What's not to love about Dutch ovens? They come in bright, beautiful colors that can go straight from cooking to the tabletop, and you can braise, deep fry, or even bake bread in them.
This kitchen workhorse is usually a sign of a serious cook, and lots of recipes call for using a Dutch oven — but then what is a French oven? Are a Dutch oven and French oven the same thing with different names?
What is a Dutch oven?
Dutch ovens are said to have been created by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1700s (thus the name). They are large pots — historically made of raw cast iron, which develops a nonstick surface if seasoned properly — with tight-fitting lids.
Dutch ovens tend to be heavy in weight and can be used both on the stove and in the oven. They are generally used for moist cooking methods, like braising or making soups and stews, but can also be used for other cooking methods, like baking bread and deep frying.
So what's a French oven?
You're probably thinking that the pot you call your Dutch oven doesn't sound like the raw cast iron pot I just described, and you're right. If you have a cast iron pot that has an enameled coating, it's actually a version of the Dutch oven called a French oven.
Here's an easy way to remember it: A French oven is really a type of Dutch oven.
Why the confusion?
French companies like Le Creuset took the basic concept of a Dutch oven, added the enameled coating, and started dubbing these pots French ovens instead to try to distinguish them. These French ovens grew in popularity, but the term French oven itself never really stuck, so they are still commonly referred to as Dutch ovens. In fact, most people think that the enameled Dutch oven is the original form of the Dutch oven!
Will Copenhaver of Le Creuset says, "French Oven is a qualifier historically used to reference higher-end enameled round ovens manufactured in France. Le Creuset recently switched back to the term Dutch oven in US consumer communications in the interest of being consistent with the language most Americans use. We’ll probably always call them French Ovens around our office!"
Can a Dutch oven and French oven be used interchangeably?
Recipes calling for a Dutch oven are most likely referring to a French oven with the enameled interior, but if you have the traditional Dutch oven with a well-seasoned raw cast iron interior instead, they will both function in the same way and can be used interchangeably.