A Dutch oven is the true workhorse of any kitchen. These bad boys can make pots of soup or stew, saute vegetables, braise meat, and even bake a loaf of crusty bread. If your kitchen only has room for a single pot or pan, it should be a Dutch oven.
But how do you choose which one? Not only do they range in price from $50 to $350, they range in quality too. While most of them follow the same basic design—a deep, cast iron pot coated in nonstick enamel—the shape and construction make a huge difference in cooking experience. That’s why I tested seven of the top Dutch ovens on the market. And, after putting each through its paces, concluded that the Staub Round Cocotte(available at Zwilling) is the one I want on my shelf and would recommend to friends.
These are the best dutch ovens we tested, ranked in order:
Staub Round Cocotte Oven, 5.5-quart
Le Creuset 5.5-quart Round Dutch Oven
Lodge 4.6-quart Dutch Oven
Martha Stewart 6-quart Round Dutch Oven Casserole
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Enameled Cast Iron 5-quart Round Covered Casserole
AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven 6-quart
IKEA SENIOR - Casserole with Lid
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Solidly built, perfectly round, and easy to clean, the Staub Round Cocotte aced every test. From braising meat and vegetables to simmering a stew, this Dutch oven nailed it. Sometimes there really is a correlation between price and quality—and this is one of those times.
In our tests, the Staub Round Cocotte Oven narrowly beat out the well-known (and well-loved) Le Creuset. This mostly came down to the shape of the Dutch oven, and how much better it fits on the stove and in the pantry. While a little heavier than some of the others, the evenness of cooking and the large sauteing area that doesn’t bar you from putting other large pots on the stove bumped this one all the way to the top.
Despite its lower price tag, the Lodge performed like a much more expensive model in our tests. Our soup tasted great and wasn’t a mess to clean, the chicken and vegetables had plenty of room to cook, and our bread delivered a perfect crust. So at a fraction of the cost of the Staub, the Lodge easily secured our coveted Best Value spot.
In every test, the colorful Lodge was with the top of the pack. However, the only place it faltered was in size. The smaller-than-average base made sauteing onions take longer, and the bowed out sides took up more room on the stove than ideal. This just means that if your stove is already a tight fit, you’ll want to plan ahead for Thanksgiving dinner and not have this on at the same time as 3 other pots.
I’m Bethany, an avid home cook who’s skeptical of more expensive products that seem to do the same thing as something half the price. Before I add anything more expensive than a spatula to my kitchen, I want it to be thoroughly vetted and to know it’s worth the cost.
What We Tested
Before testing, I dove into research mode. I scoured the internet and my friends' kitchens to find out which Dutch ovens were top rated, which might be surprise winners, and which were household names.
Ultimately, I choose what I now call the “Fab 4” Dutch ovens that seemed to be highly rated everywhere, and then a few less expensive options that walked the line between a great product and a great deal. I wanted to see if a higher price tag really did make for a better Dutch oven.
To test as many facets of this multi-dimensional product as possible, I tested three recipes in each one. They had to create a perfect pot of a thick, almost chili-like black bean soup, a moist but well cooked braised chicken and vegetables dish, and a puffy but well-crusted loaf of bread. This involved sautéing onions, braising meat, bringing the entire Dutch oven up to 500°F, and moving it from stove to oven and back.
I took careful notes of how it was to move each one, how well the ingredients fit, how each dish turned out, whether it was a pain to clean, how it fit on my stove and in my cabinet, and more. I wanted a complete picture of life with each to find the best dutch ovens.
As another quick test, I also made sure that each of them had enough space to roast a whole chicken. With a product like this one, you want to be ready for a fancy dinner at any time.
What You Should Know About Dutch Ovens
If you like to cook, a good Dutch oven is an essential tool for your kitchen. It’s usually made from seasoned cast iron or ceramic, has thick walls, and includes a tight-fitting lid. These pots are excellent for browning meat and even better for making soups and stews or any recipes that require slow cooking because they distribute heat evenly during cooking. Dutch ovens can also tolerate high temperatures, so they can also be used for deep-frying, too.
Dutch ovens can be used on your stovetop and are oven-safe, but make sure it's been seasoned before its first use. Keep in mind these pots are hefty, so be careful when handling these while they're filled with hot food. Always look for a dutch oven with large handles for easy maneuvering. Investing in a Dutch oven is well worth your money, as most—especially cast-iron Dutch ovens—are built to last forever.
What Cooks Best in a Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens are extremely versatile and can be used for pasta, meats, and soups. Some other popular Dutch oven recipes include short ribs, macaroni, and cheese, scalloped potatoes, roast chicken, carnitas, pot roast, and fried chicken.
A Dutch oven is also excellent for cooking meat, vegetable, or seafood stews. You can even bake bread in a Dutch oven with the right recipe. The versatility of a Dutch oven goes beyond your kitchen, as there are some cast-iron models that can be hung over a campfire for outdoor cooking.
How to Choose the Right Size Dutch Oven
Because Dutch ovens are bulky, choosing the right size for your kitchen can be difficult. Dutch ovens range in size from 1/4 of a quart to 13-quarts. To decide which to buy, consider how many people you’re cooking for.
For one or two people, a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven will usually do the trick. A household of four will want a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven, which is the usual size range. If you’re cooking for a large family, a party, or a holiday meal, you may want to consider a Dutch oven larger than 7-quarts, just don’t forget to make sure it fits in your oven!
Ceramic or Cast Iron?
There are benefits and drawbacks to both cast iron and ceramic Dutch ovens. Cast iron without an enamel coating can become rusty after repeated use. An enamel coating on a cast-iron Dutch oven will make it easy to clean and rust-free.
Ceramic Dutch ovens are more visually pleasing but are prone to nicks and cracks with heavy use. Even the most thorough scrubbing won't return your ceramic Dutch oven to its original condition once it has become stained. However, the staining won't affect its ability to cook your food.
Other Dutch Ovens We Tested
Le Creuset 5.5-Quart Round Dutch Oven
Le Creuset and Staub fought a mighty battle for to top spot, but the honorable Le Creuset was bested by its fellow French competitor. The Le Creuset — beloved among cooks and kitchen scholars — makes a perfect meal every time. It also offers large handles, which are ideal for moving the pot from the stove to the oven and back, from your stove to the table, or from your house to your friend’s place.
However, its size means that if you’re dealing with tight stove space or want to get multiple dishes going at once, you might run into some problems. It’s gorgeous and does good work—but always needs to be the star of the show.
AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart
Other than a few hotspots on the bottom of the bread where it burned and handles that immediately got too hot to touch while it was on the stove, this Dutch oven performed admirably in our tests. The chicken was tender, the soup cooked up great. I also loved the large lid handle, which made removing the lid easy — even when it was just out of the oven.
This Cuisinart is a solid Dutch oven. The flat sides offer a wide sauteeing base for onions and garlic, and the simple construction means you can’t really go wrong. That said, it just didn’t perform as well in our tests. A few black spots on the bottom of the bread, a bit tougher to clean off the soup, and meat that wasn’t quite perfect knocked it down a few spots in our list.
Martha Stewart Collection Enameled Cast Iron 6-Quart Round Dutch Oven
I’m pretty confident Amazon just rebranded the love child of some of the other Dutch ovens. The similarities in look to the Martha Stewart and Cuisinart were startling. That said, it didn’t perform quite as well.
From picking up mysterious black marks on the outside after cooking bread to the handles instantly becoming too hot to touch on the stove, this Dutch oven could use a few more years to mature. I’d call it a solid bargain buy for someone who isn’t sure if they’re ever going to use their Dutch oven.
While I wasn’t impressed with the performance of the IKEA SENIOR, I’m glad IKEA’s jumping on the Dutch oven train. (If I’d noticed a Dutch oven at IKEA the last time I moved, I may have already owned one.)
But while affordable, I found that the oblong shape caused food in the center to cook more rapidly—or in the case of the soup, cling to the bottom and make a mess for scraping off. As well, the inner coating didn’t lend itself to cleaning as well as the others, and the outer coating tended to pick up dust in the oven that needed to be thoroughly scrubbed. It also chipped immediately, so it might not be something you keep around for long.
Bethany is a freelance contributor for Reviewed. An avid home baker and aspiring home cook, she reviews and writes mostly about kitchen gadgets (with the occasional fitness review thrown in). Her specialty might be fancy desserts, but she's never met a batch-cooked dinner recipe she didn't like.
Outside of her work for Reviewed, Bethany is a content creator working on clean energy and climate change at a regional non-profit and runs a tabletop game at her local comic book shop.
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