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One-Pot Stars: The Dutch Oven

A classic, a favorite, a super-versatile pot -- truly essential for every kitchen.

dutch oven
Photography by: John Kernick

Perhaps this kitchen workhorse is already your favorite pot? It’s a really versatile vessel -- a large, heavy, lidded, usually cast-iron pot that’s ideal for a long-simmered stew or a braise with tender meat and vegetables. Ingredients are browned, then liquid is added, and everything cooks slowly.


Learn more about Dutch ovens in our new book, "One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More."



What Makes It So Good?

Cast iron heats evenly and retains and conducts heat wonderfully, making it an excellent choice for cooking at low temperatures. The tight-fitting lid traps moisture so slow-cooked dishes don’t dry out. Enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens are more popular than their non-enameled kin because the enamel makes the pot extra pretty, easy to maintain, and versatile -- it allows you to cook acidic ingredients like tomatoes, which you can’t in a plain cast-iron pot. A six- to eight-quart pot is large enough to hold a whole chicken or a big batch of stew.


Dutch ovens are hefty and long-lasting (this is a pot you might inherit from a relative), but also good-looking enough to go from stovetop to table. May we mention another wonderful thing about the Dutch oven? It likes both stovetop and oven cooking, making it the pot of choice for dishes that start on the stovetop and are finished in the oven.


So Many Uses

Dutch ovens are best known for being used to cook tougher cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder or beef chuck, but they also excel with ingredients that don’t require such long cooking, such as chicken or sausage, and with bean stews, where ingredients still benefit from initial browning. The reasons to own a Dutch oven don’t end with big cuts of meat and stew: Because it's heavy and the lid fits tightly, a Dutch oven is also a perfect vessel for bread (the dough releases moisture, which is then trapped in the pot and helps the bread develop a really good crust.)


Try delicious recipes for the Dutch oven in our new book, "One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More."


Why Dutch?

In case you’re wondering why these pots are called Dutch ovens -- well, there are varying opinions. Most likely it’s an American pot of European ancestry. Before the stovetop, it had legs to stand in the ashes of the hearth. The "Dutch" may come from that nation’s reputation for frugality. (Indeed, cooking in one of these pots remains an economical way to cook.) Similar but slightly shallower pots are called braisers. Dutch ovens can be round or oval; both have the same attributes, so choose which shape you prefer.


Shop the Martha Stewart Collector’s Enameled Cast Iron collection.