7 Ways to Keep Using Your Dutch Oven in the Summertime

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Williams-Sonoma)

So you got a Dutch oven for Christmas — finally! You now have a gleaming, gorgeous hunk of colorful cast iron, and you worked it all winter long with soups and braises. But now that the weather is getting warmer, you haven’t taken that treasured pot out of the cupboard so often; you can’t bear the thought of simmering something on the stove all day.

But don’t let that pricey pot gather dust — there are so many ways your Dutch oven can serve you all summer too.

I can certainly relate to this hypothetical story; I have several Dutch ovens I love, but I find them gathering dust in the cupboards over the summer as I opt for the grill or the quick-cooking wok instead of my heavy pots. But the Dutch oven has some very specific summer uses — here are six that our editors particularly recommend.

6 Ways to Use Your Dutch Oven in the Summer

1. Serve and store picnic salads.

The Dutch oven’s heavy, insulating properties go both ways; they keep food warm, and they keep it cool. Remember your colorful Dutch oven when it comes time to take a potato salad or big bowl of slaw to your family picnic. And yes, the pot is heavy, but it’s also not breakable, so plopping it down in the back of your car for a drive to the park is worry-free.

A Visit with Amy Pennington: Gardener & Preserver (Image credit: Faith Durand)

2. Can small batches of jam or pickles.

You don’t need a huge pot to can and preserve in the summertime. As Amy Pennington, an author and expert in super small-batch canning explains, “I can’t have a canning pot,” in her tiny kitchen. Instead she lines the bottom of her trusty Dutch oven with a towel or a trivet, and uses it to can a few small jars of jam or pickles at a time. Much more accessible for most of us, in terms of both time and space, than large-batch preserving.

3. Bake bread on the grill.

Too hot to bake? You can totally use your Dutch oven as an enclosed miniature oven to bake bread and rolls on the grill. I love doing this with no-knead bread; it gets a beautiful crust on the hot grill. And yes, it’s perfectly safe to use your Dutch oven on the grill; I haven’t found that it blackens the bottom any more than using it over a gas burner.

4. Deep-fry on the grill.

Too hot to deep-fry in the kitchen? Take it outside! Doughnuts, fritters, French fries, fish and chips — all are best done on the grill in the summertime, and what a treat to let all that hot grease dissipate into the outdoor air. As mentioned above, the Dutch oven is a sturdy pot, and perfectly fine to use on the grill.

5. Braise meat in the oven — overnight.

Keep your kitchen cool by cooking big batches of pork shoulder or barbacoa beef in the oven overnight while you sleep. I like to brown a hunk of meat, then put it in a Dutch oven with a can of tomatoes and some aromatics, and let it cook very slowly overnight at about 250°F or 300°F. The result: Tender, juicy meat that can be frozen in small batches for quick meals later.

6. Make stock with summer vegetable trimmings.

This is a more traditional, stovetop use of your Dutch oven, but it’s a reminder as summer vegetables flood your kitchen — keep those trimmings and make quick, light batches of vegetable stock. This doesn’t take nearly as long as chicken or beef stock, and it keeps your Dutch oven in business.

7. Fill with ice and use it to cool drinks.

And lastly: the quintessential summer use for a Dutch oven. Fill your big pot with ice and use it to cool a six-pack or a few bottles of water while hanging out on the porch or roof deck.

How else do you keep your Dutch oven busy in the summertime?