- Bake Bread - Dutch ovens create the perfect environment in which bread can rise and then crisp up
- Braise Meat - You can literally do every step of a good braise in a Dutch oven: sear, braise, and serve
- Slow Cooking - With their ability to retain even heat for long periods of time, Dutch ovens are the original slow cookers
- Oven Cooking - Dutch ovens are made to go from the stovetop to the oven to the table, which is part of why they’re so versatile
- Deep Frying - Achieve consistent deep frying temperatures with a Dutch oven
- One-Pot Meals - Start with an empty Dutch oven and end with a completed meal, all without using (and having to clean) any additional kitchenware
Before programmable slow cookers and the Instant Pot, there was the Dutch oven. The original do-everything pot, the Dutch oven is a tall, circular piece of cast iron cookware with either a handle on each side or an arched bail handle similar to that of a beach pail. They can be either bare cast iron (uncoated) or enameled cast iron (treated with a non stick, rust proof porcelain coating and called a French oven by some).
The Dutch oven is a uniquely versatile piece of cookware. Its ability to work with a wide variety of different cooking methods and appliances (and even campfire!) while evenly heating up whatever you put inside of it makes it phenomenal at making anything from pot roast to enchiladas to pizza and everything in between.
Here are the 6 best dutch oven uses for home cooks:
One of the hardest parts of baking bread is ensuring a moist oven environment in which your loaf can fully expand before the constraining crust starts to form. Thanks to Dutch ovens’ tight fitting lids that lock in moisture, your annoying days of steaming water in a sheet pan in the oven next to your bread are over. Pair that with Dutch ovens’ ability to get to and stay at high heats and you have the perfect environment in which bread can rise.
Dutch ovens are incredibly popular with those who frequently make no knead breads. With the lid on, Dutch ovens use no knead dough’s high moisture content to help the bread rise. Then, once the dough has fully risen, the lid is removed and the Dutch oven creates a dry, surround-heat environment (it’s like surround-sound but for bread, and I totally didn’t just make that phrase up) that allows for the creation of a perfect crust.
Dutch ovens were born to braise. You can literally do every step of a good braise in them: Sear, Braise, and Serve.
Sear: The non stick enamel coating of an enameled cast iron Dutch oven makes it so you can sear without stickage, keeping your meat in one piece before its nice warm bath (uncoated cast iron Dutch ovens have non stick properties as well, but their non stick is inferior to that of enameled cast iron Dutch ovens).
Braise: Your Dutch oven will get to temp and then stay there, making it an incredible tool for both long and short braises. In addition, the lid (especially when spiked/self-basting as seen below) traps and recirculates moisture to keep meat moist throughout.
Serve: With their sturdy handles and vintage look, Dutch ovens are aesthetically pleasing and functional serving vessels.
This is why people refer to Dutch ovens as “the original slow cookers.” Their ability to consistently retain heat for a long time makes them incredible for chili cookoffs, concocting delicious dips for tailgate season, crafting flavorful curries, making tender BBQ from the comfort of your kitchen, and more.
While Dutch ovens allow for better textures and hotter temperatures than an electronic slow cooker or Instant Pot, they can’t be programmed to “keep warm” after a certain period of time like their electric counterparts (y’know, because they’re just solid hunks of cast iron) which makes them less useful slow cookers for time-strapped home cooks.
It’s not pan roasting — it’s Dutch roasting! Dutch ovens are made to go from the stovetop to the oven to the table, which is part of why they’re so versatile.
To achieve superior textures (and thus superior flavors), opt to sear on the stovetop (they're induction-compatible!) with some olive oil and finish in the oven next time you’re cooking meat in your Dutch oven. You’ll be surprised at how well-textured, juicy, and flavorful the result is. Just make sure you don't sear at too high a temperature to avoid enamel cracking.
They definitely fly under the radar here, but a cast iron Dutch oven makes a great deep fryer! Thick cast iron means consistent temperatures, so just pop a deep fry thermometer in there, crank up the heat, adjust until you’re at your desired temperature, and get to frying!
If I may, let me suggest some homemade apple cider donuts with vanilla ice cream...
Another aspect of Dutch ovens that makes them unique is their ability to whip up one-pot meals.
A one-pot meal is a meal that, quite literally, is made in one pot. You start with an empty pot and end with a completed meal, all without using (and having to clean) any additional kitchenware. Pasta dishes, stroganoffs, beef stew, pad thai and much more can all be yours with minimal cleanup thanks to the magic of the Dutch oven. Sounds amazing, right?
One-pot meals are also ideal for campers, as they allow for a Dutch oven placed above some hot coals to whip up a kitchen-quality meal in the comfort of the great outdoors.
And yes — soups and stews of course count as one-pot meals, and Dutch ovens are soup/stew/stock masters.
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