From one-pot meals of braised chicken, fall-apart short ribs, or fragrant bouillabaisse to simple and satisfying no-knead bread, Dutch ovens are serious workhorses of pots. Their hefty construction and lids that trap heat and steam mean they’re great for cooking food evenly. Most Dutch ovens go from stovetop to oven, making them perfect for braises, soups, desserts, and more. My baby blue Le Creuset enameled Dutch oven is one of my most-beloved wedding gifts, and it gets a lot of love in my kitchen. Especially as winter approaches, I use it to make chili, soup, and all sorts of stews almost daily.
A quality Dutch oven is "an heirloom piece, something that is going to last through the ages if you maintain and season it," says Angela Skogen, owner of Cooks on Main in Williston, North Dakota. Cast iron Duch ovens will be able to withstand bumps and bangs, but keep in mind that they'll have hot spots. Enameled versions need to be handled gently and are definitely an investment. But I found one nonstick newbie that's worth adding to your cookware collection and won't break your budget.
Here are my picks for beautiful, practical pots worth passing down for many well-fed generations.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 5.5-Quart Round Dutch Oven
What We Love: Superior heat distribution and retention, newly designed lid, compatible with all cooktops, wide range of colors and sizes available
What We Don't Love: Can stain without proper TLC, expensive
The most iconic Dutch oven maker, Le Creuset, was created in 1925 in northern France when two Belgians combined their casting and enameling talents to create the signature Le Creuset cocotte. Since then, the Le Creuset Dutch oven has stayed at the highest of quality even while going through multiple design improvements. This top-of-the-line enameled Dutch oven needs no seasoning, and it’s suitable for both the stovetop and the oven since it can handle temperatures to 500 degrees. Don't worry when you have to grab it out of that hot oven though. The handles are now some of the largest available and easier to grasp when wearing oven mitts.
Recognized for their serious strength and durability, these Dutch ovens retain consistent, even heating for slow cooking, braising, and roasting whatever your heart desires. Like all Le Creuset cookware, this comes in a variety of lovely colors, from teal “Caribbean” to tangerine-hued “Nectar,” and it’s as practical as it is handsome. The interior, meanwhile, remains a beautiful sand color, so you can easily see what's happening in the pot while attending to your other dishes. The most telling of updates is with the lid though. Stabilizers now prevent escaping steam from rocking the lid. At the tippy top, the improved ergonomic knob is available in stainless steel or light gold and is oven safe up to 500 degrees (you previously had to buy an oven-safe knob separately).
These Dutch ovens are dishwasher safe, although I prefer to wash mine by hand. You do have to be careful when cooking and washing as to not scratch the interior enamel, and to not chip the exterior. One way to avoid any food burning to the surface is to limit using this on lower heat. Le Creuset Dutch ovens are available in sizes from 1-quart all the way to 13.25-quart, but the 5.5-quart remains an incredibly versatile choice for any household.
"I got my Le Creuset Dutch oven over 10 years ago and it's still in excellent condition. They never wear out. I can guarantee that I'll have mine for life. I love using mine for stews and I get great browning on the meat." — Julia Warren, VP of Commerce
Price at time of publish: $420
Material: Enameled cast iron | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Capacity: 5.5 quarts
Best Overall, Runner-Up
Staub Cast Iron 5.5-Quart Round Cocotte
What We Love: Tight-fitting and self-basting lid, elegant for serving right at the table, textured interior surface
What We Don't Love: Expensive
Also from France, each Staub piece is unique—a single cocotte takes a week to make and is handled by more than 20 people from start to finish. Staub claims that its production process creates an exceptionally uniform thickness throughout each Dutch oven. That creates its own well-known heat-retaining qualities.
There are some vital differences from the Le Creuset, differences that may push you one way or the other. First, many Dutch ovens have light-colored interiors like the Le Creuset, Staub's models come with a black matte enamel interior that's textured with quartz for heat resistance and to ensure great browning. The heavyweight, tight-fitting lid is designed to retain moisture, and it's made with tiny spikes on the interior side that continually release condensed liquid back onto the food. The knobs on these are brass but are oven-safe.
Staub does not recommend using its Dutch oven on glass stoves, though they are compatible with all other cooktops. Each is dishwasher safe, although we prefer handwashing, and all are definitely elegant enough for serving right at the table. These also come in a variety of sizes from 0.5-quart to 13.25-quart.
Price at time of publish: $464
Material: Enameled cast iron | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Capacity: 5.5 quarts
Amazon Basics Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
What We Love: Durable cast iron for great heat distribution and retention, lovely colors and design, excellent value
What We Don't Love: Only oven safe to 400 degrees, interior enamel isn't nonstick
Just because the most well-known and highest-quality Dutch ovens are in the triple digits, you can still get a decent enough one, in a great, glossy color. You'll just have to compromise on a few aspects.
Amazon’s enameled Dutch oven is a great choice for boiling, braising, and deep-frying, if you’re not planning on shelling out the bigger bucks for a Le Creuset or Staub. Made with heavy-duty cast iron, it will retain heat well and distribute it evenly when cooking. The large looped handles are perfect for transporting from stove to table, and the fitted lid will keep the heat and steam in during cooking.
The biggest compromise, though, will come with the oven. This is only safe up to 400 degrees, so there won't be any bread baking, but you can get away with pasta bakes. Also, the interior enamel isn't nonstick, so you'll definitely need to add enough fat or water to keep your food from sticking. These are available in three sizes, with the 6-quart being the most versatile.
Price at time of publish: $50
Material: Enameled cast iron | Maximum Temperature: 400 degrees | Capacity: 6 quarts
Related: The Best Cookware Sets
Best Cast Iron
Lodge 5-Quart Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven
What We Love: Can be used literally anywhere including over a campfire, comes preseasoned, great heat retention and even heating, extremely durable
What We Don't Love: Small handles, cast iron can rust if not washed and seasoned properly
I couldn’t recommend a finer bang-for-your-buck Dutch oven. As the oldest cast-iron manufacturer in the U.S., Lodge has built a solid reputation for its quality cast iron pots and pans, and this is no exception. Bonus: the lid of its Dutch oven even doubles as a 10.25-inch skillet, so you're essentially getting two pieces of cookware in one.
With its squat sides and wide base, this produces a solid sear on meat and concentrates flavors beautifully during cooking. The cast iron will retain and distribute heat like higher-priced Dutch ovens. Cast iron does require maintenance though. You will need to hand wash and dry this thoroughly, plus you will need to regularly season it. You can comfortably grip the Dutch oven’s handles with mitts or towels, although they're on the smaller side. There is also no handle at the top of this version, though there is a version with a handled lid if you want.
"My wife got me this for my birthday a few years ago. Lodge cast iron pans are always great with the way they retain heat but this one is extra special. The lid can also be used as a skillet so you really are getting two pans for a very reasonable price. It's great for stews and braises but also works really well flipped upside down for sourdough." — Eric Handelsman, SVP of Dotdash Food & Drink
Price at time of publish: $76
Material: Cast iron | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Capacity: 5 quarts, 6 quarts
Related: The Best Cast Iron Skillets
Caraway Dutch Oven
What We Love: Nonstick and free of Teflon and chemicals, ceramic coating is durable and easy to clean, great colors and modern design
What We Don't Love: Only available in one size
If you want a nonstick interior, jaunty colors, and are still kind of on a budget, the trendy Caraway Dutch oven should be in your kitchen. These Dutch ovens feature an aluminum core coated with ceramic, not glass enamel, to give you colorful cookware with a seriously nonstick interior. Since this is a newer, design-focused company, this Dutch oven has stainless-steel arches for a modern take on handles. It can be used on all types of cooktops and in the oven up to 550 degrees.
Of course, you may be thinking that a trendy new company isn't as great as older, more iconic brands, so Simply Recipes put Caraway cookware to the test. When heating up tomato sauce, the aluminum core really comes in handy to evenly distribute heat throughout the pot. Though it's made of metal, the lid handle stayed cool on the stovetop (you should still take precautions when it's been in the oven). The cookware is durable, as it was able to withstand drops and knocks, and the nonstick interior made cleanup a breeze.
Price at time of publish: $135
Material: Aluminum, ceramic | Maximum Temperature: 550 degrees | Capacity: 6.5 quarts
Related: The Best Ceramic Cookware
When it comes to Dutch oven, the best-of-the-best is still Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 5.5-Quart Round Dutch Oven (view at Amazon) and Staub Cast Iron 5.5-quart Round Cocotte (view at Amazon), with which one to buy coming down to your personal preferences. If you're on a tighter budget or want a modern design, the Caraway Dutch Oven (view at Caraway) is the next best thing.
What to Look for in a Dutch Oven
Size and Shape
Dutch ovens are usually either round or oval. Round pots sit well on a single burner for even heating, shape bread loaves well, and are the more popular choice. Skogen recommends “oval Dutch ovens for beef and pork roasts that tend to be longer,” since these narrower cuts of meat fit better in wider pots. It really comes down to what recipes you'll be making regularly. As for size, the most popular and versatile is anything within 5 to 6 quarts. If you go much smaller, popular recipes may not fit into the pot, though the Dutch oven will inevitably be lighter and easier to store.
Most Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, with or without an enameled surface, although there are also ceramic, stainless steel, and aluminum varieties on the market. Cast iron is classic for good reason—it holds a tremendous amount of heat, ideal for the low-and-slow recipes well-suited to Dutch oven cooking. Aluminum, on the other hand, is good at distributing heat, but not retaining it.
As for coatings, enamel and ceramic make life easier. They're easier to care for and clean than bare cast iron, which you’ll need to season. Of course, the nonstick properties make both deglazing and cleanup pain-free.
Ideally, your Dutch oven’s lid fits tightly on the pot but still lets out just a bit of steam, so soups and stews can reduce. Some makers, including Staub, include ridges beneath their lids, to let evaporated moisture drip back inside whatever goodness you’re cooking.
Also, consider a pot’s handles. They should be substantial enough to grab securely, even with a bulky oven mitt (don’t forget yours, as the handles will get hot during cooking.)
As for the little knobs on top, this is something to think about because some non-metal knobs may have a heat threshold below the rest of the pot (like Le Creuset’s classic black polymer knob). You can find stainless steel oven-proof replacement knobs or choose a Dutch oven with a knob that’s oven-proof.
Can you use a Dutch oven on a stovetop?
Yes! One of the great Dutch oven perks is its impressive versatility. Cast iron Dutch ovens can be used "on the stove, in the oven, over a grill, in the flame—it can handle high heat," Skogen says. Cheaper brands or those with enamel or ceramic exteriors can be used on most, if not all, stovetops, but be careful to not scratch the exterior.
What kinds of recipes can you make in a Dutch oven?
The possibilities are nearly endless. They’re classics for stews like coq au vin, pot roast, and ratatouille. But that’s just the tip of the Dutch oven iceberg. "Dutch ovens are a great option for deep frying," says Skogen. "They retain heat beautifully, and don’t drop in temperature as much as stainless steel, so you get a great crunchy exterior."
Skogen’s husband is a fourth-generation farmer, and their Dutch oven is a great tool to feed a crowd. "Because it has great heat retention, a chili, roast or stew can travel to the field; we have a hot meal for the workers that stays hot," she says. For your next potluck, make a batch of mac and cheese or braised lentils in your Dutch oven and bring it as-is—it’s a pretty and practical presentation.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Hannah Howard has been writing about food and cooking for over a decade, including the memoirs “Feast” and “Plenty.” She cooks a lot of meals in her trusty Dutch oven.
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