As far as cookware goes, nothing is quite like the humble Dutch oven. This versatile and durable item allows you to do so much with so little. Even though it only has a single purpose, you can make all kinds of amazing dishes in it.
If you have not experienced the range of culinary creations that you can make with a dutch oven, then you are sorely missing out. Not only can you use it for meats and vegetables, but stews, breads, and desserts are also a staple of this remarkable device.
Table of Contents
So, with that in mind, let’s take a moment to look at some of the best Dutch ovens on the market today. Each of these models is built to make cooking so much easier, and they are constructed to outlast most of your other equipment. In fact, as long as you take care of your dutch oven, it should last a lifetime.
When looking at different Dutch ovens, you’ll notice that some models have a finish to them, while others are straight cast iron. In this case, the Lodge EC6D43 has a chip-resistant enamel coating, which is beneficial for a couple of reasons.
First, it gives the whole thing a brilliant shine and appearance. Second, it eliminates the need for seasoning the cast iron and makes cleaning much simpler.
As far as performance goes, this dutch oven is pretty standard. It can hold up to six quarts of food, which is perfect for most households. This enables you to serve up to six people at a time if necessary. In fact, we highly recommend that five or six quarts be your minimum size when picking out a dutch oven. Also, you can heat it up to 500 degrees without damaging the enamel coating, which is perfect for slow roasting and baking. Overall, a decent oven at a great price.
Although enamel-coated Dutch ovens like the one above can be beneficial for a few reasons, one of the issues is that eventually, the coating will start to peel off, which can cause problems.
So, if you want to avoid that potential mess, then you may prefer to stick with regular cast iron, like with the L8DOL3 model from Lodge.
What we like most about this model is the lid. It provides some extra room at the top so that you can fit more food inside, such as a bird or a pot roast without having to pack it down. Also, it still creates a tight seal so that all of the heat and juices stay inside and keep your food as juicy and delicious as possible.
The other cool thing about getting a solid cast iron piece is that you can cook on any surface. Enamel only works on modern appliances such as stoves and ovens, but this one will work on a campfire or direct flame as well. Cast iron also lasts forever, so this could potentially be the only Dutch oven you’ll ever buy.
Even though we mentioned that six quarts is the ideal choice for most households, if you are mostly cooking for yourself (or for you and one other person), then you don’t need something so big.
In that case, this 3.2-quart oven may be a better option as it will enable you to make just enough food without creating a ton of leftovers.
Just like the first model that we saw, this unit from Utopia Kitchen comes with an enamel coating. This one is a bit better than the other and will chip much less quickly, making it an ideal choice for people who cook in a Dutch oven on a regular basis.
Overall, this model performs well, and what’s interesting is that even with the enamel finish you can still get some extra iron in your food. Nutritional iron is a natural side effect of using a Dutch oven, so if you are somewhat deficient in that area, this can help.
Next, we have another standard cast iron model, meaning that if you are not entirely sure about enamel finishes, you may prefer to have something old fashioned and built to last. This oven from Utopia Kitchen has all of the features that you will need to make delicious food anywhere.
As with any cast iron piece, you can put this on the stove, the oven, or even an open flame, and it will provide a nice, even heat to whatever is inside.
Other features of this oven include a domed lid so that you have more room to place larger food items, such as a whole chicken or pot roast. Also, this particular unit is much lighter than other ones that we’ve seen. For a five-quart capacity oven, most other models are about 13-15 pounds. This one, however, is about half that.
When comparing this to other similar models, we like this one because it is much easier to clean and provides better heat retention overall. Also, the lid has ridges that allow for water to condense and fall back onto the food, meaning that it is self-basting. Finally, this particular unit can work up to 450 degrees, making it ideal for almost any kind of cooking surface, except for an open flame.
So far, we’ve seen ovens that are either standard cast iron or come with an enamel coating. This next unit from Balichun, however, mixes both to provide you with an exceptional cooking experience.
What’s important to note, though, is that this is a higher end model, meaning that it will cost a bit more than the others we’ve looked at. However, we have to say that the extra investment can be well worth it for something this reliable.
What we like most about this oven is that it uses high-grade iron for the interior. While the exterior is laminated in enamel, the inside isn’t, meaning that you don’t have to worry about chipping. You do have to season it from time to time, but overall, it cooks better than most other ovens.
The other cool thing about Balichun Ovens is that they come with a proprietary lid design. It has bumps on the surface to allow water to condense and baste your food. They are also laid out in such a way that you get more even dripping, which helps enhance the flavor of your meal. Overall, this is one of our favorite Dutch ovens.
As with any other enamel-coated Dutch oven, this model is perfect if you want to cook almost anything right away. There is no need to season the surface, and you don’t have to worry about cooking acidic foods and damaging the material. Finally, it’s also much easier to clean and won’t stick to your meal.
Overall, this particular Dutch oven is decent, but you still have to worry about chipping eventually. We like the fact that the lid has ridges so that it will self-baste, and the durable handles on the sides and lid make it easy to carry and check on your food.
So far, if you thought that Dutch ovens only came in cast iron or enamel coated cast iron, you may be surprised that you can also find other materials, such as this unit from Simply Calphalon.
Unlike the others, this oven is made of anodized aluminum. This makes it much lighter than the rest, and it comes with a non-stick coating so that you don’t have to worry about burns on the bottom.
The other major difference with this oven is that it has a glass lid. While this makes it easier to check on your food to see how well it’s cooking, it won’t seal the heat as well as cast iron, so that is something to consider.
Overall, we like this oven because it has an extra-large capacity, and it also comes with silicone handles. That means that you can carry it much easier since you don’t have to wear thick oven mitts as you would with cast iron. In the end, if convenience is more important to you, this could be a great option.
The lid for this oven doubles as the skillet, which allows you to make even more complete meals as you can braise your main course in the pot and then grill sides on the lid. Both of them come with handles as well, so you don’t have to worry about how to grab the skillet off of the stove. Unfortunately, however, that also means that when using the skillet as a lid, it can be hard to grab with oven mitts since the handles are twice as thick. Still, it is a nice option to have.
Overall, this Dutch oven is pretty standard, with a five-quart capacity and a pre-seasoned interior that lets you start cooking right out of the box. For best results, you may want to add some extra seasoning right away, particularly if you plan on cooking any acidic foods relatively soon.
We already mentioned that six quarts is a great option for best Dutch ovens, as it provides you with ample space in case you need to cook for more than just yourself. However, as we’ve seen, these ovens come in a range of different sizes, so choose one that works best for you. On the low end, we suggest at least three quarts for one to two people, and on the higher end, you will need at least seven quarts if you plan on feeding a large crowd.
The other thing to consider with capacity is the shape of the lid. Traditional Dutch ovens come with a flat lid that allows for coals to be placed on top, but modern varieties are domed. This allows you to fit whole birds and other meats inside without any issue, so keep that in mind.
Since most Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, they can be relatively heavy. In some cases, the thing can weigh almost twenty pounds, so you want to make sure that you can carry it without risk of dropping the whole thing. Also, remember that it will weigh even more when it’s full of food, so be sure to add a few more pounds when considering the overall weight.
The reason that they weigh so much is that the bottom of the oven is super thick. This is to ensure even heat distribution and to avoid hot spots that can burn your food. The thicker the base is, the heavier it is, but also the better it will be for providing even heat. So, you have to decide which is most important to you.
For the most part, cast iron is the preferred metal used for Dutch ovens. The reason for this is that they are built to last a lifetime, meaning that you don’t have to worry about replacing them anytime soon. However, just because cast iron is the most common material doesn’t mean that it’s the best for you. Let’s go over the different options and see how they rank against each other.
If you decide to get this kind of coating, then you will get some incredible benefits right away. That being said, the enamel will eventually start to wear off, so they are not built for long-term use. Overall, this is what you can expect from porcelain-coated Dutch ovens.
● Don’t worry about preparing acidic food
● Ready to cook out of the box
● Easier to clean
● No need for seasoning
● Non-stick surface
● Better appearance and finish
Although these kinds of Dutch ovens are not quite as popular or as available, you can still find some great options that use these lighter metals to provide the same kind of cooking experience. Overall, though, the bases of these ovens are not quite as thick, so they are not as good at even heat distribution. Here are some key points to remember.
● Lighter weight/easier to carry
● Non-stick coating (will come off eventually, though)
● Usually have stay-cool handles
● Most come with glass lids so you can see what’s happening
In the end, if you want a piece of cookware that will last a lifetime and can be passed down to your children, then this material is by far the best way to go. The only thing you have to worry about is seasoning it on a regular basis so that it will retain its non-stick surface. Some key selling points
● Durable and long lasting
● Thicker base provides excellent heat retention
● Provides nutritional iron into your meal
● Fatty foods improve seasoning
● Acidic items wear down the seasoning
● Cook anywhere (even a camp fire)
The final component of your Dutch oven that can improve your cooking experience is the type of lid that you get. As we’ve seen, many of them are designed in such a way that they allow water and juices to condense and drip back onto the food inside, effectively creating a self-basting system.
Overall, lids with bumps are going to allow for more condensation, but ridges are also good. Flat tops won’t work as well, but as long as there is a dome, water will run down the sides. This is true for glass lids as well.
After looking at all of these different variations of the dutch oven, we have to say that our top pick is the Balichun model. Even though it is pricier than the others, if you can find it on sale you will be doing yourself a favor. Everything about this oven is high quality, from the type of iron that they use to the enamel glaze finish and even the shape of the lid. If you want the best dutch oven, this is what we recommend.
A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!