You Should Own a Dutch Oven


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It may look like just another baking dish, but the Dutch oven is special. It can cook just about anything. It was the all-in-one, do-everything pot before there was an Instant-Pot.

dutch oven on top of stovetop range

So what is a Dutch oven? It’s a heavy-duty pot with a lid, typically made out of cast iron (it can be enameled cast iron, making for easier clean up). It sounds so simple, but it can do so much.

It’s most famous for slow cooking and braising meats. However, you can cook everything from quick, weeknight pasta dishes to soups and stews to desserts in a Dutch oven. You can even use it for baking bread.

What are the advantages?

Besides the fact that they are incredibly versatile in terms of what you can cook, the other handy thing about Dutch ovens is that they can quickly and safely go from the stovetop to the oven, which adds to their versatility.

They maintain heat well, and high heat ain’t no thang for a dutch oven. The only disclaimer to this is that if you buy one with a plastic knob on the lid, it’s best to buy a metal replacement knob.

Functionality aside, most of them are also pretty to look at. Enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens are available in an array of fun colors. You can take a freshly braised meat dish or hot stew right from the oven and place it on your table to serve friends and family.

Cooking beef stew in a large pot

What are the disadvantages?

If you have to find a downside, it’s probably the weight. Taking one in and out of the oven requires a little more oomph than grabbing a sheet pan or another type of baking dish.

If you’re shopping for brands like Le Creuset or Staub, these are handmade in France and can run upwards of $300. Why are they so expensive? They are cut from quality iron, and because of the pot’s thickness, they require more of it. The fact that they’re handmade also drives the price up.

Le Creuset 7.25 Quart Dutch Oven

Enameled Cast Iron

View Price on Amazon

If you’re not sure how much you’ll love your Dutch oven, try a more affordable brand like Lodge first (it should run you less than $100). Outside of that, many of the cheaper brands are made in China with minimal oversight. The quality may not stand up.

Lodge 7.5 Quart Dutch Oven

Enameled Cast Iron

View Price on Amazon

How to shop for a Dutch oven

Thick and heavy-duty is a good thing. You want your Dutch oven to be thick all the way around, bottom, sides, and all. 

The lid should fit tightly. If it’s loose or ill-fitting, heat will escape when your braising and simmering, which can alter cooking times and make your pot less effective.

Go for round over oval. Choose a large, round Dutch oven over narrow, rectangular options. Once you start cooking with it more and more, you’ll find that the narrow version is limiting and not as versatile. 

Be wary of dark colors. When it comes to color, even if you opt for a dark exterior, make sure the interior is light. This type makes it easier to monitor browning meat (and browning or caramelizing anything for that matter). 

Start with one size. You can buy as large as a 13-quart Dutch oven and as small as less than 1 quart. A 6-quart or 7-quart is a great size to start with as you’ll be able to tackle most soups, stews, bread, and meat braising. Suppose you’re cooking for a large family, then size up. Smaller sizes like mini Dutch ovens are cute for serving individual portions but not as versatile in cooking with them.

Dutch oven placed inside an oven

How to clean a Dutch oven

Hand washing is the best method. Even if your manual says it’s dishwasher-friendly, it likely still recommends that you hand wash. If it’s enameled, hot water and soap should cut it.

For more stubborn cooking stains, soak your pot in water and baking soda. For unenameled cast iron, leave soap out of the equation, and clean and season like you would a cast-iron skillet.

What to cook with it

You can braise, brown, fry, stew, sautee, boil, and bake in a Dutch oven. Name a cooking method, and this pot can do it. It’s even famous for campfire cooking.

Try any soup, such as homemade chicken noodle soup or corn chowder. You can make a stew-like this chicken stew with vegetables, and pasta like this chicken ragu sauce with pappardelle pasta.

Want something different? Add Mexican chicken and rice to your meal plan one night.

What can you use instead of a Dutch oven?

An oven-safe casserole dish can work in place of a Dutch oven. If the recipe doesn’t require braising or other types of oven cooking, a large stockpot is often interchangeable for a Dutch oven (think soups and stews). Slow cookers and Instant Pots can also be substitutes. For frying and sauteeing, a wok or large skillet can work well.

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Marie says

    Hi, Jessica! I was looking for what kind of pasta tool to buy after you posted about making your own pasta. I’ve never used one before and I’m prepping for making Lasagna this week. Do all pasta cutters work the same? Honestly, it will be a rainy fall day or snowy winter before I try making my own pasta, but Lasagna has me thinking about it.


    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Marie! Great question! I use a Marcato brand pasta roller to make sheets, which can be used to make lasagna. However, there are various brands that can do a similar job with pasta making. Some products have more pasta cutter attachments if you want to make different types of ribbon pasta.