A dutch oven is a large, thick-walled pot with a handled lid. Dutch ovens usually have looped handles on either side and a low-profile handle on the lid for easy storage. These pots are often wider than they are tall and they are almost always made of either cast iron (enameled or non-enameled) or ceramic because of how these particular materials distribute heat.
While you may not think of dutch ovens as essential cookware, you’re missing out if you don’t yet have one. Here are all the reasons a dutch oven deserves a special place in your kitchen.
Dutch Oven vs. Stock Pot: What’s the Difference?
Dutch ovens and stock pots are similar, but they’re not quite the same.
One of the main differences between dutch ovens and stock pots are the sides. For one, the sides of dutch ovens are much thicker, allowing for better insulation within the pot. Stock pots are typically made of a type of metal, such as stainless steel or copper, that is neither thick nor thin. This is the thickness you’d expect to see in a standard saucepan or skillet.
Another key feature of dutch ovens are sloped sides. While stock pots typically have straight sides and corners, dutch ovens are rounded all around to increase the surface area and prevent burning.
Dutch ovens are also heavier than stock pots because they are made of thick, dense metal or ceramic. And of course, being thicker also makes dutch ovens more durable as a rule. As for size, these pots run the gamut. You will have no trouble finding both large and small dutch ovens and stock pots ranging in size from around 1.5 quarts all the way up to 20 quarts - larger still if you get an industrial cooking pot.
If you have to choose between getting a stock pot and getting a dutch oven, consider the strengths and limitations of each. They serve similar purposes but one may be better than the other for you depending on how you most oven cook.
Dutch ovens are better at maintaining temperatures than stock pots but are less ideal for browning and searing because of their thick material. Stock pots on the other hand are good for direct-contact cooking and greater amounts of liquid.
Common Ways to Use a Dutch Oven
There are countless ways to maximize a dutch oven’s potential, but here are a few of the most common ways to use dutch ovens:
- Baking bread (especially sourdough and other rustic, crusty loaves)
- Making soup or stew
- Reducing sauce
- Slow cooking meat or vegetables
- Boiling pasta
- Braising meat and other proteins
As you can see, dutch ovens can take on the jobs of casserole dishes, stock pots, braisers, and even slow cookers or crockpots. Dutch ovens are popular for one-pot meals because they are large and convenient to use, but they are simple enough to clean and work with that you can just as easily use them for one item at a time.
Some dutch ovens are nonstick, but most are simply enameled or glazed. If you get a cast iron dutch oven that does not have an enamel coating, work on building up the seasoning to encourage the surface to more easily release food that might stick. Dutch ovens should always be washed by hand and dried thoroughly before storing to keep them in pristine condition.
Can You Put a Dutch Oven in the Oven?
One of the most beautiful things about a dutch oven is that it can make the transition from stove top to oven. This is because dutch ovens can withstand high heat and handle drastic temperature changes that may crack or tarnish another type of cookware.
Dutch ovens are also fine to put in the refrigerator for those nights when you can’t be bothered to transfer leftovers to a separate container. Some are even microwave safe, though you may not find yourself taking advantage of this feature often.
A dutch oven’s tight-fitting lid makes it possible to almost create an oven within your oven. By preheating a dutch oven at a high temperature and trapping the contents of whatever you’re cooking with the lid, your dutch oven will conduct heat directly to the food and create an even hotter, more efficient environment than your oven alone could.
This oven-within-an-oven phenomenon is what makes dutch ovens especially great for baking homemade bread, which often requires extremely high heat for optimal oven spring and even heating throughout.
How to Choose a Dutch Oven for Your Kitchen
If you’ve decided that you need a dutch oven in your life, one of the first things you will likely notice when you start shopping is that these pots are pricey.
Keep in mind that a dutch oven is built to last for years, often decades. This isn’t a flimsy pan that you’re going to get rid of when you’re tired of the scratches and dents or an oversized pot that you will start to see as an eye sore over time. A high-quality dutch oven can take a beating and still look great, and you will use it often enough to justify the price over and over again.
So with that said, choose a dutch oven that is high-quality and aesthetically-pleasing, because you’re not going to be letting go of it any time soon. A pure ceramic dutch oven by Xtrema is oven safe, easy to clean and designed to last a lifetime. It is hand crafted from all natural materials of the highest quality, fired at 2500 degrees, and completely free of toxic chemicals and additives.
Home cooks around the world have been raving about dutch ovens for decades. When you are ready to invest in a Dutch Oven, consider that this is a sturdy piece of cookware that will last a long time - possibly generations - and that it could easily become your favorite pot for cooking healthy meals for your family.