovens for outdoor cooking

When cooking outdoors, particularly over open flame, it’s generally advised to work with surfaces which can handle high heat, and a bit more extreme temperatures. Flame and open fire cooking can reach great heat, and if this temperature is extreme enough, could reach a hot enough point to damage enameled surfaces.

If you plan on cooking outdoors regularly, consider a dutch oven with legs, such as this highly rated model from Lodge. You’ll clean and season the Dutch oven just like any other cast iron pan.

Dutch oven vs Crockpot or slow cooker

Crockpots are wildly popular, offering automatic cooking convenience through a thick ceramic vessel. Dutch ovens are not electric, and require some level of attention when cooking food on the stove.

Both items are excellent for low and slow cooking, however they accomplish these goals in different ways.

Dutch ovens are perfect for braising meats, and then adding additional stew components before going into an oven and then to the dinner table.

Crockpots thrive in the set it and forget it world, allowing users to plug the device in, and head out the door.

Each have their unique strengths, but ultimately boast different cooking methods, accomplishing different tasks.

Dutch oven vs Instant Pot

Dutch ovens are a standalone pot, designed to help cook food evenly and slowly, encouraging the development of flavor. Instant Pot devices are pressure cookers, which can also work as a crockpot, allowing users to set them and forget them, as well as cooking a meal in record time.

Dutch ovens are not a challenge or opposition to an Instant Pot, as they both accomplish different tasks.

In fact, many recipes that utilize an Instant Pot recommend starting items (like cuts of meat) on the stovetop, browning the surface before applying the pressure cooking power of the Instant Pot to finish up the meal.

Dutch ovens have tightly fitting lids, however they are not pressure cookers, and perform very different functions.

Dutch oven vs braiser

Braising is a type of cooking, which uses high heat to develop flavor in a piece of meat, and then adding liquid to ensure that the cut remains tender while cooking through thoroughly.

A braiser is often a specific type of pot, purchased to complete these actions.

Spoiler alert: most braisers are basically a shallow, enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

If you’ve already purchased a Dutch oven, a braiser is an unnecessary additional purchase.

Dutch oven vs stock pot

Stock pots are designed to carry heat well, allowing for the infusion of vegetables, meat, and liquid, forming a delicious stock.

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Stock pots are typically quite tall, and designed to hold a lot of liquid.

One is more than welcome to make stock using a Dutch oven, however stock pots are often metal, much lighter, and hold a greater capacity than a typical 5-7qt Dutch oven.

Our Recommendations

Overwhelmed by choice? Here is a list of our top recommendations, for any need you might have.

Best overall pick: Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

lodge enameled 6qt dutch ovenThis model from Lodge offers a comparable cooking experience as compared to the pricier Le Cruset or Staub models.

The enamel is smooth and evenly applied, the pot is well weighted, the handles are comfortable, and Lodge offers a great warranty on all their products.


For a couple or small family: Lodge 4.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Lodge 4.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch OvenLodge’s warranty and even enamel application make them a top contender for most of the Dutch ovens we recommend.

Their products are built to last, while also offering a great cost.

This 4.5 qt Dutch oven is a great size to feed a few, while still fitting in your regular kitchen cabinet.


For a large family, or those hosting frequent dinner parties: Lodge 7.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Lodge 7.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch OvenThis model, also from Lodge, is pretty darn massive.

There are larger Dutch ovens available, however 7.5 qts should be more than large enough to serve a bigger family, while remaining light enough to be carried easily, as well as fit into a sink.


For the Sunday roast: Lodge 7 Quart Oval Enameled Dutch Oven

Lodge 7 Quart Oval Enameled Dutch OvenIf you’re looking to cook a lot of meat or oblong items in your Dutch oven, an oval model may be a good choice.

Lodge offers a great oval model at good price, so that you can make a purchase without feeling as though you’re stuck with an impossibly pricy, “don’t use this!” pan.


Best non-enameled Dutch oven: 5 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Lodge 5 Quart Cast Iron Dutch OvenAre you sensing a theme? Lodge makes some of our favorite enameled cast iron, and their line of non-enameled cookware is no exception.

If you’re looking for a seasoned cast iron Dutch oven without added enamel, look no further.


For the spender: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron Round French Dutch Oven

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron Round French Dutch OvenLeCruset are truly placed at the head of the table when it comes to Dutch ovens.

Their quality is top of the line, from the texture of the cast iron, to the consistent finish of enamel.

The team at LeCruset know what they are doing, and you’ll pay for it.


The other French favorite: Staub Round Cocotte

Staub 1102425 Cast Iron Round Cocotte, 4 qt, Black MatteStaub are proud makers of excellent dutch ovens, and easily have quality to match LeCruset.

Your choice between the two is quite literally a matter of preference.

 


For double duty: Lodge 5 Quart Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven

Lodge 5 Quart Cast Iron Double Dutch OvenThis seasoned (not enameled) Dutch Oven from Lodge offers a lid which transforms into a skillet.

This gives you greater flexibility when cooking, and can be an excellent gift for the cast iron enthusiasts and grill masters in your life.

 


For the camper: Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven

lodge deep camp dutch ovenLodge created this model with small legs to hold up your Dutch oven, keeping it slightly above your heat source, like a camp fire or hot coals.

Seasoned cast iron (as opposed to enameled) can reach incredibly high temperatures, and cook a wide variety of foods.


Quick FAQ

1. Can dutch ovens be used on glass or induction cooktops?

Yes! Both types of cooktops work well with Dutch ovens.

2. Can a Dutch oven replace slow cooker

Technically yes, in that it can cook food throughly and slowly. However an oven or stovetop is required, and it is not recommended to be left unattended. Dutch ovens are generally thought of as the original slow cooker before our current electric models became popular.

3. Are Dutch ovens dishwasher safe?

Enameled Dutch ovens are considered dishwasher safe, though washing them by hand is recommended. Cast iron Dutch ovens should not go in the dishwasher, and should be cleaned using alternative methods.

4. Can you cook acidic food in a plain cast iron Dutch oven?

Generally, no. Highly acidic foods can ruin the seasoning and finish of a cast iron Dutch oven.

Enameled Dutch ovens are perfectly safe for acidic foods.

5. Which Dutch oven shape is better: round or oval?

Round, though both will work perfectly fine. Oval Dutch ovens are generally preferred for roasting meat, due to the shape.

That Dutch oven life

It seems almost silly that one would enjoy cooking in a Dutch oven more than other types of pots or pans, but there really is an elevated experience found when cooking with enameled cast iron.

Food seems to cook as intended, with balanced, surrounding heat, as well as a durable, smooth surface which is ideal for many types of food.

The added benefit of cooking in a Dutch oven is the aesthetic impact, presenting your vibrant dishes against a simple but elegant backdrop for soups, stews, freshly baked breads, perfectly browned meats, as well as roasted vegetables and any number of hot drinks, from ciders, to mulled wines and even hot chocolate.

We hope this guide offered the best information that you might need, when choosing the right Dutch oven for your needs.

With regular care, this one item should serve you and your family for many years to come.

Happy cooking!

Download The Dutch Oven Pot Buying Checklist

We’ve condensed the buying guide into the most important steps, tips and points. They are just what you “need to know” to choose the dutch oven that is perfect for you. Get The checklist

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