What Are The Drawbacks Of A Dutch Oven
Any dutch oven that Ive ever used was heavy. Moving a full one from the kitchen oven to the stovetop can require strength and care.
Also, some busy cooks may not find dutch ovens as convenient as a crockpot or an Instant Pot which require less attention. Many cooks wont feel safe leaving the house with a simmering dutch oven on the stovetop.
Finally, new non-enameled cast-iron dutch ovens need seasoning if they arent pre-seasoned, and will require maintenance over time.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Alongside making high quality cookware, Le Creusets big claim to fame is the bold and broad range of colors it offers.
Many of you will opt for that classic volcano orange style, but if you want to brighten up your kitchen you certainly arent short of options here.
- Enameled cast iron delivers superior heat distribution and retention
- Ready to use, requires no seasoning
- Easy-to-clean and durable enamel resists dulling, staining, chipping and cracking
Something I noted in my Staub vs Le Creuset comparison is the difference the white enameled layering of the Le Creuset makes.
Its much easier to see the progress of your cooking at a glance with this kind of surface, although wear and tear shows up much more easily.
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
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The Criteria: What To Look For In An Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens are made from steel or cast iron, both with and without an enamel coating. For this review, we targeted enameled cast iron only because that’s the type we find to be best suited to the dishes we usually make in this type of potstews and braises, chilis, and hearty ragùs. We prefer cast iron for many of these dishes because of its great heat retention and enamel because it offers a protective coating that’s easy to cook in and clean. Acidic dishes, such as sauces and stews that call for tomato or wine, can develop a metallic taste after spending hours in plain seasoned cast iron, making enamel an even more important factor.
Dutch ovens also come in two common shapes : round and oval. While the latter can be helpful for certain kinds of oblong roasts, a round Dutch oven is more practical for most recipes, so that’s the kind we settled on for this review.
The Best Budget Cast Iron Dutch Oven: Cuisinart 5
Cuisinart’s Dutch oven scored near the top in our cooking tests . Despite this pot’s smaller, 5-quart size, it has a roomy base that was able to comfortably accommodate more food at once than many of the larger contenders. The Cuisinart is a third to a quarter of the cost of the premium French brands, but some online reviews are describing chipping or cracking enamel, meaning you could be rolling the dice on the pot’s longevity. If the Cuisinart is out of stock, we found the 5 and 1/2quart Tramontina to be a very solid choice. Both brands offer their Dutch ovens only in red or blue.
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Heat Resistance And Distribution
Because of the extra thickness of the Martha Stewart cast-iron Dutch ovens, these pieces of cookware are great conductors of heat. Food placed inside will be effortlessly cooked evenly each time.
Amazon reviewers talked about the stews, roasts, and chicken dishes they have prepared in the Dutch ovens with excellent results.
You may think that after this Dutch oven has been on the stove for a while, it will be too hot to touch.
Yet, these Martha Stewart pots were thoughtfully designed with a heat-resistant lid and knob. This means you can easily touch the knob at the top to remove the lid and check the recipe inside.
The handles on the Martha Stewart cast-iron Dutch ovens are also friendly to home cooks. You can touch the handles because they are heat resistant.
If you want to be on the safe side and use oven mitts, that works too! The handles are wide enough to easily slip your fingers inside while wearing oven mitts.
A Note About Warranties
Most of the enameled cast iron Dutch ovens we tested are backed by a lifetime warranty. Despite some big price differences, they are fairly consistent from brand to brand. Does spending more get you a better warranty? No, but it might buy you a warranty without a lot of loopholes from a company with a better reputation for honoring it. We don’t have much evidence beyond anecdotal information that the best-known brandsLe Creuset, Staub, and Lodge come to mindare pretty good about it. Whether that’s worth considering when you plunk down your card for a new pot is up to you.
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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.
Large & Solid Handles
The handles on the Martha Stewart dutch oven are decently-sized for comfortable carrying.
Even unfilled though this is quite a heavy piece of cookware, and so it might not be suitable if you have any kind of strength problems in your hands.
Those handles are also heat resistant, but if you do want to make use of oven mitts youll have enough space to hold it securely.
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What To Look For In Enameled Cast
If you are a cook who likes to braise meats or simmer stews or kimchi, a Dutch oven is a must-have tool. Do you want to make restaurant-quality pasta at home? Bon Appetit recommends using a Dutch oven to combine your perfectly cooked pasta and starchy water into the sauce.
Because browning meat means tasty meals, Dutch ovens are a great multitasker for cooks to sear meat on the stove in the Dutch oven, then transfer to the oven without losing any juices. Dutch ovens truly help you deliver delicious dinners at home like a professional.
Dutch ovens are a versatile and handy piece of cookware. However, these objects are typically made of cast iron, making them very heavy. Those who have trouble lifting about 15 pounds should look for another product. Dutch ovens only get heavier once you fill them!
If the many benefits of a Dutch oven appeal to you, we have a few things you should consider before investing. Because this is a piece of heavy-duty cookware, you can expect to spend more on this item than a non-stick frying pan, for example.
What Do You Get
However you pay extra for the additional Dutch oven.
One of the most notable criticisms of the Martha Stewart cast-iron Dutch ovens is its price point. While these pots are not as expensive as luxury brands, critics, including the New York Times, stated the Martha Stewart pots were too pricey to be included in their comparison.
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Alternatives To The Martha Stewart Dutch Oven
Two names dominate in the world of Dutch ovens and provide the gold standard: Staub and Le Creuset. If you want a direct comparison of these two brands, head over to that comparison article.
They both provide outstanding performance, and theyre similarly priced They both also demand a relatively hefty investment.
Heres what you should know about each one.
What Size Dutch Oven Is Best
While enameled cast iron Dutch ovens come in everything from cute 1/4-quart to massive 13 1/2quart sizes, a 5- to 6-quart pot is the most practical size for most homes, as it should make enough food for four to six people. Go any smaller, and a typical recipe might overflow the pot bigger pots can end up underfilled, potentially affecting the outcome of a recipe .
If you often need to feed a larger crowd, sizing up to a 7- or 8-quart Dutch oven may be worth considering. We tested a couple of pots that were only available in 7-quart sizes, but all of our favorite 5 and 5 and 1/2-quart models also have larger 7- or 7 and 1/4-quart offerings.
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The Best Heritage Cast Iron Dutch Ovens: Le Creuset 55
There’s a reason Le Creuset continues to be one of the most recommended manufacturers in this category: It has a proven track record. We’ve used Le Creuset for years in our homes and test kitchen, reaching for it countless times to develop hundreds of recipes for Serious Eats, and it’s never let us down. The price is high, but Le Creuset has never failed to make the purchase worth it. While Le Creusets are available in more than 17 core colors, about half of them ship with a black phenolic knob that can handle up to 500°F given the price, we’d like to see all their pots come with the brand’s heavier-duty stainless steel knob option.
Like Le Creuset, Staub has a long history of making handsome enameled cast iron in France and costs a little less. Some home cooks may not like the black enamel interior, which does a fine job of hiding scratches and browns meat well, but can make it harder to see fond developing. Otherwise, this Dutch oven, available in nine colors, is a solid bet with a reputation for durability.
The Best Heritage Cast Iron Dutch Oven: Le Creuset 55
What we liked: The Le Creuset cast iron Dutch oven is a beautiful pot that comes in 17 core colors, plus special editions. Weighing just over 11 pounds, the 5 1/2quart Le Creuset isn’t as heavy as many of the other models we tested , but that didn’t appear to affect performance. On the stovetop, it cooks very well: There wasn’t an excessive amount of sticking when we browned chicken thighs, and the fond that developed was easy to see because of the contrast against the interior enamel’s beige color. The Signature line has larger handles than the older Classic model, which we’re all forit makes the pot easier to grab and carry. We can also vouch for Le Creuset products’ longevity, given that we’ve used their pots for years at work and home without any major complaints. Splurging for the Le Creuset means investing in a reputation that’s backed by generations of satisfied users all over the world and a warranty that anecdotal evidence says you can rely on. The Signature pot comes in 1- to 13 1/4-quart sizes.
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About The Martha Stewart Dutch Oven
The Martha Stewart dutch oven is designed to offer the same cooking performance as higher-end products, but at a more affordable price point.
Its solidly constructed, features well rounded handles, and has a lid design which redistributes moisture around the interior.
An light colored enamel layer makes checking on the food progress nice and easy, and its oven safe too.
Is It Worth Buying A Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens are versatile. I particularly appreciate that I can stew, braise, fry, slow cook, poach, and bake a seemingly endless list of dishes and single-pot meals with the same trusty dutch oven.
Dutch ovens have deep, thick walls that hold and evenly distribute heat for long periods, saving energy. The dense, oven-safe lids on a dutch oven retains moisture in both high-heat and slow cooking conditions.
The overall cooking benefits of owning a dutch oven are pretty straightforward.
- One pot, many tasks.
- Relatively inexpensive considering its versatility, budget, and brand.
- Outstanding performance.
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What To Look For In Dutch Ovens
Before moving onto the meat of my Martha Stewart Dutch Oven review, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the key features you should look for in any dutch oven.
Whether you choose the Martha Stewart or a competitor, these are the qualities that really matter with this kind of cookware.
Buyers Guide: What To Look For In A Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens may seem simple, but there are a few noteworthy differences to consider from one model to the next.
Cast-iron is the best choice durable and heavy. Non-enameled cast iron requires seasoning. Enameled cast-iron doesnt require seasoning and is beautiful, but generally more expensive. Cast-aluminum is lighter and less costly, but also less durable.
Weight and Thickness
The most versatile dutch ovens will have the thickest, most massive construction. Choosing lighter and thinner materials sacrifices heat retention and overall performance.
A useful rule of thumb for choosing the best size dutch oven add one quart of capacity per family member, plus a little extra for leftovers. Most dutch ovens are sized between 3-5 quarts, but you can find them as small as ¼ quart and occasionally as large as 9 quarts.
Handles and Lid
Look for handles that make it easy to lift and move a full dutch oven safely. The lid should have a temperature-resistant knob for kitchen oven use and be tight-fitting for moisture retention.
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Test : Rating Dutch Oven Design
Serious Eats / Emily Dryden
As we washed, cooked with, lifted, and examined the pots, we noticed which details made certain Dutch ovens more user-friendly and which frustrated us. As described above, handle and knob design was one of the more important design factors we encountered .
Some aspects of a Dutch oven’s build turned out to be not as important as we had expected. We measured the thickness of the wall and the bottom of each Dutch oven and found that there wasn’t much of a correlation between those numbers and performance. Our top picks were all over the map in terms of bottom thickness, with the Cuisinart the thickest and the Le Creuset on the thinner side. And yet they all performed well in cooking tests.
Enamel quality, meanwhile, was difficult to assess. In many cases, failures can occur after many months or years of consistent usenot something we could easily reproduce in our tests. Still, we tried some more extreme abuse trials to see if we could uncover any obvious differences in quality. We banged the pot bottoms together and smacked the insides with a metal measuring cup to see if we could chip the finish. Some pots retained slight scuff marks from the metal, but most wiped clean with minimal effort, and none chipped. The test proved to be a great stress reliever, but it didn’t help us eliminate any of the contenders.
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.
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