Comparing Dutch Ovens For Size and Quality

by dustytoes

Cast iron dutch ovens run the spectrum from very expensive to quite affordable. What should you look for before buying?

Even though I am usually cooking for myself only, I wanted a really good cast iron dutch oven to use. A beautiful big pot of stew or fragrant soup makes me happy! One pot meals combine flavors and nutrients to provide a healthy and delicious meal for one or many.

For me, leftovers are a plus. I love going to the freezer and choosing an already cooked, homemade item to reheat and enjoy. For this reason I bought a medium size dutch oven.

I chose the LeCreuset 3.5 quart dutch oven, but I searched all over and looked at different brands before I chose. Because of the high cost of French made pots, many people choose the Lodge brand which is much cheaper.

This page shows all types of pots that have a good reputation and compares LeCreuset, Staub, Emile Henry, and Lodge.

Things to Consider When Buying a Dutch Oven

Tips on choosing the right pot for your needs.

The first most important thing to consider when buying a dutch oven is size.  This may be obvious but consider what you want to cook in your pot.  A large family would need a big pot, but even singles or couples may want a large dutch oven.  Save time by making big meals and enjoy the leftovers.  A night off from cooking is always a good thing!

My new pot is 3.5 quarts and it is not very large.  (See my photos below).  It would work for one or two people.  All brands come in a variety of sizes.

Color:  If you are not picky, choose a cheaper color.  The Truffle brown LeCreuset I bought was $35 cheaper than any other color for the same size pot.  Sometimes black or white is also less expensive.

Handles:  Open, large handles, like on the LeCreuset make lifting the pot easier.  They are solid cast iron and can be very heavy, especially when full.

Make sure your dutch oven can handle the heat.  Most are fine to at least 500 degrees.  The Staub cast iron pot can take heat up to 900 degrees - without the cover.

Food: Uncoated cast iron, like some of the Lodge pans, should not be used to cook acidic food, like tomato sauce, as it will harm the seasoning of the pan.  Enameled pots work best for cooking all food and sauces, and makes clean up very easy.

Induction Cooking: All pans on this page are okay to use on an induction range, but the Emile Henry brand needs a special diffuser plate.

Small to Large Size LeCrueset Dutch Ovens

When I purchased my Truffle color, it was on sale, but other colors include blue, caribbean, coral, green, red, white, orange, black and gray.
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 3.5 Quart Round French (Dut...
Le Creuset
$240.00  $215.55
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 9-Quart Round French (Dutch...
Le Creuset of America
Only $419.95

How to Find the Perfect Size Dutch Oven

Round or oval shape?

It is tough to see photos of pots online and get a sense of size.  The tiniest LeCrueset pans are sugar bowl size, and quite honestly, that is about all they could be used for.  If I am going to make a one-pot meal, I need my food to all fit in one pot.

If you can afford it, but a very large dutch oven.  Size 4-8 quart size is needed to bake a loaf of bread. However, I could bake a smaller, half loaf, in my 3.5 quart size.  Average size seems to be 5-6 quarts.

Remember that recipes can be cut in half, and they can be doubled, as needed.

Oval shaped dutch ovens may hold whole chickens or roasts better, but I chose the round shape for cooking on the stovetop.  An oval pan will not fit correctly on a burner. 

Size 3.5 Quart Dutch Oven With Short Ribs

As you can see I can fit only 4 short ribs in this pot without crowding. The pot cleaned up easily and looks like new. Food was delicious!
New dutch oven in Truffle color
New dutch oven in Truffle color
 
LeCrueset size 3.5 quarts
LeCrueset size 3.5 quarts
My photo

Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven

Search online for "no knead bread" and you will likely find lots of blogs showing how they made scrumptious bread in their dutch oven.

I'm not much of a bread eater, but I may try baking a loaf. 

Faster No Knead Bread

Bake bread in a dutch oven.

Le Creuset versus Staub Cookware

The only real difference is interior color.

Some of the best known dutch ovens are made in France.  LeCreuset has been a long time favorite of mine (in looks - I've never owned any until now).  

In my search for the perfect Dutch oven, Staub is one I researched.  They have a unique cover design with little "self-basting spikes" that collect condensation which causes it to drip down over the food inside.

I did not choose Staub because I wanted a light color inside the pot, and the Staub pots are usually black inside.  The shape is distinctive, and it is really personal preference.

Staub French Dutch Oven / Cocotte - 4 quart

Buy this one in matte black and save money. A pretty color can cost you $90 more!
Staub 4 Quart Round Cocotte, Black Matte
$407.00  $99.99
Staub Cast Iron 4-qt Round Cocotte - Turquoise
Only $99.95

Slow Cookers, or Crock Pots vs. Dutch Ovens

Now you may be wondering what the difference is between a crock pot / slow cooker and a dutch oven.  

I've use a crock pot for many years and food comes quite good.  But meat is never brown, unless I first sear it in a separate pan on the stove.  So a dutch oven saves that step because the same pot is used to brown and then cook. 

Most dutch ovens are made entirely of cast iron which distributes the heat evenly while cooking.  

 

Dutch Oven Comparisons Review - Spoiler - LeCreuset Comes Out on Top

This video points out some important aspects of typical dutch ovens for sale.

Lodge Cast Iron is Made in America

Dutch ovens for less than one hundred dollars to use at home or camping.

Lodge brand cast iron is a favorite among cast iron pan lovers.  I personally have frying pans of many sizes made by Lodge.  And I now have two dutch ovens, which are coated with enamel.

The Lodge brand dutch ovens can be purchased for far less money than the LeCreuset pots.  I paid  $240 for my ONE LeCreuset, and these two Lodge pots (shown in my photo below) cost less than $100 total.  The smaller red one is perfect for making gravy or small batches of soup and stew.  It would be perfect for a single person, cooking for one.  The larger pot is 6 quarts and will hold a lot of food.  I used it to make turkey stock from my Thanksgiving turkey.

 But the quality difference is definitely there.  Already I have seen rust on the edge of the red pot, and the cover doesn't seem to fit totally tight.  (Olive oil takes care of the rust problem.)

Lodge Dutch Ovens Size 1.5 and 6 Quart

Already I have seen rust around the edges of my Lodge pans.
My Lodge Dutch Ovens
My Lodge Dutch Ovens

Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens Are Affordable

Similar to the products above, Lodge pots are much cheaper. They come in many sizes and you could buy 3 or 4 of them for the price of one LeCreuset.
Lodge 4.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Du...
$61.52  $54.90
Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutc...
$115.00  $62.35
Lodge EC4D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch...
$70.26  $70.25

Caring for Uncoated Cast Iron

Lodge pans that are all black, or black inside (uncoated) have special requirements for cleaning and storing.

Whereas the coated cast iron is known for being easy to clean, the black, uncoated type is also easy to clean.  But uncoated pans often need seasoning and must be stored with a coating of oil.

Always let the pans cool before washing.  

Uncoated pans need hot water and NO SOAP - which is perfect for camping.  Soak for a short time in very hot water for stuck on food.  Otherwise, simply wash and rinse in hot water and dry thoroughly.  Cast iron can rust, so be sure to add oil - immediately after drying - to the clean pan to keep it coated.

Lodge Cast Iron for Camping

Dutch ovens, fry pans and other cast iron cookware for cooking in the wilderness.
The Camp Dutch Oven Cookbook: Easy 5-...Lodge L10DO3 Cast Iron Dutch Oven wit...
$72.85  $61.00

Emile Henry Dutch Oven

Emile Henry requires you buy a special "hob" for induction cooking.

Emile Henry is yet another name brand with a very good reputation.  I own individual pie plates by this company, but nothing else.

I've seen lots of bread baking posts online which use the tall bread / potato pot.  No Knead Bread is simple to throw together and place in a heavy cast iron or ceramic pot to rise and then bake.  It gets rave reviews.

Bread can also be baked in a regular dutch oven.

 

Bake Bread in a Dutch Oven or Ceramic Cooker

Emile Henry offers some unique bakeware.
Emile Henry Made In France Bread Pot/ Potato Pot, 9.5"", Burgundy
Only $129.95
Emile Henry Flame Round Stewpot Dutch Oven, 4.2 Quart, Burgundy
Only $99.95

Shop Wisely For Quality Cookware

Shop online and locally to find the best deals.

My kitchen is very small, but I consider it to be the perfect size for me.   As I was raising a family, I would never have spent hundreds of dollars on a fancy dutch oven.  I would have chosen the Lodge Brand pot.

Until very recently I never owned a Dutch oven, which is also sometimes called a French oven.  Because of my love for soups and stews and one dish meals, and the fact that I am cooking only for myself these days, I splurged on one nice pot.

I did shop around, but I did not check eBay, or local shops for sales.  If you are in the market for quality cookware, shop around and keep an eye out for specials and sales.

Check eBay Listings For Dutch Ovens

Search by your preferred brand.

LE CREUSET 7.25 QT Round Cast Iron Dutch Oven JUNIPER CACTUS G...

Time left: 1 month
Current bid: $295.00  Place bid

Le Creuset France Oval Dutch Oven Cast Iron Lapis Blue 6.75 Qu...

Time left: 1 week, 5 days
Current bid: $279.00  Place bid

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 7 1/4 (7.25) Quart Dutch Oven, C...

Time left: 1 month
Current bid: $290.00  Place bid

One Nice Pot is All I Need

I am happy with my LeCrueset purchase, and plan to use this pot often.  Because I also wanted a larger size, I chose Lodge for my second pot.

The smaller size is perfect for cooking smaller meals, and the pot cleaned up very easily.  I had leftovers to eat the next day.  The LeCreuset will last a lifetime and one day I will pass it along.

Updated: 11/25/2018, dustytoes
 
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Do you cook in a Dutch oven?

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dustytoes on 10/26/2018

I plan to bake bread in mine as well Katie. What size is yours? I think I will need to halve the dough for the 3.5 quart size.

katiem2 on 10/26/2018

I use my cast iron dutch oven for baking sourdough bread, it is a must. I can't imagine not having a dutch oven because the uses are endless.

dustytoes on 10/25/2018

You must definitely use mitts or potholders on these products and the pans tend to be quite heavy as they are made of cast iron. It's one reason I chose the smaller size.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/25/2018

dustytoes, Thank you for the practical information and product lines. Fortunately for me, I am not at all adverse to the darker colors since they often show less fading and wear. Do you use mitts or pot holders on the handles?

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