Things to consider when Buying the Best Dutch Ovens
Whether you're a seasoned chef or an enthusiastic home cook, a Dutch oven is a must-have tool in your kitchen arsenal. In this buying guide, we'll give you the best features to look for when finding the perfect Dutch oven to elevate your cooking experience.
Choosing the Right Material
The choice of material is crucial when selecting a Dutch oven as it significantly impacts its performance, durability, and versatility in the kitchen. Here are some of the best materials to consider for your Dutch oven:
Stainless steel: Dutch ovens made of stainless steel are renowned for their dependability, simplicity of care, and resistance to corrosion. They are relatively lightweight and offer good heat conductivity. However, stainless steel Dutch ovens may not retain heat as effectively as other materials, leading to less efficient cooking results. They also tend to have thinner walls and may lack a heavy and tight-fitting lid, which can affect heat retention and cooking performance. Bare cast iron: Popular for their excellent heat retention, these ovens are also known for their even heat distribution. They excel at slow cooking and are ideal for dishes that require long simmering or braising. Bare cast iron can withstand high temperatures and can be used on stovetops, in ovens, or even over open fires. However, bare cast iron requires special care, including regular seasoning, to maintain its non-stick properties and prevent rust. It can also transfer flavors to dishes, which can be desirable in some cases but not ideal for certain ingredients. Enameled cast iron: These devices combine the benefits of cast iron with the added convenience of an easy-to-clean, non-reactive enamel coating. The enamel layer prevents flavor transfer, making it suitable for a wide range of dishes, including acidic or tomato-based recipes. Enameled cast iron provides excellent heat retention and distribution, allowing for even cooking. Although they come with a higher price tag, enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are durable and can be passed down through generations with proper care. Ceramic: As a more lightweight alternative to cast iron, ceramic Dutch ovens are a go-to for beginners. They are versatile and can be used for stovetop cooking and baking in the oven. Ceramic Dutch ovens are great for dishes like stews and soups. Do note, however, that they are more susceptible to cracking or shattering if exposed to sudden temperature changes or accidental drops. So, it's important to handle them with care and avoid drastic temperature variations. Finding the Right Size
When it comes to Dutch ovens, size matters. It's important to consider your cooking needs and whether you'll be preparing meals for a small household or larger gatherings. If you're planning to cook for holidays or events, a larger Dutch oven that can handle the volume is a smart choice.
For most situations, a Dutch oven in the 5–6 quart range strikes a perfect balance. It comfortably serves multiple people and can even accommodate whole chickens. On the other hand, if you're looking to impress with individual mini-dishes or side presentations, a smaller 1-quart Dutch oven is ideal.
But what if you're hosting a large holiday party? In that case, you'll want to go big with a massive 15.5-quart Dutch oven. This size can handle an entire turkey or bone-in ham with ease.
Deciding Between Round or Oval for Optimal Stove Compatibility
The decision between a round or oval Dutch oven depends on the shape of your stove burners and the cooking methods you prefer.
For most stoves with circular burners, a round Dutch oven is the natural choice. It sits perfectly on the burner, allowing for even cooking. However, if you opt for an oval Dutch oven, you need to ensure that you have larger burners to accommodate its elongated shape. This is important to guarantee even heat distribution and prevent any portion of the Dutch oven from hanging over the perimeter of the circular burner.
Some stoves feature super-sized circular burners that can accommodate larger oval Dutch ovens without any issues. Additionally, gas stoves may have specialty elliptical-shaped gas burners that work well with oval Dutch ovens.
However, the shape of the stove burner is less important if you use your Dutch oven mostly in the oven for roasting chicken or baking bread. Regardless of the shape of the Dutch oven, cooking will always be constant in the oven due to the more even heat dispersion.
The Interior Color Dilemma: Light vs. Dark
When choosing a Dutch oven, it's also worth considering the color of the interior. You'll typically find options with either a black interior or a lighter color, like tan. Here are a few things to bear in mind:
Lighter interiors: These offer the advantage of better visibility while cooking. The bright environment allows you to easily see the contents of the pot, making it convenient to monitor browning butter or the color of sauces. However, over time, light interiors may develop slight discoloration from cooking and can show lines or cracks called crazing, which is purely cosmetic and doesn't affect performance. Additionally, scratches from cooking tools, especially metal ones, may be more visible on a light interior. Dark interiors: These are more forgiving when it comes to hiding crazing, scuffs, and scratches over time. Even with heavy use and constant stirring, the dark interior keeps your Dutch oven looking new and pristine. However, it's worth noting that using the oven hood light or having ample lighting in the kitchen can help improve visibility inside the dark interior pan. Specially Designed Dutch Oven Lids
While not essential, specially designed lids have the potential to elevate the flavors of your dishes. Here's what to look for:
Spiked lid designs: Some Dutch ovens have lids with rounded metal spikes on the underside. These spikes serve a purpose beyond aesthetics—they help distribute condensation evenly back onto the food, ensuring it stays moist and flavorful throughout the cooking process. Raised rings: In addition to spiked lids, you may find Dutch oven lids with raised rings. These rings assist in basting the food with condensation as it forms, enhancing the tenderness and succulence of your dish. Standard lids: Alternatively, some lids don't have special features like spikes or rings. In these cases, the condensation simply drips back down the inside walls of the pot, still contributing to the overall moisture level of the food. Effortless Stovetop Cooking
When it comes to stovetop compatibility, Dutch ovens offer versatility to accommodate various types of burners. Here's what you need to know:
Round Dutch Ovens: The majority of round Dutch ovens are designed to fit perfectly on standard round stovetop burners, including induction, gas, and electric. This means you can confidently use your Dutch oven on any of these common stovetop types without any issues. Oval Dutch Ovens: While oval Dutch ovens have a different shape, you don't necessarily need a specially sized oval burner to use them. They can still be placed on two burners that are close to each other or even on a standard round burner. The beauty of our enameled cast iron construction is its ability to evenly distribute heat, ensuring that your food is perfectly cooked even if it's not directly positioned over the burner.