The Dutch oven is one of my favorite cookware pieces in the kitchen. (Don’t tell my other cookware.)
The reason is simple: this versatile pot allows me to make almost any type of dish, make enough to feed my family, and keep it warm until we’re ready to eat. That makes the Dutch oven the perfect tool for this busy mom.
That’s why I found the Le Creuset Dutch Oven to be such a great option. It has unmatched cooking performance, quality, and craftsmanship.
But with a top-notch reputation comes a top-notch price tag. Don’t worry, though. If the higher-end Le Creuset is out of your budget, there are several high-quality alternatives. You can find tried and tested Dutch ovens at almost any price level.
But with the range of Dutch ovens available, it can be overwhelming to decide. There are several considerations. Round or oval? What size? Enameled or raw cast iron? The choices go on.
Fortunately, I’ve broken down the pros and cons for all the best Dutch ovens, as well as the best cases for each. You’ll have all the information you need to decide which one you want..
Which Dutch oven is right for your cooking needs? Read on to learn more.
All About Dutch Ovens
What is a Dutch Oven?
If you’ve ever wondered what a Dutch oven is, you’re not alone. A Dutch oven typically refers to a cast iron pot with a flat bottom, sides, and a lid. It can be round or oval in shape.
These versatile pots are great for browning, baking, roasting, deep-frying or broiling. Many enjoy baking bread or making soups in a Dutch oven, but they can also handle simple tasks like cooking pasta or boiling water.
Although the first Dutch ovens were exclusively bare cast iron, you can find a wider selection today.
Enameled cast iron is arguably the most popular Dutch oven material nowadays. An enameled cast iron Dutch oven has the same heat retention and versatility of plain cast iron, but the enamel coating makes it easier to clean and protects a glass cooktop.
They’re also pretty.
Unfortunately, these don’t last as long as bare cast iron since they are prone to chipping.
Stainless steel Dutch ovens are lighter and resistant to scratching and chipping. They don’t have the same heat efficiency or heat retention, however.
A Ceramic Dutch oven is affordable, stick-resistant, and non-reactive. But ceramic cracks easily, especially with temperature changes.
What’s the Difference Between a Dutch Oven and Crock Pot?
Both tools are supposed to be for slow cooking, right? Correct, but there are differences between a Dutch oven and a Crock Pot.
First, there’s the heat source. While Dutch ovens require an oven, stove, or similar heat source, a Crock Pot works anywhere with an electrical plug and a flat surface.
Second, there’s versatility. Dutch ovens can cook at high heat or go low and slow. They can handle stovetop dishes, as well as oven dishes. Crock Pots, on the other hand, will always cook at relatively low temperatures.
Third, there’s the time for cooking. Dutch ovens typically cook food faster than Crock Pots. If you like to slow cook over the course of the work day, a Crock Pot would be your best option. If you want to simmer a soup after work, a Dutch oven is best.
Lastly, there’s durability. Dutch ovens will last a long time with proper use and care. Crock Pots are electrical appliances, so they have a shorter lifespan. Expect to replace a Crock Pot after a few years or sooner with frequent use.
To get a good idea of which kitchen tool is right for which job, use the chart below as a reference:
|Usage or Desired Feature||Dutch Oven or Crock Pot?|
|Convenience, low maintenance cooking||Crock Pot|
|Portable, space efficient||Crock Pot|
|Uses less energy to cook||Crock Pot|
|More control over cooking process||Dutch Oven|
|Slow cooking AND higher heat cooking||Dutch Oven|
|Attractive, Can Function as Serveware||Dutch Oven|
Oval vs. Round Dutch Ovens
The great debate on oval versus round Dutch ovens is not going away any time soon, but there are advantages for each type. Let’s quickly look at some of the best cases for both oval and round models.
Round Dutch ovens are well suited soups, stews, and other high-volume foods. The round shape is space-efficient, so it’s better for easy storage. A round Dutch oven is incredibly versatile. It’s fantastic for stovetop-to-oven recipes and keeps food warm long after cooking.
The shape of oval Dutch ovens makes them fantastic for slow roasting meat, especially whole birds. An oval Dutch oven is also great for baking bread and making casseroles, dips, or roasted vegetables. If you have the storage space and plan to use it for mostly oven dishes, an oval Dutch oven is tough to beat.
Dutch Ovens vs. French Ovens
The difference between Dutch ovens and French ovens isn’t much, but understanding the terms will help you make the best decision about which one is best for you.
As mentioned earlier, Dutch ovens are cast iron pots with thick walls, a wide base, and a lid. In the strictest use of the term, a Dutch oven is always cast iron.
A French oven, or “cocotte,” is basically a Dutch oven with an enamel coating. Manufacturers will sometimes use the term “cocotte” or “French oven.” But the reality is, most people simply refer to French ovens as “enameled Dutch ovens.”
For two excellent examples of Dutch and French ovens, check out my Le Creuset vs Lodge guide.
What size Dutch oven do I need?
Determining the right size for a Dutch oven depends on a lot of factors. The type of food, the number of servings, and the size of the burner are all considerations. On top of that, there’s also the question of storage space.
But for a general reference guide, use the following chart to determine the right capacity:
|Dutch Oven Capacity||Servings||Ideal Dishes|
|2-3 quarts||2-3 people||Side dishes, vegetables, desserts, sauces|
|5-6 quarts||4-6 people||Roasts, poultry, potatoes, stews, chilis, soups, beans, rolls, bread, desserts|
|7-8 quarts||6-8 people||Whole birds, larger roasts, potatoes, bread, stews, soups, chilis, beans, rolls, desserts|
For more information, see my guide on the best size Dutch oven for you.
How to Season a Dutch Oven
Seasoning cast iron not only protects it from rust, it also forms a natural, easy-release cooking surface. Not all Dutch ovens require seasoning, however.
It’s only necessary to season bare cast iron Dutch ovens, and even some cast iron pots come pre-seasoned. But if you find it necessary to season your Dutch oven before use, follow these simple directions.
First, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Wash the cast iron pot with dish soap and warm water. Dry completely. Next, coat the pot in a thin layer of oil with a high smoke point. Grapeseed oil and avocado oil are great choices. Place the pot in the oven for an hour. Remove and let cool completely.
How to Care for a Dutch Oven
The exact cleaning recommendations will vary among brands, but there are some general guidelines that will help keep your Dutch oven looking and performing at its best.
Make sure to let the pot cool completely before washing. Running cold water over a hot pot can cause thermal shock, which can damage a Dutch oven. Stick to wooden or heat-resistant silicone cooking tools.
Metal utensils can scratch the surface or remove the seasoning layer. While some enameled Dutch ovens are dishwasher-safe, hand washing is always better for durability.
Lastly, if you have a raw cast iron pot, you’ll want to occasionally season the cookware. To season your Dutch oven, follow the instructions in the above section.
Best Dutch Ovens: Product Reviews
Le Creuset Enameled Signature 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven: Best Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Le Creuset has been a premier name in enameled cast iron cookware for almost a century. All of Le Creuset’s pots are still crafted in France and come in a wide range of beautiful color choices. It has consistently been at the top of my lists for Dutch ovens and fairs well against its main competitor (Staub).
This 5.5-quart Dutch oven is large enough to feed 4-6 people and features a cast iron construction with a porcelain enamel coating. The sand-colored interior makes it easy to monitor food, especially when browning meat.
The wide looped handles make carrying this round Dutch oven a little easier. And even though this Le Creuset is heavy, it’s still lighter than several other pots with cast iron bodies.
Oven cooking is not a problem, as this Le Creuset Dutch oven can handle oven temperatures up to 500°F (260°C). And since it is compatible with all types of cooktops, you can easily prepare stovetop-to-oven dishes without worry.
Watch this video from the manufacturer to get different ideas on how to use your Dutch oven:
Once cooking is completed, it’s easy to serve out of your Le Creuset. It’s beautiful enough to grace any table, and the heat retention is excellent, so your food will stay warm.
The tight-fitting lids circulate heat and moisture. Le Creuset’s oven features a stainless steel knob that can handle oven temperatures, as well.
When it comes to cleaning, you can put this Le Creuset Dutch oven in the dishwasher. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best way. I would recommend hand washing this piece. After all, if you’re going to spend the money to get the top of the line, you want it to stay at its best.
Another tip to keep this pot scratch- and chip-free? Use wooden or silicone cooking tools. Although Le Creuset advertises this as safe for metal utensils, I wouldn’t risk it.
Even though these pots are quite pricey, Le Creuset Dutch ovens are covered by a limited warranty for a little peace of mind.
Users were tickled with the cooking performance of this Dutch oven. They used it for sautéing vegetables, browning meat, soups, stews, pot roast, no-knead bread, and much more. They loved the even heating and the unmatched retention of heat.
Some customers noted that this Le Creuset pot took a while to heat. If you want super quick meals, most Dutch ovens won’t work for that. Le Creuset’s oven does seem to take longer than the average Dutch oven, however.
Even so, users were happy with the performance. Some did say it was heavy, and several mentioned the expense. It’s true that Le Creuset is a higher-end brand, but with some of the best Dutch ovens on the market, you can see why.
- Superior heat retention
- Attractive range of colors
- Easy to clean
- Tight-fitting lids hold in heat and moisture
- Dishwasher safe – in theory
- Metal Utensil Safe- in theory
- Oven safe to 500°F (260°F)
- Lightweight (for cast iron)
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
- Significantly more expensive
- Takes time to warm up
Lodge 5-Quart Dutch Oven, Cast Iron: Best Dutch Oven for Bread & Affordable Pick
This 5-Quart (4.73 liters) Lodge Dutch oven earned top spot as the best Dutch oven for baking bread. There are also 2-quart (1.89 liters) and 7-quart (6.62 liters) options available, but this 5-quart option is the best for most people.
Although this piece does come pre-seasoned, I recommend further seasoning for extra stick-resistance. Several user reviews also said they had better results with seasoning their Dutch oven before use.
The double-looped handles make it easy to get in and out of the oven, and the lid holds in moisture and heat.
Customers had success with a variety of dishes. They seared meats, deep-fried tempura and chicken, seared meat, and more. One of the most popular foods, however, was baked bread. Users raved about this pot’s performance with all types of bread.
You can use this Lodge in the oven at any normal cooking temperature. High heat is not a problem for this pot. But be sure you’re wearing oven mitts–those handles get hot!
- Durable, built to last
- Perfect for bread
- Oven-safe (no realistic max temperature)
- Superb heat retention
- Made in the U.S.
- Requires more maintenance
- Some complaints about pre-seasoning quality
Lodge Dutch Oven, Enameled Cast Iron, 6 Quarts: Best Enameled Dutch Oven for Bread
While this Dutch oven comes in a range of sizes, the 6 quart is the best for most people. Clocking in at over 14 pounds, though, it’s quite a heavy pot.
This Lodge pot features cast iron construction with a porcelain enamel coating. The light-colored interior makes it easy to monitor browning, while the exterior comes in a range of attractive colors.
The stainless steel knob and looped handles make for excellent control. This Dutch oven is oven-safe for temperatures up to 500°F (260°C). It has a well-fitting lid to hold in moisture, and it can be used to serve food and store food in the refrigerator.
And unlike bare cast iron, this enameled Dutch oven doesn’t react with acidic ingredients, either, so it’s great for tomato-based sauces or lemony pastas.
User reviews were mostly positive, but some had problems with chipped enamel. Customers liked using this Lodge oven for roasting whole chicken, pot roast, soups, bread, and more. They praised the even heating and consistent results.
They also said this Lodge pot was easy to clean due to the enameled interior. For stuck-on food, some users recommended sprinkling baking soda before scrubbing with a non-abrasive sponge. You can even boil a mixture of baking soda and water.
Some users were disappointed to learn this pot is made in China, since Lodge is a U.S. based brand. Almost all enameled cast iron is produced overseas, though. Additionally, Lodge uses American-based third-party inspection for quality control.
While you can get this enameled Lodge for less than other brands, it’s still pricier than a raw cast iron pan.
- Range of beautiful colors
- Easy to clean
- Oven-safe to 500°F (260°F)
- Even heating
- Made in China
Lodge Deep Camp 8-Quart Dutch Oven: Best for Camping
While you can use any Dutch oven over a campfire, what differentiates a classic Dutch oven and those meant for camping comes down to the legs, the lid, and the handle.
- Normally there are three legs that help it stand slightly above the coals.
- A looping handle allows you to hang it over the fire.
- A flat lid allows you to put coals on it.
Watch this video to learn how to make campfire pizza in your camping Dutch oven:
This 8-quart (7.57 liters) pre-seasoned Lodge Dutch oven is designed with campers in mind. It’s large enough to feed 6-8 people and is great for batch cooking. This topped our list for best camping Dutch ovens.
It has all the features of a campfire oven: three integral legs to use over coals, a flat lid that holds hot coals and inverts for use as a griddle, and a bail handle to hang the pot over a tripod.
And if you’re new to campfire cooking? No problem. Lodge includes a Camp Dutch Oven Cooking 101 cookbook to get you started.
Users had fantastic results cooking jambalaya, stew, chili, macaroni and cheese, cobblers, and chicken pot pie. They even used the lid for bacon and pancakes.
While the reviews for this pot were overwhelmingly positive, some people did receive lids with imperfections like rusting, chips, and cracks. Be sure to give your Dutch oven a once over upon receipt.
Although this Lodge piece is pricier than other options, its large capacity, unique features, and durability give it a lot of value.
- Large capacity
- Designed for campfires
- Durable oven
- Includes cookbook
- Made in the U.S.
- Some complaints of chips on lid
Legend Cast Iron Multi-Cooker, 5 Quarts: Most Versatile Cast Iron Pot
This 5-Quart (4.73 liters) Legend Cast Iron Dutch oven is the perfect size for feeding 4-6 people. This pre-seasoned multi-cooker features a 2-in-1 combo design. The deep pot works as a Dutch oven, while the shallow lid doubles as a skillet, making it one of the most versatile cast iron pots.
This cooker comes with two integrated handles for easy lifting, as well as two heat-resistant silicone grippers for safe handling.
It’s safe for use on electric, gas, halogen, and even induction cooktops. It’s also oven-safe and ready to use over a campfire. This Legend Multicooker’s maximum versatility is one reason why it was our top pick for best cast iron pots.
Reviewers were able to make beef stew, bake bread, and sear meat with this pot. They said this cooker had even heat distribution and great heat retention. They were pleased with its cooking performance and the customer service from Legend.
Even though this oven comes “light seasoned”, many users found they had to season it multiple times. Those that did had fewer problems with rusting and sticking. Some people had issues with their product, but they reported excellent customer service.
- Lid doubles as skillet (2-in-1 combo design)
- Includes silicone grippers
- Good customer service
- Versatile pot
- Requires seasoning
King Kooker Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 20 Quarts: Best Large Cast Iron Dutch Oven
This big pot can hold up to a whopping 20 quarts (18.9 liters), enough to feed 20 people. That might be too much for the average home cook, but if you need to make large batches of food, then this is a fantastic option.
This King Kooker does not have legs like a traditional outdoor Dutch oven, but its heft means it still sits flat. The good news? No legs means you can use this on both the stovetop or in the oven, assuming you have one large enough to accommodate it.
Another perk? The tight-fitting lid can be used as a grill pan or griddle and will hold hot coals, as well.
Users were pleased with the sturdiness of this 20-quart Dutch oven pot, as well as the lid and flat bottom. Several people used it at a restaurant or to feed a large crowd at a cookout. They cooked an entire turkey in this pot, as well as braised meat, beef stew, gumbo, jambalaya, and more.
The two major complaints were the handle and the seasoning. Even though the handle is strong enough to carry the pot, the wire coil is not welded to it and will move freely. That makes carrying this already heavy pot a precarious task.
Several people recommended having more than one person carry this pot. When full, it could easily weigh north of 75 pounds (34 kg).
The second issue had to do with the seasoning. Although King Kooker claims this Dutch oven comes already seasoned, several users complained about the quality of that seasoning layer. They recommended seasoning it at home before using it.
Overall, though, this lidded pot is the best for large gatherings and mega batches.
- Extra large capacity
- Lid doubles as griddle
- Indoor or outdoor cooking
- Sturdy, durable
- Pre-seasoning is lacking
- Might not fit some stoves
- Requires multiple people to move; coil isn’t welded
Tramontina Covered 6.5-Quart Dutch Oven, Enameled Cast Iron: Best Affordable Enameled Dutch Oven
This Tramontina enameled cast iron Dutch oven has a capacity of 6.5 quarts (6.15 liters), large enough to feed 6-7 people. I found this Dutch oven to be the best affordable alternative to some of the high-end brands.
It comes in a variety of colors, like this cobalt blue enamel finish, and a sand-colored interior.
It has double, wide-looped handles on the side for lifting, and the lid has a metal knob. You can use this round Dutch oven on the stove or in the oven up to 450°F (232°C). It’s compatible with all cooktops, as well.
When it comes to cleaning, you should wash this Tramontina pot by hand. It’s also important to avoid metal utensils to protect the enamel finish. For stuck-on food or stubborn stains, customers recommended Bar Keeper’s friend or baking soda.
User reviews were happy with this pot. They said it was a good Dutch oven and had a solid cooking performance. They made chicken stew, brisket, beans, and bread.
Like other cast iron Dutch ovens, customers said this one was heavy. Some liked the sturdiness, while others found it too cumbersome. The handles are wide enough to lift, even with an oven mitt, so that helps.
The biggest complaint was the durability of the enamel. Several people had issues with chips and scratches on the enamel. For that reason, this Tramontina might not have quite as long a lifespan as Le Crueset’s pots, for example.
Still, the overall value of this Dutch oven is high. For the home cook on a budget, this will give you solid quality at an affordable price.
- Even heating
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Oven-safe up to 450°F (232°C)
- Lifetime warranty
- Not the most durable enamel coating
Staub Cast Iron 5.5-Quart Round Cocotte: Runner-Up for Best Enameled Dutch Oven
Staub is known for its artisan French ovens and exceptional craftsmanship. This 5.5-quart (5.2 liters) round cocotte is no different. It’s consistently among my top picks for enameled Dutch ovens, along with Le Creuset.
Despite the elegant French name, the cocotte is an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. It can hold enough food to feed 4-6 people, making it ideal for families.
Watch to see how one Chef uses his Staub cocotte for a delicious New Orleans recipe:
This Staub Dutch oven features an enamel finish in a variety of beautiful colors with a black interior coating. It has a nickel steel knob and wide looped handles on the side for easy handling.
The heavy, tight-fitting lid retains moisture and heat. The spikes on the self-basting lid create a “rain-forest effect,” evenly returning juices back onto food.
And since this Staub Dutch oven is oven-safe up to 500°F (260°C) with the lid, you can easily use this for stovetop-to-oven dishes. Speaking of stovetops, you can use this pot with any cooktop, including induction.
User reviews raved about this Staub round Dutch oven. The loved the heat conduction and cooking performance. They also said this pot retained heat for a long time. They used their Staub to brown meat, make sourdough bread, make pot roast, and more.
The black enamel interior is easier to clean than other Dutch ovens with a light-colored interior. However, the dark cooking surface makes it more difficult to monitor food for doneness. This is especially true when browning or roasting meat.
Several customers also complained that the spikes in the lid made it difficult to clean.
Even though you’ll pay more for a Staub Dutch oven, this French-made pot has excellent performance and a lot of value.
- Made in France
- Good quality
- Attractive enamel with a range of colors
- Self-basting lid circulates moisture
- Even & efficient heating
- Conducts heat well
- Stick-resistant and easy to clean
- Dishwasher safe – but not recommended
- Oven safe to 500°F (260°C) with lid
- More expensive model
- Bumps in the lid make it harder to clean
- Reports of cracking
- Dark interior makes monitoring difficult
Martha Stewart 4-Quart and 7-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Ovens: Best Dutch Oven Set
Martha Stewart is a household name in the U.S., but you may or may not know that she has her own line of cookware. These Martha Stewart Dutch ovens actually come as a set.
The 4-quart (3.79 liters) and 7-quart (6.62 liters) Dutch ovens come in a pretty gray enamel coating with a light-colored interior. The smaller pot can feed 3-4 people, whereas the larger pot can feed 6-8 people.
Like most Dutch ovens, these pieces are quite heavy. One user had trouble with lifting them. The wide handles do help with grip, however.
These pots are compatible with all cooktops, including induction. They’re also safe for the oven and can be used to serve food. For clean up, hand washing is a must.
These pots have great heat distribution and retention, making them better for low and slow cooking. But be careful with the enamel. People had issues with chips and flaking.
One user recommended heating these pots gradually. Sudden temperature changes can damage the fragile enamel layer.
Although I ultimately found other options more appealing, this has adequate performance and is the only option that comes as a set.
- Includes 2 Dutch ovens
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Pretty gray color
- Problems with chipped enamel
- Hand wash only
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron 7-Quart Round Covered Casserole: Best Mid-Range Option
Cuisinart makes a variety of enameled cast iron cookware targeted to home cooks who want quality without breaking the bank. Even though Cuisinart dubs this as a casserole, it has all the features of a Dutch oven.
This Cuisinart casserole has a capacity of 7 quarts (6.62 liters), enough to easily feed 6-8 people. It comes in a cardinal red and Provencal blue exterior finish. It has a light-colored interior that resists sticking, as well.
The tight fitting lid has an enamel knob, and the looped handles help when lifting. For oven dishes, this pot can handle temperatures up to 500°F (260°C). It’s also compatible with all cooktops, giving this Cuisinart max versatility.
Even though Cuisinart advertises this Dutch oven as dishwasher safe, I would err on the side of caution and hand wash it. No reason to risk damaging the casserole. I would also stick to wooden or silicone cooking tools.
This video from the manufacturer gives you a quick breakdown of the Cuisinart casserole:
Customers were overall pleased with the Cuisinart’s cooking performance. They loved the even heating and their results with bread, stew, and more.
Several people had chipped enamel, however. Poor quality enamel was the number one complaint. A secondary issue was the size of the handles. They’re on the smaller side, so carrying this heavy pot can be tricky.
Still, this affordable option consistently performs well, which is why I found it to be a great alternative to high-end brands.
- Safe for oven temps up to 500°F (260°C)
- Even heat distribution
- Tight-fitting lid
- Easy to clean & dishwasher safe
- Mid-range affordability
- Complaints of enamel chipping easily
- Only 2 color choices (red/blue)
- Smaller handles
The Best Dutch Oven: My Recommendation
We’ve looked at some of the best Dutch ovens, but which one is the best Dutch oven pot for you?
For most home cooks, I would recommend the Le Creuset 5.5-Quart Dutch oven. Le Creuset’s oven has top performance and reputation, and this beautiful piece will last a lifetime.
For those who don’t want an enameled pot, or who need something more affordable, however, I would go with the Lodge 5-quart Dutch oven. Lodge is the best in bare cast iron, and this Dutch oven will last for years to come.