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Dutch Oven

Dutch Oven: Everything You Need to Know Versatile Tool

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by Helen
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Let's Get Straight To The Point

What is a Dutch Oven?  Dutch ovens are versatile cooking pots that you can use on both stovetops and ovens.  They are excellent for searing, frying, braising, and baking.  Moreover, they come in a variety of beautiful colors that can match any kitchen decor.  We recommend the Le Creuset 5.5-quart and Staub 5.5-quart Dutch Ovens as our top choices.  We suggest the Milo by Kana 5.5-quart and Cuisinart 5-quart Chef's Classic models for more budget-friendly options.

Although I'm not a professional chef, I have been cooking for years; well, in my mind, I am a pro chef, lol.   During this time, I have acquired cookware in practically every major category of size and material, such as stainless steel pots, nonstick skillets, carbon steel wok, and cast iron pans.   However, I prefer to use my Dutch oven when cooking big dinners for my family.   Keep in mind that carbon steel cookware has to be seasoned before use.

Versatility and Usefulness In The Kitchen

Dutch ovens are incredibly versatile kitchen tools.  Their broad base provides ample space for browning, and their deep design makes them perfect for cooking large amounts of soup or stew like my famous Mexican Albondigas Soup (Meatball soup).  While the original Dutch ovens were made of plain cast iron, most modern versions are coated with enamel.  This means they can still distribute heat evenly without requiring seasoning and are relatively nonstick from the start.  You can use them on both stovetops and ovens, and they are even suitable for cooking with induction.  These pots are hard to beat if you're looking for a one-pot wonder.  You can even use your pot on your portable grill or backyard to make beans or anything you can dream of.

What Are Dutch Ovens Good For?

Searing, Simmering, and Braising

These pots are versatile pots used on the stovetop and in the oven.  It's wider and heavier than a stockpot, making it perfect for simmering broth or cooking big batches of beans.  The cast iron core can get hot enough for quickly searing chunks of meat and browning veggies.  Unlike nonstick cookware, the enamel allows flavorful bits to build up on the bottom of the pot, which then deglazes beautifully.  You can start slow-cooked braises or tomato sauces on the stove and then move them directly into the oven for a few hours, all in one pot, making them great for one-pot meals.  Overall, a Dutch oven is an excellent addition to any kitchen.  You can also make our favorite Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese.

Frying

When used along with a probe thermometer, you can use a Dutch oven for deep frying due to its high sides.  The cast-iron walls are much better at retaining heat than stainless steel, which helps keep the temperatures more stable.  It also redistributes heat more efficiently, which allows the cooking oil to rebound quickly after temperatures drop when food is added.  Hence, if you don't fry foods regularly, it is recommended to use a Dutch oven instead of buying an electric deep-fryer, which can only be used for one purpose.  If you are like me and can't eat fried foods, a healthier alternative is to use a toaster oven air fryer.

Making Bread

Are you interested in making crusty, artisan-style bread at home but need a purpose-built cast iron bread oven? Don't worry; a Dutch oven can work just as well. While cast iron bread ovens can be expensive, heavy, and hard to store, these pots are a more affordable and convenient option for beginners. Covering the pot with its heavy lid creates a super-insulated environment that captures moisture as it evaporates from the bread dough. This process mimics the steam injection ovens of professional bakeries, which encourages better browning and a chewier, more flavorful crust.

What Is A Dutch Oven?

Add Some Color to Your Kitchen

Dutch ovens are workhorses and durable kitchen tools that are both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Staub's flat-lidded design has an old-world charm that evokes images of a rustic pot of coq au vin in the French countryside. In contrast, Le Creuset's simplicity offers a more contemporary look, with over 20 color options to choose from, including classic shades like Flame, Marseille, and Nectar, as well as new and seasonal colors like Shallot and Matte Navy. Whether you prefer a bold or neutral color, there is something for everyone. And if you can't decide, don't worry; we've already ranked all the Le Creuset colors for you.

Comparison

Shopping for your first Dutch oven can be overwhelming as there are many shapes and capacities to choose from.  For instance, Staub offers a delightful tomato-shaped mini cocotte that can hold about a pint, while Le Creuset has a 15-quart oval behemoth.  We prefer Dutch ovens with round bases over oblong or novelty-shaped ones because they fit better on standard burners and heat more evenly. 

When choosing the size, Le Creuset recommends selecting a pot that is big enough for one quart per person in the household plus an additional one or two quarts.  A 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven is a good starting point for a family of four.  With this size, you'll have a pot suitable for any cooking task.

Staub and Le Creuset are the two most popular brands of Dutch ovens.  These brands are well-known for their strict quality standards and lifetime warranties.  Although they differ in design (for example, Staub has black interiors while Le Creuset has light interiors), we highly recommend both brands for their durability and superior enamel coatings. 

These renowned brands can be a little more pricey, ranging from $300 to $420 for our winning 5.5-quart Staub and Le Creuset models, depending on the color.  However, the investment is worth it for a pot that will last you a lifetime.  The Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven ($249) is excellent if you're looking for a budget-friendly option.

READ NEXT: The Best Sustainable Cookware To Buy

Final Thoughts: What is a Ductch Oven?

In conclusion, a Dutch oven is a versatile and indispensable tool for any home cook. It can be used for searing, frying, braising, baking, etc. The enamel-coated versions are relatively nonstick and don't require seasoning, making them easy to clean and maintain. Moreover, they come in a variety of beautiful colors that can match any kitchen decor. We recommend the Le Creuset 5.5-quart Dutch Oven and Staub 5.5-quart Dutch Oven as our top choices. 

However, if you're on a budget, we suggest the Cuisinart Classic Round 5 Quart Dutch Oven. Whatever option you choose, investing in a Dutch oven will undoubtedly elevate your cooking game and make your life in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable.

Frequenty Asked Questions (FAQs )

How do you clean a Dutch oven? 

To ensure your Dutch oven stays in good condition, it's best to wash it by hand after each use using a mild dish soap and a non-abrasive sponge. If you encounter stubborn stains, soak the pot in hot water or gently scrub the affected area with baking soda or a Bar Keepers Friend. It's not recommended to use a dishwasher, as it can cause the enamel to dull and weaken, which may shorten the lifespan of the cookware.

Can a Dutch oven go in the oven? 

Yes, Dutch ovens are safe for oven use and can be used for baking, braising, and slow cooking. Before putting the lid in the oven, check the manufacturer's recommendations because the knob may not be suitable for high temperatures. 

Do you need to season a Dutch oven? 

If you have an uncoated cast iron Dutch oven, you can season it as per our instructions for seasoning cast iron cookware. On the other hand, if you have an enamel-coated Dutch oven like Le Creuset and Staub and the coating is in good condition, it won't require seasoning. Enamel-coated Dutch ovens remain relatively nonstick without seasoning.

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