Plus our top 4 suggestions for which one to buy.
I have a strong affinity for Dutch ovens. They are sort of the original all-purpose cookware—you know, before Instant Pots were even a thing. The multi-use pot has been around for centuries and can be used to braise, fry, stew, bake, slow cook, and poach food. The best fried chicken I have ever made was done in my Dutch oven, along with a competition-worthy chili and a pull-apart beef roast that was turned into tacos (that my friends still rave about). I’ve even baked a no-knead bread, serving it at dinner with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The Dutch oven is a magical piece of cookware, and I think every home cook should own one.
The Dutch oven, A.K.A. a cocotte, is a heavy, thick-walled pot with a tight-fitting lid that is made out of cast-iron or cast-aluminum. A bare Dutch oven needs to be well-seasoned regularly just like other cast-iron cookware for optimal use. Many pots on the market now have an enamel coating that allows you to use the pot immediately without seasoning. Pots with an enamel coating are easier to clean, however the coating can chip or dull due to normal wear and tear over time.
When you are shopping for the right Dutch oven, decide what size will suit you best. Most pots can hold between 2 to 8 quarts of liquid. (There is a mammoth-sized oven that holds more than 13 quarts; however, if you’re not cooking for a small army, you probably don’t need it.) A 5.5-quart pot is best for a family of 2-3 people, whereas a 6- or 8-quart pot is ideal for a family of 4-6 people. Sometimes, size is measured by the diameter of the pot, which correlates with the quart size. If you cook often and like to entertain, the 6-quart or 7.5-quart (depending on the manufacturer) will likely be the best choice. Keep in mind, these pots are very heavy and can reach high temperatures, so be sure always handle with care and caution. Being that Dutch ovens contain iron, they will also work on induction stovetops.
Here are 4 Dutch ovens to consider:
Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, $49.99
Lodge is a well-known brand for their cast iron cookware and at this price and size, I’d say this Dutch oven is the best value for your buck. It is enamel coated and comes in an array of bright, funky colors. This pot has over 6,000 reviews on Amazon with a nearly perfect 5-star rating.
Lodge L8DOL3 Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Pre-Seasoned, 5-Quart, $27.19
This slightly smaller Lodge Dutch oven is pre-seasoned without the enamel coating and can be used immediately. It has the lowest price point and gives you the traditional feel of a cast-iron skillet. Keeping it classic means you will not have to worry about the coating chipping or cracking. It’s a solid pot, and if you take proper care of it, it will last forever.
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Round French Oven, 5-1/2-Quart, $329.95
Le Creuset is a high-end cookware brand that has been producing cast-iron products since 1925. Le Creuset is pricey, but their products can undergo years of use without much staining or dulling of the interior. Their “French” style Dutch oven can withstand up to 500°F (with the lid), and is perfect for stove-to-oven cooking. It’s definitely a kitchen status symbol to have if that's something that's important to you.
Staub Cast Iron Shallow Wide Round Cocotte, 6-Quart, $314.95
Staub products are also considered high-end, so get ready to shell out some cash. The French brand’s pots are slightly wider and more shallow at the base, which aids in even browning. The interior is coated in black matte enamel instead of white, making it easier to preserve the inside for lasting durability.