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dutch ovens: round, oval, enameled, non

A basic basic question from me. What is the difference between round and oval dutch ovens? I'm about to start some serious braising for fall and winter, and I don't have a dutch oven of any sort. I'm prepared to buy one, but I can't buy anything very expensive at the moment, which probably means I'll be getting something unenameled. I know that cooking in unenameled cast iron means I can't use very acidic ingredients(I guess coq au vin is out, unfortunately.) However, my roomate has a round enameled dutch oven that I could use. Are there things that round ovens aren't good for? I know very little about this, clearly. Any tips?

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  1. I think the only real difference between round and oval is what you can fit into the pot. An oval shape allows you do braise whole poultry, or largish pieces of meat. If you're cooking smaller pieces it doesn't matter. My biggest dutch oven is oval which is the only way I can get it on a single burner on my stove. If it were round it would have to be off-center.

    If you season your unenamelled pot and use it regularly, the surface should seal. A friend of mine has a big cast iron pot which she uses for everything, including tomato-based pasta sauces and it works well for her.

    1. I use my oval for things like lamb shanks and chickens. You can braise in ceramic/pottery and glass casseroles. If your recipe calls for browning first then do that in a regular pan and then transfer to the casserole and deglaze the browning pan with wine, stock, or water and add to the browned meat in the casserole.

      1. As far as cooking it's my guess there's no difference whatsoever between round and oval. Like others mentioned, just what fits in the pot. I have a 7 qt. round LC and it can handle four big lamb shanks with no problem. Bet if I had them cracked I could do six.

        1. Cool. Thanks. I probably won't be cooking huge amounts of very large pieces of meat, so the round sounds like it'll work out.
          Just in case though, do you season a dutch oven the same way as cast iron skillet (i.e. coat the inside in oil and put it in the oven?) I hate the idea of having to leave tomatoes out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: BKchompchomp

            Yes, you season all non-enameled cast iron the same way. Unfortunately, even with a very well seasoned cast iron pot, I don't think you could escape the issue of reactivity with long, slow braises. When you want to braise with tomatoes, vinegar, wine, etc., you'd probably be better off borrowing your roomate's enameled dutch oven.

          2. I have an oval LC dutch oven and I swear that when I am making soup or something that needs to be stirred a lot, the oval shape causes things to splash out more than when I use my round pots.

            1. Enameled cast iron, a la Le Creuset, does not need to be seasoned. It's ready to go.

              I have three enameled cast iron pans and I find the oval one is the one I use the least. It's great to have when I do need it, but it doesn't get used anywhere near as much as the other two.

              1. Re splashing. Oval really isn't a very convenient general-purpose shape. And while CI has enough thermal mass to mitigate the problem, you do get a hotter center than sides over a burner - convenient sometimes, but more often it means having to stir things like chunks of meat around more often to get them to brown evenly, etc.

                Unless you expect to use it a lot for its specific strength, I'd skip it unless you run across a deeply discounted one sometime. But they are nice to have when it comes up.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MikeG

                  I am thinking about getting the round All-clad cast-aluminum round Dutch oven, and am wondering if this also needs to be seasoned. I am assuming it is not dishwasher safe, but that would be another question. I am a newbie to this type of cookware too. Here is the link.
                  http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                2. I am thinking about getting the round All-clad cast-aluminum round Dutch oven, and am wondering if this also needs to be seasoned. I am assuming it is not dishwasher safe, but that would be another question. I am a newbie to this type of cookware too. Here is the link.
                  http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jules3

                    As far as I know, the only material that needs seasoning is cast iron. And I definitely don't put any of my pots in the dishwasher. Maybe I baby them though. I actually have a Lodge cast iron dutch oven that I got at W and S for about $50. It is really heavy duty and works extremely well, plus the dark interior makes for excellent browning. And the lid that came with it fits my larger cast iron frying pan perfectly. Lodge products are pre-seasoned so they are ready to use right away. Just an unsolicited product review in case you were having any qualms about shelling out for the All-Clad.

                  2. Not sure where you live, but Le Creuset has several outlet stores. You can buy there at half or less off retail. The pots are a little dinged up, paint might be a little uneven, but you'll never notice in a year. I know of one in Maine, one in Indiana, one in Wisconsin. Maybe more around?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: wak

                      There are two LC outlets in North Carolina, Smithfield and Burlington.

                      1. re: wak

                        Here's a web site that lists all of Le Creuset's outlet stores: http://www.outletsonline.com/lecreuse...

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          This is a better link to Le Creuset outlet stores. It not only gives locations, but it lists the monthly specials.

                          http://www.lcstores.com/

                      2. I am not sure if they are still available, but i too was looking at the LC dutch ovens and just couldn't fork over the money, i buy my All Clad at TJ Maxx and i know they get LC stuff in there from time to time, but i found an enameled cast iron dutch oven at target about a year ago for under $50 and it has done me very well over this time.