The Dutch Oven. There is a lot of guessing about how the name came about, but legend has it that a man named Abraham Darby traveled to Holland in the early 1700s to find out about a Dutch metal casting process. Ultimately, he went back to England, re-created and patented it, naming it after the Dutch whom he copied. When I was little I thought that’s what Pannenkoekens had to be made in. I suppose you could indeed use it for that, but there is a whole world of recipes and cooking techniques that you can use this special and versatile dish with.
I suppose you could even consider the dutch oven to be a casserole dish of a sort, however, it has so many other uses! I use mine at least three or four times a week. They are great for nearly any task from browning hamburger meat for homemade bolognese or making chili in, or braising beef for beef stroganoff.
My dutch ovens are absolutely invaluable to me at any time of year. However, during the holidays I feel that they can really shine because they are the perfect cooking and serving dishes for the creamed corn and stuffing that accompany every Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas Day feast. This dish style also works wonders as a serving dish for roasted vegetables and soups.
The best part about this whole “oven to table” thing is fewer dishes! I am a lazy chef, I love to work hard and I hate to do dishes. So anything that makes the clean up easier makes me happy. Did I mention you can store the leftovers in them too?
The dutch oven is the second of my holiday “must-haves” because, like the roasting pan, it will make your holidays a breeze. Plus you can use it all year round.
I’ve already mentioned a few of the items I use it for. However I’ve also used it to roast chickens, braise meat, make stews and soups, large soufflés, and of course stuffing and creamed corn at Thanksgiving.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHEN PURCHASING
First and foremost – as Alton Brown used to say (still says?) in Good Eats — the only piece of equipment in your kitchen that has only one use should be the fire extinguisher. I totally agree. So this dish should be something you want to use all year round and for a variety of things.
As I mentioned before – I am a lazy chef. So ideally I’d like to have something that I can cook and serve in.
I also think that it’s important for the dish to be the proper size for your cabinets and your ovens.
How many people do you typically cook for? 2? 5? 10? That also should determine the size you need. 2 people could get by with a 3-4Qt Dutch oven, however, 5-10 may want to think about a 5-7.5 or 12Qt size. If you are hoping to roast small birds (broiler chickens etc) then definitely consider the 5-7.5 Qt. You won’t regret it. If you are a bulk-meal-prepper and like to make big batches of stock, soups, or whatever it may be, consider 7+ Qt.
And of course – how do you want to use this dish? This dish should allow you to work with comfortably familiar recipes as well as open up a few new doors to cooking techniques you may not have thought of (i.e. braising, slow roasting, etc.).
Below I have listed 3 main suggestions with some alternatives, starting with my third choice and going up to my first choice. These also correlate with price, the least expensive is listed first and the most expensive last. Sorry – when it comes to Dutch ovens I have expensive taste – I do use them all the time though so for me it’s well worth it.
For around $50 you can get a decent Dutch oven with great ratings. It comes with a 1-year limited warranty, is induction cook-top safe, and oven safe up to 400 F. (Note the other two are oven safe up to 500 F, so if you typically cook at above 400 you may want to nix this option). Consumers have high praise for this item, giving it around 4.5 stars. This is a great option if you are just getting interested in cooking with dutch ovens.
The downsides: Hard to find in stock! Select colors in select sizes will ship in a few days, but this is a hot commodity on Amazon. If you’re willing to spend a bit more and gain a dishwasher safe alternative, check out the highly rated and comparable Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron 7 Qt Dutch Oven.
Lodge Cast Iron Enameled Dutch Oven
If you’re more than a little interested in cooking, willing to increase your skin in the game, but not quite ready to spend the money on Le Creuset or Staub, this is a great alternative. The lodge is one of the best and most reliable names in the business and can handle some pretty serious wear and tear. It’s the same idea as the Le Creuset but a slightly different design style and not as many colors or sizes to choose from.
The quality will be quite similar though. Both are enameled to keep acidic foods from leaching out metals from the cast iron, which also makes both very easy to clean. This is also induction cooktop friendly – however, be careful as these pots are heavy and can damage the surface.
That being said, the reliable and even heat distribution will allow you to do everything the Le Creuset can but at a much more attractive price.
They also have a 7 Qt Enameled Oval Dutch Oven that’s large enough for a Turkey if you would like to get a more versatile roasting pan.
The downsides: No mention of a lifetime warranty on the website, so make sure you adhere to cleaning guidelines precisely. The nice thing is, each pot comes with pot protectors, little plastic U-shaped pieces that you keep on your pot while storing so the lid doesn’t fit all the way – this prevents moisture buildup as well as scratching.
My favorite dutch oven of all time is the Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven. (I’m in good company considering it’s also the number 1 recommendation of America’s test kitchen) I have a 2 Qt and a 5 Qt size, and I use them all the time.
The thing I love about Le Creuset is that they have every size you can imagine to fit any need you, and any potential guests, may have. If you live alone and want to cook something for yourself, get the 1 or 2 Qt! Have a big family? Try 10!
The other nice thing about this is the lifetime warranty. I can tell you that after years of wear and tear, plus countless moves, plus almost daily cooking my 2 Qt still works as good as the day I got it. Of course, natural wear starts showing, as is to be expected, but no cracking or peeling of any kind and still incredibly easy to clean. Some reviews online in their recipe section say that users have made things in pots that are over a decade old!
The downsides: it’s pretty expensive, so you’ve got to be serious about wanting it. The good news though, Le Creuset often has sales and items that are at a huge discount. In fact, today they have 6 3/4 Qt Round and Wide Dutch Oven on sale here.