What is a Dutch Oven and Why Everyone Needs One

With such an exotic name for something pretty simple, what exactly is a Dutch oven? Dutch ovens are heavy cooking pots with tight-fitting lids that can be used either on a stove top, in the oven, or a combination of both. The heavy lid and thick walls supply even, radiating heat to every part of your meal cooking inside, making it a favorite to braise dishes. It's ideal for steady and slow cooking recipes because of the excellent heat retention you can count on from your trusty Dutch oven. Enameled cast iron dutch ovens are expensive, but worth keeping in the kitchen.

A Dutch oven is a piece of cookware that every home cook needs and every bride registers for right alongside a KitchenAid stand mixer. Browse through Macy's, William Sonoma, or on Amazon and you'll marvel at the beauty of Dutch ovens and the promise of future meals cooked.

Whether your Dutch oven was passed down to you from your mom or you received it as gift, a Dutch oven shouldn't be stored away unseen. Use dutch ovens more often for gorgeous, evenly cooked meals. Keep it on your stove top or on top of your cabinets. Stick some fake flowers in it until it's cooking time to add to that homey beauty of this cast-iron pot with tons of versatility.

You will use this heavy-duty pot for browning meat and caramelizing onions and carrots. Think beef stew. The best feature is about using your Dutch oven is that you can stick the whole shebang into the oven for braising or roasting. No extra pots to clean and no messy transfers where half ends up on the floor. Go ahead and use it for cooking pasta too. You'll find you really only need your Dutch oven to survive in the kitchen. Sturdier than a frying pan and ready for whatever cooking technique you have up your sleeve, It's pretty much a trusty Stockpot 2.0.

Shopping For Dutch Ovens

If Dutch oven cooking sounds like it will work for you, get one now! Many retailers stock Le Creuset and Staub brands as top-of-the-line options. Lodge and Cuisinart are great ones too for durability.

You will see ceramic and stainless steel Dutch ovens, but most professionals consider the best dutch ovens to be heavy-duty cast iron cookware. The benefit of cast iron is the excellent heat retention and its ability to handle super high temps. Keep in mind that the pot itself is very heavy without counting that pot roast or chili you may put in there, so those with sensitive joints should be careful.

Five and a half quarts is a common size but smaller sizes are available too if you don't often have an army to feed. A smaller size is also easier to lift and fits better into a smaller kitchen. Choose the size that fits your lifestyle.

Styles with a pretty outer enamel coating are easier to clean, but nonstick coatings on the inside can actually have a downside. They might not handle the same high heat as a cast iron dutch oven and the coating eventually chips away with regular use.

What About My Beloved Crock Pot?

Instant Pots and slow cookers or crockpots are basically Dutch ovens that use electricity instead of stovetop heat. They all have tight-fitting lids and tolerance for high-temperature cooking, but crock pots aren't oven safe and sometimes you just can't replace a meal cooked by good old-fashioned fire.

Kitchen Tips

Bake bread in your Dutch oven for even heat and moisture retention!

Sear meat in your oven by heating the pot first and then adding in the meat along with the oil. This will keep the oil from burning from the surprisingly great heat retention.

Resist the urge to keep lifting the lid! Trust me, I know it's hard.

Invest in some high-heat oven mitts. If you're giving this cookware as a gift, these are a much-appreciated add-on gift! If you're serving right from the pot on the kitchen table, place a chunky wood cutting board down first!

Deglaze all the flavor-filled browned bits of meat with some wine or beef broth to make delicious gravy. No extra saucepan required!

Even if your oven is labeled dishwasher safe, just hand wash instead. It will keep it looking better longer.