What Is a Dutch Oven?

A Dutch oven is a versatile heavy-bottomed pot that’s worth adding to your kitchen collection. Use it to braise meat, simmer soup, bake bread, and more!

Chopped carrots, celery, and onion in a dutch oven for an oxtail recipe.
Sally Vargas

While there are an endless array of pots and pans you can stock your kitchen with, a Dutch oven is far and away one of the most useful of them all. It’s an investment piece that’s so industrious, you may find yourself keeping it perched on the stovetop at all times!

Curious to know exactly what a Dutch oven is and why it’s such a staple in a well-kept kitchen? Here’s the guide that will explain it all!

What is a Dutch Oven?

A Dutch oven is a cooking pot that features a heavy bottom, thick walls, and a lid. It is most typically made from cast iron, which means it can be used on both the stovetop and in the oven, as well as withstand very high heat on either the stovetop or in the oven. 

The cast iron is often coated with a porcelain enamel, which makes it easier to clean and care for than regular cast iron. This also allows Dutch ovens to be sold in a rainbow of colors.

Side view of a dutch oven simmering on the stove with light colored sugar simmering with a candy thermometer in the pot to make Classic Caramel Candies.
Marta Rivera

What Shape and Size is a Dutch Oven?

While Dutch ovens come in a number of shapes, the most common is round, with two small handles on either side and a knob on the lid.

Dutch ovens also come in a wide array of sizes. The most popular, however, is 5 1/2 quarts because this medium-large volume feeds a family of four easily but is well-suited for smaller or even slightly larger families, too. If you’re going to own just one Dutch oven, this is the size to get. 

Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale
Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale.

What Is a Dutch Oven Used For?

A Dutch oven is marketed as a tool for braising, since it can be transferred from the stovetop to the oven and the lid is so tight-fitting that liquid won’t evaporate.

However, that’s really just one of a countless number of uses. It’s great for making soups and stews, deep-frying, and searing meat. You can even bake bread in it! Or you can simply use it just like any other large pot and boil water in it to cook pasta, potatoes, or grains.

5 favorite recipes to make in a Dutch oven:

Best homemade creamy tortellini soup in a white bowl on a table with a white tablecloth. A blue dutch oven with soup and spoon inside is behind the bowl.
Alison Bickel

What Dutch Oven Should I Buy?

There are many different brands of Dutch ovens. The two most popular are Le Creuset and Staub. Both are French brands that have a long history of making these pots and while they are on the high end of the spectrum when it comes to cost, setting you back about $350 for a 5 1/2 quart pot, it’s an investment piece that will last a lifetime and beyond. 

Looking for a deal? Keep an eye out for sales that occur throughout the year for both brands at major retailers. It’s also worth visiting places like HomeGoods and TJ.Maxx, which often sell seconds at significantly reduced prices. 

Other brands that are also respected and come at a lower price point are Lodge and Tramontina.