If you’re reading this post, you most likely are considering buying your first one or looking for a replacement. A Dutch oven in my opinion, is a kitchen essential and is ideal for cooking stews, chicken, roasts, or braising meats. The Dutch Ovens are usually made of cast iron, and the most common varieties are plain cast iron, think Lodge, or enameled cast iron, think Le Creuset.
To learn more about making the best stews read about he best cuts of beef for stews and which seasoning and spices to use in your stew.
An economical version is the plain cast-iron variety which will need seasoning before use, or you can purchase one pre-seasoned. I prefer the enamel version for stews because I don’t need to worry about acidic foods like tomatoes or wine reacting with the cast iron, plus I like pretty things.
Enameled cast iron cookware won’t require any pre-seasoning and are ready for use after a first wash with warm soapy water. Another plus is that they look so pretty, you’ll want to display them as kitchen art. These lovely pots are naturally non-stick and much easier to clean.
The Dutch Oven releases heat evenly across the cooking surface and is ideal for slow cooking.
Dutch Ovens Are the Original Slow Cookers
While they are not a “set it and forget it” cooking vessel, they still work like an electric slow cooker. The bottom and sides of a dutch oven conduct heat similar to a slow cooker. The heavy lid traps moisture which prevents the food from drying out and is perfect for slow and low cooking. As a result, tough meats are cooked to perfect tenderness, and the flavor deepens and develops over a longer time over a lower heat.
A Dutch oven can also be heated to high temperatures and brown or caramelize ingredients. This is something a slow cooker can’t do. Really, a Dutch oven is the best of both worlds.
What Size Dutch Oven to Buy
My 2.75-quart French oven gets the most use in my kitchen; the size is perfect for making small-batch stews, chili, and soups. 2.75 is used for cooking smaller batches of pasta sauces, chili, stews, and soup recipes. My 5-quart can cook a small roast or a whole chicken quickly. Anything more significant would be too much for my two-person home.
My most recent additions are the 1.5 quarts Staub petite french oven, which will be used chiefly for cooking Risotto and vegetables. Remember, the larger, the heavier these pups get, so consider the weight when the pot is filled before you go out and get the 12-quart luxury model. If you are cooking for 4-6 people, you might be better off getting the 5-6-quart size pot; make sure you can lift it without struggling, or at the very least have someone strong standing by to be your kitchen helper.
These Dutch Ovens will last a lifetime if taken care of properly. I take good care of my cookware, but I’ve taken to hiding them from my husband, especially since he ruined my beloved 2-quart round, which made perfect rice and replaced with the purchase of the smaller Staub.
Must Haves in an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
The oven should feel heavy and sturdy with solid sides and an equally thick and smooth bottom. The lid should fit properly, so moisture won’t be able to escape. The handles and knob need to be sturdy, firmly attached, and oven-safe. Also, you need to be able to safely grab the handles with oven mitts because they will get hot! The best quality you can afford.
Shop for A Bargain
A Dutch Oven can easily last a lifetime. It’s worth spending a little more to find the best quality and value your pocketbook can handle. Here are some ways to stretch your dollars and find a good deal on a high-quality Dutch oven. Factory Seconds may have a few minor flaws but are otherwise perfect. The best places to find seconds are at Le Creuset outlet stores or discount stores like Marshalls, Home Goods, or T. J. Maxx. Buy used on sites like eBay; shipping can be expensive so make sure you’re getting a bargain. Don’t forget to check garage sales and estate sales. Also, browse secondhand shops and antique malls for that rare Lodge or Wagner vintage find. Bargains can be found at retail stores that have discontinued colors on clearance. Le Creuset may be considered the most popular; however, other brands like Lodge, Staub, Tramontina, and Bruntmor are outstanding.
Keeping your Cast Iron Dutch Oven Maintained Properly
- Allow the dutch oven to cool before washing.
- Wash by hand in warm, soapy water to preserve the finishFor light stains, rub with a dampened cloth and baking soda.
- For harder-to-remove stains, fill it with warm water, and let it soak for 20 to 30 minutes before washing. You probably need to soak overnight on stubborn stains like baked-on food residue.
- Next, use a soft abrasive pad or brush to remove stains. Don’t use scourers, metallic pads, or harsh abrasive cleaning agents, which might scratch or chip the enamel.
- Never store your Dutch oven while still damp.
- Don’t stack your cookware. If unavoidable, use rubber bumpers (often included in the packing materials) to protect the interior.
- Periodically check handles and knobs; if anything feels loose, tighten the screws.
- An enameled cast iron Dutch Oven will last a lifetime with proper care.
What size should I buy?
The 1.5 or 2-quart Dutch oven is perfect for small recipes like side dishes, sauces, and some desserts. For meals, I recommend a 2.75-quart pot for singles and a 4-quart for singles or couples. The larger size will make a small chuck roast or roasted chicken.
A 4-5 quart dutch oven is perfect for making batches of stew for four. Remember to look for the points mentioned above, and you should be able to find a great dutch oven to fit your budget.