When it comes to outfitting your cookware collection with a Dutch oven (a total workhorse and truly worthwhile investment for any kitchen), you've got a choice to make: Will you go for an enameled Dutch oven (technically a French oven) or the traditional cast iron version? They can be used in just about all the same ways, and both move seamlessly between the stovetop and oven, but there are a few distinctions that set them apart.
The Difference Between Enameled Cast Iron and Cast Iron
All Dutch ovens are made from cast iron, are wonderful conductors of heat, and can be used in many of the same ways. The main distinction that sets enameled and cast iron Dutch ovens apart is the pot's finish (or lack thereof), the price tag, and the amount of TLC your cookware requires.
More About Enameled Dutch Ovens
Even if you've never heard the term "enameled cast iron," you've likely seen these pots around. These are the Dutch ovens that come in gorgeous hues, spanning just about every color of the rainbow, like the ones from Le Creuset and Staub, among others.
Unlike traditional cast iron, these pots have an enameled finish over the interior and exterior of the pot. (Hence the name.) It makes for a smooth, nonporous surface, although if not cared for properly the finish can chip. These pots can be used to cook just about anything and everything on the stove and in the oven, although because of the enameled finish, it's not recommended they be used on the grill or over an open flame.
While enameled Dutch ovens now come with options for every budget, they are still typically pricer than cast iron Dutch ovens. The tradeoff is that these pots are easier to care for and don't require quite as much TLC. Enameled cast iron pots do not need to be seasoned before using, are not prone to rusting in the same way traditional cast iron is, and get the okay to be washed with soap.
Tips on Caring for an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
More About Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
Cast iron Dutch ovens are basically the original Dutch oven; they're said to have been created by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1700s. They are sturdy, durable, and, when treated well, can last for generations. If that sounds familiar, it's because all the same rules that apply to cast iron skillets also apple to cast iron Dutch ovens. This means cast iron Dutch ovens should be seasoned before they're put to work, which pays off in the form of a nonstick surface over the inside of the pot. These pots require some extra attention when cleaning (no soap!), and are more prone to rust.
Just like the enameled version, cast iron Dutch ovens can be used to cook just about anything and everything on the stovetop and oven. And because they lack a painted coating, these pots fare much better on grills and over an open flame.
Another stand-out difference you're not likely to miss is the price tag. Cast iron Dutch ovens are typically more affordable than their enameled counterparts.
Tips on Caring for a Cast Iron Dutch Oven (It's Just Like a Skillet!)
Do you prefer one over the other? Tell us in the comments below!