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The 7 Best Dutch Ovens in 2021

best dutch ovens

Staff, Courtesy of Le Creuset

The Dutch oven is a deeply under-appreciated cooking tool, especially in small kitchens. The thick-walled metal pot, with two handles and a tight-fitting lid, can stand in for pots and pans as varied as a deep fryer, slow cooker, frying pan, and roaster. It even does nicely as a low-fuss bread maker. “We have a small kitchen and not a lot of room for different pots and pans,” says Matt Clifton, who with his wife, Emily, runs cooking site Nerds With Knives and wrote The Ultimate Dutch Oven Cookbook. “We found we could adapt a lot of different cooking techniques to just the one pot.”

Dutch ovens come into their own during long and slow cooking processes like casseroles, stews, roasts and especially braising. Enameled cast iron works on gas, conventional electric, even induction stovetops, and most of these are oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Good ones cost a bit, but consider it an investment. Treat one of these Dutch ovens with care, and it will last a lifetime.

Best Dutch Ovens

Types of Dutch Ovens

The original Dutch oven was the result of an 18th century pot maker adapting a Dutch sand-casting technique to English iron. But similar robust pots exist in many cultures, including South Africa’s potjie to the Russian chugunok. They all work the same: The thick metal distributes heat even throughout the pot and dissipates it slowly, ideal traits for concentrating flavors and turning tough cuts of meat to tender, luscious stews and braises.

The standard form is deep and round with a flat bottom, which allows for frying stew meat and then filling high with stock, vegetables, and sauce. But there are different shapes and features for specific purposes. Shallower models are ideal for when the recipe requires less volume, like braising a roast and casseroles. Big 14-quart behemoths can cook up enough chili for the whole family. A conical lid creates convective air circulation, which helps concentrate flavors in bone broth and chicken stock. And camping Dutch ovens have legs for stability when heating directly in the fire, and a flat or concave lid for holding coals to heat from the top.

The other differentiation among Dutch ovens is construction. The best Dutch ovens are iron with a porcelain enamel finish. To create this coating, manufacturers apply glass particles to the surface of a new cast iron pot, then bake the pot at more than 1,000 degrees to fuse the glass into the surface of the metal. The protective layer keeps the pot from absorbing flavors or stains and makes it easier to clean and maintain. The quality of the enamel separates budget models from higher priced ones. Un-enameled aluminum is also sometimes used. This produces a much lighter weight pot, but one that doesn’t hold heat as well as its iron counterparts. Reserve it for camping. And pay attention to the construction of the lid. Although the body of most Dutch ovens can handle high oven heats, not all lids can. Keep that in mind, particularly if bread and broiled meat is on the menu.

How We Selected

Like a lot of people, I got my first Dutch oven as a wedding present more than 20 years ago. I’ve been cooking with it ever since, especially in the last year when my wife and I decided to write a cookbook together as a pandemic project. We’ve found ourselves using our Dutch oven so much and for so many purposes we bought a second one. I also have a dedicated camping Dutch oven that I like to bring when packability isn’t an issue. Trust me, s’mores have nothing on cake baked over the campfire.

To get more perspective I also asked Matt Clifton for recommendations. His cookbook includes recipes for just about everything: a no-knead bread, vegetable tempura, comfy mac ’n cheese, and plenty of sauces, soups and stews. Using my own experience and Matt’s advice on what makes a good (or good value) Dutch oven, I pored over shopping sites like Amazon, Walmart, and Wayfair to see which models had the best reviews and read the feedback from other cooks.

Best Overall

Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Key Specs

  • Material: Enameled cast iron
  • Size: 6 qt
  • Weight: 13.5 lb

If you don’t know which Dutch oven to buy, Clifton suggests starting with something like this Lodge. Six quarts is a versatile size. There’s enough volume to cook six to eight portions of soup or stew, enough floor space to brown a round of chicken breasts, and a snug-fitting lid for sucking all the good stuff out of bones. Rated to 500 degrees, it can handle any oven temperature. The handles are easy to grip, which is key with its nearly 14-pound weight. Finally, Lodge is known for making a long-lasting enamel, essential for longevity, easy cleaning, and low maintenance. 

  • Affordable and versatile
  • Many color options

Best Wedding Gift

Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round Dutch Oven

Le Creuset
amazon.com

$409.95

Key Specs

  • Material: Enameled cast iron
  • Size: 7.5 qt
  • Weight: 15 lb

A Dutch oven is one of the most popular wedding registry gifts because it can last a lifetime. And Le Creuset is one of the best names in the niche, known for handsome and tough pots. My wife and I got this 7.5-quart version for our 2003 wedding, and its smooth enamel interior is still caramelizing onions like a tanning bed and cleaning up with little scrubbing. A shock-resistant treatment on the enamel resists chipping and cracking, but we’re still careful not to scratch it. Oven safe up to 500 degrees, we’ve used it successfully for braising meat, crisping twice-baked pasta, and achieving perfectly crusted bread. 

  • Classic design with many color options
  • Large size

Best Budget Model

Amazon Basics 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven

Amazon Basics
amazon.com

$46.49

Key Specs

  • Material: Enameled cast iron
  • Size: 6 qt
  • Weight: 13 lb

Clifton usually recommends spending closer to $100, but the Amazon Basics Dutch oven is a good deal if you plan to stick with traditional low-and-slow stovetop techniques. At 13 pounds, it’s heavy enough to distribute heat away from the base to prevent burning, but it is only rated to 400 degrees, which is not enough for a lot of oven work. The enameled cast iron helps with maintenance and clean up, but it’s not as high quality a construction as the other ovens here—it will take a little more care to keep it cooking for decades. With a 4.8-star rating from more than 14,000 shoppers, it’s a solid choice, especially for those not totally sold on Dutch oven cooking. 

  • Only heat resistant to 400 degrees
  • Less durable

Best for Camping

GSI Outdoors Aluminum 12-Inch Dutch Oven

GSI Outdoors
amazon.com

$89.95

Key Specs

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Size: 6.2 qt
  • Weight: 6.1 lb

GSI’s Aluminum Dutch Oven, available in 10- and 12-inch models, is purpose built for camping. We’ve used the larger of two over red-hot coals to make cake, chicken wings, chili, quesadillas, and more. For camping, aluminum works better than iron for two reasons. It weighs almost half as much, which makes a big difference even if only lugging it across the campground. And it’s less prone to rusting, an especially important consideration for water-side camping. On the downside, aluminum heats up a little faster and less evenly than iron, which increasing the chances of burning something. It also requires seasoning with a little oil before use, which enameled iron doesn’t. Legs on the bottom of this oven help stabilize it when it’s sitting right in the fire or on top of charcoal, a rim on the lid keeps burning twigs or briquettes from sliding off if you’re heating from above, and the long wire bail handle is heat-resistant.

  • Rust-free and easy to clean
  • Lighter than cast iron
  • Less efficient and doesn’t heat as evenly as cast iron
  • Requires more oil

Best Small Option

Bruntmor Enameled Cast Iron Casserole Braiser

Bruntmor
amazon.com

$69.99

Key Specs

  • Material: Enameled cast iron
  • Size: 3.8 qt
  • Weight: 13 lb

This compact pot should be your second Dutch oven. A deep, 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven can do just about any job, but it’s nice to have a shallower one for braising and sautéing. On the stovetop, this 3.8-quart model doubles as a 12-inch frying pan, hot plate, or wok. The steep sides help keep veggies from flying out when you stir and are ideal for deep frying tempura or tofu without worrying about burning a hand on the edges. It’s oven safe to 500 degrees so you can fire up a sizzling skillets. There’s still just enough room to handle a meaty roast, and with less volume to heat up, it will cook faster.

  • Compact size for braising and sautéing
  • Oven safe up to 500 degrees
  • Not as versatile as larger Dutch ovens

Best for Braising

Tramontina 5.5-Quart Enameled Cast-Iron Series 1000 Covered Oval Dutch Oven

Tramontina
amazon.com

$69.13

Key Specs

  • Material: Enameled cast iron
  • Size: 5.5 qt
  • Weight: 12 lb

All the other Dutch ovens here are round, which works great until you have a chicken or leg shank that is anything but. Instead of cutting or cramming in the meat to fit, Clifton likes to use an oval Dutch oven. The porcelain enamel thick iron walls allow for consistent browning from end to end, even over a medium-sized burner. For oven finishing, the stainless steel knob can handle the heat and ridges on the lid work like self-basters: collecting condensation and directing vapors and drips onto the food for moist, delicious results. It’s oven-safe to 450 degrees, so it’ll work for almost all your cooking except high-heat baking or broiling.

  • Oval shape accommodates large cuts of meat
  • Self-basting lid
  • Only oven safe up to 450 degrees

Mini Cocotte

Staub 2.75-Quart Round Cocotte

Key Specs

  • Material: Enameled cast iron
  • Size: 2.75 qt
  • Weight: 9 lb

This small cocotte, the French term for Dutch oven, by Staub is an excellent size for heating smaller dishes for one or two people. Staub’s timeless design features a durable black enamel interior, nickel steel knob, and tight-fitting lid that’s great for self-braising. According to Food & Wine Magazine, it’s a great size and design for making bread with a crisp crust. For larger dishes, opt for the 7-quart model.

  • Excellent durability
  • Great for high-heat cooking

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