The 6 Best Dutch Ovens & Cocottes

Published on 10/21/2023 · 10 min readDiscover the ultimate guide to Dutch ovens and cocottes. From size to material, we'll help you choose the perfect one for your kitchen needs!
Di Doherty, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Di Doherty

Photo by Arina P Habich

A Dutch oven is one of the best tools that you can have in your kitchen. It’s a large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid that’s primarily for slow cooking in the oven but can also be used to make soup, stew, and chili, just like any other pot. Additionally, Dutch ovens can be used to bake bread and deep fry. Getting a Dutch oven is not an insignificant expenditure, and it’s something that can last you a lifetime, so here’s my guide on picking the right one for your needs and budget.

How to Select the Best Dutch Oven for Your Needs

A lot of different companies make Dutch ovens and cocottes, and there are several different sizes and shapes. Trying to pick out the right one can be a bit overwhelming at first. Understanding the different types of Dutch ovens will help you to make the best choice for your cooking needs.

Size

Photo by L. Gieger

Dutch ovens come in several different sizes, usually measured by quarts. What you tend to cook is going to determine which size Dutch oven that’ll work best for your needs. The sizing isn’t completely standard, with different companies having different quart sizes, but it’s close enough to make generalizations.

  • 1qt or less: There are various mini Dutch ovens that can make enough for one person. There are even tiny ones that can only hold a cup and can be used for a single serving of soup.
  • 3-4qt: This is a small Dutch oven that’s best used for only one or two people. The sizes vary between 3-4qt depending on the brand, but they’re best for making smaller recipes.
  • 5.5-6qt: A Dutch oven of this size is best for the majority of home cooks. It makes a good-sized recipe, meaning that you can feed a family or have a good number of leftovers. It’s also not so large as to be unwieldy or ridiculously heavy.
  • 7.5-9qt: If you’re looking to feed a crowd or make large roasts, then this is the size you want. This size is more expensive and harder to haul out of the oven, but if you love to host, then a bigger Dutch oven is the way to go.

Shape

Dutch ovens come in a variety of shapes as well, with each one having advantages and disadvantages. The right choice is going to come down to your preferences and what you usually cook, but here are the standard types.

  • Round: This is the most common type of Dutch oven and the type you’re most likely to see on store shelves. If you plan to use your Dutch oven for a variety of dishes, like pasta, soup, stew, and roasts, then this is the most versatile choice as it works well on the stove and in the oven.
  • Oval: Ones that are this shape are more specialized and are much better for baking in the oven. Oblong roasts like a leg of lamb will be able to fit in this type of Dutch oven much more easily.
  • Cocotte: There is very little difference between a cocotte and a Dutch oven, though the former tends to be more specialized. Cocottes are generally smaller and have flat lids, unlike the Dutch ovens’ domed ones, as they aren’t as geared towards braising. Some cocottes will be more ornamental as well, being shaped like a pumpkin or tomato.
  • Brasier: Sometimes also called a casserole Dutch oven, braisers are usually much shallower than a standard Dutch oven. Some of them will also have spikes on the top lid to help trap moisture and keep what you’re braising moist, so it’ll come out very tender.

What Should a Dutch Oven Be Made Out of?

Photo by EGT-1

The majority of pots labeled as Dutch ovens are going to be made out of enameled cast iron, and that’s what most experts and chefs will prefer. But that’s not the only material that Dutch ovens can be made out of.

  • Enameled cast iron: The majority of Dutch ovens will be enameled cast iron. This type is sometimes referred to as a French oven. For the majority of cases, this is considered the superior material to make Dutch ovens out of due to the fact that it holds heat so well and that the enamel makes it easier to clean and more versatile.
  • Cast iron: Some Dutch ovens are made out of seasoned cast iron. These are excellent as well, performing very similarly to enameled ones. However, they are harder to clean, as cast iron requires more specialized care when not protected by enamel. It’s also not good to make pasta sauce in, as highly acidic foods can take the seasoning right off cast iron.
  • Stainless steel: Stainless steel is a highly versatile material. Due to its strength, it doesn’t need to be as thick as cast iron. This is a plus in the sense that the Dutch oven will be much lighter, but for this type of pot, it’s best for it to be thick on the sides and be heavy-duty to hold in heat, which stainless isn’t as good at. However, if you have mobility issues or aren’t thrilled by hauling cast iron around, this is much easier to maneuver.
  • Cast aluminum: Like stainless steel, cast aluminum is going to much lighter than cast iron. It also has the benefit of potentially having a nonstick coating. However, it’s not going to have as thick sides as a cast iron Dutch oven or hold heat as well.

Caring for a Dutch Oven

The proper way to care for a Dutch oven depends on exactly what it’s made out of. However, since most Dutch ovens are either cast iron or enameled cast iron, these recommendations will focus on those materials.

Dutch oven with discolored enamel. Photo by Di Doherty

  • Avoid burning what you cook in your Dutch oven: While this seems like trivial advice, burning food onto the bottom of your Dutch oven can discolor and stain the enamel. Most Dutch ovens have off-white enamel on the inside, which makes any burn marks really obvious. It’s just cosmetic, so if it happens, don’t think that the Dutch oven is ruined – I did it to mine, and I’m still using it regularly – it just won’t look as good.
  • Hand wash your Dutch oven: No matter what the care instructions say, cast iron Dutch ovens aren’t really dishwasher-safe. Dishwasher detergent is hard on the enamel, and if there’s any exposed cast iron, it’ll be likely to rust. Non-enameled cast iron should never be put in the dishwasher, either.
  • Careful when soaking: An enameled cast iron Dutch oven can be soaked in water to help remove stubborn stuck-on food. However, the top of most Dutch ovens where the lids fit aren’t usually enameled. Be careful about prolonged exposure to water in that spot, as the cast iron can rust.
  • Pay attention to the enamel: The enamel coating is tough, but it isn’t indestructible. It isn’t just the dishwasher that can harm it, either. Hitting the Dutch oven against something can chip the enamel, making it less effective at protecting your cookware.
  • Don’t put a hot pot in cold water: Putting a hot pot into cold water can cause it to bend and warp. Additionally, if the pot is enameled, then it can cause the enamel to crack or break, greatly damaging its effectiveness.

My Top 6 Picks for the Best Dutch Ovens and Cocottes

Each one of these Dutch ovens would be an excellent addition to your kitchen, meaning that which one you choose is a matter of preference and your budget.

1. Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven

A Le Creuset Dutch oven is one of the best Dutch ovens money can buy. Le Creuset is a premium brand; their products are made in France, and their Dutch ovens are made of high-quality cast iron and enamel. They’re highly durable, attractive, and have easy-to-grip handles, even with oven mitts. However, you pay for that quality, meaning that getting this brand is a significant investment. It’s likely not better enough to justify the extra money unless the brand is a consideration.

2. Le Creuset Signature Oval Dutch Oven

As with the round variety, this is a very high-quality Dutch oven. The oval shape makes it ideal for baking oblong roasts, like a leg of lamb. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors, meaning that you can get the Dutch oven that works best for you. It also has more surface area than its round counterpart. However, its shape makes it not ideal for stovetop use, and it has a high price tag.

3. Merten & Storck German Enameled Iron Dutch Oven 4qt, Azure Blue

Merten & Storck makes their Dutch oven out of enameled iron rather than cast iron. That means that it doesn’t need to be as thick and is lighter than the other Dutch ovens on this list. However, while a lighter pot is a good thing, extra thickness helps with holding heat and braising, meaning this Dutch oven is less effective in these areas. However, if you want a lighter option that’s not steel or aluminum, then this is a great choice.

4. KitchenAid Seasoned Cast Iron Induction Dutch Oven Casserole, 6qt, Cast Iron Black

This 6qt Dutch oven isn’t enameled, meaning that it needs more specialized care. That being said, a non-enameled Dutch oven works just as well for making soups, roasts, deep-frying, and baking bread – and you don’t have to worry about chipping the coating. It also has a self-basting lid, which means that there are spikes on the inside of the lid to help maintain the liquid level inside the pot, making it excellent for braising.

5. Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte

As a cocotte rather than a Dutch oven, this pot has a flat lid rather than a domed one. It’s made in France from enameled cast iron and has bumps on the lid to create a self-basting effect and keep moisture in the food when braising. However, as Staub is a premium brand, it also has a premium price.

6. 4.5qt Lodge Dutch Oven

The 4.5qt Lodge Dutch Oven. Photo by Di Doherty

Lodge is known for making good quality, affordable cast iron products, and the company’s Dutch oven is no exception. It may not be quite as effective or precisely made as a Le Creuset or Staub Dutch oven, but the majority of home cooks won’t notice a difference, and they come in at a fraction of the price. It has a stainless steel knob on the top to make taking the lid off easy, and is completely oven safe. However, unlike Le Creuset’s cast iron skillets and pans, Lodge’s enameled cast iron is made in China, which may be off-putting to some buyers.

Let Us Help You Find the Right Dutch Oven for You

Photo by Arina P Habich

It can be overwhelming to try to find the right choice for your needs, particularly if you don’t have experience with Dutch ovens and cocottes. Some of it also boils down to personal preferences in terms of shape, size, and whether or not you want the pot to be enameled. As a Dutch oven is an expensive item that can last for generations, don’t be afraid to take your time. If you feel you need more information or advice, reach out to one of our Kitchen Experts here on Curated! Any of our Kitchen Experts would be more than happy to help you find the Dutch oven that’s just right for you.

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