The Best Budget Cast Iron Dutch Oven: Martha Stewart 6
What we liked: The is a big pot with good performance and a budget-friendly price tag, under $100. It doesn’t hurt that it boasts a handsome design in nine different enamel colors.
The beige pot bottom is 9 1/8 inches in diameter and fits all the chicken thighs without crowding, allowing us to develop good browning and fond without any trouble. At nearly 14 pounds, it was the heaviest pot in the test, but it also has some of the best handles, which help make that weight less of an issue. Even with oven mitts, we were able to easily lift and transport the pot without straining or fear of dropping it. The pot’s design is simple and uncluttered.
We had one concern regarding the pot’s durability: In 2011, the company recalled its Dutch ovens for faulty and potentially dangerous enamel. We spoke to the company about it and were told that they’ve since changed manufacturing facilities in China, which was good to hearthough we did find at least one online review of a Martha Stewart pot that describes the enamel fracturing. What we don’t know is whether that damage was due to user error or a manufacturing defect. We’ll keep an eye on the Martha Stewart Dutch oven as we continue to cook with it and will update this review accordingly.
Serious Eats / Emily Dryden
Enameled Cast Iron Storage
Cast Iron Pot Protectors
Storage may be a challenge for some as you should not be stacking pots and pans upon enamel to prevent chipping. If space is an issue consider using pot stacking protectors or store on oven shelves.
Best way to store? An enameled pan should be dried promptly and stored in a cool, dry place. Its best to hang the cookware or store it in a cupboard or cabinet where it wont be subject to bumps or dings that can damage the smooth surface. Cast Iron Storage Tips!
Why Cast Iron And Why Enamel
Like all cookware, Dutch ovens are available in many materials, including clad stainless, ceramic, nonstick, and regular cast iron . You may own a clad stainless or nonstick Dutch oven that you got in a set of cookware. But even if you do, you should consider investing in an enameled cast iron one.
Why? Because cast iron is the best material you can use for braising and other low-n’-slow cooking methods, both stove top and oven. The heavy construction and heat retention properties also make it ideal for baking bread, too .
Why enamel? Enamel is tough as well as easy to keep clean, so it makes the pot lower maintenance than bare cast iron. It’s non-reactive, so you never have to worry about rusting or acidic foods reacting with it. Enamel also comes in a lot of colors so it’s prettier than bare cast iron, which may or may not be a factor in your purchasing decision .
Clad stainless Dutch ovens are great for stove top uses , but fall short in the braising and baking departments because the lids are too lightweight to hold moisture–and the clad stainless doesn’t hang onto heat as well as cast iron, either.
Nonstick fails for its all-around lack of durability, which is an essential feature of a Dutch oven.
Ceramic Dutch ovens hold heat well and have nice heavy lids, but they’re fragile–a bad trait for such a heavy pot.
And we already discussed bare cast iron.
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Wrapping Up Enameled Cast Iron Cookware The Pros And Cons
If youre looking for durable, oven-safe cookware that can go from the stovetop and oven to the table, enameled cast iron is a good choice.
Hard to argue the benefits of enameled cast iron cookware. It truly does give us all the benefits of traditional cast-iron cooking with a wonderful modern twist.
That twist is the ability to utilize what some would call rugged old-fashioned cast-iron cookware that can prepare almost any recipe to perfection but should not be seen inside the home but kept for campfire cooking.
If you have not yet experienced the joy of cast-iron cooking check out the products above read the customer reviews then give it a go. I cannot think of many dishes adjusted to the cast-iron cooking method that cannot be prepared.
Other Cookware Options
What Is A Dutch Oven Good For
So many things! The versatility of a dutch oven is amazing.
The thick bottoms and walls are great at both conducting and retaining heat. The usually deep sides make them perfect for handling larger cuts of meat or quarts of broth.
Those deep sides and heat retention properties also make them a great vessel for frying. They also make for perfect low and slow cooking conditions for making things like stews, chilis and braises.
Because enameled dutch ovens are created to be able to go on the stove or in the oven, they are great for recipes that request the meat to be browned before being transferred to the constant all encompassing heat of the oven.
They are also fabulous for one pot meals. Again you can brown the meat in the pan first and then fill it up with the other ingredients and let it do its thing. No need for extra pans.
Dutch ovens are also perfect for making crusty artisnal bread. You preheat the dutch oven before placing the dough inside.
The hot pot and the heavy lid helps to trap some steam inside. That gives you that crackly blistered crust and soft interior that begs you to take a bite.
Of course there is the ease of cleanup as well. The dutch oven gives you all of the benefits of cooking with cast iron without the finicky clean up.
Cast iron that isnt coated needs to be somewhat carefully cared for. It needs to be seasoned and maintained.
Enameled cast iron takes the worry away. It can be soaped up, soaked, scrubbed without worry of rust.
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Our Take On Some Other Brands
Of the dozens of brands we started with, here are our thoughts on the others we looked at.
An asterisk indicates a recommendation.
: At first glance the Amazon Dutch oven looks great, but its reviews got an “F” rating on Fakespot.com, citing insufficient trustworthy reviews and removal of reviews by Amazon. Too bad, because it has a lot going for it: light interior, decent handles, and a budget price. But because of the possibly deceptive reviews, we can’t recommend it.
Anolon Vesta: Great reviews, users love it, and Anolon is a good brand–but we hated the handles. 5 qt. weighs only about 9 lbs .
Ayesha Curry: Nice shape, but hated the irregular shaped lid handle, and the pot handles were a little too small for a safe grip.
Calphalon Contemporary: Aluminum with nonstick coating .
Caraway: This Dutch oven only comes in a set, and it’s coated with nonstick ceramic, not enamel. People love this brightly colored cookware, but the ceramic nonstick was an instant fail for us as it does not stand the test of time and is nowhere near as durable as enamel. The pot is also probably not cast iron .
Crockpot: Too narrow and deep. However, it comes in a lot of pretty colors, gets mostly good reviews, and is very affordable.
Dansk Kobenstyle: Terrible handles and organized by color on Amazon, making it hard to shop for. Steel, not cast iron.
Emile Henry: Ceramic, not cast iron. Terrible, tiny little handles.
Rachel Ray: Oval, only one color .
Price Of Enameled Cast Cookware
As with everything there are cons associated with purchasing a piece of enamel cast iron.
Chief among them though is the cost of purchasing one. A brief perusal of any vendor, whether that be online or in a regular shop, will reveal that enamel cast iron costs a tremendous amount more than your traditional seasoned cast-iron cookware.
There is a case to be made that more is more in this context, that is to say, that you will not regret paying a considerable amount more for purchasing a quality piece of enamel cast iron cookware or a Dutch oven.
However, if you are not clear on why you are going to purchase the enamel cast iron cookware, rather avoid the purchase. In addition, if you are not going to use the enamel cast iron regularly I would probably not spend a lot of money to be wasted. Search for cookware you will utilize regularly.
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Other Options We Tested
- Great Jones The Dutchess: A previous version of this roundup included the oval-shaped model called The Dutchess by Great Jones. Our tester noted some hot spots when using this Dutch oven on the stove due to its long shape, despite the fact that cast iron should distribute heat fairly evenly. Another concern was that the stylish copper loop handle proved difficult to grab when wearing oven mitts, creating a slightly precarious situation when checking on a braise. Though it’s reasonably priced and certainly very attractive, ultimately, we found that there are better options available.
- : This popular budget option performed well, but our Lab tests made us question its durability in the long run. We noticed some minor cosmetic scratches after cooking with metal utensils, so we’d caution buyers to use a wooden spoon whenever possible.
- Denby Natural Canvas Cast Iron: This seemed like a great, budget-friendly model for beginners, but our Lab tests found a few pain points. It’s got a pretty small cooking surface, so you’d have to batch cook large amounts of proteins. We also noticed some durability issues with the enamelwhile it doesn’t affect the oven’s functionality, we feel there are better options out there at a similar price point.
Test : Heat Conduction And Retention
Serious Eats / Emily Dryden
The first question we had about our lineup of enameled cast iron Dutch ovens was whether there was much difference from one to the next in how they conducted and retained heat. We know that iron is a poor conductor of heat and a great retainer of it, but given that each pot has a different mass and slightly different build, including variations in floor and wall thickness, it’s conceivable that some would conduct heat better than others, while others might retain the heat better.
We tested heat conduction by placing each Dutch oven on an induction burner set to a fixed, moderate heat setting. We then snapped photos with a thermal imaging camera and measured floor and wall heat in timed increments with an infrared thermometer.
We then tested heat retention by preheating each lidded pot in the same 350°F oven, then recording the pots’ loss of heat in both the walls and the floors using the infrared thermometer.
While our methods of measuring the temperature of the pots weren’t perfect , they gave us a decent enough picture to confidently draw an interesting conclusion: There isn’t a significant difference that sets one enameled cast iron Dutch oven apart from another in terms of thermal properties. They all heated and cooled in remarkably similar patterns and at remarkably similar rates. This is not the area where one pot will distinguish itself.
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How We Chose Dutch Ovens To Test
To choose which Dutch ovens to test, we considered best-selling options from major retailers like Amazon and cross-referenced reviews from other reputable brands, like America’s Test Kitchen and Wirecutter.
Our research revealed that the cast iron Dutch oven market falls into three pricing categories: the premium, French-made brands Staub and Le Creuset, which cost $200 or more mid-tier models in the $100150 range, usually made in China and lower-cost brands that come in at under $100, also made in China. More than half of our testing field came from the last category, proving that there is some stiff competition for your Dutch oven dollar.
While an increasing number of brands are producing enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, the pot’s basic design has changed very little over the years. The main differences from one pot to the next come down to small variations in form and more or less stringent oversight of the production process. One of the main selling points of the heritage brands, like Le Creuset and Staub, is that they operate their own factories and are therefore able to maintain higher production standards. The engineers at the Staub foundry, for example, adjust the moisture of the sand in the molds that form their Dutch ovens daily based on the air’s humidity. At Le Creuset’s factory in Fresnoy-le-Grand, about two hours north of Paris, 15 employees inspect every pot before it ships out.
Who This Is For
An enameled Dutch oven is a multipurpose pot that you can use for all kinds of recipes, including braising, baking bread, boiling pasta water, and even deep frying. These pots are particularly well-suited to slow cooking not only because they effectively retain heat, but also because they can be transferred from stovetop to oven, so you can sear and then braise meats. Their lids trap in moisture as food cooks, which makes everything inside extra-tender. And unlike bare cast iron, the enamel is easy to clean and maintain.
A 5½- to 6½-quart oven should serve two to four people, and we think this size will work for most cooking tasks. If youre feeding a crowd, you might want to bump up to a 7-, 9-, or even 13-quart version. Keep in mind that the bigger the oven, the heavier and harder it will be to move around a kitchen, especially when its brimming with chili. When it comes to shape, a round Dutch oven will work better on the round burners of most stoves, whereas an oval oven may heat less evenly and be difficult to fit on a small stovetop. However, an oval oven can be useful for large, long roasts like a tenderloin. It will of course fit nicely on an oval burner, and it should also work fine on a large round burner for something like a braise, which you start on the stove and finish in the oven.
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You Will Use It When You Make Pasta
We all know that the key to glossy, better-than-restaurant pasta is adding starchy-salty pasta water to your sauce and then cooking your noodles right in there so they soak up all that sweet, sweet ambrosia. I used to attempt that in a regular old stainless-steel frying pan, and the pasta would always go everywhere, which is where the Dutch oven comes inits the only vessel in my kitchen that will easily fit a pound of pasta, plus whatever Im doctoring it up with. Sizzle a bunch of garlic in plenty of olive oil, throw some cooked pasta in there along with pasta water and a good knob of butter, stir it all around enthusiastically, and youll be sold on this whole Dutch oven thing after one bite.
Can You Put A Cold Dutch Oven In The Oven
Rapid changes in heat can potentially damage cast iron, causing it to crack. If your Dutch oven is cold , you will want to let it come to room temperature or gently heat it up on the stove before putting it in a hot oven. You can put a cold/room temperature Dutch oven into a cold oven and let them preheat at the same time.
Which Dutch Oven Shape Is Better: Round Or Oval
The best shape is largely a personal preference. We prefer round because it heats more evenly on a stove top burner and for most people, it’s easier to store. We also think it’s the most versatile choice for most dishes. Round is also a more common shape, and will be available in more colors.
However, if you prefer oval, that’s fine, too. There’s no right or wrong answer here, and as long as you buy a good quality brand, both round and oval are fine choices.
Enamel Vs Cast Iron Dutch Oven: Which One Is Better
However, if you want to decorate the kitchen with colorful items, the enamel version will be better. Furthermore, while some people choose cast-iron Dutch ovens due to their longevity, others want to put off the seasoning process and prefer to settle for an enamel version, although their lifespan is shorter. Yet, because it is not as durable as a bare cast iron one, it is only suitable for indoor cooking.
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Things To Consider When Buying A Dutch Oven
Shape:Most classic Dutch ovens come in round and oval shapes. If youll use it mostly for soups, stews and standard-sized roasts, a round Dutch oven will suit you. If you plan to roast whole chickens, braise turkey legs or cook other large cuts of meat, an oval shape may work better for you. If you only have room for one oven, we feel a round Dutch oven is most versatile.
Slope of the Sides:In addition to oval or round, we also noticed the slope of the sides of the oven mattered in testing. A few ovens were designed with sides that sloped in a bit, which left a smaller base area for browning meat. We preferred ovens with straight sides, and all of our favorite ovens reflect that.
Color:In testing, we noticed the interior color of the Dutch ovens mattered. Most Dutch ovens have a cream-colored enamel-coated interior, however, we did test others with black and grey interiors. Darker colors made it harder to caramelize onions accurately and determine browning.