Dutch ovens have been around for centuries. Because of their versatility, these heavy-bottomed pots are a useful addition to every home cook’s arsenal. They are designed to withstand high temperatures, but you can use them in low temperatures, too. They retain heat well both in the oven and on the stove. They are an excellent choice for slow cooking and braising. You can also use them for searing, baking, deep frying, and simmering.
While a Dutch oven may be a significant investment, it can last for generations. Read on to learn more about this essential kitchen tool and how to pick the best Dutch oven for your kitchen.
- BEST OVERALL: Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- BEST BUDGET: Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron 6.5-Quart Dutch Oven
- BEST HIGH-END: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 7.25 qt.
- BEST SMALL: SULIVES Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Lid, 1.5qt
- BEST FOR STEWS: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 7-Quart Covered Casserole
- BEST FOR CAMPING: Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven, 8 Quart
- MOST VERSATILE: Legend Cast Iron Dutch Oven 5 Quart Multi Cooker
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Dutch Oven
The following sections detail some of the most important qualities to keep in mind when shopping for the best Dutch oven for your needs.
Dutch ovens are available in a number of materials, including ceramic and stainless steel. But the most popular Dutch ovens on the market are typically constructed with bare cast iron or enameled cast iron.
- Bare cast iron. Dutch ovens generally come preseasoned to create a nonstick surface, like other cast-iron cookware. Cast iron is known for its heat retention. It heats evenly at high and low temperatures. Bare cast iron can withstand temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit or more, and that’s why it’s suitable for use over an open fire. If you take care of it, cast-iron cookware is incredibly durable because it isn’t susceptible to scratching or chipping. If a Dutch oven is well-seasoned, you should be able to use it for any foods you want. However, some experts advise against cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes, in a new cast-iron dish. The acid can strip the seasoning, discolor the vessel, and leave a metallic taste in the food. Cast-iron cookware requires careful cleaning and it’s best to follow the cleaning and care instructions that come with the Dutch oven. Proper care also includes routinely reseasoning the dish.
- Enameled cast iron. Dutch ovens simply have a layer of porcelain enamel coating on the cast-iron core. They provide many of the benefits of cast-iron cookware but are nonreactive and can be cleaned alongside the rest of your kitchen tools with soap and water. They aren’t, however, as resistant to scratches or chips. Enameled cast iron typically has a heat threshold of between 450 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Size and Weight
While a standard Dutch oven has a capacity of 5½ to 6½ quarts, you can find them in a range of other sizes from a tiny ¼-quart to a large 13 quarts. Here are some of the most popular Dutch oven sizes:
- ¼-quart Dutch ovens hold individual servings of dishes like French onion soup, coquille Saint Jacques, or macaroni and cheese.
- 3- to 4-quart Dutch ovens serve one or two people, depending on the dish.
- 5½- to 6½-quart Dutch ovens, the most popular size on the market, are large enough to serve four to six people.
- 7-quart Dutch ovens and larger are a good choice for bigger families or cooks who entertain often.
Even Dutch ovens of the same capacity can vary in dimensions. Some are wide and shallow while others are narrow and deep. But no matter what the shape and size, Dutch ovens are inherently heavy. Some people may find them difficult to maneuver and clean.
Dutch ovens can be round or oval-shaped.
- Round Dutch ovens are versatile and fit on most standard stovetop burners.
- Oval Dutch ovens are typically shallow and wide. They are well suited to cooking oblong roasts like legs of lamb or pork tenderloins. Due to their shape, they may not heat evenly at both ends on a standard circular burner. If the Dutch oven is induction compatible, it will heat well over two synced elements.
Bare cast-iron Dutch ovens always have a dark interior. Enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens can have either a light or a dark-colored coating on the cooking surface.
- Dark interiors hide burns, scuffs, and scratches. But, the dark surface can make it difficult to monitor color changes in certain ingredients.
- Light interiors show more wear and tear, but they allow you to closely monitor the color of sauces and make sure your butter is perfectly browned.
Lid and Handles
Dutch ovens feature heavy, tight-fitting lids. The knob or handle on the lid will have a high heat capacity so that it’s oven-safe. Some lids allow a bit of steam to escape so that soups, stews, and sauces can reduce. Standard lids have a smooth interior. Self-basting lids are ridged or studded inside in order to direct the condensation back into the pot and distribute it evenly.
The handles of your Dutch oven should be wide and easy to grip even with oven mitts. They should remain cool to the touch when the vessel is on the stovetop.
Bare cast-iron Dutch ovens only come in black. Enameled ones are available in a rainbow of colors. Darker shades won’t show burns or staining as easily as lighter shades will. Since a Dutch oven is a long-term investment, choose one that you think you’ll like for years, rather than the current trendy color.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know more about Dutch ovens, it’s time to start shopping. The following picks consider all the features above, including material, size, shape, and finish. This list offers a variety of choices for a top-notch Dutch oven that suits your needs and budget.
Lodge has a reputation for affordable cast-iron cookware that performs just as well as higher-priced products. This enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is oven-safe up to 500 degrees and offers excellent heat retention. The 6-quart size is perfect for most average-size families. However, Lodge also makes smaller and larger versions to suit other needs. It comes in a wide variety of colors, so you can pick one that matches your kitchen’s decor. Although this pot is dishwasher-safe, Lodge recommends washing it by hand in order to preserve its appearance. It weighs 13.72 pounds.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a high-quality Dutch oven. This 6½-quart enamel-coated model from Tramontina is proof. It’s a perfect size for many families. The self-basting lid has ridges to direct the condensation evenly back into the pot. But because it is oven-rated up to only 450 degrees Fahrenheit, you can’t use it at your oven’s highest temperatures. Considering its capacity, it’s also on the heavier side at 16.27 pounds.
French company Le Creuset is the biggest name in high-end Dutch ovens. They’re known for high-quality heirloom pieces that are meant to be passed down from generation to generation. In fact, Le Creuset famously has 15 employees rigorously examine each piece of cookware before it leaves the factory to ensure it meets the company’s high standards.
Le Creuset’s Signature Round Dutch Oven is made from dishwasher-safe enameled cast iron and comes in a wide range of colors to suit your kitchen’s decor and style. If you’re going to invest in a Le Creuset, the larger 7¼-quart model will cover family meals and dinner parties for years to come. Each part of this Dutch oven including the knob can withstand heat up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite its large size, it’s relatively lightweight at 15.2 pounds.
The SULIVES 1½-quart Dutch oven is just the right size for individuals and couples. While the brand also makes larger models, this one is great for making small quantities of food. It’s made from enameled cast iron with a microporous nonstick cooking surface. The heavy lid is designed with both rings and studs to ensure that condensation circulates evenly back into your food.
It’s compatible with all styles of cooktops, including induction. While it is dishwasher-safe, the manufacturer recommends washing it by hand to prolong its lifespan. This little guy weighs in at just under eight pounds.
Whether you’re making stew for a big family meal or preparing a double batch to freeze for later, this large Dutch oven from Cuisinart is up to the task. With a 7-quart capacity, it’s the perfect size for big batches of soup, sauce, and stew, and a variety of other dishes. It offers superior heat retention and distribution, which is great for slow-cooking at low temperatures.
This enameled Dutch oven is dishwasher-safe and is compatible with a variety of cooktops, including induction. The knob is heat-resistant and oven-safe. It weighs 16.9 pounds.
If you’re looking for a cooking vessel to use on a campfire, this preseasoned cast-iron Dutch oven from Lodge is a great pick. It has a heavy gauge wire bale, so you can hang the pot over a campfire or hearth. It also has three integrated legs so that you can place it directly on top of hot coals.
The tight-fitting lid is ridged to hold hot coals for additional heat. You can also flip it over and use it as a griddle. The 8-quart pot weighs 20 pounds, and smaller and larger models are also available.
This unique product from Legend Cast Iron is two pieces of cookware in one. It features a 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven with a lid that doubles as a 10-inch skillet. The domed lid serves other purposes, too. It’s great for baking bread as it allows the loaf to rise completely.
This multiuse tool comes preseasoned with 100 percent vegetable oil. It includes two removable, heat-safe silicone grippers that can tolerate temperatures of up to 500 degrees. It weighs 13.48 pounds and works on any type of heat source, including induction stoves and campfires.
FAQs About Dutch Ovens
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about Dutch ovens.
Q. How do I choose a Dutch oven?
For the most versatility and easy maintenance, choose an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a capacity of between 5½ and 6½ quarts.
Q. Are enameled Dutch ovens safe?
Enameled Dutch ovens are designed to withstand high temperatures in the oven and on the stovetop.
Q. How do you clean a Dutch oven?
You should clean bare cast-iron Dutch ovens by hand with warm water and a soft brush. You can run some enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens through the dishwasher. You can also wash them by hand.
Q. How long do Dutch ovens last?
A Dutch oven is a long-term investment. If you take care of it, yours should last for many years—or even decades.