The biggest difference between Dutch ovens and stock pots is their intended purpose.
Dutch ovens perform well at slow cooking, bread baking, stews, or anything that goes from stovetop to oven. They can also make for excellent stove-to-table serveware (depending on the oven). Stock pots are ideal for cooking food with a high liquid content such as soups, stews and stock. Stock pots are often bigger than Dutch ovens making them ideal for batch prep.
If you’re searching for a new cooking pot, you may be wondering if you need a Dutch oven and a stock pot. Can you just get away with one instead of both?
If you are unsure about the difference between a Dutch oven vs. stock pot, rest assured you’re not alone. In this article, I’ve broken down the similarities and differences between a Dutch oven and a stock pot, as well as when it’s best to use each one. You’ll have all the information you need to find the right piece of cookware.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.
What Is a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens are heavy multipurpose pots used for braising, simmering, and deep frying. They are incredibly versatile and essential to the average home kitchen. Most Dutch ovens are cast iron, and many feature an enamel coating.
Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens don’t require seasoning before use, but bare cast iron Dutch ovens do. The enamel finish gives non-stick properties to the pot, releasing food more easily.
While Dutch ovens can be used for various cooking methods, slow cooking is one of the most popular ways to use them. Stovetop-to-oven dishes also do great in a Dutch oven, as they’re oven-safe. Dutch ovens have tight-fitting lids that lock in heat and moisture. They’re known for their even heat distribution and heat retention.
When you add up all of those features, it means that Dutch ovens are great for cooking meat dishes, stews, soups, and so much more.
While a cast iron Dutch oven has a lot of advantages, there are a couple of drawbacks. First, a Dutch oven is heavy. It’s not suited for dishes that require draining, like pasta. An enameled Dutch oven is also prone to chipping, so it’s important to store it in a single layer, without coming into contact with other cookware.
Finally, while a bare cast iron Dutch oven can be quite affordable, an enameled cast iron Dutch oven can be quite pricey. Enameled cast iron is beautiful and can double as a serving dish. Brands like Le Creuset are known for their superb quality, but a Dutch oven is an investment.
What Is a Stock Pot?
A stock pot is a heavy-duty pot found in both home and professional kitchens. Stockpots are designed to cook large quantities of food. The average stock pot is anywhere from 8 to 12 quarts (7.6 to 11.4 liters), although some restaurants have stockpots larger than 20 quarts (18.9 liters).
As the name indicates, a stock pot is great for making stock. Most stock pots are made of stainless steel or cast aluminum, making them able to handle high heat. They feature a thin base, wide diameter, and tall straight sides that can hold a large volume of liquid.
Stock pots feature lighter materials to make them easier to lift. Many stock pots feature small handles on the sides for easier lifting. Even though most stock pots are oven-safe, their height makes them ill-suited for oven use. It’s best to stick to stovetop cooking.
What’s the Difference Between a Dutch Oven and Stock Pot?
Even though Dutch ovens and stock pots are both great pots for home cooks to have, they are distinct from one another.
Shape & Size
Dutch ovens come in several different shapes, with round and oval pots being the most common. Additionally, Dutch ovens come in a variety of sizes. Not sure which size is right for you? Read more about choosing the best-size Dutch oven.
Stock pots, on the other hand, are without exception cylindrical with straight, tall sides. The average stock pot has a large capacity for making big batches of stock or for boiling large volumes of water.
Dutch ovens traditionally come in cast iron, with or without an enamel coating. There are pros and cons to each type of finish, but I use my enameled Dutch oven far more often. Dutch ovens are heavy and slower to heat but with excellent heat retention.
A Dutch oven will come with a heavy lid to hold in heat and moisture. This is especially helpful for “low and slow” cooking on the stove.
Stock pots typically are made of stainless steel. A stainless steel stock pot is quicker to heat than cast iron. Stock pots have thinner walls and metal lids, as well.
Sometimes a stainless steel stock pot is fully-clad, meaning it has a thin layer of a heat-conductive metal like aluminum inside layers of stainless steel. This helps the stock pot heat evenly and more quickly. The downside? It also makes the stock pot significantly more expensive.
I’ve found a simple stainless steel or aluminum stock pot to be the most useful in the kitchen. I prefer stainless steel, but aluminum will be lighter, cheaper, and heat more quickly. You just have to be careful not to cook acidic foods in an aluminum stock pot.
A Dutch oven is great for anything that requires a slow cooking process or anything that goes from the stovetop to the oven. Braising, soup, stew, chili, beans, and even bread. Check out my complete guide to the best Dutch oven for bread baking.
Alternatively, a stock pot is suited for anything that requires a high-liquid content. Boil water, steam dumplings and pot stickers, make stock, or prepare a big batch of marinara sauce. A stock pot can also be used as a pasta pot for boiling pasta.
Where they overlap is with stews, soups, and chili. The stock pot is best for making large quantities, whereas the Dutch oven is best for cooking at home and bringing out the most flavor.
A Dutch oven holding the same volume as a stock pot will still weigh quite a bit more. Cast iron is heavier than stainless steel or aluminum, so Dutch ovens will be more difficult to lift.
The handles on a Dutch oven are usually looped and wide for easier lifting. Too much weight can make it difficult for those with carpal tunnel or other hand/wrist issues.
Finally, there is a difference between a Dutch oven vs stock pot in terms of price. Dutch ovens are more expensive than stock pots, sometimes significantly so. This is primarily due to the material and construction.
Can I Use a Stock Pot Instead of a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens and stock pots are both versatile cookware for stovetop cooking. They are suited for liquid-based dishes and large batches of food, like whole chicken or big batches of soup.
Both Dutch ovens and stock pots feature a metal body, albeit a different type of metal. Nonetheless, they both conduct heat very well and provide even heat for perfectly cooked food.
If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can use a good stock pot as a replacement. However, you may not get the same results if you’re slow cooking or braising. Stock pots are not designed for oven use, either. So baking bread is out.
If you want the best-tasting braised beef, crusty loaves, or three-bean soup, you’ll be much better off using a Dutch oven.
If the price of enameled Dutch ovens is too high, you can opt for a seasoned cast iron Dutch oven, like this Lodge Dutch oven. It comes in 5-quart and 7-quart options (4.73 and 6.6 liters), and it’s very affordable.
Is a Stock Pot or Dutch Oven Better for Soup?
If I’m making a simple batch of soup on the stove top for my family, I’m going to use my Dutch oven. It brings out the most flavor and is perfect for bringing a soup to a boil and then simmering over low temperatures.
That being said, if I’m cooking a large batch of soup for a crowd? I’m using a stock pot. Stock pots are great for feeding a large group of people.
If you’re making soup over an open fire, I highly recommend a Dutch oven. Dutch ovens are much more suited for campfire cooking. You can find more about camping Dutch ovens in this in-depth guide.
Why Use a Dutch Oven Over a Pot?
Dutch ovens heat evenly, have excellent heat retention, and retain moisture. They can handle higher temperatures but can simmer a long time at lower temperatures. All of these features make them some of the best braising tools.
Stockpots tend to be suited for quick heating and batch cooking. They aren’t designed for braising like Dutch ovens are.
Not only are Dutch ovens versatile on the stovetop, but they are also safe for the oven. This makes them useful for other dishes and baking bread. Remember to use oven mitts to remove pots from the oven.
The lid helps when cooking foods that require moisture, and some Dutch oven lids are self-basting, retaining even more moisture.
Dutch ovens come in more colors than other pots, allowing them to double as a serving dish or casserole dish. They look beautiful on the table and will keep the food hot until it is ready to serve.
Dutch ovens, especially the enameled ones, are easy to clean. Enameled ovens are almost non-stick, and food washes off easily. It’s best to clean your Dutch oven by hand, regardless of what the instructions say. This will help preserve the beautiful finish and keep your pots working at their best.
What’s the Difference Between a Dutch Oven and a Crock Pot?
Although they’re both used for slow cooking and braising, crock pots and Dutch ovens aren’t the same thing.
A Crock Pot is an electric slow cooker. It has an enclosed heating element, a ceramic cooking pot, and glass lids that fit securely over the pot. Crock pots are lighter weight than Dutch ovens, and they usually have three heat settings: low, medium, or high.
Crock pots can be used anywhere there’s an electrical outlet, but they are not designed for stovetop cooking. You can use the ceramic pot on the stove, but I would rather use a Dutch oven in that case.
Electric slow cookers (a.k.a. Crock pots) might also have added features like delay start, cooking timers, and more. Find the best programmable slow cookers for your kitchen.
Dutch ovens, on the other hand, are made up of cast iron or enameled cast iron. There is a lot of variety in terms of capacity and colors. You can also find traditional cast iron, which is great for campfire cooking.
If you’re wondering about the other ways a Dutch oven differs from a crock pot, you can find more below.
In terms of cost, a good Dutch oven can be pricey compared to a crock pot. Small electric slow cookers are very affordable, while large slow cookers are more costly. Of course, this varies according to the features and the model.
A Dutch oven can be quite costly, especially if you buy from the top brands like Staub or Le Creuset.
Convenience in Cooking
A crock pot is highly portable and can be carried anywhere. It’s lightweight, and many glass lids lock into place to avoid spilling the contents. You can prepare your food at any place near an electrical outlet. Just plug it in and enter your settings, and you’re good to go!
A Dutch oven is heavy to carry but worth taking while camping. You can sear, braise, brown, caramelize, and even bake bread. You can turn anything into a one-pot meal with a good-quality Dutch oven.
A crock pot does not offer you the flexibility to utilize cooking styles like a Dutch oven. It’s strictly used for slow cooking.
If “set it and forget it” appeals to you, then an electric slow cooker is the way to go. You can dump in your ingredients, set the Crock Pot to the proper settings, and let it cook dinner while you go to work.
A Crock Pot gives you the freedom to multitask. As a Dutch oven is designed for stovetop cooking, it cannot be left alone for hours. You’ll need to keep an eye on it and stir the contents at intervals.
You can slow cook or quickly sear, steam, or boil practically anything that fits inside a Dutch oven. Food can be ready to eat within a matter of minutes.
Taste and Consistency
A Dutch oven can’t be matched when it comes to the taste of food cooked inside. Whether you use it in the oven or on the stove at a lower temperature, a Dutch oven can bring out the maximum mouth-watering flavor.
That’s why my husband always comments, “Something smells good,” when I use my Dutch oven.
With a Crock Pot, you can tenderize large cuts of meat. It won’t bring out the same flavor as a Dutch oven, but it still produces delicious food with plenty of moisture and taste.
Dutch ovens are quite versatile when it comes to temperature. You can sear food at high temps or simmer at lower temperatures. Simply turn the knob on the stove to adjust the heat.
A crock-pot has only two to three temperature settings–high, medium, and low. Some models also have incorporated a keep-warm setting. The maximum temperature in a crockpot is 300°F (180°C).
Both Dutch ovens and slow cookers are safe when used properly, but they both have a certain amount of risk attached to them. Dutch ovens can become hot on the stove and cause serious burns if someone were to touch them without oven mitts or pot holders.
It’s also important to make sure you can lift the Dutch oven, even when full. Spilling hot soup and dropping a Dutch oven is a fast track to injury.
With a crock pot, you don’t have to worry about burns. However, with any electric appliance, there’s a minimal risk of electrical failure or other related dangers. And if you experience a power outage, you can forget about using your Crock Pot.
Dutch Ovens vs. Stock Pots: Final Thoughts
So the big question is, do you need a Dutch oven and a stock pot? Can you get away with just having one or the other?
Both Stock pots and Dutch ovens perform essential kitchen tasks. They’re useful for home cooks. While you can technically get by with just one of the two, it will severely limit the types of recipes you can prepare effectively.
If I had to choose just one, I would go with my Dutch oven. I use it practically on a daily basis, and it’s my go-to for my favorite dishes (white chicken chili, butternut squash soup, and jambalaya). But if you make stock frequently, it won’t do to have just a Dutch oven. You really need a stock pot for that.
I would recommend both a stock pot and Dutch oven for max versatility and cooking possibilities.