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How to Buy a Dutch Oven: Finding the Best Dutch Oven for You

Published on 06/27/2023 · 11 min readGet ready to master the art of Dutch oven cooking! This Expert guide helps you find the perfect Dutch oven for your exact cooking needs. Let's get cookin'!
By Kitchen Expert Jacob Lewis

Photo by Becca Tapert

TL;DR: Often described as the most versatile and rugged pot in the kitchen, the Dutch oven, or French “Cocotte,” can go from stovetop to oven without hesitation and can serve just about any task. Consider the top brands Le Creuset, Lodge, and Staub, and how the differences in their lids, handles, and durability best suit your needs as a cook.

Hey, I’m Jake, a Kitchen Expert here at Curated! Dutch ovens are my favorite cookware in part because I grew up around chefs who used enameled cast iron Dutch ovens daily. Whether it was my dad making sourdough in the Le Creuset or my grandma’s slow-cooked beef bourguignon in the 6-quart Dutch oven, these pots became part of my family history. Beyond my personal fondness, Dutch ovens are also universally known as a great piece of cookware.

What Is a Dutch Oven?

Photo by Karin Hildebrand Lau

The most versatile piece of cookware in the kitchen is a Dutch oven—a heavy-weighted vessel with big handles like a stock pot, but wider and shorter in shape to easily fit in your oven. Their tight-fitting lid locks in moisture and makes braising easy. Most Dutch ovens have a capacity of around 3-9 quarts, making them perfect for searing, sautéing, baking, frying, and especially slow-cooking and stewing. Usually a Dutch oven is made from cast iron, but sometimes they’re just a simple piece of sand-molded metal seasoned in vegetable oil. Many Dutch ovens are also coated in a colorful enamel that is easy to clean and won’t react with acidic foods.

What Are the Different Dutch Oven Materials?

While my preference for Dutch oven construction is cast iron, there are many other material options. Chefs often have several Dutch ovens made from different materials because each has unique benefits and potential drawbacks. I’ll cover the four main types below:

1. Stainless Steel

Photo by Africa Studios

Lightweight, durable, and easy-to-maintain, stainless steel Dutch ovens are non-reactive to acidic foods, making them worry-free, and they provide key advantages for practical cooks. While they don’t hold temperature like cast iron, their aluminum core allows for rapid heating. Not my personal first choice but nonetheless a valuable asset in the kitchen.

  • Benefits
    • Most durable construction, easy to maintain, and dishwasher-safe
    • Lighter weight than cast iron makes for easier handling
    • Usually lower cost
  • Keep in Mind
    • Doesn’t hold heat as well as cast iron or ceramic
    • Not as colorful as enameled cast iron
    • Can be prone to hot spots if not well-constructed (you want 3-ply construction)
    • Be sure to check if compatible with induction
  • Best For
    • Simmering stew and soup, as well as boiling pasta
    • Sautéing veggies
    • Deep frying chicken
    • Making tomato sauces

2. Bare Cast Iron

Photo by Ignat Kushanrev

The most long-lasting and heavy-duty construction, bare cast iron is renowned for surviving generations and producing the crispiest textures. While it does require more care and maintenance to prevent rusting, for many, the resulting meals are worth the extra labor.

  • Benefits
    • Usually the most affordable
    • Develops a nonstick-like surface on the interior that is nontoxic and easy-to-clean
    • Will last for generations, when cared for properly
    • Compatible on all stovetops and heat sources (including campfires and induction)
    • High heat capacity (often close to 650°F, although you might need to reseason afterward as anything above 600°F will begin to burn the seasoning)
  • Keep in Mind
    • Can be too heavy for some folks
    • Maintenance and seasoning is a required chore, but some people enjoy this
    • Cast iron is reactive to acidic foods which may alter the flavor, but is still perfectly safe to use
    • Hand-wash only (do not put in dishwasher), as cast iron is prone to rusting, although it can be easy to repair the rust
    • Requires oven mitts for handling
  • Best For
    • Baking perfectly crusted bread
    • Frying or searing absolutely everything
    • Crispy textures

3. Enameled Cast Iron

Photo by Cooker King

Classic in its color and design, enameled cast iron is often what you see in cooking shows and magazines. The glass-like coating is rugged and prevents all the maintenance challenges that one might encounter with bare cast iron.

  • Benefits
    • High-heat retention of cast iron without the maintenance (it’s dishwasher safe!)
    • Non-reactive to acidic foods as enamel protects the flavors of your meal
    • Compatible with all cooktops
    • Many colorful options
  • Keep in Mind
    • Higher quality brands are more expensive, but also more durable
    • Enamel finishes are more nonstick than stainless steel, but less nonstick than bare cast iron
    • Enamel can chip or crack when handled improperly (luckily most brands have forgiving lifetime warranties)
    • Limited heat capacity to about 500°F
    • Requires oven mitts for handling
  • Best For
    • Slow-cooking meats, casseroles, and chili
    • Baking bread, cobbler, and even pizza
    • Cooking acidic foods without needing to worry about rust or iron content changing the flavor of your food (a common challenge with bare cast iron)

4. Ceramic

Photo by Marie Sonmez Photography

The ceramic Dutch oven is best for use inside ovens. It heats quickly and retains heat while also being durable, non-reactive, and easy to clean. Ceramic is typically not for use on the stovetop, as it can crack or even shatter when exposed to direct heat sources. This makes ceramic the least durable overall, but when cared for, it should last for decades or longer.

  • Benefits
    • Light weight makes it easy to handle
    • Responsive to heat and has a high heat retention
    • Colorful and usually budget-friendly
  • Keep in Mind
    • Not for use on stovetops—direct burners can rapidly damage the cookware
    • Never shock a hot ceramic Dutch oven with water as it can cause the vessel to crack
    • Requires oven mitts for handling
  • Best For
    • Casseroles and other baked dishes
    • Roasting meats and vegetables in the oven at high temperatures

What to Consider When Buying a Dutch Oven

1. What size Dutch oven do you need?

The most common size Dutch oven is 5-quarts, which is enough to feed 3-5 people. Smaller Dutch ovens (1-3 quarts) are great for individuals, while larger Dutch ovens (7-12-quarts) are perfect for a crowd. Consider that larger vessels will require more storage space and are far heavier to transport when loaded with ingredients.

2. Round or oval shape?

Traditionally, the oval shape of a Dutch oven was meant to accommodate large poultry roasts. In reality, both shapes serve this function. It’s worth asking which shape you are more attracted to aesthetically. Personally, I find that the oval shape brings a nice dimension to the dinner table.

3. How important is the lid design?

All Dutch ovens have a lid that locks in moisture, causing a self-basting effect, but some lids might perform better than others for specific purposes. Staub claims to have the best design for self-basting, while Le Creuset is domed, allowing for expansion of baked goods. Only on less expensive Dutch ovens are the lids less consistently good.

4. Is it compatible with your cooktop?

Cast iron Dutch ovens, whether enameled or bare, work on all cooktops. Bare cast iron can pretty much get as hot as you want, while stainless steel and enameled cast iron should be kept closer to a 500°F maximum. Some stainless steel Dutch ovens use a glass lid that has its own heat limit rating (often between 350-450°F)

5. How much should a Dutch oven cost?

Dutch ovens are available at all price ranges

  • Budget (under $50): For under $50, I recommend bare cast iron (usually Lodge brand or thrift store finds) as they have great performance and durability. The build quality will be less refined and might not come with a good factory seasoning, but they’re perfect for curious beginners.
  • Mid-range ($50-$200): This price range has some great stainless steel Dutch ovens, high-end bare cast iron, and ceramic options. I tend to recommend avoiding enameled cast iron at this price because of potential durability issues (For example, on Amazon there’s the Milo by Kana, the Misen Dutch oven, and Dutchess by Great Jones—all of which are younger companies that have not proven their durability.)
  • High-end (over $200): High-end enameled Dutch ovens are universally expensive. But the higher price provides signature quality (like resistance to chipping) and better aesthetics. All premium enameled Dutch ovens are backed with a lifetime warranty that will cover any potential chipping and rusting (obvious neglect will void the warranty).

Features to Look for in a Dutch Oven

Photo by Candice Bell

  1. Lid design: The knob should be comfortable. If you plan to bake bread, then consider a domed lid that allows the bread to expand. Most lids offer self-basting textures as well.
  2. Handles: Make sure the handles are comfortable to use with oven mitts. I find Le Creuset has larger and more comfortable looped handles for my hand size, but you may want to test out a few brands and models.
  3. Enamel coating (for cast iron): Low-cost enameled coatings are prone to chipping and rust. Their production methods are rushed and have lower quality control. However, all enameled coatings will be non-reactive and should be easy to clean.

Features to Avoid or be Aware of in Dutch Ovens

Mostly, it’s cheaper options that have the pitfalls to avoid. There’s a few things to note, so let’s have a look:

  1. Thin walls or base: Low-cost options will use less material for the base and walls of the vessel, leaving it prone burn your food sooner, and possibly warp under high heat
  2. Reactive materials: Despite bare cast iron reacting to acids like citrus and tomato sauce, their natural seasoning does provide a non-stick surface that is perfect for eggs, pancakes, and other delicate foods that have a more neutral acidity. So, less of a reason to avoid, and more of a reason to be aware. There are many reasons to keep some old-fashioned cast iron around for searing at high heat!

How to Choose the Best Dutch Oven for You

Here are a few examples of people I’ve helped find their ideal Dutch oven. I’ve included a spectrum of needs here to hopefully shed some light on your own search.


Needs: A Dutch oven that is simple to maintain for baking bread 1-2 times per week

Features to look for: Easy to move from the oven to the stovetop for cooling

Products to consider:

  • Le Creuset Signature Oval 5-Quart Dutch Oven: Durable and easy to clean, this Dutch oven could be used for anything other than bread.
  • Le Creuset Signature Bread Oven: Purposely designed for bread, the shape of this vessel locks in moisture but also creates a nice serving pan when the lid is removed. Not suitable as a regular Dutch oven as the base does not have high walls.
  • Merten & Storck 5.3-Quart Dutch Oven: This iron pot is 30% lighter weight than standard cast iron and is more cost effective: it’s my budget pick because it still does all the tricks at about half the price.


Needs: A large Dutch oven for cooking and serving stew at family potlucks

Features to look for: Colorful, durable, and comfortable to use

Products to consider:


Needs: In college and mostly cooking for herself, but open to larger pots. Learning how to use cast iron for the first time and wanting affordable options that are both fun and versatile.

Features to look for: Budget friendly and easy to learn on

Products to consider:

Finding the Right Dutch Oven for You

Okay, so that’s Dutch ovens in a nutshell! I hope I was able to answer some questions. Dutch ovens are not complicated, but as I pointed out, there are a few key details that are worth splurging on, like high-quality enamel coating. Also keep your eyes peeled at garage sales for vintage scores, and if you have any questions on the best Dutch oven for your needs, please don’t hesitate to chat with me or one of my fellow Kitchen Experts here on Curated for free, personalized advice.

Jacob Lewis, Kitchen Expert
Jacob Lewis
Kitchen Expert
After 25 years working in restaurants and on small farms, I shifted toward education; How do you find sparks of inspiration in the kitchen? I love connecting people with fun & versatile cookware..Consider me a child. Let’s find the most fun tools for your kitchen!
57 Reviews
1522 Customers helped
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Written by:
Jacob Lewis, Kitchen Expert
Jacob Lewis
Kitchen Expert
After 25 years working in restaurants and on small farms, I shifted toward education; How do you find sparks of inspiration in the kitchen? I love connecting people with fun & versatile cookware..Consider me a child. Let’s find the most fun tools for your kitchen!
57 Reviews
1522 Customers helped

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