One of the most important things in my kitchen during the winter months is my Dutch oven. I use it for braising, for stews and chili, and more. It’s in regular rotation on both the stove top and the oven.
Dutch ovens are heavy cookware made of cast iron. They are used for a range of things, including the aforementioned soups, stews, and braising, but also for making bread, a huge variety of one pot meals, roasts, and more. The Dutch oven is a truly versatile piece of cookware and you’re missing out if you don’t have one.
Usually when we talk about Dutch ovens, we’re talking about the enameled kind used for indoor cooking. However, there are also those bare Dutch ovens used for outdoor cooking and camping. Side note: My grandpa used to make THE BEST apple cobbler in his whenever we went camping. Anyway, let’s take a look at the best Dutch ovens out there so you can get started with this important pot ASAP. We’ll cover both enameled and non-enameled (raw) cast iron options.
Enameled Dutch Ovens
Most Dutch ovens in today’s kitchens are enameled. This means that the cast iron is covered in a glaze that helps prevent rust spots and makes it easier to clean. It also means that you don’t have to season the pan, like you do with bare cast iron.
Enameled Dutch ovens can be fairly pricey – even a less expensive pot will be around $50. However, if you get a quality pot and take care of it, it can last for generations. Enameled Dutch ovens are also vibrant and stylish; you can find practically any color you’d like.
Here are our fave enameled options.
Le Creuset Signature 5.5 Quart (Top Pick)
The crème de la crème of the Dutch oven world actually goes by the name “French oven” and comes from Le Creuset. It’s not cheap, but it’s known for exceptional quality and durability. As long as you take care of it (avoid abrasive cleansers and take care not to overheat it), you’ll find that the LC French oven will last for many years.
LC pots come in a rainbow of lovely colors, are heat resistant to 500 degrees, and are lighter than many of the other brands. You’ll hear a lot about why you should invest in one, but is it really worth the high cost? The answer for most devoted home cooks is yes. LC pots are known for not chipping, which is the biggest difference between them and the popular (and much less expensive) Lodge Dutch oven and other brands. It’s covered by a lifetime warranty and the craftsmanship makes it beautiful to look at and comfortable to use. If it’s in budget and you’re ready to invest, we say go for it.
Lodge Enameled 6 Quart (Best Price)
The Lodge brand is well known for being leaders in cast iron. Their family-owned cookware foundry sets high standards for quality cast iron at a lower price point. Oven safe up to 500 degrees, easy to clean, and well designed, there is plenty to love about this Dutch oven. And, there are multiple vibrant colors available.
The primary difference between the Lodge and the Le Creuset has to do with the instances of chipping, as I mentioned above. There are also slight design differences that make the LC a more superior pot. However, for the price, and given Lodge’s longstanding tradition of creating great cast iron products, there’s no reason why you should avoid this Dutch oven.
In my humble opinion, Staub’s “cocotte” wins the day for being the prettiest. I’m obsessed with the little rooster knob and the clean lines and deep colors. I also really like that the interior is dark because the white inside of my Dutch oven being stained all the time makes me a little crazy. But, alas, aesthetics aren’t everything. (Even though there is also a tomato-shaped one and a pumpkin shaped one! So clever!)
Even so, the Staub cocotte has legions of rabid fans who swear by the brand, and overall the ratings are high. The design creates a bit different functionality from other French/Dutch ovens, and allows for internal basting and better searing. As far as price, Staub is similar to Le Creuset, so it’s definitely an investment, but one that is well worth it if you intend to use it frequently for many years to come.
If you need a bigger enameled Dutch oven for roasting birds, big batches of coq au vin, or just for feeding crowds, there are several different size options from Le Creuset. Here are a few of the most popular:
- Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 7.25-Quart
- Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 9.25-Quart
- Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 15.5-Quart
Non-Enameled Dutch Ovens
Lodge Pre-Seasoned 5-Quart (Best Overall)
If you’re looking for the rustic look of bare cast iron in your new Dutch oven, look no further than the Lodge pot. Like their cast iron skillets, Lodge non-enameled Dutch ovens come pre-seasoned and ready to get cooking. And, like cast iron skillets, you’ll need to ensure proper care of the pot in order to avoid rusting and increase longevity.
Lodge Seasoned Camp Dutch Oven (Best for Camping)
Lodge wins again, this time for camp Dutch ovens. Designed specifically for the campfire, this pot can do it all – hold hot coals, become a griddle (just flip the lid), straddle the campfire for low and slow cooking. It’s pre-seasoned, so you can take it right out of the box and head for the hills. Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars by the hundreds of reviewers on Amazon, you can be sure you’re getting an excellent Dutch oven for your campout with this one.
What to Look for in a Dutch Oven
Size and color are probably at the top of your list as you’re shopping for a new Dutch oven. Name brands in this category of cookware matter to some, too. Fortunately, the top names in cast iron Dutch ovens have been at it for a long time, so sticking with those brands is a good way to ensure you’re getting a quality product.
Having said that, there are also plenty of newer names in the cast iron pot category, and some of those might be worth your attention. Plenty are lower priced than the bigger names, so budget can factor into this decision, too. With all that in mind, here are a few key factors to keep in mind as you make your decision on which Dutch oven to buy.
Enameled vs. Raw
Choosing a raw cast iron pot over an enameled one is largely a matter of preference. Most cooks choose enameled, but there are plenty of home cooks and chefs who prefer their Dutch oven to be free of enamel. This requires a different level of care and some differences in cooking abilities. For example, non-enameled pots can withstand higher heat, and enameled pots are non-reactive, making them a better choice for acidic foods.
The lid should fit well, the knob should be oven safe, and the handles should be easy to hold (especially because these suckers are heavy). At minimum, these are the design features you should expect from a Dutch oven. You’ll notice that different brands have unique designs that are aesthetic or are meant to make them perform in a better or more unique way (like Staub’s internal basting). Other design features might also include how the bottom of the pot is designed and whether it works well for searing and stirring.
Sure, this is part of design, but the lid is super important in a Dutch oven. If you’re choosing outside of these top brands, be sure to do a little research on how well the lid fits, if it’s oven proof, and so forth.
Dutch ovens are hand-wash only, but they should be relatively easy to clean. A good pot won’t have much (if anything) stuck to the bottom, and there should be minimal scorching as well. Again, if you’re interested in a different brand than Lodge, Staub, or Le Creuset, check the manufacturer’s info about cleaning requirements, and read some user reviews.
The most popular size Dutch oven is around 6-quarts, but there are larger and smaller options available as well. There are plenty of large capacity options (I covered a few above), and there are also some small sizes, such as 2- or 3-quarts, or even tiny Dutch oven-type things called mini cocottes.
Most brands that I researched have a limited lifetime warranty. These will cover chipping when it’s under normal use (i.e. not high heat or burned) or other manufacturer defects. It’s worth it to do a little digging about the warranty before you buy, especially if you’re springing for a more expensive pot.