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Best Dutch Oven

Last update: July 2016
A good Dutch Oven should be praiseworthy of it place in any kitchen for beautifully brings delicious recipes, such as braises, roasts or stews, to warm our souls up. And, we ended up choosing Le Creuset Signature as the best ever.


  The Winner Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Quality : Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Best Quality
This heirloom pot can pleasingly handle all duties: searing, braising, simmering or baking, in trustful quality and craft.

After decades, Le Creuset Signature has proved itself as the go-to choice for serious cooks for reliable for efficient performance, craftwork and durability. The wide base and slick enameled coat make easy and roomy to do oven searing or braising. This Dutch oven won “Gold Standard” of Cook’s Illustrated and many chefs and real owner’s hearts. Say, this pot isn’t splurge but truly worthy investment, which can last to your descendants. Full Review ›


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Affordable : Lodge Color Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven

Best Affordable
For cheaper alternative, Lodge Color provides remarkable cooking result and expressly well-design shape for easier searing.

If our winner isn’t your affordable, Lodge Color is a great cheaper alternative. For under $100, this pot goes distant beyond its price tag. It performs nearly perfect as Le Creuset, our benchmark. This oven is a fool-proof tool for nicely searing or browning as having wide curvy-edge base, lower side walls and big easy-gripped handles. Moreover, it’s comes with beautiful ranges of color selection for every kitchen. Full Review ›


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Lightweight : Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Dutch Oven

Best Lightweight
Calphalon Contemporary has impressively heat ability, nice design and a half weight of cast iron pot.

If you’re slow cooking lovers with struggling with the weight of cast-iron pots, we recommend considering this Calphalon Contemporary. As a quality hard-anodized aluminum, it has superior heat conduction, good shape for searing, breezy cleaning and has durable enough for long-period cooking, as well as oven-safe to 450°F, while comes with a half weight of a traditional Dutch oven pot. Plus, it carries full lifetime warranty. Full Review ›

Contents




1

Worth it?

Dutch oven is commonly listed as a kitchen essential because it’s an exact tool for slow cooking, braising, baking and stewing. It’s a simply heavy metal pot with thick short walls with a lid, which makes durable, versatile, and incredibly long-lasting. Sometimes, it’s called French oven, casserole, round oven, or cocotte. Dutch oven differs from stock pot as having thicker and heavier construction, as well as wider base and shorter side wall for easier searing and frying.

The traditional Dutch ovens are made of cast-iron as making excellent heat retention, which are good for long-time cooking or braising. However, they may be too heavy for small or arthritis people. If you suffer with this, consider lighter-but-tough materials, such as hard-anodized aluminum or stainless steel, instead.

A good Dutch ovens can be expensive. It starts from $50 to $300 or more for some heirloom pieces. On the other hand, the cost moderately reflects the quality of the pot as nothing fancy in the production and lifetime warranty. As a reason, having a more expensive Dutch oven is sometimes worth investment than splurge spending.




2

What To Look For

Proper Materials. Enameled cast iron is our first priority. For versatility, heat holding ability and durability. Bare cast-iron is unmarked from our picks as being reactive acidic foods and needs more care. Still, it’s very exceptional for campfire and non-reactive foods cooking in attractively low price.

Cast aluminum is not in our recommended list. Though it’s lightweight and relatively cheap, it can raise some risks of health issues[1]. Anyway, if you want to buy an old enameled oven, don’t forget to check if it’s free from cadmium and lead from old-fashioned procedure. Still, these are materials recommended for Dutch ovens:


Materials
The Good
The Bad
Enameled cast iron
  • Excellent heat retention
  • Suit for slow cook
  • Durable
  • Non-reactive
  • Heavy
  • Pricier
Bare cast iron
  • Excellent heat retention
  • Good for slow cook
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Heavy
  • Need proper care
  • React to acidic foods
Hard-anodized aluminum
  • Excellent heat absorption and evenly cook
  • Lightweight.
  • Non-reactive.
  • Moderately durable
  • Not oven-safe
Stainless steel (fully clad)
  • Good heat absorption and evenly cook
  • Lightweight
  • Non-reactive
  • Low maintenance
  • Durable
  • Inferior for heat retention
  • Food sticks


Well design. A good Dutch oven should have wide and rounded-edge base and short side wall, for easier searing ingredients before slow cooking or braising. Also, look for one that has big and wider extended handles for more comfortable to grip when wearing dense oven mitt. The knob on the lid should be big, easy and cool when cooking on stovetop. Moreover, the lid should fit securely for utilizing steams cooking.

Good weight and toughness. The oven should be heavy enough, thick wall and bottom. This is good for tediously longtime cooking, as well as prevents warping bottom and slipping around.

Proper Size. Size is markedly a factor in cost. If you want to save, look for a smaller one. So, we recommended 5 to 6 quarts for universal uses and price. In any case, according to Le Creuset, these are appropriate capacities for feeding:
  • 1 quart size for 1-2 serves,
  • 2 quart size for 2-3 serves,
  • 4 1/2 quart size for 4-5 serves,
  • 5 1/2 quart size for 5-6 serves (recommended for universal uses),
  • 7 1/2 quart size for 7-8 serves.




3

And The Winner is...

To be honest, we can say that it’s rare to see the winner boldly expensive as this should lessen overall scores down. Still, the Le Creuset can did it.
 

Best Quality: 
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven


  The Winner Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Performance 10
Quality 10
Ease of Use 10
Appearance 10
Value 9
OVERALL RATING
9.8/10


For decades, Le Creuset has known for expertizing in enameled cast iron pots, especially on some kind of Dutch (French) oven, braise and casserole ware.

The quality is unbeatable. Like a good oven, Le Creuset Signature has thick and hefty French-made construction and thick bottom, which is good for well holding heat and creating even and steady temperature within. As a result, it performs beautifully and reliably for long cooking braises and stews, as well as searing, browning and frying. It freely allows for most burners, includes induction, oven and dishwasher (not recommended) with 500°F heat proof.

Overall design is exceptional. It has wide base, short side walls and smooth interior, which makes easier searing, even for smaller sizes. We also appreciate the obviously wide loop handles and stay cool big knob as nice agronomic design. However, it got round applause for the slightly thinner but sturdy construction, which make lightest weight than others at the premium range, like Staub or even Lodge.

Le Creuset comes with beautiful various ranges of vibrant color with no-sharped edge finish. This oven carries full-lifetime warranty. Unsurprisingly, it hit the highest praise, “Gold Standard”, from Cook’s Illustrated and fond by many sous chefs. More, we’ve found very few complaints from real users; some of them even regularly use more than 10 older ones without problems.

In a nutshell, this Dutch oven is expensive ($320 for 5 1/2 quart size), but you definitely get what you pay. It’s a reliable and indestructible pot that will last as an heirloom.




4

The Runner’s Up

If the winner bleeds out your wallet, the second best pick, Lodge Logic, is a sensible and affordable alternative for having an impressive performance.
 

Best Affordable: 
Lodge Color Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Lodge Color Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Performance 10
Quality 10
Ease of Use 10
Appearance 10
Value 9
OVERALL RATING
9.8/10


For budget concerned, Lodge Color is the most outstanding oven among rivals of under $100 market that we’re absolutely impressed for well-made construction.

Lodge Color apparently gained high scores on cooking performance. From many comparative experiments[2], it was found performing insignificantly different from our benchmark, Le Creuset, especially for stewing and slow cooking. Also, it allows for oven and dishwasher (not recommended) with 500°F heat proof.

The overall design should be much-admired. Comparing size-by-size, Lodge has extensive base and a bit more curve edges, which yield the maximum room for searing without any foods trapped in the corner ridges. Though not as good as Le Creuset, it has big loop handles and stay cools knob. Plus, the newer models has wider color and size selections.

Still, the big drawback are on durability and non US-made[3] procedure. We’ve found some complaints about easily chips and scratches within a first year of use. Also, as having thick construction, it’s stone-y heavy, about 16 pounds with nothing inside.

Briefly, Lodge Color is the most unbeatable among cheaper other Dutch ovens out there. As performing not significantly different to Le Creuset with 3-time cheaper, it’s highly recommended as a reasonable choice to go.
 

Best Lightweight: 
Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Dutch Oven


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Dutch Oven
Performance 9
Quality 10
Ease of Use 9
Appearance 10
Value 9
OVERALL RATING
9.4/10


As said, though for lighter alternatives, we initially cut off for aluminum for health issue and too light weight. Stainless steel is another interesting option, however, it’s not good for heat holding and can make food sticks and burns. So, hard anodized aluminum is eyed on.

While cast iron is ideal for Dutch ovens for superb heat holding, some arthritis, small women or old ladies may not enjoy with the massive weight of these pots.

Concerning of the weight, the Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick is a next best thing. For thick hard anodized aluminum construction, it compromises good things together---truly nonstick, admirable cooking ability, usable durability, non-reactive surface and seemly lightweight.

The overall quality pleasingly banged our scores. As a mid-to-high line, Calphalon Contemporary is blameless in cooking performance and sturdiness. Moreover, it does excellent in heating up and cooking even while the sturdy construction can let to oven and dishwasher (not recommend, still) with heat resistance to 450°F while have sturdy enough for long-time cooking and braising.

The design is pretty nice, with a few flaws. It has a bit short side walls but has nice Dutch oven shape, not stockpot like other some. Moreover, the curvy edge bottom helps easier searing food and cleaning up. It also has stainless steel handles, which are good for putting into oven, but a bit small for big pot. We personally don’t like glass lid, but its tempered glass is really well-made and fits snugly with the pot.

This oven feels nice in weight, not too heavy nor flimsy. It’s pleasingly sturdy among everyday pots. So far, it have found no complaints about warped or dented pot, as well as not easily to chip. It also carries Calphalon’s trouble-free full lifetime warranty. Plus, the elegant design with black finish makes good-looking décor in every kitchen.

Overall, this pot deserved our pick as having everything a finest lightweight Dutch oven should.




5

Market Reviews

Update: July 2016
The prices mentioned are estimated retail prices at exact period and are subject to change. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers.

Perhaps Staub Round Cocotte ($299 for 7-quart size) is a rival that deserves Le Creuset’s dignity. It truly accents quality, neatly stunning craftwork and stylish design; it feels sturdier and smoother than even Le Creuset. The unique spiked lid is weighty and fits snugly. This outstandingly makes better retain heat and moisture inside, which results more juicy and tender meats than any others. If this is your preference, go grab it with no regret.

Uprightly, Staub is our editor’s choice. However, there’re some issues that can’t be compromised; it has the really heavy weight and narrower base, which isn’t much comfort for searing. Some reviewers disliked black interior, but we don’t mind for it, as much easier to clean and maintain than normal white finishes. Say, this oven is worth the splurge and seen used widely in restaurants.

Calphalon Simply Enameled Cast Iron ($129 for 7-quart size) comes with thick construction, good performance and classic Staub-liked design. Above from quite easy to chip on outside finishes, this pot is nicely done. It’s discontinued, however.

For affordable ones, Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven ($70 for 6.5-quart size), known as Cook’s Illustrated ‘Best Buy’ pick, is comparable to Lodge Color, both for quality and price. We prefer Lodge as having wider base and lower side wall. Moreover, Tramontina has less color selection and availability.

Mario Batali by Dansk round Dutch oven ($125 for 6-quart size) got the top score from Good Housekeeping, as flavorful stew and even browning. The thick wide base and straight sides make maximum utilizing the capacity. Yet, for about 18 pounds, it’s one of the heaviest ovens in the market. Besides, many users experienced developing cracks and pits within a year of use.

Likewise, Guy Fieri Porcelain Cast Iron Dutch Oven ($100 for 5 1/2-quart size), another celebrity chef’s product, has quite similar quality and performance.

Martha Stewart Round Dutch oven ($89 for 6-quart size) comes with nice performance, beautiful design and capable for inductions, also acceptable durability.

For lightweight round, as restricting a lighter Dutch oven that can go on both stovetop and oven as common recipes, Calphalon Simply Nonstick ($50 for 7-quart size), a first-entry level, is cut off for not oven-safe. Still, unless using in oven, it’s a popular choice of lightweight and affordable oven. While Cuisinart Contour Hard Anodized Aluminum ($40 for 5-quart size) it has quite similar qualifications in a bit less durable.

Calphalon Unison Sear Nonstick ($99 for 5-quart size) is our tremendous choice for effective upgrade. It’s an absolute nonstick that really accents cooking performance and toughness, with 500°F heat proof. Above price and limit size, the big reason that we picked Calphalon over this finest oven, is that a bit awkward design, bloated bottom with more narrow rims. This makes a bit uncomforted to searing or frying.

Anolon Nouvelle Copper ($71 for 5-quart size) comes very close to Unison. It is more v-shaped design but steeper side walls, nice cooking ability and sturdiness, with the same 500°F heat resistance. However, it seems not to work well on induction as advertised.





Footnotes
(1) Aluminum cookware can potentially link to Alzheimer’s disease. Exposure to aluminum through food can occur when aluminum leaches or dissolves from cookware into highly acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, lemon juice, oranges or vinegar. According to Tree Hugger, tomato sauce has been found to contain 3-6 mg aluminum (per 100 g serving) after cooking in aluminum cookware, which is about 1/10 daily intake. However, this doesn’t happen with anodized aluminum. For more about danger of aluminum, see the safe uses of cookware.
(2) We’ve found experiment tests between Lodge Color and Le Creuset enameled Dutch oven, done by TheSweetHome and Thehungrymouse on real stewing. The results shown that there’re no significant difference between them.
(3) Lodge declared that their enameled cast iron line is made under their strict specifications by their partner foundry in China.