This Is Why Every Cook Needs a Dutch Oven

It's a worthy investment because this pot will be on duty on the stovetop (or in the oven) every day for years to come.

stack of dutch ovens by Le Creuset
Photo: Courtesy of Sur La Table

We'll start with this: A Dutch oven might be the heaviest, bulkiest, and priciest pot in your kitchen, but it will also likely be your most loved, most used piece of cookware, a workhorse that lasts for decades or more. And it'll turn out some of the best dishes you've ever made.

Dutch ovens, typically thick-walled pots with tight-fitting lids, are usually made of seasoned cast iron, and they're known for their affinity for soups, stews, and braises. Why? Well, we like to think of them as the original slow cookers—the cast iron may take a little longer to heat up than something like stainless steel, but the material holds heat exceptionally well, probably better than any other pot or pan you can buy that isn't electrically-powered. That ability to maintain consistent heat over many hours coupled with a tight-fitting lid that holds in moisture means that tough cuts of meat end up blissfully tender and not dried out; dried beans turn soft and creamy; and soups and stews take on incredible flavor (low and slow really works wonders). A Dutch oven can get super hot, too, so it's ideal for braising, where you sear food at a high temperature, and then finish it, covered, at a lower temperature.

Speaking of high temperatures, Dutch ovens are surprisingly well-suit to frying, too. Will Copenhaver, the VP of sales for Smithey Ironware Company, says any fears home cooks may have that deep frying is dangerous or only for pros will be assuaged if they're using a Dutch oven. Why? Because the pot's weight "takes away the scariness factor," he explains. Plus, its high walls prevent splatters, and its sturdy base keeps it steady on your stove burner, so you don't have to worry about tipping a pot of blistering hot oil (and trust us, that oil will get hot and stay hot).

Other great uses for this jack-of-all-trades vessel: baking bread (Copenhaver says the tight-fitting lid creates a mini steam oven that results in a beautifully crisp crust), roasting a chicken (plus a whole bunch of vegetables), and even making popcorn. Nate Collier, director of marketing communications and culinary at Le Creuset, puts it simply: "You really can cook just about anything in a Dutch oven." The material is even great at keeping cold food cold. "It's perfect for serving cold side dishes or filling with ice to chill drinks or stand in for a punch bowl," says Collier.

A good Dutch oven will last a lifetime—they're seriously durable and don't ask much of you; just keep yours dry and oiled dutch (a light layer of vegetable oil is all it needs). Collier acknowledges that these pots, which can cost a few hundred dollars, are "an investment piece." But a quality one can serve you well for decades, and even be passed down through generations.

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