Monday , October 18 2021

Best Dutch oven in 2021: Staub, Lodge, Le Creuset and more

What do you mean you still don’t have a Dutch oven?

A Dutch oven is the piece of cookware I urge friends and family to buy most if they don’t already have one or aren’t sure if they want one. There are pieces of kitchen cookware I’ve purchased with loads of enthusiasm that, sadly, end up collecting more dust than repetitions at mealtime. My cast-iron Dutch oven, on the other hand, became a featured player almost immediately and it’s something I use far more than I imagined I would when I first got it. 

Am I making it clear that I love a Dutch oven? I love a Dutch oven. 

I’ll find almost any excuse to use this particular pot any time of year but as we move into fall, I don’t need to look far for reasons or recipes. If stews, soups, sauces, bread, braises and roasts are on your 2021 autumn to-cook list, it’s definitely time to add a quality cast-iron Dutch oven to your collection. Whether for Julia Child’s coq au vin (perhaps my all-time favorite Dutch oven recipe) a melty beef bourguignon, Sunday red sauce or even for a simple batch of sautéed greens, a sturdy Dutch oven is an essential piece of cookware for comforting food. And as a bonus, Dutch ovens look so right sitting atop your range, in fact, I leave mine there most of the time. They’re also incredibly easy to clean, which just may be my favorite thing about them.

As you might have guessed, there are several types of Dutch ovens and they come in a slew of sizes, shapes, styles, materials and, of course, prices. To find the best Dutch oven to add to your kitchen arsenal, you’ll want to learn about how these pots are used, what’s available to buy and what each one will cost. 

Ready to go Dutch? Sure you are. Now, let’s get to the important stuff.

Dutch oven, a term often interchangeably used with French oven, oven pot or cocotte, is an essential kitchen tool. If you’re not familiar with these pots or enameled cast-iron cookware in general, they typically feature thick walls and a tight-fitting lid (unlike casserole dishes) with a single handle, loop handles or a knob, and most are made from bare or enameled cast iron, which provides exceptional heat retention, though can also find stainless steel Dutch ovens. This popular piece of cookware can be used on a stovetop, but they are resilient enough to pop in the oven on high heat. You can even use one over an open campfire.

Quality Dutch are also known to last a long time since they’re built from sturdy cast iron and coated with thick enamel. The really well-made pots like a Le Creuset Staub or Lodge will last for several decades or longer and are very often handed down through the generations.

The list of what’s t you can do in a Dutch oven is long. Very long but when you get a piece of meat going low and slow with a braising like stock, wine or brandy, some very magical things can happen. Because of the unparalleled heat retention, a Dutch oven is perfect for building a slow Sunday red sauce or making stock from last night’s roast chicken. The ability to withstand high oven temps makes them an ideal piece of cookware for baking, browning and braising meat. They’re the best possible pot for dishes that need to be cooked low and slow, such as stews, sauces and tender roasts. Dutch ovens are truly one of the most versatile pots you can own, and many a home cooks — myself included — will tell you it’s their favorite piece of cookware

If you’re in the market for your first Dutch oven or are replacing or upgrading the one you have, here are a few of the best Dutch ovens in various styles and price ranges to consider, as well as what to look for when choosing a new Dutch oven.

Read more: Our favorite direct-to-consumer cookware brands of 2021

When shopping for the perfect Dutch oven, you’ll want to consider the size of the pot. That’s probably the most important decision you’ll make so give it some real thought. The most popular interior sizes are between four and seven quarts, but you can find products as small as two quarts or as large as 10 or more. If you tend to make large holiday meals with lots of grub for your extended family, a bigger Dutch oven might serve you well. Just keep in mind that larger pots will be quite heavy (especially when full of food). I personally think a four-quart Dutch oven is great for a single person or couple but would probably bump up to a six-quart if I had a few kids or more mouths to feed on the regular. Keep in mind, most are cast iron so they’re not particularly light, so don’t overshoot just for the heck of it.

Speaking of weight, Dutch ovens are supposed to have thick walls, so don’t shy away from a pot that seems heavy — it’s really just heavy duty and that’s a good thing. You may also see round versus oval Dutch ovens, and the best option here depends on how you plan to use it. If you do a lot of stovetop oven cooking or frying, sauteing and browning, stick with a round model, as it will fit on the burner better. Some round models are what are called “double Dutch ovens,” where the lid is deep enough to use as a skillet. An oval dutch will better fit long cuts of meat like tenderloins, rib roasts and large poultry so if you plan on cooking those frequently versus stews and shanks, consider an oblong shape. 

Finally, it’s generally better to choose a Dutch oven that’s short and stout, rather than one that’s skinny and taller (though a double Dutch oven will typically be a little taller than a regular Dutch oven). Why? A wide diameter gives you more interior surface area to brown food, and it can also save you time by cooking or frying ingredients faster.

I’ll level with you, there are not a lot of scientific tests you can run on a Dutch oven but they do vary quite a bit in terms of overall quality, durability, aesthetics and design. What it really comes down to is finding a pot that works for you in terms of size, shape, material and cost. 

Instead of running efficacy and consistency tests as we would for kitchen tools such as blenders and toasters, I decided to use a number of popular Dutch oven models over the course of a few months for various recipes. The goal was to ensure each was constructed with quality materials and designed for ease of use in the kitchen. I noted if any Ditch oven showed sudden signs of wear — paint chipping or loose handles, for example — or if they had any design glitches like ill-fitting lids or uneven bottoms. I also weighed aesthetics when considering and recommending these Dutch ovens since they make excellent serving vessels once the recipe is finished.

After several months and a whole lot of stews, soups and other Duch oven classics, these are our picks for the best Dutch ovens in 2021.

If you’re willing to spend a bit of coin to secure one of the best Dutch ovens in the market, a regal Staub round cocotte won’t disappoint. It’s also about $150 cheaper than a Le Creuset Dutch oven but with no noticeable deficiencies in terms of build and performance. All that adds up the Staub 5-quart landing atop my list as the best overall Dutch oven in 2021. 

Cocotte is the French term for a Dutch oven, and this Alsace-based legacy cookware brand certainly knows its way around a beautiful piece of cast-iron cookware. Staub’s cocotte comes in several sizes and a litany of colors — 10 to be exact — all with a durable enamel finish and solid cast-iron core.

Staub’s Dutch oven features a self-basting lid with spikes on the underside to encourage an even and continuous trickle of juices while cooking. This pretty pot is a perfect vessel for baking, frying, braising or browning your Dutch oven recipe favorites, like chili, casseroles, beef stew, pot roast, sourdough bread and more. Reviewers rave about it, with one writing, “This pot is about as close to perfect as a pot gets. It’s sturdy, durable, functional and flat-out easy to use.”

Enameled cast-iron cookware is also extremely easy to clean and this luxury piece is no exception. Braises and roasts lift off the coated surface with the greatest of ease. I like the 4-quart size for singles and couples with no kids but if you have more mouths to feed, consider upgrading to this 5-quart model. 

You don’t necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg to get a great Dutch oven for your kitchen. The Lodge is widely heralded as the best Dutch oven for the price. Lodge Ditch ovens come in sizes ranging from 1.5-quart to 7.5-quart and three colors.

The Lodge Dutch oven is made from classic cast iron with an enameled coated. It’s oven-safe up to scorching temps of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and while you can technically put it in the dishwasher, the manufacturer recommends washing by hand to avoid chipping the enamel finish or damaging the steel lid lifting knob. Lodge produces some of the sturdiest cookware around and reviewers agree, especially considering its affordable price.

If you’re at all familiar with Dutch ovens — or cookware at all, for that matter — you’ve probably heard of Le Creuset by now. The iconic French brand is considered by many to be the gold standard, and you can rest assured you’re getting a quality pot in Le Creuset’s signature Dutch oven but it’s worth noting, you’ll pay a premium for the name too.

Le Creuset cast-iron Dutch ovens are covered in vitrified porcelain making them easier to clean and resistant to stains, odors and acids. The nonreactive interior and cooking surface don’t need to be seasoned like a traditional cast-iron Dutch oven, and you can use Le Creuset’s oven on essentially any cooking surface, including induction cooktops and even open fires. Additionally, Le Creuset’s signature Dutch ovens have large, easy-grip handles and a heat-resistant, stainless steel knob.

Every detail of Le Creuset’s pots has been considered and most folks who own one will tell you this pot is worth the investment. Plus, Le Creuset’s signature Dutch ovens come with a “limited” lifetime warranty, which means that if it’s defective, the company will replace it free of charge.

Direct-to-consumer cookware companies are popping up left and right, and Milo is an up-and-coming brand that sells quality Dutch ovens that look great at approachable prices. The Milo Dutch oven rivals models from a few of the more established cookware brands, with cast-iron construction and durable enamel coating. The Milo also has an undeniable modern charm underscored by the black and white paint jobs.

The Milo Dutch has a 5.5-quart capacity and is oven safe up to 500 degrees F. It can even go in the dishwasher without damaging the enamel but I had no trouble hand washing this pot. Milo offers a lifetime guarantee on its products but I wouldn’t worry about it breaking down. In the several months I worked with the Dutch oven it didn’t show any signs of wear and the build seems very sound.

It clocks in at a very reasonable $135 and would make an excellent addition to a kitchen with sleek, modern aesthetic.

Many of today’s best Dutch ovens feature a porcelain-enameled finish that makes them nonreactive, easy to clean and impervious to stains and odors. However, if you like the taste imparted by nonenameled cast iron, you may want to consider the Lodge preseasoned bare cast-iron Dutch oven.

This product doesn’t have an enamel exterior — instead, it’s been preseasoned with vegetable oil. It has a seven-quart capacity that reviewers say is perfect for things like bread and soups, as well as many other dishes. Without enamel, it needs to be taken care of properly — that means careful washing and reseasoning as needed — but the sturdy construction will last for decades.

Enameled cast iron is the most popular material for these pots, but there are stainless steel Dutch ovens to consider, including this one from Calphalon. The biggest benefit will be its weight — or lack thereof — but it won’t hold heat quite as well as cast iron. The five-quart covered Dutch oven is made from stainless steel and has an aluminum core which helps with conductivity. It’s also oven- and dishwasher-safe. The brushed exterior has a sleek, modern look. The glass lid is nice for keeping an eye on cooking progress without letting heat escape if you’re the impatient type.

All things being equal, my vote goes to a cast-iron Dutch oven but if you’re planning to lug it aorund often, you might consider a lighter stainless steel like this Calpahalon. 

If you’re the type of kitchen warrior who covets the cool piece of cookware that nobody’s heard of yet, then I would direct you to the elegant Vermicular cast-iron oven pot. 

This Japanese-made Dutch oven comes in multiple sizes and four hues — all of which are stunning so good luck deciding. I love the double-grip handles that make snatching it off the stove a breeze, and the pot has a very sturdy build and a sleek and minimalist design. One thing to note is that the bottom of the pot’s inside has grill ridges instead of a flat surface. This will help keep charred and burnt bits from sticking but it also seers a bit differently from a flat surface.

The Vermicular oven pot is available in four sizes from 1 quart up to 5.5. There is also a shallow version of the pot which would lend itself well to dishes like paella and egg frittata. 

If you plan to use your Dutch oven for Thanksgiving and other fall holidays, you might consider this festive design. This adorable pumpkin-shaped pot has a 5-quart capacity and comes with all the features you’d expect from the luxury French cookware maker. It has a smooth enamel coating on the bottom, tight-fitting lid and superior heat retention. Like many of the others, it’s oven safe up to 500 degrees. A splurge, to be certain, but the perfect centerpiece for your autumn table. 

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