The 10 Best Dutch Ovens
10. Anolon Vesta
9. Le Creuset Signature
8. Staub Cocotte
7. King Kooker Roaster
6. Bayou Classic 7475
5. Dansk Kobenstyle
4. Le Creuset Goose Pot
3. Calphalon Contemporary
2. Camp Chef DO-14
1. Lodge Enameled
A Cooking Vessel With Personality
When cooking for a large group of people, versatility is something that you need to have in the kitchen. Depending on your available space, less is usually more. This means that if you can find cookware capable of preparing a large variety of food types in a single space, you'll cut down on your kitchen clutter and have a greater degree of control over your meals.
While a conventional oven is a necessary tool, one needs the ability to have something a bit smaller, more portable, and more durable that can accomplish the same tasks when cooking outside or in a place where using an oven may prove difficult. The Dutch oven can be an excellent alternative in this regard.
A Dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid that is constructed from either cast iron, aluminum, or ceramic. The pot is versatile enough to be used both indoors and outdoors when placed over coals or a cooktop. When used as an outdoor camp oven, the pot has a flat bottom with three short legs that keep the oven suspended over the coals for superior air circulation underneath it.
Outdoor Dutch ovens also feature large handles for hanging over an open flame and heavy-duty lids that can support coals or double as frying pans. Indoor Dutch ovens also have flat bases, no legs, and are ideal for use over wood-burning stoves. The sizes of most Dutch ovens ranges anywhere from five to 22 inches in diameter from their rims.
So why do many Dutch oven enthusiasts swear by cast iron over other materials? Due to its weight, cast iron can retain heat for extended periods of time. This means that the pot can be removed from a stovetop or fire before the food inside has finished the cooking process. The gradual buildup of thermal energy from inside the pot continues to cook foods without wasting excess energy.
Cast iron is also extremely durable, but in order to keep it in pristine condition and prevent it from rusting, it must be properly seasoned. Because of cast iron's ability to retain heat, the Dutch oven is well-suited as a long, slow cooker for preparing a variety of dishes that include roasts, stews, and casseroles. It can also be used for both shallow and deep frying, boiling, and simmering foods in liquid. When used outdoors, the pot can even double as a baking oven for making biscuits, cakes, breads, and even pizza.
With respect to aluminum ovens, the material is lightweight, easy to clean, and doesn't require the additional seasoning that cast iron does. Aluminum also tends to heat up faster than cast iron, so it can be a good alternative for kitchen use if you prefer something less expensive and easier to carry.
Cooking With Confidence
In making a selection, one must first determine whether they prefer a Dutch oven made from cast iron, enamel, or aluminum. If both durability and slow-cooking a variety of meats are important to you, then go with a cast iron pot. This will provide you with reliable and consistent heat distribution, regardless of the foods being prepared.
Plan to make a decision based on where you'll be using the vessel. For outdoor enthusiasts, camping ovens are ruggedly designed with base feet and long handles for hanging over coals. If you plan to use your Dutch oven indoors, make certain the pot is compatible with a variety of different cooktops.
When choosing a cast iron Dutch oven, do be aware of its seasoning and maintenance requirements. That said, it's worth spending extra money to ensure you have a cooking vessel that can withstand years of use without wearing out or rusting.
Some of the best Dutch ovens have built-in lid stabilizers for preventing accidents as well as handle knobs that can withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Brief History Of The Dutch Oven
The Dutch oven dates back to the early 1700s in Holland with the use of dry sand to make the first molds for these vessels. Doing so afforded the resulting pots a smooth surface. In 1704, Englishman Abraham Darby traveled to the Netherlands to study the Dutch system for crafting the ovens. By 1708, Darby patented his own casting process for producing metal cooking vessels for Britain and the newly-formed American colonies.
The American versions of the Dutch oven changed extensively during the colonial period, which included the development of a shallower pot, legs to suspend the oven over an open fire, and a lid flange to keep the coals away from the food. Paul Revere has been given credit for the development of the lid flange on the vessel.
American colonists valued the Dutch oven for its durability and versatility. In fact, the piece of cookware became so valuable during both the 18th and 19th centuries that people would leave the vessels in their wills, including Mary Bail Washington, mother of first United States President George Washington in 1788.
The Dutch oven was also included among the items that famous explorers Lewis and Clark carried as they traversed the American Northwest between 1804 and 1806. The vessel continued to maintain its popularity through the 19th and into the early 20th century, as it was carried along western cattle drives.
Today, the Lodge Manufacturing Company produces the majority of consumer Dutch ovens, but the vessel has also become synonymous with luxury cooking, thanks to companies like Le Creuset and Staub among others.