Though there are many kitchen tools a good chef needs to complete their collection, a Dutch oven is arguably one of the most important due to its versatility. This cooking pot can often be on the pricier side, but as Edith Dourleijn, cooking coach and owner of Creative Cook Co., noted, it can replace virtually every pot and pan you have. “You can do so many things [with it]: roast big meats, bake your bread, bake your pies and all that type of stuff,” she said. “If you only need one pan, this would be it.”
Before you invest in a Dutch oven — which can easily run you upward of $200 for a quality model — it’s important to know what you’re investing in. We consulted chefs and cookware experts to break down how to shop for a Dutch oven and compiled some top picks based on their guidance.
What is a Dutch oven?
A Dutch oven — sometimes called a French oven or a cocotte — is a large, typically heavy piece of cookware best known for its ability to slow-cook dishes like beef stew, pulled pork, Bolognese sauce and soup. Dourleijn noted the deep pot is also great for roasting chicken and other big meats.
Atticus Garant, the executive chef at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, added that you can even bake bread in your Dutch oven. “[It’s] the complete work horse in the kitchen,” he said, noting that its thick base is the essence behind how handy a tool it can be in any kitchen.
The best Dutch Ovens in 2022
All of the chefs we spoke to agreed shoppers should invest in a Dutch oven made out of cast iron — which provides the best heat retention and temperature distribution — with at least a 5-quart capacity and including a lid. Below, we included some expert recommendations for Dutch ovens worth considering and other highly rated options that aligned with their guidance on how to shop for them.
Several of the chefs we spoke to said they use Dutch ovens from Le Creuset either at home or in their professional kitchens. Todd Gray, executive chef and co-owner of Federal Fritter in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, said he’s a fan of the bright color options and the enameled cast iron material. This Le Creuset has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 460 reviews on Le Creuset’s site.
Gray also noted that he likes to keep a smaller version on hand specifically for the toaster oven when he wants smaller portions.
Many of the chefs we spoke to also listed Staub as a favorite Dutch oven brand. According to Staub, the black matte interior is formulated with quartz, which contributes to the heat resistance and helps brown food. Staub also says that its enamel coating is rust- and crack-resistant. The dishwasher-safe Staub Dutch ovens come in several fun shades including Cranberry, Sapphire Blue and Basil. The Staub Dutch Oven has a 4.9-star average rating from more than 100 reviews at Target.
Stefano Velia, a chef with more than 30 years of experience and the owner of Pala Pizza, said that his favorite Dutch ovens are the enameled cast iron offerings from Lodge, noting that they’re a more affordable alternative to the Le Creuset options. “The heavy lid is excellent for braising meats and keeping the heat and liquids in, and the flat bottom means it will work on gas stoves or glass-top electric,” he said. The Lodge Enamel Dutch Oven boasts a 4.6-star average rating from more than 360 reviews at Target.
Dourleijn said that she’s been using a pure cast iron Dutch oven for more than 20 years. She pointed to this 5-quart option from Lodge as a great option for both indoor and outdoor cooking — according to the brand, it comes pre seasoned with vegetable oil and the lid doubles as a skillet. Lodge’s Double Dutch Oven has a 4.8-star average rating from more than 200 reviews on Wayfair.
Cookware brand Great Jones’ bestselling Dutch oven checks off all the boxes: It’s made of enameled cast iron, it has spacious side handles, it comes with a sturdy lid and it can hold 6.75 quarts of food. This Dutch oven also comes in pretty colors like Taffy, Broccoli, Blueberry and Mustard, and it boasts a 4.6-star average rating from more than 160 reviews on Great Jones’ site.
With a 4.7-star average rating from more than 5,300 reviews on Amazon, the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Dutch oven is a popular pick if you’re looking for a relatively affordable enameled cast iron option. The porcelain enameled exterior gives it a sleek look for the kitchen counter, and the enameled cast iron construction helps the pot retain even heat. The dishwasher-safe Dutch oven also has wide cast iron handles on each side to make it easy to move it around.
Like many other DTC brands, Kana claims that it keeps its prices low by cutting out the middleman. With a 5-star rating from more than 300 reviews, the brand’s enameled cast iron Dutch oven is one of its more popular items: It has a 5.5-quart capacity and is dishwasher safe for easy clean-up. Kana also offers a lifestyle warranty on its Dutch oven — so if your cookware ever becomes “unusable,” they’ll replace it at no extra charge.
How to shop for a Dutch oven, according to the experts
We asked the chefs and cookware experts we spoke to to break down the most important components of a Dutch oven and which features aren’t as important for shoppers.
What is the Dutch oven made out of?
All of the experts we spoke to agreed that the best Dutch ovens are made out of cast iron. According to Garant, this material will “promote even cooking and temperature distribution.” It’s also important to note that there is a difference between cast iron and enameled cast iron: While both of these give you the heat retention benefits of cast iron, the enameled versions “make clean-up and maintenance much easier,” Garant noted.
...the complete work horse in the kitchen.
Atticus Garant, executive chef at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles
Other types of Dutch ovens you might see on the market include stainless steel Dutch ovens and ceramic Dutch ovens. Mario Limaduran, executive chef at meal delivery service Trifecta, explained that though stainless steel Dutch ovens are relatively affordable, they usually don’t come with a lid and “won’t retain heat as well as the other options.” Ceramic Dutch ovens, meanwhile, are “the lightest” of all the options — and because of this “can crack easily if dropped or if temperatures change too abruptly,” Limaudran said.
How big is the Dutch oven?
The experts we spoke to noted that if you have the space, it’s typically better to size up and get a Dutch oven with a larger capacity since you can always use a bigger pot to cook smaller portions, but not vice versa.
Dourleijn said that, at minimum, a 5-quart Dutch oven is good because you can use it to cook for as little as two people or as many as six people and it’s the right size for larger roasts. However, if you know you’re only going to be cooking for two people and you want to save space, you can opt for a smaller, 4-quart dutch oven, which is also the ideal size for baking bread, according to Dourleijn.
Does the Dutch oven come with a lid?
Most Dutch ovens come with a lid — but not all lids are built the same. “[Your Dutch oven] should come with an equally thick, heavy duty, tight-fitting lid, set with a good quality handle,” said Garant.
Does the Dutch oven have handles?
When shopping for a Dutch oven, Gray advised to “[look] for a good handle at the top” as this will make it easier to lift the lid while you cook. Garant added that the pot itself should also come equipped with side handles “made with the same quality and ideally forged in the same casting, which ensures they are a solid part of the pot’s structure.”
What is the difference between a Dutch oven and a slow cooker?
Though Dutch ovens and slow cookers serve similar purposes in the kitchen, they don’t provide the same results when it comes to quality or versatility. Dourleijn explained that since Dutch ovens retain heat better, it’s easier to brown foods in them. Gray added that with a Dutch oven, you can “start off on the stovetop and then go straight into the oven,” which you can’t do with a slow cooker. However, if you are new to cooking and want something you can set and forget, Dourleijn said a slow cooker is a fine starting point.
CORRECTION (May 20, 2021, 8:45 p.m.): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of the executive chef of the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel. He is Atticus Garant, not Grant.