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As someone who owns an unreasonable amount of cookware, I feel justified in saying that a Dutch oven is the most versatile pot in existence. With its high sides, roomy cooking surface, and accompanying lid, it can boil water for pasta, braise, roast, bake, sear, simmer, and deep-fry.
This means every home cook (hey, that’s you!) needs a great Dutch oven. But, therein lies the question: Which one do you get? There are so many out there, from various brands (old and new) in all sorts of materials. After weeks of testing and making — and eating! — a disconcerting amount of one-pot bread and meatballs, I’m here to answer that question. I included several picks, so you can find the best Dutch oven for you.
Why You Should Trust Us
I’m the Tools Editor at Kitchn and a professional kitchen equipment tester. I previously worked at America’s Test Kitchen and my reviews on topics like stand mixers, induction burners, toaster ovens, and multicookers have been published in Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and on the America’s Test Kitchen website. My work has also been featured on America’s Test Kitchen’s and Cook’s Country’s television programs. And again, I own more pieces of cookware than any human could possibly need.
What to Consider When Buying a Dutch Oven
For this testing, I included enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and aluminum, nonstick, ceramic-coated Dutch ovens. There’s a lot to say when it comes to materials, but here are some key takeaways.
What Size Dutch Oven Should You Get?
I focused on 5 1/2-quart Dutch ovens because they’re the best size for most home cooks and can accommodate pretty much every recipe you want to try. However, some of the Dutch ovens I tested were only available in 6- or 7-quart sizes. Obviously, if you regularly cook for a larger crowd (more than four or five people), you might find a 7-quart Dutch oven more accommodating. I noted which Dutch ovens are available in larger (and smaller!) sizes.
How Much Does the Pot Weigh and Is It Easy to Handle?
The best Dutch ovens — no matter their material — have wide, roomy handles that make them easy to lift into and out of the oven … even with bulky oven mitts on. They also have large, grippy knobs on their lids.
Also, enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are heavy. My favorites clock in between approximately 11 and 15 pounds — without food in them. If you have arthritis or simply can’t lift something that heavy, a nonstick or stainless steel Dutch oven would be a good option.
What We Look for in a Dutch Oven
I judged all of the Dutch ovens on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best):
Best Overall: Le Creuset 5 1/2-Quart Round Dutch Oven
This Dutch oven cooked like a dream: making rice well, browning meatballs and chicken thighs evenly and thoroughly, and baking excellent bread. It has a roomy cooking surface and its light interior made it easy to monitor browning. It also has wide handles and a large, grippy lid knob. It was easy enough to clean and didn’t chip or scratch throughout testing. Its downsides? It’s heavy, weighing at about 11 pounds, and expensive. However, if it’s in your budget, this is a gorgeous Dutch oven that cooks beautifully and is built to last.
Who it’s best for: The cook who’s looking for an investment piece of cookware that’s both gorgeous and functional.
Good to know: It’s available in additional sizes (all the way from a 1-quart option to a 13 1/4-quart option) and comes in 15-plus different colors, although not all colors are available for each size. It’s also induction-friendly and has a lifetime warranty. While the pot I tested came with a stainless steel knob, these Dutch ovens can also come with the brand’s signature black knob or gold-colored stainless steel knob. However, you can purchase these knobs separately and swap one for another, depending on your personal preference. I do prefer the stainless steel, though, as it is better at standing up against the heat.
Staub also makes a top-notch Dutch oven. It has a roomy cooking surface and while its dark interior makes it tougher to gauge browning and watch fond develop, it won’t discolor like a light interior might over time. Its handles and lid knob were smaller than Le Creuset’s, but still comfortable enough to grasp — even with oven mitts on. It also came clean fairly easily and didn’t chip or scratch. This one is also heavy and pricey. However, this is a splurge-worthy piece of cookware that’ll be with you for a long time.
Who it’s best for: Those who are looking to invest in a piece of cookware and are comfortable with browning and caramelizing food without relying on visual cues from the pan.
Good to know: Available in 6 sizes (4-quart to 13 1/4-quart) and in 12 colors, although not all colors are available for each size. It’s induction-friendly and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Which one should you get if you’re debating between a Staub and a Le Creuset? Honestly, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer the elevated style of a Staub and the dark interior, while others like the classic look of the Le Creuset and its light interior. (Julia Child helped popularized Le Creuset in the States and the pots are still available in the original bright red-orange color she had!) Both will set you back a pretty penny, which brings up one more question I imagine you might have: Why spend this kind of cash on a Dutch oven when you can get a good budget stand-in?
You certainly do not have to spend this much. But if you do, I don’t think you’ll regret it. These pots are true workhorses. They are incredibly long-lasting. And while they’re often talked about as status symbols, they’re made by top brands with rich histories and solid manufacturing experience. You get the warranty, the quality, and all that these brands have to offer.
Best Under $150: Milo Classic Dutch Oven
While this Dutch oven isn’t as well-known as the ones from Le Creuset or Staub, I honestly think it should be! It excelled at everything I made in it: rice, meatballs, chicken, bread. It cleaned up fairly easily and didn’t chip or scratch. Its pretty, gold knob came a little loose during testing, but I just tightened it using a screwdriver. And while this pot’s handles were on the small side, that lid knob was large and grippy. Overall, this is an impressive (not too expensive!) Dutch oven that I’d recommend to anyone who asks.
Who it’s best for: Those looking for a mid-priced Dutch oven and would like to support a smaller cookware brand.
Good to know: While its green, blue, and black colors have dark interiors, you can opt for the white Dutch oven, which comes with a light-colored interior. It’s also available in a mini (3.5-quart) size, has a lifetime warranty, and is induction-friendly. A few new colors were recently released, too, and are available for pre-order — including Dusty Pink, Fresh Terracotta, and Eucalyptus Dutch ovens.
Best Budget: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 5-Quart Blue Enameled Cast Iron Round Casserole
For less than $100, this Dutch oven was hard to beat. It has a roomy cooking surface, and everything I made in it turned out great. While its handles were a touch small, they were still large enough to comfortably grasp — and its lid’s knob was as wide as the Le Creuset knobs. It was easy enough to clean, too, but it did chip when I whacked the rim with a metal spoon, so it’s not as durable as some of the other pots I tested. Its lid also came with a large sticker, which left a sticky film that was frustrating to remove.
Who it’s best for: Those looking for a budget-friendly Dutch oven that’s no-frills, but performs well.
Good to know: It’s also available in this red color and in a 7-quart size. This pot comes with a lifetime warranty and is induction-friendly.
Best Nonstick: Caraway Dutch Oven
This nonstick Dutch oven was seriously impressive. It didn’t brown as deeply as the enameled cast iron Dutch ovens did, but it did cook rice, chicken thighs, and meatballs well and even baked a good loaf of bread. Nothing stuck to its surface, which made cleanup a cinch. I loved its big handles and the fact that it was lightweight and oven-safe to 550°F. After testing, I did notice a few scratches on its exterior; however, if you want a nonstick Dutch oven, this will not disappoint.
Who it’s best for: Those who prefer nonstick cookware or can’t lift a heavy enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
Good to know: Available in 5 colors or as part of this cookware set and is induction-friendly.
Best Oval: Great Jones The Dutchess
Another option from a smaller, new-ish-to-the-scene cookware brand, this Dutch oven has a roomy cooking surface and generously sized, half-moon-shaped handles. Because of its longer shape, a few meatballs on the outskirts of the pot didn’t get as well-browned. However, it cooked chicken thighs more evenly and made great rice and beautiful bread. I liked its grey-colored interior, which made it easy to monitor browning, but won’t stain easily. Independently of this test, I’ve owned a Dutchess for years and it hasn’t chipped or scratched. After testing it against others, I’m still a big fan.
Who it’s best for: Those who want a larger Dutch oven at a reasonable price and are fans of Great Jones.
Good to know: It’s available in 7 colors and as part of this cookware set and is induction-friendly. Great Jones recently released a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven that nests inside The Dutchess. It comes in four colors, so you can match your Dutchess and Dutch Baby, if you like.
Best for Baking Bread: Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
If you’re looking to do a good amount of bread baking, this is the Dutch oven for you! Why would you need a different sort of Dutch oven for bread? Because bread can actually cause some damage, aesthetically speaking, which is a bummer — especially if you’ve spent a lot of money on a Le Creuset or Staub. (Simply put: When exposed to high heat, any leftover traces of oil can polymerize onto the surface of a Dutch oven, forming splotchy, somewhat-sticky brown patches that are tough to remove. While these patches don’t affect the Dutch oven’s performance, I think you’re better off with a cheaper Dutch oven for all your little loaves.) Also, I’ve heard of plenty of people having issues with the enamel cracking because they’ve made one mistake or another.
So, if you want to churn out lots of bread, I recommend a cheaper Dutch oven. This Lodge pot fits the bill and makes beautifully browned loaves of bread. It has sides that slope inwards, which means its surface area is smaller (it fit fewer meatballs), but it still cooks and browns food evenly. It did arrive with a sizable chip out of its exterior enamel. My parents, who’ve had their Lodge Dutch oven for about a year, have noticed some chips around the rim of their pot, too. So, it’s not the most durable. However, it’s still a solid, not-too-expensive option.
Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants to bake a lot of sourdough or no-knead bread.
Good to know: It’s induction-friendly and available in 3- to 7.5-quart sizes and in 11 colors (although not all colors are available in every size).
Best Stainless Steel: Tramontina Gourmet Stainless Steel Induction-Ready Dutch Oven
This light, stainless steel Dutch oven has a roomy cooking surface and comfortable, wide handles. However, the bread I baked in it came out too blonde and didn’t have a crisp crust. This Dutch oven also had a good bit of stains post-testing, however it didn’t dent or scratch — even after I hit it with a metal spoon. Overall, this is a good stainless steel pot that’s easy to lift and it cooks well, too. I also really liked the Proclamation Duo, which is a hybrid piece of stainless steel cookware that combines a skillet and a Dutch oven (and does so successfully!).
Who it’s best for: Anyone who’s looking for a lightweight Dutch oven and won’t be using it to bake bread.
Good to know: It’s induction-friendly and has a lifetime warranty.
Best Multipurpose: Our Place Perfect Pot
If you’re short on space and want a Dutch oven that’s also a whole bunch of other things, then the Perfect Pot might be right for you. It combines a stockpot, sauce pot, braiser, and, yes, a Dutch oven, amongst other things, and comes with a roasting/steamer rack and wooden spoon that conveniently rests on the pot’s handle. It has a slick ceramic nonstick surface that’s easy to clean and browns fairly evenly. It’s also lightweight and has fairly roomy handles, so it’s easy to lift and maneuver. Unlike the famous Always Pan (by the same company), the Perfect Pot is oven-safe to 425°F, which is good for stovetop-to-oven applications like braising, but not for tasks that require a higher temperature, like baking bread. And because it has a ceramic nonstick coating, it doesn’t have the same longevity as an enameled cast iron Dutch oven (nonstick, generally, has a 5-year lifespan). But, if you’re curious about all-in-one cookware or already have the Always Pan, you’ll like the Perfect Pot.
Who it’s best for: If you’re short on space and want a lightweight Dutch oven that comes with some extra accessories, but don’t plan on baking bread with it.
Good to know: It’s induction-friendly, but not broiler-safe. It also comes in six colors.
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We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we’ll condense the info into easy, breezy summaries, so that you can see what we picked and why, and then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!
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