Emily's Favorite Pan: A Dutch Oven (But Which One?)

This was my favorite pot until I gave it away. Here's why, and what I'm thinking of getting to replace it…

Years ago, during the no-knead bread craze, I decided I needed a Dutch oven and set my sights on an inexpensive 6.5-quart Chefmate from Target. Cook's Illustrated rated it a best buy and at only $40, it quickly sold out all over the country. A dear friend of mine snatched the last one on our local shelves but then conspired with my boyfriend to give it to me for Valentine's Day! It was the sweetest surprise and the Dutch oven became the workhorse of my kitchen. Beyond bread, I used it to make soups and stews, cook grains and beans, braise vegetables, boil water, and more.

Unfortunately, after a few years of service, the enamel had chipped in a few places and, truth be told, I wanted something less colorful. (We had moved into a new apartment where I shed my colorful kitchen past in favor of stark white!) A friend expressed interest in the pot, so I happily gave it away.

To replace it I decided on a white, 5.5-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven (or "French oven," as they call it). Knowing just how useful a Dutch oven could be, I felt ready to make the $240 investment in something (presumably) more well constructed than the Chefmate, and that came with a lifetime guarantee. I ordered the Le Creuset pot from Amazon.com, excitedly opened the box when it arrived ... and my heart sank. The lid was defective, excessively wobbly, and had a number of rust-colored stains on it.

The Amazon return process was painless but since then I have been plagued with uncertainty. Should I go with my initial plan of 5.5 quarts, or would 7.25 be more versatile? Or the 6.75-quart wide model? (It would only be used for vegetarian foods – no whole chickens or large pieces of meat.) And is Le Creuset really the way to go? My boyfriend is campaigning for a Sarpaneva pot and I love the form but it seems much too small. Decisions, decisions!

Related: How to Choose the Best Dutch Oven: And Use It Well

(Image: Emily Ho)

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Emily Ho is a Los Angeles-based writer, recipe developer, and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. She is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and Food Swap Network. Learn more at Roots & Marvel

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