When it comes to fall cooking, the Dutch oven is the workhorse of the kitchen. What is a Dutch oven? It is any large, heavy pot that is suitable for stovetop or oven use. But most people really mean the extra-heavy cast iron, enameled pots typified by Le Creuset and Staub. These hard-working pots are the perfect tool for slow-simmered soups and braises, as well as a few other favorite fall meals.
Read on for our look at five excellent cast iron Dutch ovens, in a variety of price points, and a roundup of 10 recipes to put your own big pot to work. From chicken braised in milk and garlic, to spiced apple butter, to homemade no-knead bread with a shatteringly crisp crust, each of these shows off what a Dutch oven can do.
What Is a Dutch oven?
A Dutch oven is any large, heavy pot that is suitable for stovetop or oven use. So your deep 7-quart stockpot could be a Dutch oven, as long as it has an oven-safe lid and can go straight to the oven from the stove.
But when talking about Dutch ovens, most people really mean the extra-heavy cast iron, enameled pots typified by Le Creuset and Staub. These hard-working pots are the corner piece of the fall and winter kitchen, ideal for slow-simmered soups and braises, as well as other favorite hearty meals.
5 Great Dutch Ovens
Here's a look at a few different Dutch ovens. I personally own several of these and use them constantly. What's your favorite size or brand of Dutch oven? Got any tips? Share them below!
• 1. Le Creuset 3.5-Quart Wide Oval French Oven, $130 at Chef's Catalog — Many people buy enormous Dutch ovens, and while the big ones have their place, I love my modestly-sized Le Creuset even more. Its extra-wide base lets me brown meat right in the pot, then add tomatoes or broth to make a normal-sized batch of soup or stew. Read more about why I like this pan here.
• 2. Lodge 6-Quart Lodge Color Enamel Dutch Oven, $50 at Amazon — But if you want a larger pot, Lodge's terrific prices and quality just can't be beat. A 6-quart size is good for soups, stews, braises, breads, and more, and this particular pot is a great deal.
• 3. Paula Deen Signature 5-qt. Covered Oval Casserole, $50 at Target — Here's something a little off the beaten track: A Dutch oven from the queen of the South herself, Paula Deen. I included this one because of its low price and its interesting styling. Let's face it — most Dutch ovens look more or less the same, apart from their color and some minor styling differences. This pot is rather beautiful, and good for the oven-to-table work that most Dutch ovens perform.
• 4. Staub 4 1/4-quart Oval Dutch Ovens, $160 at Cutlery and More — I enjoy my oval Dutch oven quite a lot; I think the shape is a little more elegant, and it also cradles a roast chicken perfectly. I have a Staub Dutch oven, which is by far the most pricey piece of cookware in my cupboard, but honestly it's worth every penny. Cleans up beautifully, works hard, looks good.
• 5. Calphalon Enamel Cast Iron 8 Quart Dutch Oven, $139 at Amazon — If you are in the market for a really, really big Dutch oven, then the price on this 8 quart pot from Calphalon is a fine deal. Calphalon makes affordable Dutch ovens, and their service is supposed to be good too.
Some Dutch oven shopping tips:
• Cast Iron Cookware: Enameled or Bare - A store guide for shopping for cast iron cookware.
• Also remember: Check TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross for good deals on off-brand (and name brand) Dutch ovens. It's a great place to pick up something for less.
• Also check Amazon around the holidays; there are often deep discounts then.
• And finally: Remember that any heavy pot with a lid can act as a Dutch oven. I often make no-knead bread in a stainless steel, oven-safe pot, instead of my cast iron Dutch ovens. Just make sure the pot is oven-safe and as heavy as possible.
Any other tips for buying a high-quality, inexpensive Dutch oven?
10 Recipes to Put a Dutch Oven to Work
Here are 10 favorite recipes for Dutch ovens. Soups, stews, no-knead bread, and more.
• 1 Baked Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions - Vegan, gluten-free, and totally delicious.
• 2 Rich and Meaty Lamb Ragù - Maybe my favorite use for my Dutch oven.
• 3 How To Cook (and Shred) a Pork Shoulder - Another meaty, slow-cooked way to put a Dutch oven to work.
• 4 Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyère - Chicken, gooey cheese, French onion soup style.
• 5 Chinese No Clay-Pot Chicken with Soy & Ginger - Rice, chicken, scallions, ginger and more — all in one pot.
• 6 Tuscan Bread & Tomato Soup (Ribollita) - Vegetarian and hearty. My favorite fall soup (I made a pot last night in fact).
• 7 Chicken in Coconut Milk - Based on Jamie Oliver's ridiculously good chicken with lemon and milk. Best chicken ever.
• 8 One-Pot Pasta e Fagioli - Bean and Pasta Stew - Easily made vegan or vegetarian, and hearty and filling. A great make-ahead meal.
• 9 How to Make Apple Butter - The Dutch oven is the perfect tool for slow-cooked apple butter. It's apple season! (Lots of DIY recipes are best made in the Dutch oven; yogurt works well too.)
• 10 No-Knead Bread in a Hurry - What you've been waiting for — bread made in a Dutch oven. Really amazing loaf of bread, baked by you with virtually no effort. It's a classic for a reason. Also check out these posts: How to Make No-Knead Bread and 20 Tips, Tricks, & Ideas for No-Knead Bread.
What's your favorite thing to cook in a Dutch oven?
(Images: Dutch oven images via: Chef's Catalog, Amazon, Target, Cutlery and More, Amazon. See linked recipes for full recipe image credits.)