Hello and Welcome! What’s so great about a Dutch oven? Well, the short answer is… Everything! Boiling water for pasta, cooking a pot roast, making a soup, searing, braising, deep frying and baking bread; if there’s one pot to rule them all, I put my money on the Dutch oven. Dutch ovens come in varying sizes, weight and material. Let’s take a look at few of the varieties.
Large Dutch Ovens
A large, 7-quart Dutch oven will give you the most bang for your buck. Its large capacity handles large quantities, large volumes of liquid and big cuts of meat with ease. So If you can only have one Dutch oven, I would say to spring for a big one. Le Creuset reigns supreme when it comes to ease of use, quality and durability.
I use my large 7.25-quart Dutch oven so often, I leave it on the stovetop, so storage is not an issue. The enameled cast iron is so easy to clean, and the pot is so durable that I never worry about what I am cooking in it. Le Creuset is expensive, to be sure, but it will last a lifetime with proper care.
There are less expensive options, such as Cuisinart’s Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole. The Cuisinart Dutch oven has slightly smaller loop handles, but it has straight sides and a large cooking surface.
When considering a Dutch oven, you want to look for large loop handles for a secure and comfortable grip while wearing oven mitts. Straight sides means a larger cooking surface, which you want for searing and braising. Make sure the sides aren’t too tall, either, it should not be difficult or uncomfortable to reach into the pot with utensils.
Avoid pots with dark interiors. Dark interiors make it hard to tell when food is browning – which is important when sautéing and searing. Steer clear of pots with ill-fitting lids; gaps in the contact surfaces will result in poor moisture and heat circulation. Definitely avoid pots with nonstick coating. Nonstick coating prevents fond from developing (which we want for braising). Also, nonstick coatings are way more heat sensitive than we want in a pot that goes from stovetop to oven.
Lighter-Weight, Large Capacity Option
Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens such as the Le Creuset and the Cuisinart, are heavy – even when they’re empty (weighing in at over 15 pounds!). But don’t let this keep you from investing in a large Dutch oven. There are other, lighter-weight options. All-Clad 6-quart Stainless Steel Stockpot is a good option; handling (nearly) all the tasks of a cast iron dutch oven. While stainless steel does not radiate heat and moisture like cast iron, which is essential for baking bread in your Dutch oven, All-Clad gets high marks for excellent heat distribution, though not great for baking bread.
When looking for a non-cast iron Dutch oven, be sure to avoid an all-aluminum version. Look for “try-ply” pots which are three layers of metal: an aluminum core between two layers of stainless steel. Additionally make sure they are fully clad, meaning the three layers run the entirety of the pot – from top to bottom.
Dutch Oven Recipes
Below, I have gathered just a few of the recipes from the blog for which I used my 7.25-quart Dutch oven. Each recipe demonstrates the variety and range of recipes perfect for Dutch ovens. Crispy fried chicken for Orange Chicken; an emulsified sauce for Spinach Tagliarelle; a long and slow braise in the oven for Red Wine Braised Short Ribs; and a slow simmer on the stovetop for Sazón Chicken Chili.
Smaller Dutch Ovens
The next size down would be something in the 4 to 5-quart range. This is a great option if you don’t typically cook for a crowd. You can certainly opt for a Le Creuset 5.5-quart, or the Cuisinart 5-quart version. I have a Dansk Dutch oven in a 4-quart size. I quite like it.
Dansk Dutch ovens are made of steel with an enamel coating. It does a great job for all the things I would do in a Dutch oven. I have baked bread in it too, and while the bread tasted great, the crust was a less crunchy and crispy (owing to the heat and steam circulation of steel, versus cast iron).
Dansk Dutch ovens have great design touches: the large handle shape; and the lid which doubles as a trivet, making oven-to-table that much more special. Its light weight also makes it a great piece of serve ware. I used it to serve this week’s Chipotle Pumpkin Soup.
So, whether it’s marketed as a covered casserole, Dutch oven, or even stockpot; a large capacity pot (4-7 quarts) with large loop handles; short, low sides; and a wide cooking surface will be the hardest working pot in your kitchen.
Remember to avoid dark interiors that make it hard to tell when food is browning; curved sides which take away from cooking surface area; and all-aluminum pots.
I hope you found this Dutch oven post informative and helpful if you’re in the market for one. If you don’t yet have one, I hope I have given you some inspiration to get one! Thanks so much for spending some your day with me, take care and be well! xo Kelly