5 Surprising Dutch Oven Uses (And Why Home Cooks Need Them)
Dutch ovens should come with a warning; once you experience them, you’ll never go back.
Fortunately, if you buy a good quality dutch oven they’ll last you for life.
But the problem is, most people don’t realize why a dutch oven is such a valuable asset for any home cook.
What Are Dutch Ovens?
Dutch ovens are heavy deep round pots, the construction features either cast iron or ceramic, and it's the construction materials combined with the shape (usually oval or round with deep straight sides) that crates even and consistent heat throughout the pot to the food you're cooking. All dutch ovens feature a tight-fitting lid, locking in the flavor.
Dutch oven uses are incredibly versatile, you can take your dutch oven from the stovetop to the oven (including the lid), and you can cook almost anything in a dutch oven.
But there are a few common misconceptions about the dutch oven, one of which is if a dutch oven is the same as a casserole. Keep on reading to find out.
Is The Dutch Oven The Same As A Casserole?
The quick answer to the question about whether a dutch oven is the same as a casserole is both 'yes' and 'no.' e
We don't mean to confuse you further, hear us out and you'll soon see what we mean.
In the United States, a dutch oven is different to a casserole. A casserole is shallower than a dutch oven. A casserole can feature materials other than cast iron or ceramic, such as glass or stainless steel. Generally, most casseroles are lighter than dutch ovens too.
However, in the UK, the term 'Dutch oven' is uncommon. A Dutch oven across the pond is known as a 'large casserole.' Whereas in France, the dutch oven is commonly known as a cocotte.
What Is So Great About A Dutch Oven?
The cast-iron construction and design of the Dutch oven, combined with the snug-fitting lid, is heavy duty and heat tolerant. It can move from the stove at any temperature you desire, to the oven, and cook evenly every time. You can bake, roast, stew, sear, boil, fry, and deep fry in a dutch oven without hesitation. It would even withstand naked flames on a barbeque.
This potential makes the Dutch oven the most versatile pieces of cooking equipment you could ever need. Every home should have a Dutch oven.
Why Are Dutch Ovens Often Made From Cast Iron?
When cast iron gets hot, it stays hot for a long time, because it's a poor heat conductor. The poor heat conduction from cast iron has several benefits:
Metals efficient at conducting heat are great for cooking quickly at medium to high temperatures for short bursts, but that's about it. They may not sustain such high temperatures as cast-iron can, or be as versatile in terms of how you cook and what type of cooking you do.
This is why a Dutch oven is so handy. It can do anything you need to in the kitchen.
Can You Cook Anything In A Dutch Oven?
Dutch oven uses are wide and varied. You can cook pretty much anything in a Dutch oven, mainly because the construction is so solid and versatile.
To give you an example, here are some of the most common Dutch oven uses:
Thanks to the cast iron, Dutch ovens can handle high temperatures, which means that you can brown your meat directly in your dutch oven at high heat, then add your stock and other ingredients before placing it into the oven to braise gently.
Ideally, you should drain excess fat from the browned meat before pouring on your stock, and you'll need your oven to be on a low temperature to garner the delicious tenderness often associated with braising.
When working with other pots such as a crockpot, you need to sear the meat in a different pan and add it to your crockpot after browning. Creating more work and washing up. It's common for most home cooks to avoid the browning step and missing out on the flavors and textures. It also means that the excess fats will remain in the pot, leading to fattier, unhealthier cooking.
Perfect Soups and Stews
The most common dutch oven uses are probably the ability to create soups and stews, so delicious in taste and texture that you'll never go back to any form of soup and stew cooking.
Low temperatures and long cooking times allow for the ingredients to combine, the flavors to mellow and refine, and for the meat to become tender.
This process is impossible to accomplish with any other type of cooking and tastes better when browned and then cooked in a cast iron dutch oven.
Take Your Dutch Oven From Stove To Oven
Many of the cookware products we review are stovetop and oven safe. However, none will make the transition between the two better than cast iron cookware. But you can't make a casserole with a cast iron skillet (which limits its usability).
The dutch oven's construction and design allow you to do whatever type of cooking you want to on the stovetop (yes, even glass top!)and then easily place it in the oven at whatever temperature you desire.
This flexibility gives you ample opportunity to cook anything you like, any way you want to.
Additional Dutch Oven Uses (That You Probably Didnt' Know About)
#1 - Crisping
Dutch ovens are also perfect for roasting and crisping.
The tolerance to temperatures and even heating combine to create the perfect crispy-skinned roast. While the lid provides the opportunity to seal in the flavor and moisture if you're recipe calls for it. The even cooking capability from the Dutch Oven also reduces sticking and burning.
We've already mentioned how versatile dutch oven uses are you can use them as a stockpot, a saucepan, a skillet, a deep fryer, a roaster, and to bake.
Heres a quick reference list of dutch oven uses:
#2 - Roasting
A dutch oven is an excellent tool for roasting. The size, shape, and heat distribution delivers heat from all directions of the pan, allowing for even cooking throughout, no matter where the meats are in the pan.
This even heat also avoids sticking and burning. Finally, the lid, which is oven proof, keeps your roasts moist, and the ability to handle high temperatures also provides ample opportunity to crisp up anything you roast.
#3 - Stews and Soups
Simmering soups on the stovetop in a dutch oven will refine and enhance the flavor of your soups and stews thanks to the slow build-up of heat and consistent temperatures.
#4 - Casseroles
Sear your meat on the stove and then transfer to the oven for slow cooking and enjoy the tastes and textures of fall-off-the-bone meats or caramelized vegetables.
Casseroles will never taste so good.
#5 - Frying
The Dutch oven is perfect for deep frying because most can sustain high temperatures. You can also shallow fry too - although it can be challenging to flip more than one egg in a dutch oven because of the high sides and angle needed for the utensils.
Ideally, you should check your manufacturer's instructions to determine if you can deep-fry some may not be suitable depending on the enamel coating.
One of the most interesting dutch ovens uses though is for making bread
Cooking Bread In A Dutch Oven
One of the oldest traditions for dutch oven use is baking bread, pizza doughs, and all other types of baked products.
The way that the heat radiates through the dutch oven is very similar to a bread or pizza oven, and the lids hold in steam and moisture - perfect for a crispy crust.
Have you ever noticed that some dutch ovens appear to be ceramic? Some people have, and often wonder whether it’s a genuine dutch oven or not. Well, we’ve got the answers coming up next.
Can A Dutch Oven Be Ceramic?
Yes, a dutch oven can be ceramic; however, ceramic dutch ovens have different properties than a cast iron dutch oven.
Cast iron can withstand high temperatures, is very versatile, and creates delicious food because of its ability to deliver consistent heat while cooking. However, they do need some extra care and attention.
While a ceramic dutch oven is easier to clean, but while being durable, it cannot withstand the heat that a cast iron dutch oven can.
This also means that it won't be suitable for deep frying and won't have the pizza oven properties that cast iron dutch ovens have.
The best choice is a cast iron dutch oven, but if you prefer very low maintenance, a ceramic dutch oven might suit you better.
What Are The Best Dutch Ovens?
Dutch ovens often become staples in the kitchen, and will last a long time if you buy a good one. So it makes sense to purchase the best dutch oven you can afford. Here are three options that will suit most budgets.
We also cover these in detail in our other dutch oven reviews.
Best Dutch Oven #1:
Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven - 5.5-Quart
The Best Overall
This iconic cast iron dutch oven from Le Creuset is a lifetime friend. In our opinion, there's no other Dutch oven that will perform as well as this one.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven’s are so superior that each oven is cast from its own mold, which is never reused. No two ovens are exactly alike, but all of them are sand-cast from molten iron, polished and finished by hand.
They are also fired twice and have two coats of enamel.
The only downside of the Le Creuset dutch oven is the price, but we have two alternatives for anybody who would like to purchase something less exclusive.
Best Dutch Oven #2:
Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven - 6 Quart
The Lodge dutch oven features durable porcelain enamel, which is baked onto the cast iron to form a bond. Porcelain enamel on cast iron is extremely heat tolerant and impervious to water, making it incredibly practical. It’s also made in the USA.
This dutch oven is available in a variety of sizes which are listed below:
You can also choose from a variety of striking colors that will look beautiful in any kitchen.
Best Dutch Oven #3:
Cuisinart Cast Iron 7-Quart Dutch Oven
Best Affordable Dutch Oven
Cuisinart's cast-iron Dutch oven offers the classic, superior heat retention and even heat distribution you should expect from a Dutch oven. The porcelain exterior is sturdy and durable. More importantly, it doesn't allow the cookware to absorb flavors, which can then transfer onto other dishes.
Its oven, broiler, and dishwasher safe and the porcelain finish makes it easy to clean up. This dutch oven is also induction, halogen, glass, gas, and electric stovetop safe and is available in a variety of beautiful colors, which will surely complement all kitchen aesthetics.
Cuisinart also offers a limited lifetime warranty to be free of defects in material and workmanship under regular home use from the date of original purchase throughout the original purchaser's lifetime!
If your cookware should prove to be defective within your lifetime, Cuisinart will repair it (or, if they think it necessary, replace it) without charge to you, except for shipping and handling. But to maintain the warranty, you'll need to care for and maintain your dutch oven properly. You can learn more about how to take care of your dutch oven further on in this article.
Caring For Your Dutch Oven
If you take the appropriate care of your Dutch oven, it will last you a lifetime. It's difficult to destroy a cast-iron Dutch oven, which means that it's better to buy a good one since you're going to be stuck with it for a while. And when you do purchase one, to make the most of it, it makes sense to take appropriate care for it, not least because it will keep your warranty valid and provide you with extra reassurance.
Here are some guidelines on how to cook with and care for your dutch oven.
Cooking And Caring Guidelines For Your Dutch Oven
Once you've experienced using a dutch oven, you'll never go back. So long as you understand how to use it and what you can accomplish with it. It's the most versatile cookware item in any kitchen, and it's incredibly durable. If you could pick only one item, we recommend it's a dutch oven.
Just be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions on how to care for it, and you'll have a friend for life.