Three best Dutch ovens
One of the most versatile items you can have in your kitchen is a Dutch oven. This thick-walled pot with a snug lid can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, or even on the grill or fire outside. The various types of dishes you can cook in a Dutch oven are endless, but just to list a few: stew, pot roast, macaroni and cheese, and French fries. If you're thinking about buying a Dutch oven, there are some considerations to keep in mind and choices to make to find the best fit for your kitchen. Our guide will help you find the right cookware for your culinary needs and budget.
Considerations when choosing Dutch ovens
Dutch ovens are made of a few different materials. Some manufacturers utilize aluminum and stainless steel, and some bond layers of stainless steel to an aluminum core. The traditional approach to manufacturing Dutch ovens is to melt down iron ore at an infernal heat and then pour the molten metal into a mold. This makes for a pure cast-iron Dutch oven. Some cast-iron Dutch ovens have a nonstick enamel finish. Both cast-iron and stainless-steel models can be found for under $100. Dutch ovens that cost over $100 are usually high-end and made of pure cast iron.
Dutch ovens are either round or oval. If you're primarily planning on making stews and soups in your Dutch oven, opt for a round one. If you're leaning toward making meat dishes like fish, braised ribs, or poultry, a longer, oval-shaped Dutch oven is better.
A tightly fitted lid is one feature that sets Dutch ovens apart from run-of-the-mill pots. Dutch ovens should have lids designed to fit securely to avoid drying out whatever you've got cooking inside. The top handle should also be securely riveted and made from a material that can withstand heat like silicone or metal. Many Dutch ovens also come with useful side handles for carrying the pot.
The size of a Dutch oven is determined by its capacity. A small pot may hold only two quarts, while a large one may hold 12 quarts. Think about how many people you generally cook for when choosing a capacity.
Some Dutch ovens come with feet on the bottom, allowing them to sit directly over a heat source, which is particularly helpful when cooking outdoors.
Other important details
Many people think of Dutch ovens only in terms of making stews or soups. While excellent at that, Dutch ovens are also suitable for a wide range of cooking methods, such as braising, roasting, and baking. Even sauteéing and frying - like deep-frying those French fries - can be done in a Dutch oven due to its ability to maintain a constant heat.
Also, it is important to note that if you buy a cast-iron Dutch oven without enamel coating, you must season it before use. This keeps food from sticking to the pot and helps maintain the cast iron's properties. Do not season enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch ovens. Attempting to do so could destroy your cookware.
Q. How do I season my pure cast-iron Dutch oven?
A. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Apply a liberal amount of olive oil to a clean cloth or rag, and rub it all over the pot. Put the pot in the oven for an hour or until the smoking stops. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool. Repeat this twice more.
Q. How do I clean my enamel-coated Dutch oven?
A. After cooking, let it cool on the stovetop. If you dunk a hot pot in cold water, the thermal shock could damage the enamel. Hand-wash gently with a sponge, and never use steel wool. You shouldn't need to scrub hard. If food bits are stuck, simply soak your Dutch oven for 15 to 20 minutes in warm water.
Dutch ovens we recommend
Best of the best: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Our take: From a brand synonymous with Dutch ovens, this lifetime investment delivers the highest quality and most versatility of any Dutch oven on the market.
What we like: Le Creuset's blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern technology is used in professional kitchens. This Dutch oven comes in practically every color to match your decor.
What we dislike: This model is a hefty investment, but many users wouldn't dream of using any other brand.
Best bang for your buck: Lodge Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Our take: For a cast-iron Dutch oven at an entry-level price, this is your best bet.
What we like: This Dutch oven has the heat-retention qualities of higher-priced models. The design is attractive enough to go from stovetop to tabletop.
What we dislike: Scratches made by metal utensils could invalidate the lifetime warranty.
Our take: A popular Dutch oven made from anodized aluminum for long-lasting strength.
What we like: It has good heat-transfer properties and comes at a great price point. The glass lid keeps moisture and flavor from escaping.
What we dislike: The pot's lip isn't great for pouring soups and other liquids.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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