How to choose the best Dutch oven for baking, braising and more
Crafted from cast iron and covered in beautiful enamel, Dutch ovens are indestructible kitchen workhorses and elegant serving pieces. With the right care, they can become heirloom pieces — but they also tend to come with a hefty price tag. If you’re ready to add a Dutch oven to your cookware lineup, here’s how to choose the most helpful features, the ideal size and the best materials.
Dutch oven features
Dutch ovens are usually made from solid cast iron to generate even heat for low and slow cooking. Most are treated with an enamel coating to help prevent food from sticking, but some are left unfinished. If you choose unfinished cast iron for your Dutch oven, you’ll want to season it like you would for a cast-iron skillet.
Some Dutch ovens are made from cast aluminum or even stainless steel. These products tend to be more affordable and lighter-weight than traditional cast-iron Dutch ovens. They also offer similar heat distribution, and with cast aluminum’s enamel coating, they’re display-worthy. However, cast aluminum isn’t as durable as cast iron, and stainless steel Dutch ovens don’t have the classic appearance that some shoppers may desire.
The enamel on Dutch ovens isn’t just for looks — it extends the life of the metal by protecting it from corrosion. It also helps make cooking easier. Many Dutch ovens use a light-colored enamel for the pot’s interior to help the user gauge the food’s browning and doneness.
A popular feature for Dutch ovens is found on the underside of the lid. Many Dutch oven manufacturers engineer their lids with dimples or spikes on the underside. This textured surface is intended to capture evaporating moisture and return it to the dish to concentrate its flavor.
What size Dutch oven to get
Dutch oven sizes
Dutch ovens come in sizes as small as one-quarter of a quart (one cup) and larger than 13 quarts. Smaller Dutch ovens are great for single-serving portions or individual desserts, while a Dutch oven that holds 7 quarts or larger is a good pick for large families or a gathering. For most cooks, a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven is the sweet spot.
Dutch oven shapes
Dutch ovens are available in round and oval shapes. Each shape has its benefits depending on the kind of cooking you like to do.
Generally, round Dutch ovens are more versatile since they fit better on stovetops and provide more even heating. Oval Dutch ovens are a good choice if you plan to use yours for cooking large cuts of meat or whole chickens.
How to care for your Dutch oven
Hand-washing a Dutch oven
Some Dutch ovens can safely go through the dishwasher, but to help yours last for decades, hand-washing is recommended. Once the Dutch oven has cooled down, wash it with warm, soapy water and a plastic scrub brush. Avoid steel wool or other metal implements to avoid scratching the enamel.
Store it carefully
Due to their size and weight, Dutch ovens can be tricky to store. While it may be tempting to save space by storing smaller cookware items inside your Dutch oven, this can scratch or chip the enamel and shorten the Dutch oven’s life span.
Store your Dutch oven on a pot rack, on top of your range or simply keep it in the oven. An unfinished cast-iron Dutch oven should be stored in a dry place, either with a paper towel between its lid and the pot or with the lid off entirely.
Keep in mind that Dutch ovens can weigh more than 20 pounds. It should not only be stored on a sturdy shelf but also at a height that’s safe and comfortable to lift from.
Which Dutch oven to buy
The tight-fitting lid helps this Dutch oven trap moisture and flavor, and its light-colored enamel interior helps you see how well your food is browning. It’s compatible with all types of cooktops and is oven-safe to 500 degrees. Le Creuset’s Dutch ovens are made in France and hand-finished with stain-, chip- and crack-resistant enamel.
This 5-quart Dutch oven features a lid that doubles as a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. It’s built with double loop handles for extra control, and the unfinished cast iron comes pre-seasoned so it’s ready to cook with.
“Cocotte” is the French term for Dutch ovens. This enameled oval model lets you cook large cuts of meat or roast whole chickens. Its lid features self-basting spikes and the interior has a matte black enamel finish to help food brown more evenly.
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Laura Duerr writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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