Dutch ovens are among the most versatile types of cookware you’ll own. They are usually used for moist cooking methods such as braising and stewing. However, they can also be used to bake bread and biscuits.
Although called Dutch ovens’ this cookware are actually heavy set pots. Many of these are built
with cast iron giving them a heavy and sturdy build. Modern units include a layer of enamel or anodized aluminum. Their prices range from under $100 to over $400. You can choose one for kitchen use or outdoors use at a campsite. With so many considerations to look at when buying the best Dutch oven, you can easily be overwhelmed and end up choosing cookware that doesn’t meet your needs. That’s why this guide was created. In it, you’ll learn about everything you need to know before investing in a high-quality Dutch oven today.
Why creating a budget is important when choosing a Dutch oven?
Most people will advise you to consider price as the last thing when buying a Dutch oven. However, it should actually be the first thing to consider.
Dutch ovens come in different sizes and designs. In addition, modern ovens can be made from several materials such as a cast iron core with a layer of enamel. These factors will contribute to the cost of the Dutch oven.
In addition, you should consider a Dutch oven a long term investment. These cookware are designed to last many years with the proper use and care. As such, you should consider setting aside enough money to purchase the best Dutch oven you can afford.
Once you’ve decided on the amount of money you wish to invest on a Dutch oven, your next consideration involves the different types available.
Different types of Dutch ovens :
These pots can be characterized based on how and where they will be used. Generally, they are placed under two distinct types:
Kitchen Dutch ovens
Kitchen Dutch ovens are also popularly known as bean pots. Unlike the camp ovens, they don’t feature any legs and often have a flat base. The reason for this is that they’re designed for cooking over stovetops and ovens rather than open fires.
Kitchen Dutch ovens are also quite versatile. Besides being made from cast iron only, it’s common to come across kitchen Dutch ovens made from anodized aluminum or even stainless steel. These materials are lighter than cast iron and also easier to clean.
Besides the flat bases, kitchen Dutch ovens will also usually feature a dome shaped tight fitting lid. This shape helps to trap in heat and direct any steam back into the pot. The lids also include a knob or loop handle. The oven design also includes ear shaped handles which make it
easy to lift and carry it.
Camp/outdoor Dutch ovens
These feature the original Dutch oven design. They are usually bulky and feature three or four short legs for placing over a fire. Outdoor ovens are usually built using cast iron and are meant for use over open fires. Normally, you’ll use briquettes to cook food using these pots.
Camp dutch ovens feature a sturdy wire handle. This is primarily used to lift and carry the oven once you’re done cooking. The wire also remains cool and therefore protecting your hands from burning as you carry the hot oven around.
These ovens also feature a tight fitting flat or recessed lid. This lid design comes in handy when you want to place hot coals on top of the oven for even cooking. Many of these ovens also feature an outer ridge which helps to keep coals and ash from slipping from the lid and into the cooking
food. Their lids also feature a loop handle.
Now that you have a fairly good idea about the types of Dutch ovens available today, what are the different types of materials used to make them?
Different types of materials used to make the best Dutch ovens :
Cast iron is the material that was originally used to make Dutch ovens and is still commonly used for outdoor pots. One feature that makes cast iron a good material for making Dutch ovens is its ability to retain heat for long periods. This makes it a good material for long cooking techniques such as stewing and braising. It’s also distributes heat evenly therefore protecting food from hot spots which might burn it. These features make cast iron pots a good choice for cooking over open fire, on stovetops and ovens.
One disadvantage of cast iron is its ferrous nature. It can rust easily. This makes maintaining cast iron Dutch ovens somewhat difficult since you aren’t supposed to wash them with soap. In addition, you must season your cast iron Dutch ovens before use. Seasoning prevents food from sticking onto the pots surface especially when cooking over extremely high temperatures. In addition, it’s advisable not to cook acidic foods with cast iron ovens since they are likely to react with the metal.
Compared to Dutch ovens made using other materials, cast iron ovens are heavier and more expensive. However, they’re more durable.
Enameled cast iron
These Dutch ovens feature a cast iron core sandwiched between two layers of enamel. These ovens were designed to deal with the shortcomings of cast iron Dutch ovens including rusting and being non-resistant to acidic foods. The enamel layer forms a relatively non-stick surface protecting the underlying iron core from rusting. The iron core on the other hand ensures that
heat is distributed evenly when cooking.
Cleaning enameled cast iron Dutch ovens is also relatively easy. Many of these cookware are dish washer safe and can also be cleaned by hand using mild soap and water.
The main disadvantage of enamel cast iron Dutch ovens is that they cannot withstand extremely high temperatures. They’re therefore best suited for cooking at low to medium temperatures on stovetops or ovens. In addition, sudden temperature changes or even use of metal utensils can chip the enamel layer. However, they are quite durable if used and maintained properly.
Hard anodized aluminum
Cast aluminum has several advantages over cast iron. First, it doesn’t rust. This makes it a good choice for cooking acidic foods and even cleaning by hand with mild soap and water. Second, hard anodized aluminum ovens are lighter compared to their cast iron counterparts. This makes them a good choice for kitchen Dutch ovens. Third, these pots don’t require seasoning so you can start cooking right out of the box. Finally, they are usually cheaper compared to their cast iron and enameled cast iron counterparts.
Although excellent at distributing heat evenly when cooking, aluminum will lose heat quite fast. This makes them a poor choice for outdoors cooking where temperatures might be affected by factors like wind. Due to their lightweight nature, aluminum Dutch ovens are a good choice especially if you need camping pots but don’t want to carry unnecessary weight as you travel.
These Dutch ovens are usually made from different metals with a stainless steel exterior. A common metal blend is a copper/iron core sandwiched between layers of stainless steel. This type of Dutch oven has several advantages over the other three mentioned before. Its lighter compared to cast iron and enameled cast iron ovens. The stainless steel exterior is not only
attractive, but is also easier to clean and maintain compared to the other
Although stainless steel isn’t that great at distributing and maintaining constant temperatures, the inner copper or cast iron core eliminates this disadvantage. Food might also stick on the oven’s sides if you cook over extremely high temperatures. One feature that’s common with stainless steel Dutch ovens is their riveted handles. Although they’re meant to keep your hands from burning as you lift the oven, the riveted design is hard to clean and the seams might accumulate bacteria over time.
Since they’re lighter and are made from several metals, stainless steel Dutch ovens are generally more expensive compared to other ovens.
Size and shape considerations when choosing a Dutch oven :
Most people will often overlook size when buying a new Dutch oven. For them, getting the largest pot that their money can buy seems wise. A large Dutch oven is only good if you plan on using it to cook large meals often. Remember that Dutch ovens are quite heavy and larger units can be quite difficult lifting while filled with steaming hot food.
If you’ll regularly cook for small groups ranging between 2 and 4 people, go for a 5.5 to 7 quart Dutch oven. You can also buy one small and one large pot if you expect to cook both large and small meals often.
Besides size, shape is another factor you must consider when buying the best Dutch oven. Generally, you’ll need to choose between a round and oval pot. Round pots with a flat base are easier to balance on a stovetop as well as store when not in use. Oval shaped cookware on the other hand comes in handy when you want to cook large pieces of meat.
Other important features to look at :
Besides the price, materials used, size and shape of the Dutch oven, you will also need to consider some additional important features which include the following.
The height of the oven’s sides is one important feature to look at. Generally, Dutch ovens are wide and short. However, if you can find a model with extra high sizes, go for it. High sides help to prevent fluids from splattering out of the oven when cooking.
Another important feature to look at when choosing a Dutch oven is the type of stovetop it can be used on. This will require that you first consider the type of stovetop you own. For example, if you own an induction or electric cooker, a cast iron or enameled cast iron oven will work best since it’s compatible with both cooker types.
Ease of cleaning and maintenance is another important feature to consider when selecting the best Dutch oven. This cookware are heavy and bulky. Although many are marketed as dishwasher safe, Dutch ovens are usually meant to be cleaned by hand. Depending on the material used to make the outer surface, you can either clean your Dutch oven using soap and warm water or with water only.
The lid shape and design is yet another consideration to make. Outdoor Dutch ovens usually have a flat or recessed lid. Kitchen ovens on the other hand have dome shaped lids. Whatever the shape, the lid should be tight fitting and heavy. This will ensure that any moisture produced during the cooking process is retained within the pot.
The lid handle is yet another feature to look at here. Welded handles are usually considered best since they don’t have spaces where food or water might seep through. However, screwed on knob type handles also work great as long as they aren’t made from plastic.
The Dutch oven handles is the final feature you’ll need to consider before making your purchasing decision. Most Dutch ovens will feature welded or riveted handles. Welded handles are usually sturdier and more sanitary since they don’t have any seams. However, they will heat up fast while cooking. If you prefer pots with welded handles, always go for units with extra large handles that are easy to hold while wearing thick mittens.
Riveted handles on the other hand conduct less heat and therefore remain cooler while you cook. They’re quite common in stainless steel and aluminum Dutch ovens. Their main disadvantage is that water and food might seep between the seams. This can result in bacterial buildup which is quite unsanitary.
Cleaning between the seams can also be difficult.
Overall, whatever handle design suits you; always make sure that it isn’t made from plastic. The reason for this is that you’re going to use your Dutch oven in extremely high temperatures which can cause plastic to melt.
The Dutch oven is one of the most important cookware you will invest in. it’s a heavy set type of cookware designed for stewing, braising and even baking. Dutch ovens can be used over a variety of heat sources including open fire and induction cookers. Before investing in the best
Dutch oven, you’ll need to consider several factors that include the price, materials used, design and compatible heat sources. Given the many different brands and models available today, it’s important that you conduct some research by consulting Dutch oven reviews before finally choosing the unit that meets your budget and cooking needs.