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What Size Dutch Oven Do You Actually Need?

Here’s how to choose the optimal size (and shape) for your needs.

By Team Made In
Oct 19, 2023
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When it comes to kitchen essentials, there are few as versatile as the Dutch Oven. Whether you want to sear short ribs, simmer stews, braise brisket, or bake bread, you can do it all in a Dutch Oven—not to mention, if cared for properly, they’ll last a lifetime.

All that to say, when you’re in the market for a Dutch Oven, it’s essential to know which one is right for you. If you’re over inundated with options, we recommend starting with deciding what shape and size you need.

Here’s what you need to know about the different shapes and sizes Dutch ovens come in, and which one may be right for you.

What are Common Dutch Oven Sizes?

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The most common sizes for a Dutch Oven range from small cocotte styles (2 and 3.5 QT) to medium (5 QT) to large (7 and 9 QT). As with buying any piece of cookware, when deciding what size to purchase, it’s wise to consider how many servings you generally cook, the number of people in your household, and the size of your kitchen and stovetop heating elements.

Here’s what to know about different Dutch Oven sizes.

Small: 1, 2, and 3.5 QT

Serves: 1–4

A red enameled cast iron Dutch oven with a lid, set against a neutral background.

Smaller Dutch ovens (or cocottes), like 1, 2, and 3.5 QT options, are generally best for those who live alone or with one other person, as they generally produce 1–2 servings of whatever dish you're cooking. These smaller sizes are also ideal for cooking 2–4 servings of sauces, grain or vegetable side dishes, or even reheating leftovers.

If you already have a larger Dutch oven and are looking to expand your collection, then a smaller size may be the perfect complement for all the best qualities of enameled cast iron in a smaller, cuter package.

That said, if you’re looking to add a Dutch oven to your kitchen for the first time, then a larger, more versatile size may be better.

Medium: 5.5 and 6 QT

Serves: 4–6

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The most popular Dutch oven sizes are the endlessly versatile 5.5 and 6 QT options. These are the best all-around Dutch oven sizes, as they serve between 4–6 people and have plenty of surface area for different cooking methods including braising, deep-frying, and sautéing.

If you haven’t yet invested in a Dutch oven, a circular 5.5 QT option is our recommended way to start your collection before adding additional sizes and shapes, like an oval Dutch oven.

Large: 7, 8, and 9+ QT

Serves: 6+

seasonal color willow green oval dutch oven

If you cook for a large family or are regularly tapped to make food for holidays or parties, then a larger size Dutch oven will be an incredibly helpful addition to your cookware collection. This size is perfect for batch cooking chili, stew, or soup, or preparing large-scale proteins for holiday dinners, like roast chicken.

How to Choose the Best Dutch Oven Size

best dutch size

There are a few different factors to consider when choosing the best Dutch Oven size for you, including the amount of people you’re cooking for, the volume at which you’re cooking, and the overall size and storage capabilities of your kitchen.

Consider the Number of People Being Fed

One important factor when deciding what size Dutch oven to purchase is how many people you’re typically cooking for. If you live alone, then a smaller size is likely the best option for you, while a larger size would be best if you’re cooking for a family of five.

When in doubt, we recommend opting for a mid-size, round 5.5 QT, then expanding into larger or smaller options and different shapes. This is an ideal size for cooking both large and small quantities of food, for crowds or individual servings.

Appraise Your Kitchen Size

No matter if you rent or own, the size of your kitchen has some say in your cookware—namely, what sort of storage options you have. Luckily, a Dutch oven is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing, which is why many home cooks opt to leave theirs on display on their stovetop—saving

Weigh Stovetop Compatibility

Most round Dutch Ovens are perfectly suited for all standard round stove top burners, including induction, gas, and electric. Different shapes, like oval Dutch ovens, can fit on specially sized oval burners, or on two burners close to one another—that said, you shouldn’t feel like you need these stove top features to own an oval Dutch oven.

The construction of our enameled cast iron ensures even heat retention, so even food not directly over the burner will be perfectly cooked.

Know the Amount of Food Being Cooked

If you regularly cook for a crowd, then purchasing a 2 QT Dutch Oven wouldn’t be as helpful as a large one—just like cooking for one in a 10 QT Dutch Oven would produce too much food.

Much like with the number of people you’re cooking for, we recommend a happy medium between small and large with a 5.5 QT round option. This can produce large-scale braises for a party, one sourdough loaf, or plenty of bouillabaisse to freeze for later.

Dutch Oven Shapes

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Now that you’ve decided what the best size Dutch Oven is for you, then it’s time to consider what shape you need: round or oval. The classic round shape, much like a cocotte, is the standard and most versatile shape—but oval still has its place in the kitchen.

Circular Dutch Ovens

A circular Dutch oven is as close to standard as you can get—it provides versatility in cooking techniques, fits naturally on burners, and is a must-have for any home cook.

This is the shape we recommend starting your cast iron collection with, as it’s the most common iteration, and therefore the one you can use for the most recipes. If you’re looking to expand your collection, then a different shape may be in order—which is why we expanded our collection to include the oval Dutch oven.

Oval Dutch Ovens

An oval Dutch oven is generally larger than its circular counterpart, and able to take on bigger dishes that couldn’t fit in a round pot.

Oval Dutch ovens are ideal for cooking larger proteins, like beef tenderloin, leg of lamb, and roasted poultry. If you have a round Dutch oven and want something larger, then an oval shaped option is a great place to continue building out your collection. The different shape unlocks new recipes and possibilities rather than just a larger, circular Dutch oven.

Ready to Shop?

We obsessed over every detail of our Dutch Oven when designing it, starting with a foundry in Northeast France with over a century of craftsmanship experience. Our Dutch Oven features a Cast Iron body and hand-applied enamel, which creates a smooth cooking surface without any fussy seasoning or maintenance required.

This heirloom piece was our debut piece in the Enameled Cast Iron collection, and we’re honored to bring French craftsmanship to your table.