Best Dutch Oven Cookware Reviews 2020

Many people who regularly use Dutch ovens can’t identify them by their proper name – in some kitchens, they’re simply known as “the big pot with the tight cover.” They’re also called “casseroles,” particularly in European nations; that’s ironic because the modern Dutch oven is as British as it is Dutch. Early versions of the heavy, cast-metal stew pot may have been perfected in the Netherlands, but England popularized them throughout the rest of the Western world some 300 years ago.

Today’s Dutch ovens are manufactured from a variety of materials (although traditional cast iron still factors greatly into the mix), and are terrific tools for stewing, braising, slow roasting, frying, preparing casseroles and even baking bread. At Dutch Oven Cookware we’ve fully evaluated all of the top models on the market and are pleased to share our findings and reviews, along with a full Dutch oven buying guide to help you with the selection process.

Why You Should Trust Us

DutchOvenCookwareTo put it simply, we’re experts. Our staff is comprised of both trained chefs and long-time home cooks, who have been preparing every type of food – with all types of cookware – for years. And Dutch ovens have always been front-and-center in our kitchens; in fact, many of us regularly use some of the ovens that qualified for our rankings.

We bring more than our personal experience to the table. We’ve also reviewed every quality Dutch oven on the market, with a special focus on the ovens that are available on Amazon. We’ve found that’s the destination most readers favor for their cookware purchases, and it’s where you can buy all of the best Dutch ovens on this list.

Who Should Buy One?

Anyone who doesn’t already own one.

OK, that may be overstating the case just a bit. If you live on microwave pizza and take-out food, you probably don’t need a pan in your kitchen, let alone a Dutch oven. But anyone who cooks regularly will find this cookware to be a versatile and invaluable kitchen fixture.

Since it’s essentially a very large pot with a tight-fitting lid, a Dutch oven is great for simmering homemade spaghetti sauce (with enough left over to freeze) or delicious chicken soup. It really shines, though, when used for braising meat or making a stew, since the lid traps moisture inside the pot and tenderizes vegetables and proteins to perfection.

The versatility of the best Dutch ovens allows you to use them either on the stove or inside your regular oven (we say “regular” because using the word “oven” by itself can be confusing in this context). You can quickly brown meat or caramelize onions before starting a stew, and you can roast meat or even bake bread inside a Dutch oven. If you’re a camper, you know there’s no substitute for a camping Dutch oven whether you cook over a campfire, on a stove or over coals.

And that’s just scratching the surface of this cookware’s versatility. People who cook regularly are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t own a Dutch oven.

Convinced? Great. Let’s get to the five best Dutch oven choices available on Amazon, which we’ve arranged by category.

Best Dutch Oven Review Center – Updated 2020

#1 – Lodge Enameled Cast Iron

The classic Dutch oven is made from cast iron. It’s heavy, it retains heat extremely well, and there’s almost no way to kill it. The only issue some cooks have with cast iron: it has to be seasoned regularly. That simply means washing it and baking a coating of oil onto the surface, to prevent the iron from rusting and to create a relatively non-stick surface. It’s not a big deal, but can still be a pain.

Best Dutch Oven Review
The Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is an outstanding and versatile piece of cookware that can compete with – and beat – ovens that cost much more!

How do you avoid the pain? With a Dutch oven that has an enamel coating which will always be non-stick, won’t rust – and doesn’t have to be seasoned. The Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is the best overall choice.

Before we talk about cooking with the Lodge let’s take a look at the outside, because it’s definitely worth looking at. This is a beautiful piece of enameled cookware that’s available in six designer colors (it also comes in white and gray) and while its design is functionally squat, its curves make it very attractive. It’s a pot that will look great on any stove whether you choose the three-quart, six-quart or 7½ quart, model.

The Lodge enameled Dutch oven is also extremely well-made. The oven itself is cast in individual sand molds, the time-honored way that the best Dutch ovens have been made for hundreds of years. The porcelain-enameled lid is a perfect fit, and the wide, easy-grip loop handles are also enameled cast iron and integral to the pot so there’s no danger of them coming loose. That’s a good thing because this cookware is really heavy and should be moved carefully.

The three layers of porcelain enamel are smooth and chip-resistant; they’re dishwasher safe as well, but it’s best to hand wash this Dutch oven in order to preserve the finish. We were disappointed to see that an American company like Lodge has their Dutch ovens cast in China, but it turns out they couldn’t find a US source that would work with brightly-colored enamel; Lodge works closely with its Chinese partner to ensure quality.

Enough preliminaries; it’s time to cook, and you won’t be disappointed. The Lodge can withstand temperatures as high as 500° so you can use this enamel cast iron Dutch oven for broiling or baking in the oven, as well as on any type of cooktop including induction. It can go into the freezer, too. Just don’t try to put it in the microwave or over a campfire unless you love seeing things break (or possibly even explode).

The squat form of the Lodge enameled Dutch oven that we mentioned earlier allows you to brown or sauté a large amount of food at one time, although the gently-curved bottom that prevents food from getting stuck in corners does cut off a bit of cooking space. When you’re ready to stew, braise or roast, the lid seals in moisture quite well so slow-cooked food comes out tender and delicious with less protein shrinkage. The Lodge does a wonderful job.

One final plus: this enameled Dutch oven is priced much lower than many of its competitors with prestigious brand names.

  • Sturdy and well-built
  • Withstands temperatures to 500°
  • Extremely attractive, six designer colors
  • Integral loop handles for a firm grip
  • Retains heat well for outstanding results
  • Very reasonable price
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • The oven’s squat shape takes some getting used to
  • Porcelain enamel may chip if misused
  • Dishwasher cleaning not recommended
The Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is an outstanding and versatile piece of cookware that can compete with – and beat – ovens that cost much more (up to six times more, believe it or not). Most importantly, it turns out food that’s cooked perfectly with a minimum amount of effort. It’s definitely worth checking out the Lodge enameled model at Amazon because we believe it’s the best Dutch oven you can buy.

#2 – Cuisinart CI670-30CR Chef’s Classic

If you’re reading carefully, you may be wondering why we have a different Dutch oven listed as the “best enameled cast iron” – since the Lodge is also enameled cast iron and we just called it the “best Dutch oven.” We could say “stop being so critical!” Instead, we’ll tell the truth; the Lodge and the Cuisinart are both terrific and we wanted to review both of them, so we put them into two different categories.

Almost everyone trusts products from Cuisinart, and their Chef’s Classic Dutch oven is worth that trust. There are more similarities than differences between the two porcelain-coated cast iron ovens. Like the Lodge, the Cuisinart CI670-30CR is cast just about perfectly and has multiple layers of high-quality enamel, making for a well-manufactured product that will hold up to wear as long as you don’t mistreat the enamel coating. The handles are also integral to the casting, so they’ll stay in place forever.

That brings us to one of the few differences, and it’s one of the reasons we liked the Lodge a bit more: the Cuisinart is the heaviest of all the models we’ve featured in an extended Dutch oven review, yet the handles are somewhat small, noticeably smaller than on the Lodge. That doesn’t mean that moving a full Cuisinart oven will be an ordeal, but we would call it more difficult than we would have liked.

While we’re on the subject of differences, this Dutch oven is taller and not quite as stocky (no pun intended), with angled sides. That slight difference in shape has several implications; there’s slightly less surface area for browning or sautéing, and ingredients can get trapped in the bottom corners of the oven when doing either one. It’s has a deeper shape, though, which is one of the most important factors to consider if you do a lot of stewing.

Those are certainly not deal-breakers, because food prepared in the Chef’s Classic is uniformly yummy. The lid fits tightly to the oven, making the stewing or braising environment just about perfect, just like the finished product will be. More evaporation takes place inside this oven than in the Lodge, making food just as a tender but a bit more flavorful.

The Cuisinart can handle temperatures up to about 450°, can be used on any type of stove including induction, and can go into the freezer for storage as well. It’s as versatile as you’d expect from a top-quality model, turning out everything from Dutch oven chicken to Dutch oven bread in delicious fashion.

The Chef’s Classic is available in three sizes (three, five and seven quarts) and two very pretty designer colors (Cardinal red and Provencal blue). It’s usually more expensive than the Lodge, but it’s still priced way below those fancy brand-name ovens we’ve mentioned.

  • Very well-manufactured
  • Can be used on all cooktops and in the oven
  • Extremely attractive, six designer colors
  • Produces delicious food
  • Dishwasher-safe (although handwashing may be preferable)
  • Reasonable price
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Handles are somewhat small for the weight of the oven
  • Ingredients can be trapped in corners when browning or sautéing
  • A small selection of colors
Almost everyone trusts products from Cuisinart, and their Chef’s Classic Dutch oven is worth that trust. It’s a very well-built cast iron enamel dutch oven, does a top-notch job cooking all types of food, and is a very good value when purchased from Amazon.

#3 – GSI Outdoor Hard Anodized

Aluminum Dutch ovens are primarily used for outdoor cooking, although the Dutch oven police won’t show up at your door if you use one on a cooktop or in your oven. In fact, there are several reasons you might want to use the GSI Hard Anodized oven indoors, although only the smallest size is useful in a kitchen for reasons we’ll explain shortly.

Cuisinart CI670-30CR Chef's Classic Enameled Cast Iron
For outdoor cooking the GSI Hard Anodized Dutch oven is terrific – and its lightweight makes it an outstanding choice for campers and backpackers.

First of all, aluminum is very lightweight compared to cast iron (about 2/3 lighter) so it’s easy to carry around even when completely full. Second, aluminum heats more evenly without “dead spots” because it conducts heat better. Finally, ordinary cast aluminum must be seasoned just like cast iron that isn’t coated – and that brings us to the GSI Dutch oven.

The anodized aluminum used to manufacture this product performs the same function as the enamel on the first two ovens we’ve reviewed, so it doesn’t have to be seasoned. It is resistant to abrasion so you don’t have to be as “careful” as you would with a regular aluminum pot, and it cleans very easily. It also won’t rust. In short, it’s quite similar to the cookware many of us have in our homes.

Aluminum’s heat retention isn’t quite as impressive as it is with cast iron, but the GSI Outdoor performs better than most aluminum ovens in that regard. All aluminum cookware is more sensitive to heat than cast iron so the GSI isn’t intended for use in home ovens, but it would probably survive just fine as long as you’re careful with the pot’s bail wire handle which can get very hot.

Since these Dutch ovens are primarily designed for outdoor use, let’s take a look at how the GSI does around a campfire. In order to do that it’s necessary to spell out the differences between the three sizes of the Outdoor Hard Anodized Dutch Oven.

There are three available diameters, 10 inches, 12 inches, and 14 inches, and only the 10-inch oven is built with a flat bottom. The two larger models have three 1½” integral legs which are great for positioning the pot over a campfire or coals and also for nesting the ovens – but obviously would pose a problem when putting onto an indoor cooktop.

All are constructed with a tall lip around the top edge that’s perfect for coals or charcoal, to increase heat delivered to the food inside. Just don’t try this Dutch oven on a tripod because the handle may not be stable enough.

As for cooking, you’ll find that the GSI’s capacity is much smaller (two quarts for the 10-inch and five quarts for the 12-inch, for example) but the oven performs almost as well as a cast-iron model. It retains heat extremely well for an aluminum Dutch oven and makes deliciously stewed, steamed, roasted and even fried foods.

When cooking stews that require hours of cooking time, you’ll have to stoke the fire fairly regularly to maintain proper temperatures, but it’s worth the effort. The GSI Outdoor will give you some of the best campfire fares you’ve ever tasted.

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Legs on larger sizes make them ideal for campfire use
  • High-quality anodization on the aluminum
  • Produces very tasty food
  • Great versatility for outdoor cooking
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Not the best choice for indoor cooking
  • Heat retention and durability not as good as with cast iron
  • Somewhat expensive for an aluminum Dutch oven

For indoor cooking, it’s just OK, but for outdoor cooking the GSI Hard Anodized Dutch oven is terrific – and its lightweight makes it an outstanding choice for campers and backpackers. It’s one of the most popular outdoor Dutch ovens sold at Amazon.

#4 –  Calphalon 1937382 Classic

Here’s a great, lower-priced choice that blends the hard anodized aluminum construction of the GSI with the ceramic, non-stick cooking surface of the cast iron ovens we’ve discussed earlier.

Best Ceramic Dutch Oven Review - Calphalon 1937382
The Calphalon 1937382 produces high-quality stews and sauces, and very good slow-cooked food, at a very reasonable price

First things first: any ceramic/aluminum Dutch oven is not going to deliver the near-perfect performance of a cast iron competitor. The key is to find a model that comes close, and the Calphalon does. It’s outstanding for stove-top assignments like preparing sauces and chili, and very good for recipes that call for slow cooking in the kitchen oven.

The Classic Ceramic is naturally lighter than a cast iron oven because of its anodized aluminum base, but heavier than a straightforward aluminum model due to the somewhat-weighty two-layer ceramic coating. The end result is a Dutch oven that’s sturdy without being unwieldy in the kitchen and one that’s good at maintaining steady heat throughout.

The metal loop handles are large enough for the pot, yet since they’re bolted onto the side of the oven they’re a potential weak spot in the long run. They also get extremely hot during cooking. The lid is glass with a metal handle; it fits well but there’s one fly in the ointment. The lid is designed with straining holes and the oven has built-in pouring spouts at the lip, so you have to be quite careful or you’ll end up splashing liquid where it doesn’t belong.

There’s plenty of “good” to go along with the “potentially not-so-good.” This Dutch oven is oven safe to 450° so it has the versatility you need for the oven as well as stovetop cooking (except on induction burners, which aren’t suitable for aluminum cookware). That allows you to brown meat or vegetables on the stove and then move it to the oven for slow cooking – and the results are good. The food may not end up quite as tender as it would if cooked in cast iron, but as we’ve said, it comes quite close.

There are a couple of cool extras on the Classic Ceramic, including measuring marks on the inside of the oven, the top-level drains that are convenient if used carefully, and a glass lid that lets you keep an eye on your stovetop cooking. And the aluminum/ceramic combination prevents the hot spots you’ll get with many cast iron Dutch ovens.

The five-quart size of this Calphalon model is a nice size for most families, the brushed finish is modern and will fit well with the appearance of most kitchen cookware, and food comes out well-prepared, especially recipes cooked on top of the stove.

  • Durable and relatively lightweight
  • Good quality anodized aluminum
  • Clear lid allows monitoring during cooking
  • Heat distributed well with no hot spots
  • Very tasty food
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Slightly better for stovetop recipes than oven slow-cooking
  • Handles get hot and liquid can splash through drains and spouts
  • Can’t be used on induction cooktops

The Calphalon Classic Ceramic Dutch Oven doesn’t pretend to be a cast-iron model, so you shouldn’t expect it to cook food like one. What it does do is produce high-quality stews and sauces, and very good slow-cooked food, at a very reasonable price when purchased at Amazon.

#5 – Lodge L10DCO3

The GSI Outdoor is a terrific outdoor Dutch oven that can be used indoors or out. The Lodge Deep Camp doesn’t do that type of double-duty easily; it’s designed specifically as an oven to be used by campers and hikers. And it’s not made from lightweight aluminum like the GSI – it’s a pre-seasoned cast iron Dutch oven that is the best multi-purpose camp stove on the market.

If you want a cast iron Dutch oven for outdoor use (and you should), The Lodge Deep Camp is the most versatile and best choice you can make.
If you want a cast iron Dutch oven for outdoor use (and you should), The Lodge Deep Camp is the most versatile and best choice you can make.

The fact that this model comes already seasoned is terrific, but you shouldn’t assume you’ll never have to worry about maintaining it. Normal use and cleaning will eventually leave bare spots, so eventually, re-seasoning is required. But you can take the Lodge Deep Camp oven out of the box and use it right away.

Cast iron = heavy, so it’s more of a chore to backpack with this oven than with the aluminum GSI. How much of a chore? Lodge has three camping Dutch oven sizes available (five quarts, eight quarts, and 10 quarts), and the largest one weighs nearly 30 pounds. Once you’ve set it up in your camp, however, you’ll be thankful that you lugged it with you. It’s a well-cast beast that may outlive you, and it lets you prepare amazing food.

All three models have legs to allow positioning over a campfire or hot coals and a bail handle for hanging on a tripod. You can thread the legs through your oven racks if you really want to put the pot into your kitchen oven, but it won’t work over a cooktop so we wouldn’t even bother trying to use this Lodge oven indoors. It’s built for camping.

The cast iron lid fits tightly to seal in moisture, giving stews and soups powerful flavor. There’s plenty of room inside, a flat bottom for perfect frying and roasting, and the lid is flanged which allows you to place coals on top for optimal heat levels. In the mood for flapjacks when you wake up? The lid can be inverted for separate use as a griddle.

The Lodge comes with an outdoor Dutch oven cookbook, not a big deal in itself but it can be illuminating to learn how to make a delicious cobbler or bake homemade (camp-made?) pizza over your campfire when you’re tired of stew or Dutch oven chicken. But you won’t tire of the food you cook in this oven – you’ll simply marvel at good campfire food can taste.

  • Solid, durable and well-built
  • Comes pre-seasoned
  • Even and effective heat distribution for tasty food
  • Lid is flanged to hold coals and can be used as a griddle
  • Legs are the perfect size for campfires
  • Not a good choice for indoor cooking
  • Extremely heavy, especially when hiking

If you want a cast-iron Dutch oven for camping (and you should), The Lodge Deep Camp is the most versatile and best choice you can make. Any cast iron oven will be more expensive than its aluminum counterpart, but Amazon sells the Lodge at easy-to-take prices.

Honorable Mentions

Le Creuset Signature

Here’s one of the high-priced ovens we’ve mentioned. Le Creuset may very well be the best Dutch oven you can buy, but it isn’t so far superior to it’s worth three to six times the prices of our other choices. The 5½ quart Signature is absolutely beautiful (sold in 12 designer colors plus white), extremely well-cast and enameled, and features wide, integral loop handles and a composite stay-cool knob that’s oven safe (as is the entire oven) to 500°. A fabulous product – at a sky-high price.  [Read More on Amazon]

Staub 1102606

Common question: what’s better, cocotte vs. Dutch oven? Answer: a cocotte is a Dutch oven, it’s just the French name for a cast-iron model with an enameled coating like many we’ve already reviewed. This Staub is a well-made cocotte that’s just about as expensive as the Le Creuset; it cooks extremely well, but the small tenderizing spikes that inside end up trapping liquid that should be evaporating. [Read More on Amazon]

Enameled Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven by Martha Stewart

This is a standard enamel cast iron Dutch oven, very much like many of the ovens we’ve already reviewed. The quality is good (although the handles are a bit small) and it cooks food well. It gets just an honorable mention because there’s only one rather unusual available color (eggplant purple) and its list price is higher than it should be, probably because Martha Stewart’s name is on the label. There’s often decent pricing at Amazon, though. [Read More on Amazon]

Emile Henry Flame Round Stewpot

The Emile Henry is a French-made Dutch oven, but not a cocotte because it’s made completely from ceramic. That means it’s much lighter and heats up faster, but doesn’t retain heat quite as well as one a model with a cast iron base. That means food will require a little more attention during the cooking process. It’s oven-safe, will work on an induction cooktop and does a very nice job. But the decent-sized models are priced rather high for a piece of ceramic cookware, even a ceramic Dutch oven. [Read More on Amazon]

Camp Chef DO-14 

We like this camping Dutch oven a lot and almost gave it a nod in our reviews. It’s huge with a very wide bottom, and the enormous, heavy lid has its own small legs to be properly used as an outdoor skillet. The built-in thermometer slot is a nice touch as well. The pre-seasoning isn’t the best, though, so you’ll want to season it yourself. [Read More on Amazon]

Marquette Castings 6 Qt.

Made from enameled cast iron, the Marquette retains heat and stews very well. It doesn’t quite measure up to our top recommended models, however, for two reasons. The lid doesn’t sit as tightly as we think it should, and hot spots can appear on the bottom surface where your food might burn when sautéing or browning if you’re not careful. [Read More on Amazon]

Cooks Standard Classic 02518 

Is a stainless steel Dutch oven really a Dutch oven? Well, it can be used like one, if that counts. The stainless construction makes the Cooks Standard Classic inexpensive, but not great at retaining heat for long, slow cooking. It will do the job but you have to be vigilant during the process; we’d recommend this primarily as a very good stockpot because it’s just a medium-quality Dutch oven. [Read More on Amazon]

Westinghouse WFL545 Select Series

Here’s a good budget choice. The WFL545 is cast iron and comes pre-seasoned, but don’t trust Westinghouse’s seasoning – do it yourself. Manufacturing quality is good although somewhat inexpensive (the lid handle isn’t as smooth as it could be, for example). We can’t complain about the food it produces, but five quarts is a bit small for a Dutch oven that’s used in the kitchen. [Read More on Amazon]

Cooks Standard 02490 

Wow, that’s a big product name for an aluminum Dutch oven, especially for the one you won’t always be able to put into the oven – because the lid can only handle temperatures up to 350°. As with the company’s stainless steel pot that also received an honorable mention, consider this simply a stockpot instead of a Dutch oven and you’ll be happy with the cookware and the price. [Read More on Amazon]

Imperial Home Chef Quality Cast Iron

We’d describe this enamel cast iron Dutch oven as workmanlike. It does the job and does it well, but there’s nothing exceptional about it. It’s lighter than our top enameled choices because the cast iron isn’t as strong, yet it’s in the same price range as our recommended products. You’ll probably find a better Dutch oven for sale at Amazon, at the same cost. [Read More on Amazon]

What Is a Dutch Oven?

A dutch oven is essentially a deep and large pot, with a heavy lid that secures firmly to keep moisture inside and to maintain constant heat for long periods of time. In most cases a dutch oven can be used both on a cooktop and in the oven, making it the ideal cookware for recipes which call for stovetop preparation before a few hours in the oven or a stint under the broiler.

Its primary use is for slow stewing and braising of meat and vegetables, with the constant heat and retained moisture making them tender and keeping them juicy. Its large bottom is also perfect for browning or sautéing ingredients before slow cooking, and its large size makes it a great choice for preparing sauces, soups, casseroles or chili. Many Dutch ovens can also be used for roasting, frying and even baking bread or pizza.

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The Different Types

Dutch ovens are remarkably similar. What differentiates them are the materials from which they are made.

  • Cast Iron Dutch Oven: Cast iron retains heat exceptionally well which is why it has historically been the material of choice for Dutch ovens. Hundreds of years ago the technique of casting iron in sand molds was perfected by the Dutch, and the best of today’s cast-iron models are still made with that process. These pots are extremely heavy and the iron must be “seasoned” to prevent rust (rubbed with oil and baked at high heat), both before they can be used and regularly thereafter.
  • Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven: Covering a Dutch oven with layers of porcelain enamel eliminates the need for seasoning (because food never touches the iron) and makes them easier to clean. The enamel maintains the advantage of great heat retention but is eventually prone to chipping.
  • Ceramic Dutch Oven: These ovens are lighter than their cast iron cousins and usually have non-stick coatings. You can do just about anything with them, but may have to pay more attention to the cooking process because their heat-retention properties aren’t as strong. Many actually have an aluminum base underneath the ceramic material.
  • Aluminum Dutch Oven: The least-expensive and lightest type of dutch oven, an aluminum model will have to be seasoned like cast iron unless it’s made of anodized aluminum. The metal distributes heat very well so there’s no need to worry about the “dead spots” sometimes found on the cooking surface of cast iron ovens, but aluminum comes in dead last when it comes to heat-retention – the most important factor in the dutch oven cooking. Aluminum models are best used for preparing sauces, chili and other foods cooked on the stove.
  • Camping Dutch Oven: Dutch ovens are favored by campers and hikers because almost any cooking task can be performed in one of these versatile cookpots. Most have legs allowing them to be placed above campfires or coals, and many have lips on their lids to make room for extra coals above the food. The majority of camping dutch ovens are cast iron or aluminum.

Thinking of an electric dutch oven? That’s not really a dutch oven at all, but that’s a topic for another day.

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Important Features to Look For

Dutch ovens are remarkably similar, so the important features to look for are the obvious ones. Topping the list is the material they’re made from since that will determine how well they retain heat, whether they’ll need seasoning and how effective they’ll be for cooking. Just as crucial is deciding whether you want an oven primarily for indoor or outdoor use. You may also favor an oval dutch oven around one, depending on the type of food you’ll be cooking.

Choosing from among the large variety of dutch oven sizes is also important. You can regularly find ovens on Amazon ranging from two or four quarts (a very small Dutch oven) to large models that can hold 12 or 14 quarts of food; six quarts is about right for the average family. You’ll even occasionally see a mini dutch oven that holds just two cups and is suitable for preparing side dishes or soups. The size of your family or the number of guests you regularly entertain, and whether you like to make “extra” for freezing, will determine the right size for your needs.

When you’re past those two major decisions and have checked durability issues like solid and even construction, and quality issues like a tight-fitting lid with a heat-resistant knob and easy-to-use handles, you may want to look for additional features. Some models have pour spots, openings where thermometers can be inserted, or sloping sides to prevent food from sticking in corners during browning.

If you’re purchasing an outdoor dutch oven, look at the stability and size of the legs, whether the ovens can be stacked, if the lid can be used as a separate grill and if it has an area where coals can be placed. Outdoor dutch oven accessories like lid lifters and tripods can also be helpful.

Care and Maintenance

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How to use a dutch oven? Easy. How to clean and maintain a Dutch oven? That can be difficult – or at the very least, time-consuming. A cast iron dutch oven (and a non-anodized aluminum one) will need to be scrubbed, seasoned with oil (inside and out) and heated (400° for an hour) before its initial use, and the process may need to be repeated several times. If you find food sticking to it regularly or see signs of rust, it should be seasoned again.

Those ovens should only be cleaned with soft scrubbing tools, a plastic food scraper or even better, a paper towel. Never use abrasive tools or soap, because they can remove the seasoning and even damage the oven. It can help to pour some clean water into the dutch oven after it’s cooled partway, to help loosen the food that’s stuck to the inside before you try to remove it by hand.

Pre-seasoned, enameled or non-anodized aluminum dutch ovens don’t need seasoning, but they do require special care during the cleaning. The manufacturer may say they’re dishwasher-safe, but cleaning them just like you would a cast-iron oven is the best approach. Otherwise, you could end up removing the pre-seasoning or chipping the enamel. Ceramic and aluminum dutch ovens can be cleaned like any other kitchen cookware – because basically, that’s just what they are.

High-end dutch ovens that have been cared for properly can last a lifetime, and the taste of the food prepared in them will only improve over time. After reading all of this and you’re still not sure that it’s right for you, perhaps you should look into buying sous vide machine. They can cook the same kinds of foods, but require much less maintenance. You can check Sous Vide Wizard for the latest sous vide guide. Or if you only want to make bread, then looking at the bread maker guide is a good idea.