There are many differences between these two pieces of cookware. We break them down here.
If you find yourself in this position, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we will break down what each piece of cookware does, their similarities and differences, and give you the information you need to make that decision for yourself. But spoiler alert: you are going to likely end up recognizing a need for both.
Dutch Ovens are heavy, multipurpose tools, typically used for braising. They are made with cast iron but many household varieties feature an enamel coating. Not only do these make them easier to clean but they also do not require seasoning before use.
While they are general multitaskers on the stove, perhaps the best use for a Dutch Oven is cooking things low and slow, starting on the stovetop and moving into the oven. Their tight fitting lids (complete with a heat-resistant knob) in particular, help lock in heat and moisture, to ensure that even tough cuts of meat can break down with ease.
There are two “drawbacks” to a Dutch Oven. One, they are usually quite heavy, as any cookware made with cast iron is. This makes them decidedly less ideal for dishes that require straining things—a Dutch Oven would really put the draining in draining pasta water, so to speak.
The second is the cost. While cast iron is usually relatively affordable, enamel cookware is on the pricier side. You will certainly get your money’s worth, but they are an upfront investment. They also may seem slightly stressful to care for, but with the right knowledge, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Finally, when it comes to storing a Dutch Oven, the enamel can be scratched or chipped, so we do not recommend stacking it in with other pots. I personally store mine right on top of the stove in a place of honor, since a week rarely goes by without me using it.
Stock Pots are a classic tool found in both home kitchens and those of the restaurants you love. When found in professional kitchens, they can be huge (upwards of 20 quarts), but a home stock pot is usually 8-12 quarts, large enough to serve their titular purpose—making stock.
Most Stock Pots are constructed out of Stainless Steel, which allows them to be conductive, while not adding too much weight. The straight, tall sides give you plenty of space for a large volume of liquid. Unlike with a conventional pot akin to a pasta pot, you shouldn’t have to worry about running out of room or annoying spills as you stir.
Despite not being very heavy, the small handles on the side of the stock pot aren’t great for one-handed lifting. They are not at all difficult to drain but it is a two-handed process unlike a smaller pan with a longer handle that stays relatively cool to the touch.
Additionally, while oven-safe up to 800F, because of their composition and height, a stock pot is not ideal for stove-to-oven cooking like a Dutch Oven is. They are, however, very easy to clean and store, as they can be stacked with other pots.
Both Dutch Ovens and Stock Pots are versatile for stovetop cooking. They can be used for liquid-based dishes and for larger volumes of food like a whole roast or a big batch of soup.
Both stock pots and Dutch Ovens are made of metal, albeit different types—the former is five layers of four different metals, while the latter has a cast iron core. Due to their construction, they both conduct heat very well to minimize hot spots and ensure even cooking.
The biggest difference between a Dutch Oven and a Stock Pot are their uses in the kitchen. Stock Pots are taller, narrower and made entirely of metal, while our Dutch Oven is shorter and squatter with a cast iron core and an enamel finish.
Additionally, Dutch Ovens can come in several different shapes (typically ovals or cylinders) as well as a variety of sizes, while stock pots are universally tall and cylindrical. There is also the matter of what you can make in them. Yes, you can make stock in a Dutch Oven if you really wanted to, but it’s better suited for braises, one pot bean dishes, and even bread baking. Plus because of its beautiful enamel exterior, it can even double as a serving dish.
Similarly, a Stock Pot is best suited for stocks, pasta for a crowd, or any type of soup, stew or chili.
In response to the question: “do I need both?” the answer is that the Stock Pot and the Dutch Oven perform different and essential kitchen tasks and they are both very useful for a home kitchen. Need is a strong word. You can, of course, get by with just one—I only had a Stock Pot for many years, but now that I have my Dutch Oven, it’s hard to imagine life without it.
Only having one or the other will limit the types of recipes you are able to cook with ease. Dutch Ovens are amazing but making all your stocks in them would be a bit of a chore. Likewise, you simply won’t be able to do a perfect braise in a Stock Pot, let alone get it to fit in your oven without some serious rearranging, if at all.
Bottom line, for a serious home cook, we at Made In would recommend both. Your cooking and anyone you're cooking for, will thank you for it.