When it comes to cooking, many home cooks find themselves debating a Dutch oven vs a French oven. What’s the difference between the two, and which is better for what types of cooking?
As a busy mom of two, I love the versatility and practicality these pieces of cookware provide. They both help me turn one-pot dinners into delicious masterpieces my family can’t get enough of.
However, though similar, they aren’t identical. Each oven has its own list of benefits, some of which may work better for your individual cooking needs than others.
At a Glance
Dutch ovens and French ovens are extremely versatile. There isn’t much difference in what these two ovens can cook. Both are great for braising meat, cooking soups and stews, frying food, or baking bread.
However, when it comes down to it, a bare cast iron Dutch oven, like Lodge, is best for the cook who won’t be put off by seasoning it regularly and also enjoys campfire cooking or creating one-pot dishes.
On the other hand, an enameled French oven, like Le Creuset, which is essentially just a type of Dutch oven, is the ideal choice for people who prefer a pot they can throw in the dishwasher and don’t have to season or preheat before using.
If you’re serious about cooking, keep reading to learn more about the similarities and differences between these two necessary cookwares.
What Is a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens are large pots with thick walls, a wide base, and a relatively shallow bowl. They come with a matching lid and have two loop handles on either side, making them ideal for transferring in and out of the oven. You can also use them just as effectively on the stove.
Most dutch ovens use cast iron. This material is incredibly durable and, when cared for properly, is non-stick. Dutch ovens can get really hot and retain heat well, making them ideal for everything from searing and browning meat to keeping food warm for long periods.
What Is a French Oven?
A French oven is a more modern version of the Dutch oven. It, too, is made of cast iron and features two short handles and a domed lid. The difference lies in the French oven’s coating.
A French oven has an enamel coating. This coating gets fused with the cast iron during the manufacturing process.
French ovens, or “cocottes,” are usually brightly colored; their scarlet-reds, Caribbean blues, and lemon-yellows add a delightful pop of color to any kitchen or stovetop. Their coloring also makes them useful as pleasing serving dishes.
The truth is that most people, including manufacturers, refer to French ovens as “enameled Dutch ovens.”
Lodge Dutch Oven
Let’s start with the Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven is a 5-quart pot, which is equivalent to 16 cups of soup or a whole, 4-pound chicken. It is excellent for feeding families with four people and can handle roasting, simmering, broiling, braising, or baking a variety of meats, vegetables, and bread.
To get the most out of the Lodge Dutch Oven, it is necessary to preheat the oven for at least 5 minutes prior to cooking. It is pre-seasoned with oil, making it a non-stick option that will increase with continued use.
The cast iron of this oven allows for even heat distribution and outstanding durability. This oven would be the preferred choice for camping or outdoor cooking over a fire. It should never be cleaned with soap and water, as that can lead to rust.
An added feature of this oven is its red silicone handles. These slip over the loop handles and allow for safe and easy handling when the oven is hot.
Le Creuset French Oven
On the other hand, we have the Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It is slightly larger than the Lodge Dutch Oven at 5.5 quarts and comes in various beautiful colors like pink, teal, red, and light blue, all of which are resistant to chipping. The Le Creuset French Oven has a taupe-colored enameled interior as well.
This size French oven / enameled Dutch oven is perfect for general cooking. It will comfortably feed a family of four to six, often with leftovers. The general rule of thumb for liquid-based meals like soups and stews is to assign 1 quart per person. That being said, this French oven can also cook a whole 5-pound chicken, short ribs, or bake a standard loaf of bread.
Unlike the Lodge Dutch Oven, the Le Creuset French Oven is dishwasher safe, which means easier clean-up at the end of the night. I recommend handwashing where possible to extend its life.
Le Creuset also make other enameled cast iron cookware, which I’ve written about in my Le Creuset Guide.
Dutch Oven vs French Oven Feature Comparison
Now that you know what each oven can do, let’s compare the Le Creuset French Oven vs Dutch oven.
Lodge Dutch Oven
The 5 quart Lodge Dutch oven is an excellent piece of cookware good for cooking all sorts of meals and recipes.
- Good for outdoor cooking
- Retains heat for long periods
- Cast iron won’t chip or crack like enamel
- Can feed up to 4 people
- Needs to be continually seasoned for non-stick capabilities
- Requires handwashing
- Must be preheated before use
Le Creuset French Oven
While similar in shape and function, the 5.5 quart Le Creuset French oven has its own set of pros and cons you should consider.
- Comes in bright, attractive colors
- Make excellent serving dishes
- Enamel coating makes them dishwasher safe and easy to clean
- Comes pre-seasoned
- Can feed 4-6 people
- Enamel will chip or crack over time
- Cannot be used to cook over a campfire
- Doesn’t retain heat
What Should I Get?
If you are a beginner, the Le Creuset Enameled French Oven is the better choice. It can cook and prepare the same meals as a traditional Dutch oven, but it is easier to clean and maintain. You also don’t have to worry about seasoning it.
More advanced cooks should take advantage of the traditional Lodge Dutch oven and its bare cast iron build. They will enjoy the flavor it provides, as well as its durability and versatility.
French Oven is best for…
Overall, the French oven is best for busy parents and people who are new to cooking and are unfamiliar with how to properly season their dish.
Dutch Oven is best for…
The Dutch oven is best for serious, heavy-duty cooking. It is excellent for keeping food hot for long periods and can be used for indoor or outdoor cooking.