As a young adult, I often liked to eat with my friends and their family, or invite them over to eat with my family.
I remember one friend’s mother would always make a delicious chilli-con-carne. At the time the taste seemed incomparable to any other rice dish.
What was her secret ingredient? When I asked, she wouldn’t say. But one day my friend let the cat out of the bag! The flavor came from a large cast iron dutch oven that my friend’s mother had inherited from her own mother.
The best cast iron pots can absolutely last generations. What’s more, yes, they really can add taste to your food.
The Search for the Best Cast Iron Pot
Isn’t amazing that in an age when everything has become so sophisticated, traditional cookware is still in demand? Today, we have modern, lightweight, non-stick pots and pans. Yet the cast iron pot is still going strong. What could be the reason? In fact, there are several. Let’s take a look.
Enduring Popularity of the Large Cast Iron Pot
Traditional cast iron cookware is safer than modern non-stick. Some people believe that Aluminum and non-stick cookware can be harmful because chemicals can leach into your food.
For most people, even if you absorb iron in your food from the iron pot, it won’t do you any harm. Rather, it will be good for your health. Well, unless you have hemochromatosis, or are using it regularly for children under 6 that is!
If you need to avoid iron in your food, for any reason, you can still get enameled cast iron cookware.
Cast iron pots can handle food cooked on high heat. They use less oil than other cookware (apart from non stick) and can be used for a variety of cooking methods. Even better, they can last for a lifetime and beyond.
What’s the Best Dutch Oven?
Before considering what the best Dutch oven is, it’s worth defining what a Dutch oven is. It’s no more than a cast iron pot with a good lid.
The name can be a little deceiving for some as it refers to a cooking pot rather than an oven.
The Dutch oven is an oven in the same way that the Moroccan Tagine oven is an oven. The Tagine is a closed earthenware cooking pot, with a chimney, that can cook like an oven in the desert on the go.
Enameled cast iron pots provide another variation.
Generally the exact pot doesn’t matter. Tagine dishes can be made in a Dutch oven if there’s no tagine available. The bigger issue is size – will the food fit in what you need to cook?
Cast Iron Pots Need Seasoning
Cast iron cookware can be maintained with regular seasoning.
When should you season your non-enameled cast iron pots? I normally do it under the following circumstances:
- With a new pan (even if “preseasoned”)
- If I ever clean it with detergent
- If it’s getting sticky
- If it looks rusty or the color fades
Well seasoned and cared for cast iron will never rust. It will look as good as new and will have some non-stick qualities.
Forget about the dishwasher
You need to be careful when cleaning non-enameled cast iron not to damage the coating or cast iron. This means:
- No dishwasher
- No leaving to soak
- Mild or no abrasives.
- Mild or no detergent
It’s also worth lightly oiling them when storing them, after you’ve cleaned them. Some people will do this after every use.
If you had a particularly energetic cleaning session and removed some of the seasoning, you may need to reseason – this isn’t common though!
Cooking with Cast Iron Pots
Cast iron pots are incredibly versatile for cooking with. The best cast iron pots double up as something you can deep fry in, shallow fry in, bake, roast and prepare all sorts of wonderful dishes with. Curries, stews, risottos – the list is endless. Large cast iron pots can be used to prepare meals for the whole family.
A good cast iron pot will increase the versatility of your cooking. You can even use a cast iron dutch oven to bake no knead bread!
But you need to be aware that cooking with cast iron is different to cooking with other materials. In particular, cast iron takes longer to warm up. It also stays hot longer. If you’re not used to it, you might burn your food, or, in the case of enameled cast iron, damage the pot.
Keep practicing and you will get the hang of it. There are advantages to cooking this way – the pot won’t cool down as quickly when you start dumping things in it. It should also help avoid hot spots.
The truth is that at least some of the difference in flavor comes from how the cast iron cooks. By heating evenly and efficiently it cooks food the way it should be cooked.
What Makes the Best Cast Iron Pot?
You could say that cast iron is among the hottest cookware out there. Not only because it can withstand high temperatures, but also because of its versatility and value for money. The best bit is that no other cookware is so long lasting.
Enameled vs. Non Enameled
Enameled cast iron cookware is normally easier to deal with. You shouldn’t have to season it, the surface is smoother and can take a more vigorous cleaning.
With enameled cookware you get the heating efficiency of cast iron, with an ease of use approaching non stick.
As a bonus, enameled cast iron pots come in a cool range of colors.
What’s the catch?
Well non-enameled cast iron is very simple. It’s a single block of iron. It can crack but that is rare. As long as you look after it, it will last generations. You can even restore it if it rusts.
Enameled cast iron is more susceptible to damage. The enamel layer can chip or crack much more easily. And once that’s started I would avoid cooking with it (who knows if something will leach in).
So enameled cast iron is easier, but may not last as long.
What is the best size cast iron pot?
It does depend on the person. Remember you need extra room for water that isn’t part of the food, and head room. As a rough guide I would say 1 quart (0.9 liters) to 1.5 quarts (1.4 liters) per person. If your family eats more – then you will need more.
So for a couple a 3 quart (1.4 liter) pot should be fine.
For a family of four or five go for 5 to 6 quarts (2.8 liters). If your family has all devouring teenagers, consider 7 quarts ( 4.3 liters), or more!
How to Find the Best Cast Iron Pots
Now, how do you find the best of the best? There isn’t one best cast iron pot, but many all for different needs.
You will need a different size of pot depending on whether you live alone or with family.
You will need a different type of pot depending on what you are cooking.
And you might want enameled or non enameled.
Reviews of the Best Cast Iron Pots
After many hours of extensive research I’m ready to present you with my favorite selection of cast iron pots.
This expensive cast iron Dutch oven is extremely versatile. It can fry, grill, roast, bake, boil and braise. What’s more, you can cook with it on the stove as the grill, oven or even campfire!
It’s just as at home cooking curry as baking bread or making a nice stew.
I love the two dishwasher-safe removable pot handles it comes with. These are convenient for avoiding burns. Just remember not to leave them on the pot when putting it in the oven!
It comes in 3 sizes:
- Get the 2 quart (1.9 liters) for a couple or single person
- The 5 quart (4.7 liters) (reviewed) is ideal for a small family of 3 – 4
- The 7 quart (6.6 liters) is good for a larger family, teenagers or cooking for guests.
Although it comes pre-seasoned, you should add some seasoning yourself.
Some customers report quality issues with the preseasoning. It can peel or chip. Normally if this happens to the coating of a pan, it’s a disaster. With cast iron this isn’t a big deal – just reseason it. Lodge have slightly missed the ball here I feel, but this is still an excellent pot.
Here’s the thing – at this price point, I want everything perfect. So the seasoning is a bit of a let down.
Get this if you want a quality cast iron pot and are prepared to season it yourself.
- Versatile – can cook a great variety of dishes
- Flexible – can cook almost anywhere
- People who use it for baking bread have found it to be excellent.
- The handles are very useful.
- American made dutch oven (if that’s important to you)
- You need to add seasoning
- Some complaints about quality of preseasoning
This reasonably-priced 4.5 quart (4.3 liter) dutch oven is beautiful porcelain enamel on cast iron.
It’s nice that there is a great range of colors and 5 different sizes from 1.5 quarts (1.4 liters) to 7.5 quarts (7.1 liters). You can use it on your stove or in your oven at temperatures up to 260°C (500°F). Use this versatile product to roast, bake, braise or boil, simmer, sauté or fry.
Quality reports are a bit of mixed bag. Most people are happy with this pot. A small number of customers complain of chipping and there was a report of it catching fire.
A lot of this is how you care for it – you do need to take more care with enamel than with regular cast iron. If you take care of it (the same you as you would with a non stick pan), it should be fine. No metal utensils and no heating without something (even if a little oil) in it.
If you want an enameled pot this is a good product for a decent price. Take care of it and it will last.
- Range of beautiful colors
- It’s also great for marinating and refrigerating.
- Made in China, not normally a problem, but Lodge is a famous USA brand.
- Isolated report of the pot bursting into flames
- A few reports of the pot chipping in the short term
This reasonably-priced enameled Dutch oven comes in several beautiful shades and sizes.
For the color – go with whatever you like. For the size, I would recommend:
- Get the 4.3 quart (4.1 liters) for a small family
- The 6 quart (5.7 liters) (reviewed) is ideal for a family of four to five
- The 7.5 quart (7.1 liters) works well if you have a large family, teenagers or are cooking for guests.
This pot comes with handy side handles. Still, you will need oven mitts when taking it off the gas or out of the oven.
It has the versatility of cast iron pots with the ease of use and cleaning of enamel. The cast iron gives superior heat retention while the enamel doesn’t react to any type of food.
It works with all cooking surfaces and can bake, boil and braise like any cast iron pot. You can also use the pot to marinate food. (Though be careful what food you store)
- Makes excellent no-knead bread
- Easy to clean
- Good value
- Not dishwasher safe – risk of enamel chipping
This is for those who would rather have a casserole pan than a full Dutch oven.
Cook on the stove or in the oven. Marinate, refrigerate or store food.
It has great heat retention and can cook up to 260°C (500°F).
It comes in red, white or blue.
You can roast, bake, boil and braise. It behaves much like a smaller Dutch oven.
Since it is shallower though, this pot is great for casserole preparation.
You often eat a casserole with something else. If that’s the case for you then this is a family sized casserole pot. Otherwise it should do for a couple.
Many users cook with this pot without a problem. But there have been reports of chipping. I think for this price the quality is a bit disappointing.
- This keeps the food hot for an impressively long time.
- It can double up as a skillet, both covered and uncovered
- Preparing casserole with this brings great results.
- Reports of chipping – be careful how you use it
- Quite pricey for what you get
This cast iron pot is very different to the casserole pans and Dutch ovens we’ve seen.
You may have heard of the famous Moroccan dish named Tagine. It’s usually cooked in a clay tagine vessel.
Yet this tagine pot is made of cast iron with an enameled top. It looks beautiful as well as being functional.
There are advantages to cooking tagine in a cast iron pot instead of a clay one. In particular, it is more robust than clay, while still cooking Tagine perfectly.
This is more of a slow cooker than a Dutch oven, but this type of cooker can be quite popular. You can safely use it on the stove or in the oven. A versatile cooking instrument, it can make everything from vegetable curry to roast chicken.
- A more robust version of the traditional Tagine pot
- Looks great
- Nice selection of colors
- Good value
- The cast iron in the base will need care
- Be careful not to add too much water, or it will overflow
Do you have a large, multi-generational family living under one roof? Do you host frequent family gatherings with relatives gathering from far and near? Do you host large dinners on a regular basis? If so, this Dutch oven is for you.
You could cook for up 20 people with this very large cast iron pot. But if you don’t need to cook for so many people – steer clear of this very big pot. It’s just too much for most people.
Even the lid is so big that it can be used as a skillet!
If you have someone to help you manage it and need a large cast iron pot for more than ten people – this might be the one for you.
- Large enough to cater for large groups of people.
- Cooks well indoors or outdoors
- Sturdy, and robust
- It appears to be dangerous to carry alone when full.
- Pre seasoning isn’t great – you should add some seasoning.
- Very big – check it fits your stove
This enameled casserole/skillet comes at a reasonable price. For those who want the benefits of a Dutch oven without the size of one, it’s a good choice.
In theory the enamel is chip resistant which is fantastic.
Size wise, this looks like a very good choice for a single person or a small family. It also features silicone pot-holders.
It retains the moisture in the pan and allows it to drip back on to the food. It works well on all cooking surfaces.
- The cooking quality of this casserole dish is very high
- Many satisfied customers
- Chip resistant, at least in theory
- Dishwasher safe
- Some customers report the enamel chipping.
This reasonably-priced cast iron multi cooker is the classic family sized cast iron pot.
It comes lightly seasoned, which means the new owner must complete the seasoning process.
There is a wonderful bonus with this. The Dutch oven lid doubles up as a cast iron skillet. It’s one of the more economical products we reviewed this time.
It has all the versatility of cooking methods you’d expect from a cast iron pot. There are two handles on each vessel of the pair and silicone grippers are also provided.
The manufacturer has great customer service and the quality of the pot is great. It’s the perfect size for a family of four (unless the four include hungry teenagers).
This is my favorite pot. If you are looking for a good quality, family sized cast iron pot – I recommend this one.
- Customers report great customer service from the manufacturer
- Handy silicone handle grippers supplied
- Lid doubles up as a skillet
- You need to complete the seasoning yourself
Best Cast Iron Pots
Best Cast Iron Pot (Overall)
For me, the best cast iron pot is the Legend 5 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven Multi Cooker. It cooks well, is great quality, comes with excellent customer service and to top it off – the lid doubles up as a cast iron skillet.
It is cast iron, so you will need to season it. Forget about putting it in the dishwasher, and don’t think you will cook like you do with non stick. If you’re prepared to treat it right – this could be the pot for you.
Best Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
The AmazonBasics Enameled Dutch Oven is really nice. It’s good value and if you look after it, it should last.
Eventually the enamel might start to chip – it just doesn’t last as long as bare cast iron. That time will come sooner if you put it in the dishwasher or overheat it!
Still this enameled cast iron pot is good quality at an affordable price.
This is the best enameled cast iron dutch oven I could find.
Best Large Cast Iron Dutch Oven
So, wow. The King Kooker 20 Quart Dutch Oven is HUGE. If you are looking for a big cast iron pot – this is it.
The thing is, it’s probably too big for most people – it is for me. I’m not going to cater for 20 people on my own. If I needed to, I’d either get help, buy sandwiches or prepare a selection of dishes in advance.
If you need this for a one off event – ask yourself if you could get catering cheaper than the cost of this very large pot? Plus then you don’t have the hassle!
There’s another reason I wouldn’t get it myself – I just know if I did my husband would end up cracking cauldron jokes all day long!
But don’t let me put you off. If you want a large cast iron pot to regularly cater for a lot of people this might be the pot for you. Just make sure you are ready for it!