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The only kitchen tool that can compete with my cast iron skillets for cooking is my Dutch oven (also known as a cocotte if you want to be fancy). Both a skillet and a Dutch oven are incredibly versatile, and in fact, a convincing argument could be made that one Dutch oven and a couple of cast iron pans are the only cooking tools your kitchen really needs.
Like my favorite skillets, the best Dutch ovens are made from cast iron, which more effectively retains and disperses heat and can be moved from stovetop to oven and vice versa. The ability to saute, bake, and serve a single recipe without transferring dishes widens the world of one-pot meals available to busy home chefs, and significantly cuts down on washing-up time. The best Dutch ovens are actually popular for a variety of other uses too, like creating a firm crust when baking bread or cooking pasta directly in its sauce. The real question is how to choose the best one.
What Makes a Good Dutch Oven?
When it comes to shopping for the best dutch ovens, it can be hard to tell what features are most important when (and why these pots tend to be so pricey), so here are a few things we like to keep in mind.
Size: Dutch ovens range from itty bitty 1/4-quart capacities all the way up to a 13-quart capacity. Dutch ovens on the smallest and largest ends of the spectrum may work well for very specific occasions, though the standard size Dutch oven has a five to seven-quart capacity, which is ideal for most uses. Slightly smaller Dutch ovens, with a three to four-quart capacity, may be even more convenient if you tend to cook in smaller batches.
Shape: Most Dutch ovens are circular in shape, though they also come in oval varieties. You’ll get the most use out of a round dutch oven, which more evenly heats over a burner, though oval shapes may work best for roasting certain cuts of meat.
Appearance: One of the Dutch oven’s biggest selling points is undoubtedly that it can double as a serving dish, meaning it should suit your personal aesthetic. We’ve included some popular Dutch ovens in bold, bright colors, that can double as dining table decor.
1. Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte
If the Le Creuset is the William Shakespeare of Dutch ovens, Staub is the Christopher Marlowe — maybe not as well-known but arguably just as good or even better. This four-quart cast iron pot retains and evenly disperses heat exceptionally well, while the tight-fitting lid is designed to better retain moisture. The lid’s interior is dotted with small spikes that release condensed liquid while cooking which distributes moisture more effectively. This is a cooking workhorse that can bake, broil and more with ease.
2. Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven
You might recognize the Lodge brand from cast iron skillets, but we appreciate the high quality of the Lodge Dutch oven as well. In addition to the even heat retention that’s signature to all cast iron cookware, the Lodge Dutch oven features a smooth glass surface that’s ultra-durable and cool to the touch. The slight curve at the bottom edge of the Lodge does slightly reduce the heated surface area, but this is a nitpick. If you want an easy-to-use and reliable Dutch oven, you can’t go wrong with this pick.
3. Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Round Dutch Oven
When you think “Dutch oven” it’s the Le Creuset that probably comes to mind first. Some of the elements that make this cocotte such a standout are the ergnomic knobs and handles designed for easy lifting, as well as it’s light weight (lightest weight on the market according to the manufacturer).
We also like the light-colored interior, different from most other pots, which makes it easier to monitor the cooking process. The durable design transfer easily from to stove-top to oven to dinner table.
4. AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven
While the quality of the Amazon basics Dutch oven is not quite up to par with our other favorites, it definitely hits all the most important points — including heat retention, enamel finish, and secure fitting lid. The biggest downside is that while other Dutch ovens can be used with high heat and ovens up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, this pot has a 400 degree Fahrenheit ceiling. Still, for casual chefs or someone trying out Dutch ovens for the first time, this is a worthwhile buy. There are a ton of great color options available too.