Which Dutch oven is best?
For as long as there has been cooking, people have thrown ingredients into a pot and allowed them to simmer together to create something new and delicious. In modern times, the Dutch oven has perfected this style of cooking with a straight-sided, heavy pot designed to handle the heat.
The Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Round Dutch Oven is a beautiful, durable example of quality. It’s the best option when you are ready to invest in a substantial piece of cookware.
What to know before you buy a Dutch oven
Dutch ovens are designed to be used for long periods of time in the oven, and they need an interior that can handle that heat. The most common materials are aluminum/stainless steel and cast iron.
- Aluminum/stainless steel: Both materials are layered for a more lightweight Dutch oven. The heat conduction properties of these mean that food cooks evenly, but the pot itself is less durable. Still, the lower price point and lighter weight are preferable for some cooks.
- Cast iron: Whether coated with porcelain enamel or left raw, cast iron is the traditional material for Dutch ovens. It is heavy and durable and holds heat well for long periods of cooking over low heat. Some of the best Dutch ovens in the world are made from enameled cast iron, but some cooks find the price tag — and the weight — to be too much.
Dutch ovens range from 2-quart to 12-quart capacity. Couples and smaller families might choose the 4½-quart pot, while people who cook for a larger crowd might prefer a 10- to 12-quart capacity.
Traditional Dutch ovens are available in either round or oval shapes. An oval shape can accommodate larger roasts or longer foods such as fish, but the most common shape is round.
What to look for in a quality Dutch oven
Sturdy handles on your Dutch oven are a must. You’ll be lifting up to 12 quarts of boiling liquid out of the oven, so handles that can hold that weight are crucial.
The lid on a Dutch oven performs two functions. First, it traps heat inside of the Dutch oven for more even cooking. In addition, a well-designed lid allows steam to roll back onto your food for a self-basting action while it cooks.
The handle on top of the lid should be attached securely with rivets or small bolts. It’s also important that it is oven-safe to your desired temperature. While most Dutch ovens are safe to 500 degrees, some lid handles cannot stand that much heat. Check with your manufacturer to make sure yours can.
More common to Dutch ovens designed for camping, feet on the bottom of the pot add stability over a campfire. They may be awkward sitting on wire racks in the oven, but on an open fire, they hold food at a distance from burning coals to prevent scorching.
How much you can expect to spend on a Dutch oven
Dutch ovens range in price from $40-$400. There is a wide range of sizes and features within that range.
Dutch oven FAQ
How do you cook in a Dutch oven?
A. While cooking a simple stovetop stew is common, the oven is where it really shines.
- Braising: Braising is a low-and-slow cooking method ideal for a Dutch oven. Start with a large whole piece of meat and sear it on the stovetop. Once all sides are browned and the cooking process has started, remove the meat and deglaze the pot with stock, wine or water. Add additional aromatics, liquid, vegetables, seasoning and the seared meat; cover and place in a low-temperature oven for hours (depending on your recipe). This produces a tender, delicious meal that requires little attention or hands-on time.
- Roasting: Roasting is similar to braising, but uses less liquid. Use this method for tougher cuts of meat that need a slow-roasted cooking process to become tender.
- Baking: Dutch ovens are perfect for baking, even over a campfire. Make perfectly fluffy biscuits, cornbread and even pizza.
Because a Dutch oven holds its temperature so well, you can even use it for frying.
How do you preseason a Dutch oven?
A. If you have a cast-iron Dutch oven that is not preseasoned and is not enameled, season it before its first use (and periodically afterward).
- Rub a thin coating of olive oil over every surface of your Dutch oven, including the lid.
- Place the lid and the pot in a 425-degree oven and bake.
- When the oil stops smoking after about an hour, turn the oven off and crack the door.
- Let the pot and lid cool completely before repeating this process two more times.
- Repeat this process when your pot begins to lose its nonstick quality.
If your Dutch oven comes pre-seasoned with waxy residue, you need to bake the seasoning wax off before the first use. Bake in a 425-degree oven with a pan underneath the pot to collect any dripping wax.
How do you clean a Dutch oven?
A. Enameled Dutch ovens can be washed by hand with hot, soapy water, but do not use soap on cast iron. For dried-on food, add coarse salt to your Dutch oven and scrub with a wire scouring pad.
For both types, dry completely and then heat briefly on the stovetop to ensure that all water has evaporated before storing.
What’s the best Dutch oven to buy?
Top Dutch oven
What you need to know: This 4 1/2-quart pot is a global standard of excellence in Dutch ovens.
What you’ll love: It’s oven-safe to 500 degrees and features a well-fitted lid to keep heat and steam inside. It’s lighter than its counterparts and is highly durable, resisting staining, chipping and cracking for generations. It’s enamel-coated on the inside and available in a range of colors.
What you should consider: It’s one of the most expensive options, but it’s worth the price.
Top Dutch oven for the money
What you need to know: This preseasoned pot is an affordable entry point to Dutch ovens.
What you’ll love: It has a 4-quart capacity and a lid designed to baste food as it cooks. It’s safe to 500 degrees and preseasoned with non-GMO flaxseed oil. The pot and the seasoning are kosher-certified.
What you should consider: Food will stick to this pot if it’s not properly seasoned.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: It’s a durable oven in fun and funky colors.
What you’ll love: Porcelain-coated enamel prevents sticking and resists chipping. The side handles are comfortable and sturdy, and the lid fits well. It’s safe to 500 degrees in the oven.
What you should consider: Some users report chipping after years of frequent use.
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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