Best Dutch Ovens of 2018
Dutch ovens come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are equally comfortable in the oven or on the stove top. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best Dutch oven for your cooking preferences.
Best Dutch Ovens for the Home Cook
A Dutch oven might just be the most important piece of cookware in your kitchen. The primary reason? Versatility. This handy cookware can start your dinner on the stove top and finish it in the oven. A workhorse Dutch oven is just as good at making soups and stews as it is at braising meat or baking bread.
These kitchen essentials come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they can be made from a multitude of materials. Additionally, heavy-duty Dutch ovens, such as those made from cast iron, are ideal for campfire cooking. In fact, if you're an outdoor enthusiast, a good Dutch oven is practically a must. But with so many different models available, how do you find the right fit for your culinary needs?
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Why Buy a Dutch Oven?
You can cook almost anything—using just about any method—in a Dutch oven.
- Braising: Braising is a cooking method in which you sear anything from vegetables to beef at very high heat, then add liquid to cook your dish low and slow. A Dutch oven is ideal for braising since it can handle both high and low heat.
- Roasting: Dutch ovens are also ideal for roasting since they distribute heat evenly throughout the pan and around the food. They're especially effective for larger, tougher cuts of meat that need lots of time and lots of heat to break down.
- Baking: Perhaps surprisingly, Dutch ovens are great for baking. Pot pies may be the first dish that comes to mind, but you can also prepare breads and cakes in a Dutch oven.
- Frying and Sautéing: Dutch ovens work for faster cooking methods, too, specifically frying and sautéing. They maintain a constant temperature, so deep-frying food like French fries is right in their wheelhouse.
Dutch Oven Features to Consider
Most Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, anodized aluminum, or stainless steel. Cast-iron models are practically indestructible and are unbeatable when it comes to retaining heat. They are heavy, however, and require some maintenance in the form of seasoning. Some cast-iron Dutch ovens have enamel coatings. Ones made from anodized aluminum also retain heat well, but they're not as durable as their cast-iron counterparts. Stainless-steel Dutch ovens are lightweight and attractive, but they trail in durability and versatility compared to cast-iron and aluminum Dutch ovens.
The size of a Dutch oven refers to its capacity. They can hold anywhere from 2 to 12 quarts of liquid. The best way to determine the size you need is by considering the number of people you'll be cooking for most often. In general, 1 quart equals one serving, so a 5-quart Dutch oven will easily serve a family of four.
There are really only two choices here: round or oval. If you are going to be using your Dutch oven mainly for soups and stews, a round Dutch oven will work just fine. If you are going to sauté or fry food like fish or chicken, you will probably want to go with a longer, oval-shaped Dutch oven.
Lid and Handles
The lid of your Dutch oven should fit tightly to prevent food from drying out while cooking. Look for a Dutch oven with handles that are made from either metal or silicone, which can best sustain high heat. Handles made of plastic or other cheaper materials may crack or break.
To sit evenly on a burner or over another heat source, many Dutch ovens have feet. Feet are especially useful for outdoor cooking or cooking over coals or an open flame.
How Much Do Durable Dutch Ovens Cost?
Expect to find a variety of stainless-steel Dutch ovens in this price range. You might be able to root out a few enamel-coated Dutch ovens or pure cast-iron ones as well, though typically they're more expensive.
At this price point, most of the Dutch ovens you'll find are imported from Europe and have high-quality construction. You'll find plenty of brand-name Dutch ovens made from different materials and in various sizes. You'll also find the very high-end models preferred by many commercial kitchens.
Tips for Using a Dutch Oven
- Make sure the handles on your Dutch oven don't come loose. Check them periodically. Many cast-iron Dutch ovens come with flimsy metal handles, so you'll want to check them regularly.
- Dry your Dutch oven before putting it away to avoid moisture buildup that can shorten the lifespan.
- Soak your Dutch oven in warm water for about 15 minutes to loosen any stuck-on food or debris.
- Don't plunge an enamel-coated Dutch oven into water while the pot is still hot. The thermal shock could crack—and even ruin—the enamel. Cast-iron Dutch ovens should also not be submerged while still hot as this can strip off the seasoning.
Q. Should I avoid purchasing a cast-iron Dutch oven simply because of the amount of upkeep required?
A. When properly cared for, a cast-iron Dutch oven can last for generations. To season it, start by heating your conventional oven to 425ºF. Next, use a clean rag to wipe an even coating of olive oil all over the pot. Place the Dutch oven in the oven, and heat for about an hour or until the smoking stops. Take the Dutch oven out and let it cool. Once it's cool, repeat the same process two more times. If you do it regularly, cast-iron Dutch ovens can stand the test of time, making them well worth the investment.
Q. How do I clean a Dutch oven after use?
A. The best way to clean your Dutch oven is with a solution you can put in a spray bottle. Add a mixture of four parts water to one part apple cider vinegar to the bottle, then shake to combine. Spray the Dutch oven all over, and then let it sit to remove stains. Next, add hot water and scrub lightly. Stuck-on food should slide right off.
Q. Can I use a Dutch oven on any type of stove top?
A. Yes. You can cook safely in a Dutch oven on a gas, electric, or induction stove top. If your stove top is ceramic, however, be careful not to scratch it when moving the Dutch oven around.