I’m Seriously Impressed by This Inexpensive Dutch Oven — It’s Less Than $60
I am a firm believer that every kitchen should have an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. They’re highly versatile, nonstick, and pretty enough to take right to the table for serving. They also work on any heat source, can do anything from deep-frying to slow simmering to oven-baking, and don’t need to be seasoned before using. Many come in a range of sizes, but anything between 4- and 6-quart capacities should feed at least three.
The only problem is that they’re expensive. Price tags for Le Creuset and Staub, the two most famous Dutch oven brands, can venture deep into the triple digits. Less popular (but still beloved) brands, like Milo, Great Jones, and Lodge are closer to $150 — but if you’re just starting out, on a tight budget, or want to give one as a gift, that’s still tough to swallow.
It’s definitely possible to score any one of those brands at a major discount if you keep your eyes open for sales and haunt discount stores like HomeGoods. But I’ve actually discovered several brands offering enameled cast iron Dutch ovens for under $80 as their regular price — no sales or deal-hunting necessary, so I tested several and found a clear favorite.
What’s So Great About AmazonBasics’ Dutch Oven?
It doesn’t get much cheaper than AmazonBasics’ Dutch oven. There are three sizes and the smallest at 4.3-quarts is currently priced at $59.99. Like many other brands, it’s available in 12 colors (though several are out of stock at the moment).
Everything about this pot reminded me of Lodge’s enameled Dutch oven, which I and our former tools editor has tested, and found to easily hold its own against its much pricier brethren. Lodge’s 4.5-quart version is slightly larger, so it weighs closer to 12 pounds compared to AmazonBasics’ 11 pounds, but everything else is basically the same.
The handles are generously sized and comfortable to use. The interior is white, so it’s easy to see how foods brown. The lid is similarly domed, so it takes up more room in a cabinet, but it’s studded underneath like Staub, which may help condensation drip down over the food more evenly. And it costs even less than the Lodge!
The AmazonBasics Dutch oven has more than 38,000 ratings on Amazon, 85 percent of which are 5-star reviews. Some reviewers had trouble with the enamel flaking off after just a few uses, but I haven’t had any trouble with chipping or flaking over the course of two intense weeks of cooking.
To see how evenly it heated and maintained gentle heat, I made a lineup of thick, slow-simmered dishes — lentil soup, pork curry, marinara sauce, and beef stew — none of which burned or stuck on the bottom. I used it to deep-fry tofu, boil pasta, cook rice, and even reheat leftovers. Basically, I left it on my stove and used it for everything. It worked like a champ.
To see how much steam escaped from the lid, I boiled 8 cups of water for 10 minutes and found it lost 2 cups of water — about the same as many other pots I’ve tested, including Le Creuset, Milo, Artisanal Kitchen Supply, and Italic; Lodge lost less, just over a cup. This is an ideal level of lid tightness, as it allows some moisture to steam off for a more concentrated final dish, but doesn’t let it escape too fast and run the risk of drying out the dish.
I do have some quibbles, though. The sides of the pot slope toward the bottom, so there’s less surface area available for searing meats and I’ve had to sear in several batches. Another inexpensive pot I tested was even more narrow on the bottom, which really makes no sense. Pots with straighter sides have a wider bottom and can accommodate more pieces without crowding.
The manufacturer says the Dutch oven is only oven safe to 400 degrees, which isn’t really that hot. Other brands are usually oven safe to at least 500 degrees. The knob is metal, so I’m not sure why it’s recommended to not go above 400.
Also, I noticed the pot had several imperfections right out of the box — a small ding on the inside at the bottom, and a couple spots around the rim where the enamel wasn’t evenly applied. I can see these areas causing some wear-and-tear issues in the future (and may be the reason why some shoppers note chipping enamel), and AmazonBasics has a standard 1-year warranty, not a lifetime warranty like the more expensive brands.
Maybe I’ve been lucky, but some of the other inexpensive Dutch ovens I’ve tested had even more flaws in the enamel than AmazonBasics. Perhaps the trade-off for the bargain price is less manufacturing oversight?
Still, tiny flaws and all, this is a SOLID workhorse of a pot that cooks well, looks great, and is easy on the wallet. While I can’t recommend any of the other budget-friendly Dutch ovens I’ve tested, I can definitely say this particular AmazonBasics Dutch oven is worth picking up. A quality Dutch oven for a fraction of the price of the name brands? It’s hard to find any faults in that.
Buy: AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 4.3-Quart, starting at $59.99
Who makes your favorite Dutch oven? Tell us in the comments below.