- 1 Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart
- 2 Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Dutch Oven
- 3 Tramontina 6.5 Quart Covered Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- 4 Lodge EC4D33 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 4.5-Quart
- 5 Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 7-1/4-Quart Round French Dutch Oven
- 6 What to Look for When Purchasing a Dutch Oven
- 6.1 Materials:
- 6.2 Anodized Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Cast Iron, or Enameled Cast Iron
- 6.3 Other Problems With These Materials
- 6.4 Dutch Oven Style and Shape – Don’t Sacrifice Style for Function
- 6.5 Dutch Oven Size – Getting the Right Size for Your Kitchen is Important
- 6.6 Dutch Oven Construction – Make Sure It’s Built to Last
- 7 Advantages of Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
- 8 Disadvantages of Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
- 9 How to Maintain Your Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Unfortunately, most cookware sets don’t come with dutch ovens, which is really a shame considering what a crucial piece of cooking equipment they are. What makes them so great? It comes down to their versatility and durability. Saucepans have deep sides like Dutch ovens that hold in the steam that help soften tougher cuts of meat, like briskets, or hard vegetables, like carrots, so that they become more tender as they cook. But you can’t braise meat – lightly fry or sear it, add vegetables, and then put it in the oven at a high temperature for hours to create a roast or a stew – in a saucepan. You can do that in a Dutch oven. You can sear and fry meat in a skillet, but skillets are too shallow to hold in the steam for braising. In addition, neither skillets nor sauce pans have the thick sides and bottoms that allow Dutch ovens to hold a high temperature evenly for all those hours of roasting.
Dutch ovens are made to go from searing meat on the range to roasting it for hours at a consistent high temperature in the oven. You can also use your Dutch oven to simmer large quantities of beans or chili for family gatherings, to make your own soups, to incubate yogurt, and even to bake your own no-knead bread. They are versatile pots that do what other pans cannot, and enameled cast iron Dutch ovens offer many benefits without some of the disadvantages found in Dutch ovens made of other materials.
Read on for our favorites and updated buying guide!
|Brand & Model||Size||Our Rating||Price|
|Le Creuset Signature||7 1/4 Quarts|
|Lodge EC6D43||6 Quarts|
|Le Creuset Signature||5 1/4 Quarts|
|Lodge EC4D33||4 1/2 Quarts|
Lodge’s 6-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven features two coats of porcelain enamel for added durability. The first coat is the matte black enamel that forms the contrasting rim around the top edge of the Dutch oven. There is no exposed cast iron. The cream interior enhances the vibrant Island Spice Red of the exterior on this model, and these are applied as the second coat for a hard, glossy, chip-resistant finish that shades from dark to light for a dramatic, eye-catching look. Although hand washing is recommended, this Lodge Dutch oven is dishwasher safe, and both the knob on the lid and the Dutch oven itself are oven-safe up to 500°F. While it should not be used over an open fire or on your outdoor grill, it can be used on glass, ceramic, induction, gas, and electric cooktops, and it can go from those cooktops directly to your oven. In addition to cooking, the nonreactive, nonporous enamel surface allows you to use it for marinating raw meats, and you can even use it to refrigerate foods for freezing.
The lid fits tightly, retaining moisture, and the cast iron core distributes heat evenly to the sides and bottom. Lodge Dutch ovens retain heat so well that save you money by reducing the amount of energy needed for cooking. The cast iron cores of Lodge Dutch ovens are cast in individual sand molds. Although just as durable, Lodge Dutch ovens are more affordable than many European Dutch ovens. This Dutch oven measures 14” x 7” x 12” and weighs 15.2 pounds.
Lodge was founded in 1896 in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, and it remains as the last American manufacturer of cast iron cookware and the oldest family-owned cookware foundry in the United States. Lodge has been implementing eco-friendly, sustainable manufacturing processes since the passage of the Clean Water and Air Acts in 1970. With the continued development and introduction of eco-responsible practices, in 1991, Lodge earned reclassification from a Large Quantity Generator of Hazardous Waste to a Small Quantity Generator of Hazardous Waste. In 1994, Lodge received the Tennessee Governor’s Award for Excellence in Hazardous Waste Reduction. With additional innovations, the company now operates as a zero hazardous waste stream foundry.
- Receive two coats of enamel for a hard, chip resistant finish.
- Are available in a range of attractive, glossy colors.
- Save on energy costs because heat retention reduces the energy needed for cooking.
- Can be used for freezing, refrigerating, and marinating as well as cooking.
- Can be used on gas, electric, induction, glass, and ceramic cooktops.
- Are manufactured in the United States.
- Are as durable as European Dutch ovens, but are more affordable.
- Are manufactured using sustainable, environmentally responsible practices.
- Should be hand washed, although they are dishwasher safe.
- Are only oven safe up to 500°.
Le Creuset’s Signature enameled cast iron 5-1/2 quart round French (Dutch) oven comes coated inside and out with an advanced enamel that resists chipping and cracking. The wear-resistant enamel also withstands interior stains and dulling and helps prevent food from sticking or burning. The sand colored interior complements the colorful exteriors of Le Creuset’s French (Dutch) ovens while making it easy to monitor cooking. The colors are chosen so that you can be certain of finding the right choice to match your décor, and a 5-1/2 quart, round Dutch oven is a versatile size for day-to-day use. This Dutch oven measures 13.6” x 10.8” x 6.8” and weighs 11.2 pounds.
The ergonomic handles are 45 percent larger and help distribute the weight of the Dutch oven and the food it contains. However, Le Creuset’s high quality cast iron cook wear is the lightest weight per quart that you will find. The larger handles and knob also ensure a secure grip on the Dutch oven and its lid, even through oven mitts. The knob on the lid is made of composite materials that are oven safe up to 500°F. Le Creuset French (Dutch) ovens feature built-in stabilizers for the lids to ensure they fit tightly and do not slide. Le Creuset’s French (Dutch) ovens not only can be used for searing, braising, baking, and stewing but also for stir fry as well as keeping chilled dishes cold in warm weather. You can also use them to freeze or refrigerate food you have made or prepped in advance.
You can use these Dutch ovens on any cooktop surface, including grills, however, because enameled cast iron retains heat so well, you can use lower cooking temperatures. In fact, you should not use high cooktop temperatures to preheat Dutch ovens before reducing the heat for cooking. You should use high cooktop temperatures only when boiling water to cook pasta or vegetables or to thicken sauces or stocks. Overheating can cause food to stick or burn.
- Are the lightest weight per quart that you can find.
- Provide easy-to-grasp, ergonomic handles that are 45 percent larger and help distribute weight.
- Are designed with built-in stabilizers for secure, slide-proof lids.
- Are coated inside and out with an advanced enamel that resists cracks, chips, and stains.
- Can keep chilled dishes cool as well as they keep heated dishes hot.
- Can be used on any cooktop, including grills.
- Can allow food to overheat and burn or stick at high cooktop temperatures.
- Can allow food to burn or stick while stewing.
- Has a composite knob on the lid that is oven-safe, but only up to 500°F.
The Tramontina 6.5 quart covered enameled cast iron Dutch oven in red features sides that slope to make stirring, basting, and serving easy. However, Tramontina Dutch ovens retain and distribute heat so well that meats baste themselves. The heavy lid has a stainless steel knob and fits tightly enough to lock in flavors. This Dutch oven measures 8” x 12” x 16” and weighs 13.8 pounds. You can use it to prepare soups, stews, meats, bread, and even cobbler. Tramontina Dutch ovens are oven safe up to 450°F, but the handles will be hot and should only be handled with oven mitts. Tramontina Dutch ovens come in a range of colors to match your décor. While the contrasting cream enamel lining the interior of the Dutch oven makes seasoning unnecessary, Tramontina nevertheless recommends seasoning the exposed cast iron around the rim of the Dutch oven.
Hand wash the Dutch oven and its lid in warm, soapy water before using it for the first time and dry it thoroughly. Rub cooking oil lightly around the rim onto the exposed cast iron, and then heat the Dutch oven at 350°F for one hour. After it cools, your Dutch oven will be ready to use. Dutch ovens are made for moist rather than dry cooking, so even when searing meat before moving it to the oven, you should add oil or liquid butter before placing it over heat on the cooktop. You should also avoid cutting foods on the enamel surface or tapping utensils on the rim of the Dutch oven to remove clinging food. Either of these could damage the enamel.
Use of high heat on the cooktop can also discolor the enamel and damage the Dutch oven. Low to moderate heat is all that is needed, even when searing meat. You should not preheat your Dutch oven or allow gas flames to overheat the handles by climbing up the sides. Leave your Dutch oven on the cooktop heating element only as long as needed for cooking or boiling, and, to avoid scratching a glass or ceramic cooktop, always lift the Dutch oven off of the unit. Avoid sliding it.
- Has sloped sides that make basting, stirring, and serving easier.
- Has a heavy, tight-fitting lid that locks in moisture and flavor.
- Has an oven-safe stainless steel knob on the lid.
- Reduces energy costs by reducing the temperature needed for cooking.
- Is oven-safe only to 450°F.
- Requires seasoning for the exposed cast iron around the rim of the Dutch oven.
Lodge’s EC4D33 enameled cast iron 4.5 quart Dutch oven in Caribbean blue is a smaller Dutch oven that would be perfect for couples. Singles, from students to seniors and everyone in between, could even use it for make ahead meals by eating a portion and freezing the rest for later. The exterior of this Dutch oven measures 13.4” x 11.8” x 6’5”. The interior has a 4-quart capacity and measures 10” in diameter and 4” deep. It weighs 12.9 pounds. While Lodge makes the rest of its products at its foundry in Tennessee, this Dutch oven is made in China according to Lodge’s strict specifications. Lodge Dutch ovens feature two coats of enamel. The first layer is black matte. The second layer includes colorful enameled exteriors with contrasting, complementary white enamel lining the interior. The black line around the rim is the black matte layer of enamel. No cast iron is exposed on Lodge Dutch ovens, so no seasoning is required.
The nonporous enamel lining allows you to use this Dutch oven for marinating raw meats with wine. You also can use it to store pre-prepared foods in the refrigerator or freezer as well as for cooking. The lid comes with a stainless steel knob and fits so tightly that it traps heat, nutrients, and moisture, allowing meats to self-baste. Lodge Dutch ovens save you money by retaining heat and reducing the amount of energy needed for cooking. This Dutch oven and the stainless steel handle on the lid are oven-safe to 500°F. While hand washing is recommended, you can occasionally put this Dutch oven in the dishwasher. Because of the cast iron core, you cannot use a Dutch oven in the microwave. Further, Lodge does not recommend using this Dutch oven on an open fire or on a grill. You can use it on gas, electric, induction, ceramic, and glass cooktops. To avoid scratching glass or ceramic cooktops, however, always lift the Dutch oven from the unit. Avoid sliding it.
- Offers the perfect size Dutch oven for couples and singles.
- Does not require seasoning.
- Can occasionally be put in the dishwasher.
- Seals so tightly it traps nutrients, moisture, and heat, allowing meats to self-baste.
- Has two coats of enamel for greater durability.
- Can be used for freezing, refrigeration, cooking, and marinating raw meat in wine.
- Can be used on gas, electric, induction, glass, and ceramic cooktops.
- Is oven-safe only to 500°F.
- Is manufactured in China, although Lodge is based in the United States.
- Could scratch a glass or ceramic cooktop.
Like the 5-1/2 quart Le Creuset Signature enameled cast iron French Dutch oven, this Le Creuset Signature enameled cast iron 7-1/4 quart round French Dutch oven has the same advanced enamel coating inside and out that resists chipping, cracking, wear, dulling, and stains. The colorful enamel exteriors make it easy to pick a French Dutch oven to match your décor, while the sand-colored interiors won’t reflect color on the food, which could make it difficult to judge browning and cooking progress. The advanced enamel of the interior also helps prevent food from burning and sticking.
The over-sized, ergonomic handles on both the French Dutch oven and on the lid are 45 percent larger to offer a better grip through heavy oven mitts. The handles on the Dutch oven are also designed to help better distribute the weight of the Dutch oven and the food. Built-in stabilizers help keep the lid from sliding and provide a more secure fit. This Dutch oven measures 11.6” x 14.1” x 7” and weighs just 12.8 pounds. Per quart, Le Creuset manufactures the lightest, high-quality, enameled cast iron cook wear available. Le Creuset French Dutch ovens and the composite handles on the lids are oven-safe up to 500°F. Le Creuset French Dutch ovens can help keep your hot dishes hot and your cold dishes cold.
You can use them for stews, slow-cooked casseroles, searing meat, baking, and even stir fry or marinating raw meat in wine. However, you should not set your cooktop to a high temperature when using your French Dutch oven unless you are using it to boil pasta or vegetables or thicken sauce or a stock. Because enameled cast iron Dutch ovens retain heat so well, energy- and money-saving low to moderate temperatures are all that are needed. Overheating can cause food to stick and burn.
- Has an advanced enameled coating inside and out that helps prevent chipping, cracking, dulling, staining, burning, and sticking.
- Has 45 percent larger, ergonomic handles that provide for better grip with oven mitts.
- Has built-in stabilizers that keep the lid from sliding and ensure a tighter fit.
- Keeps hot dishes hot and cold dishes cold.
- Retains heat so well that you can save energy by cooking at lower temperatures.
- Is oven safe only to 500°F.
- Could allow food to stick or burn at high temperatures.
What to Look for When Purchasing a Dutch Oven
When purchasing a Dutch oven consider the materials used to manufacture it, and its style, shape, size, and construction.
Anodized Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Cast Iron, or Enameled Cast Iron
Both anodized aluminum and stainless steel are lighter than cast iron. That makes them easier to handle, especially for someone who lacks wrist or arm strength. However, because they are made of lighter weight materials, Dutch ovens of stainless steel or anodized aluminum will cool off more quickly than Dutch ovens containing cast iron. That means, when you have a roast or stew in the oven for hours, and the oven cycles on and off, a Dutch oven made of stainless steel or anodized aluminum may not maintain the temperature of the food as steadily as a Dutch oven made of cast iron or enameled cast iron. Because they are heavier, cast iron and high-quality enameled cast iron Dutch ovens can be used at high temperatures, and they maintain the temperature steadily and evenly over longer periods of time. This is a benefit for roasting and braising.
Dutch ovens made of any of the four materials – enameled cast iron, cast iron, anodized aluminum, and stainless steel – can go from the range to the oven, depending on compatibility with the cooktop. In addition, cast iron Dutch ovens can be used on your grill. Cast iron and enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are compatible with induction cooktops, but anodized aluminum and stainless steel may not be. Stainless steel’s compatibility depends on now much nickel was used in its manufacture. Too much nickel blocks the magnetic field used by induction cooking. Anodized aluminum Dutch ovens require a magnetic layer in the bottom of the Dutch oven to be used for induction cooking. To test the compatibility of a stainless steel or anodized aluminum Dutch oven, place a magnet on the bottom. If it doesn’t hold, or the connection is weak, that Dutch oven cannot be used on an induction cooktop. Cast iron should not be used on glass or ceramic cooktops, but Dutch ovens made of anodized aluminum, stainless steel, or enameled cast iron will not damage the surface and are safe to use. Because all Dutch ovens are made of metal, they cannot be used in your microwave.
Other Problems With These Materials
Sadly, we’ve learned that enamels of a lower quality may flake off from heat damage caused by use at higher temperatures, so read the manufacturer’s temperature recommendations before making a purchase. In addition, and also sadly, the bright, shiny surface of a stainless steel Dutch oven becomes dark and discolored and may become prone to scratches if it is used at a temperature above 500°. Stainless steel also can be hard to clean, and it can pit. Some enameled cast iron Dutch ovens and those made of anodized aluminum offer easy-to-clean nonstick surfaces.
If it is well-seasoned, non-enameled cast iron has a nonstick surface as well. Seasoning also counteracts cast iron’s tendency to react with acidic or alkaline foods over short cooking times, but when these foods simmer for long periods, as they do in a Dutch oven, the cast iron can still react with them. That can cause discoloration and change the taste of the food. Aluminum reacts to foods that contain sulfur as well as acidic and alkaline foods although anodized aluminum has been hardened to make it less reactive. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggs, beans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, beef, and chicken all contain sulfur. Any of them could end up simmering in a Dutch oven and reacting with the metal.
Another problem is that cast iron will rust, so it cannot be washed in a dishwasher. When it is washed, it must be dried thoroughly and quickly. You cannot air dry it. Cast iron also must be re-seasoned periodically.
Dutch Oven Style and Shape – Don’t Sacrifice Style for Function
Dutch ovens come in two styles, modern and “old-fashioned.” Modern Dutch ovens are most often used for cooking indoors, although cast iron Dutch ovens can be used on a grill. They come in two shapes, round and oval. The oval shape is popular for no-knead breads, and that shape does make it easy to remove a roast turkey, chicken, or goose after its been cooked. However, the round shape makes better contact with the round heating element on cooktops. The ends of the oval shape may extend beyond the round heating element of the cooktop, creating uneven heating.
The “old-fashioned” style of Dutch oven can be made of aluminum or cast iron. These have three or four legs and tight-fitting flat lids. They are used for cooking outdoors over an open fire, and the flat lid allows these Dutch ovens to be surrounded by charcoal briquettes, above, below, and around the sides. Because aluminum Dutch ovens are more affected by wind, breezes, and changes in temperature, they require more briquettes than a cast iron Dutch oven does to maintain the cooking temperature. For that reason, cast iron Dutch ovens are preferred for camping unless weight is a factor, such as for a backpacking or canoeing trip. The handle or bail of the “old-fashioned” Dutch oven arcs from one side of the oven to the other in a half circle for carrying or to hang the Dutch oven above the fire on a tripod for simmering beans or stews at a lower heat. When these Dutch ovens are sitting directly over a fire for cooking at a higher temperature, as when you are searing meat, you should be able to tilt the handle back away from the fire to keep it cool.
Dutch Oven Size – Getting the Right Size for Your Kitchen is Important
Oval Dutch ovens range in size from 3 quarts to 9+ quarts, and round Dutch ovens range from 2 quarts to 13+ quarts When deciding what size of Dutch oven you need, consider how you will use it. If you will be making soups, stews, and beans just for your family, a smaller Dutch oven might be sufficient. However, we find that Dutch ovens with volumes of 5 quarts or less are too small for a chicken or a roast. That is why, in general, we recommend purchasing a Dutch oven with a volume of 6 quarts or more. For couples and singles, smaller Dutch ovens are perfect. If you have a larger family, you may want to choose a Dutch oven with a volume of 9 quarts or more, and if you entertain large groups regularly, you might want to have a second Dutch oven on hand for those occasions.
Dutch Oven Construction – Make Sure It’s Built to Last
Dutch ovens should have skillet-like, wide, flat bottoms to allow for searing meat, but sauce pan-like high walls to hold in moisture for stewing and braising. Nevertheless, your Dutch oven should be wider than it is high. A Dutch oven should feel heavy when you pick it up. Its walls should be thick, and the bottom should be as thick as the sides. The lid should also be thick and feel heavy. It should fit tightly to hold in the steam or moist heat needed for braising and stewing. While the lids of “old-fashioned” or “camp Dutch ovens” are flat, the lids of modern Dutch ovens are rounded or domed. The handle on the lid will be either a loop or a knob, and the handles on the Dutch oven itself will be short ear-like projections from the sides of the pot.
Remember that you will be using your Dutch oven at very high temperatures over extended periods of time, so when you remove it from the oven, it will be very hot. You will be handling both the Dutch oven and its lid while wearing heavy oven mitts. Be certain that you can grasp the handles easily and firmly and maintain your grip with mitts on your hands. If you have decided to disregard our recommendation (But, why would you?) and consider a Dutch oven made of anodized aluminum or stainless steel instead of enameled cast iron, be certain that the handles are securely attached to the Dutch oven, that they are oven safe, and that they are sturdy enough to support a heavy Dutch oven full of very hot food. You may be able to protect a wood or glass knob by covering it with aluminum foil, but consider replacing either one with a stainless steel knob.
Don’t buy a Dutch oven with flimsy or plastic handles, or replace them if you do. With proper care, Dutch ovens last for decades. You may even pass yours on to the next generation. So, consider the purchase of a Dutch oven to be an investment that will easily pay for itself, and buy the best one that you can currently afford.
Advantages of Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
- Maintain cooking temperature consistently over extended periods.
- Do not require seasoning.
- Can go from cooktop to oven.
- Can be used on all cooktops, including induction, glass, and ceramic.
- Do not react with acidic, alkaline, or sulfurous foods.
- Can be used for stewing, braising, baking, incubating yogurt, marinating raw meat in wine, and simmering soups and sauces.
- Can occasionally be placed in the dishwasher.
- Can be air dried.
- Are available in a wide range of colors, so you can match your kitchen décor.
Disadvantages of Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
- Are heavy, especially when filled with food.
- Do not have a nonstick surface.
- Can become chipped or cracked.
- Can suffer from wear due to abrasion, particularly when placed in the dishwasher too often.
- Cannot be cleaned with abrasive tools or cleaners.
- Can flake after exposure to high temperatures if the enamel is of lower quality.
- Are more expensive than Dutch ovens made of other materials.
- Cannot be used in a microwave.
How to Maintain Your Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Enameled cast iron does not need to be seasoned, and it occasionally can be washed in the dishwasher if you’re in a hurry. It also can air dry. Resorting to frequent use of the dishwasher can cause wear on the enamel, however. The best way to care for your enameled cast iron Dutch oven is to wash it by hand with soap and water. If you have difficulty cleaning some spots, let the Dutch oven soak in soap and water and then gently use a plastic brush on the tough spot. The enameled surface can chip and wear with abrasion, so do not clean it or scrub at it with abrasive tools or cleaners such as a steel wool pad or scouring powder.