What is a Dutch oven?
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 4.5-Quart Signature Dutch Oven
- Lodge Enameled 6-Quart Dutch Oven
- Staub 7-Quart Round Cocotte
A Dutch oven may look more or less like an ordinary pot, but it can accomplish far more than your typical saucepan. The thick cast iron walls and fitted lid help Dutch ovens trap heat and moisture for consistent cooking and baking, and their durability means they may never need to be replaced. If you’re ready to break out your big-batch recipes for friends and family again, here are the best Dutch ovens to help you entertain deliciously and easily.
Do you need a Dutch oven?
Pot roast isn’t the only dish made better and easier by a Dutch oven. A Dutch oven provides a slow and low cooking environment that’s perfect not just for braising roasts and simmering stews, but also for baking bread or making pies and cobblers. The tight-fitting lid traps moisture to keep food from drying out. Plus, thanks to the Dutch oven’s sturdy construction and durable materials, you can use it to cook over just about any heat source: in your oven, on your stovetop (including induction burners), on the grill or over a fire.
A Dutch oven’s versatility doesn’t end when your food is cooked either. Dutch ovens make attractive oven-to-table serving dishes, especially colorful enameled models.
What to look for in a Dutch oven
Dutch oven materials
Cast iron is a popular traditional material for Dutch ovens. The completed oven is either left unfinished or treated with a nonstick enamel coating. Pure cast iron Dutch ovens will need to be seasoned as you would with a cast iron skillet, while enamel Dutch ovens should not be seasoned.
Other common materials used in Dutch ovens are stainless steel and cast aluminum. These metals are lighter-weight than iron and offer similar heat-conducting properties.
Dutch oven size
Most Dutch ovens are sized between 5 to 7 quarts, but they’re also available as small as 2 quarts or larger than 13. If you plan to use your Dutch oven to frequently cook for large groups, you’ll want a 7-quart or larger version. Just keep in mind that higher-capacity Dutch ovens, especially those made from cast iron, will be quite heavy.
Dutch oven shape
Almost all Dutch ovens on the market are round or oval, and which shape is best for you may depend on the kind of food you plan to cook. Choose an oval-shaped Dutch oven to better accommodate large cuts of meat like a whole chicken. Round Dutch ovens can handle roasts, stews, soups and more.
Take note of the Dutch oven’s sides during your shopping as well. Sloped sides will create less surface area at the bottom for browning, while straight, up-and-down sides create a larger cooking surface.
Dutch oven color choices
Thanks to their enamel coating, some cast iron Dutch ovens are available in a rainbow of colors. The enamel isn’t just aesthetically pleasing. A light-colored ceramic interior makes it easier to view how browned the contents are. A dark interior can make it harder to gauge your cooking progress.
How to care for a Dutch oven
By properly cleaning your Dutch oven, you can help ensure it’ll last for years. The right way to care for your Dutch oven will depend on its finish. Unfinished cast iron needs to be seasoned to prevent food from sticking, and if your seasoning has built up properly, you may not even need to use soap. Just scrub it out with hot water and salt, then dry thoroughly.
Enameled and stainless steel Dutch ovens can sometimes go through the dishwasher, but you may prefer to hand-wash yours with soapy water and a plastic scrub brush. Make sure it’s cooled down before it’s washed to avoid thermal shock, which can damage the enamel.
What you need to buy for entertaining with a Dutch oven
It’s iconic for a reason: This Dutch oven comes in a variety of colors, and the enameled cast iron body and stainless steel lid knob are oven-safe to 500 degrees. It’s comparatively light, cooks evenly and consistently and resists chipping or cracking.
Lodge is well-known for its quality cast-iron skillets, and the company’s cast-iron Dutch oven features a chip-resistant, easy-to-clean nonstick enamel surface. Its gently curved sides make stirring easier, and it comes in more than a dozen colors.
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It doesn’t have the traditional look one might associate with Dutch ovens, but this stainless steel model boasts even heating thanks to its three-layer 18/10 stainless steel over an aluminum core. It features a 5-quart capacity, a tight-fitting lid and a lifetime warranty.
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This all-black matte enameled Dutch oven prevents stains and is scratch-resistant. Its lid has small spikes that trap flavor-loaded condensation and drip it back onto your cooking in a self-basting process.
This Dutch oven is made from pure cast iron, which distributes heat evenly and traps moisture, and its lid features self-basting dimples. It comes pre-seasoned with non-GMO flaxseed oil, a Kosher-certified seasoning.
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Don’t have a cast iron skillet yet, either? The lid of this pre-seasoned, pure cast iron 5-quart Dutch oven doubles as a 10-inch skillet. The domed shape makes it great for bread-baking, too.
It’s pricey, but this massive enameled Dutch oven can cook a show-stopping holiday meal and display it with elegant style. Easily monitor your cooking thanks to the light-colored enamel interior.
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This oval Dutch oven is roomy enough for large roasts and cooking whole chickens, yet its cast aluminum construction means it weighs only 7 pounds, which is much lighter than similar cast iron ovens. It’s oven-safe to 400 degrees.
Sold by Sur la Table
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