How to Choose the Best Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Cast iron Dutch ovens are a classic kitchen staple. If you don’t have one, then you’re missing out on what this sort of pot can do for your daily meals!

A Dutch oven is the original slow cooker, and it’s also great for a variety of unexpected things, like baking bread.

Cast iron lasts just about forever, so don’t go cheap on your Dutch oven selection. Pick something that you’ll use and enjoy for decades and possibly generations.

Although there are a surprising number of factors to consider when choosing a cast iron Dutch oven, there are only two main types: bare cast iron and enameled cast iron.

Neither one is really better than the other. Start by picking which type you prefer, and then consider the following aspects when selecting a particular Dutch oven.

Criteria for choosing

Tight lid. You don’t want the liquid inside to evaporate. You want it to keep on cooking inside the Dutch oven! Make sure that whatever pot you pick has a tight lid.

Cheaper Dutch ovens are more likely to have a loose-fitting lid, so it’s a good idea to spend a little more if you can ensure that your lid fit is correct. Otherwise, you’ll never get optimal use from your pot.

Size in quarts or number of people it can feed. Dutch ovens come in all shapes and sizes. The right size for you depends on how many people you plan to entertain at a time. Do you just want to feed your family each night, or are you throwing large dinner parties regularly? Choose accordingly.

A Dutch oven as small as four quarts will feed up to twelve people, but It’s best to err on the side of extra servings (and leftovers). Of course, the total amount of people a cast iron Dutch oven can feed depends on what you are cooking and how much your family or guests will eat.

Loop Handles. It is important to select a cast iron Dutch oven with loop handles, particularly if you are using it in your oven or on your stovetop. Cast iron is heavy, and Dutch ovens are big, so you need something you can easily grip when you’re moving a full, weighty pot of food from place to place.

Safety first! If you’re getting a Dutch oven for camping, however, a wire handle is ideal.

Seasoning. Cast iron seasoning is a thin layer of polymerized oil. A pre-seasoned pan is best, because seasoning is a tough job. Although you should still season a pre-seasoned pan as soon as you get it home, it won’t be as hard of work. Vintage pans have the best seasoning, since they were made to last.

The nonstick quality is superior in very old cast iron pans. If you hate seasoning your pot, an enameled Dutch oven is probably best for you, since bare cast iron pots have to be seasoned more often and with greater care.

Material: enamel or pure cast iron. The two main types of cast iron Dutch ovens are bare cast iron and enameled cast iron. Which is better? That’s hard to say. This is really up to you. Enameled will not rust as easily, and bare cast iron has to be seasoned more often.

However, enameled tends to cause food to stick more often. Enameled is better for acidic foods (like tomato paste), and it will not hold the flavors of last night’s dinner. Overall, enameled cast iron is better when it comes to Dutch ovens, but bare cast iron works nearly as well.

Size of bottom, height and top. You definitely want to get a Dutch oven with a wide base, since this will also make it easier to lift and fit in your oven. Remember, cast iron is heavy! Think about how much you can lift, because pots are a lot heavier when they are full.

Another thing to consider is how wide your burners are. If your burners are small, it will take a long time to heat up a big pot. Match the base size of your Dutch oven to the size of your burner. As far as height goes, think about how much space you have in your oven and your cabinets. It needs to be able to fit comfortably.

Can you use it on ceramic top or glass burners, induction cooktops. Glass burners and ceramic tops can handle heavy items, but be careful not to scratch them or crack them with careless handling. Cast iron is both hard and heavy, so gentle use on glass burners is recommended. Induction cooktops are also fine for cast iron Dutch ovens. Just be careful to handle the Dutch oven properly and avoid damaging cooking surfaces.

Will it work with open fire or charcoal grill? If you’re looking for a Dutch oven to use on camping trips or for backyard cookouts, cast iron is your best option. Cast iron won’t melt in a fire, so you can use it in most an open fires or a charcoal grill.

Dutch ovens that are used for camping should have camp legs, so that you can balance them easily and keep the entire bottom a little ways off the ground. They should also have one wire handle rather than side handles so that you won’t get burned.

Thickness of the metal. When it comes to metal thickness in a cast iron Dutch oven, the thicker the better! The material of your Dutch oven should be equally as thick on the sides as it is on the bottom. Thick, sturdy metal will heat up slowly, but it will keep your food nice and hot, making the perfect slow cooker and food storage during a long meal.

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