A Dutch oven is one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you have (or probably don’t) in your kitchen.
It’s also one of the most underused and undervalued.
Cast iron dutch ovens come from a golden age, from a period in time when carefully and mindfully cooking a meal was an act of love. Parents and grandparents would spend hours preparing ingredients and more hours still slow-cooking delicious, aromatic meals in their dutch oven for the whole family.
The advent of the digital age saw the ways of cooking fade into obscurity, with simpler, more efficient methods and one-touch appliances taking the place of traditional cookware.
However, as we embrace sustainability and eco-friendliness in an attempt to save the planet, cast iron, ceramic, and stainless steel dutch ovens are becoming increasingly more popular, and your grandparent’s cooking methods are making a comeback.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of cooking with a dutch oven to get the non-professional chef serving up marvelous meals using this handy bit of kit.
What Types Of Dutch Ovens Are Available?
Dutch ovens are made from a variety of materials, each with unique properties, so you’ll need to choose the right style for you.
Ceramic Dutch ovens are the healthiest options (don’t confuse ceramic cookware with ceramic coated products, which are not the same thing) as they won’t leech potential harmful toxins into your food. The downside is that these Dutch ovens are usually expensive and not particularly robust.
Stainless steel Dutch ovens are the least popular because they don’t distribute heat as evenly as cast iron and are much harder to clean than ceramic. However, stainless steel is far lighter than other materials, making these Dutch ovens much easier to handle, especially when they’re full.
Of course, the most popular Dutch oven is a cast iron piece of cookware, usually an enameled Dutch oven. Cast iron is affordable, almost indestructible, and retains high heat better than any other cookware materials. Though there’s a trade-off between the benefits, cast iron requires occasional seasoning and can be more challenging to clean.
What’s The Right Size Dutch Oven For Me?
Sizes of Dutch ovens range from the minuscule 0.5 quart (ideal for single portions) to cavernous 15-quart pots (perfect if you’re feeding an army). For the average American family (3.15 people), a 4 to 6-quart Dutch oven will be more than enough for delicious stews, casseroles, chilis, and even an 8lb chicken.
OvenSpot has an extensive Dutch oven ‘size chart’ to determine the perfect size to meet your needs.
What Can I Cook In A Dutch Oven?
Here’s the fun part.
Because you can use Dutch ovens on any stovetop (unless you buy ceramic), they’re oven safe, use them on a grill, or even take them on a camping trip to cook on an open fire, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Listed below are some of the best Dutch oven recipes.
- Pot Roast
- Mac & Cheese
- Roast Chicken
- Seared Steak
- Chicken Stock
- One-Pot Spaghetti
- Braised Beef
That list is not even close to being exhaustive, but you get the gist. A Dutch oven is a one-stop-shop for cooking almost any meal imaginable.
How Long Do Dutch Ovens Last?
That depends on what style of Dutch oven you buy. Truth be told, though a fully ceramic Dutch oven is the healthiest option, they can be fragile, and chances are, at some point you’ll drop or bang it, and a hairline fracture could end its life.
Stainless steel cookware is far more robust, though it’s prone to dents and scratches. However, a decent stainless steel Dutch oven could last for many years before it needs replacing.
Whereas a good enameled cast iron Dutch oven will likely exceed your lifetime and the lifetimes of your children. These things are virtually impossible to break, making them a great choice and even better value for money.
Are Dutch Ovens Expensive?
The most famous brand of Dutch ovens is, without a doubt, Le Cruset. Their products are the pinnacle of premium cookware, but that makes them ridiculously expensive. But do you have to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a decent Dutch oven? Absolutely not.
There are some excellent yet affordable, enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens that cost well under $100 and will last for generations if you take a good care of them. Once you go Dutch, you won’t spend that much.
Should I Buy a Dutch Oven?
Yes. Yes, you absolutely should. If you could have only one pan in your kitchen, it should be an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. It’s a skillet, saucepan, roasting pan, slow cooker, and stockpot all rolled into one.
Regardless of what you like to cook and where you want to cook it, you can use a Dutch oven almost anywhere for a huge variety of meals.