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Nov 19, 2008 07:07 PM

What size dutch oven for a bachelor or pair?

My current roommate wants to get into cooking and buy a dutch oven, and he, like me, is a clinical bachelor. I'm only living with him a little while, and he wants to continue using it by himself after I'm gone. Most of the dutch oven/cocotte recipes we're interested in were designed for 6-8, not 1-2. Should we just buy a 2 quart? If so, how do you scale down a dutch oven braise or cocotte to smaller portions? We're not sure if you scale down the liquids with the rest of the ingredients, or how you adjust cooking temperature and time.

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  1. I wouldn't even bother with a small one - especially as your first/only dutch oven. The price difference between a small one and a more useful size is negligible.

    If I were only able to keep one of my pots, it'd be a Le Creuset 6.75qt oval dutch oven:

    From one bachelor to another: if you're going to bother making something that requires a long braise, it's foolish not to make extra and freeze it for another meal. That oval shape will let you do cuts of meat like a large flat cut brisket and get a good sear before the braise. It's also great for whole chickens. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, the large flat bottom can double as a skillet for steaks in a pinch. It also is good for frying and the high sides prevent a mess.

    Don't let the price scare you. Check to see where your closest Le Creuset outlet is and get on their mailing list. Wait for a sale and you'll save big bucks off a first quality piece. I have one of my grandmother's Le Creuset pans that's twice my age and still looks brand new. Treat it well (and get a classic color that will age gracefully and let you add matching pieces) and it'll serve you well for many years.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sobriquet

      I agree with sobriquet. This is the size my husband and I use (no children). It's not too big. When we braise oxtail or beef cheeks or lamb shanks, this post is big enough to use to brown the meat and mirepoix and house the braise as well. Whatever comes out of it is so wonderful that we always want leftovers, even if we have to package them up and freeze them.

      You can get a great deal on Amazon from time to time, or at one of the le Creuset outlets, Stein Mart, TJ Maxx or Marshalls. Mine was a Christmas gift from my in-laws, God bless them!

    2. I agree that a 2 qt pot isn't worth your money if you plan to use it for braising, etc. I don't think you have to go as high as 6.75 though. I have a 5 qt. Staub and I use it very often for me and my wife. It's a good size. Remember you're going to need some room to move things around in there, stir, flip, etc.

      It's a matter of personal preference, and without getting into too many details, I suggest you look at Staub rather than Le Creuset. I find Staub far superior to LC. LC has a great name going for it and they've been riding on top of the culinary wave for the past several years just because people know and recognize the brand name.

      When cooking a braise, cooking temperature and time are highly variable. You can have a big chunk of meat that will take longer to braise than if it were cut into smaller pieces. For me, I never, ever follow a recipe for a braise. I have ideas for herbs and spices and what kind of meat I might want in there, but braising is all about improvisation for me. I wouldn't worry about reading specific times and cooking temps, if you do you might end up with something that is undercooked or overcooked (yes, you can braise for too long).

      1. My wife and I are perfectly content with out 5 quart Staub. It works well when making dinners for 2, deep frying, and boiling water for pasta. It can even make food for large groups if needed (though some large recipes need to be halved). The only thing it can't really do is hold a whole chicken.

        I wouldn't buy less than a 5 quart really.

        5 Replies
        1. re: vanillagorilla

          How big are your chickens?! A 5 qt can easily hold a whole chicken assuming it's average size (3-4 lbs).

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            The chickens I get from the farmers market are usually a little bit bigger... My 5qt Staub has the bottom area equal to my 10" Lodge cast iron skillet. For the chickens I usually have I'd need a 12" sized pan to be able to get it inside and have enough room for turning.

            1. re: vanillagorilla

              Yup, my chickens are a bit bigger than that, too. Usually, though, I do things like Chicken with 40 Cloves or Coq au vin that require a bit more space.

              Mostly, though, my advice was based on the fact that I want the additional flat surface on the bottom for searing whole cuts like a brisket or big batches of cubed chuck for bouef bourguignon. My first dutch oven was a 5.5qt round Le Creuset and I find the larger oval shape much more useful.

              I wouldn't buy the pot thinking it's going to be your regular pasta pot, though. You're not supposed to use high heat on Le Creuset's products, so it takes longer to boil water. I'd go with an All Clad pot if that would be your primary use.

              1. re: sobriquet

                I have a stainless steel pot that I'd use for making pasta, except for one reason. The Staub lives on my stove. It's always there. It's just so convenient to just fill it up with water and go.

            2. re: HaagenDazs

              I'd agree about this. My 5.5 qt oval dutch oven from Le Creuset is my go-to pot for an easy chicken in the oven. My 5 qt. Staub dutch oven also holds a chicken quite easily.

              vanillagorilla gets larger chickens (and from a farmer's market, I'm envious!) so clearly a larger pot is necessary there. Generally, though, an average sized chicken will fit in a 5qt dutch oven quite nicely.

              To that end, my personal suggestion to the OP based on my experience would be the 5.5qt Oval Le Creuset dutch oven. I really like the different things I can fit into it including a chicken, a duck (up to about 5 pounds), a pork roast and so on. It still fits well on a large burner on my range top, too.

              One thing to consider (this will depend on how you like to do your food) is that leftovers from braises and stews and such tend to do fabulously well. Very often they freeze well, in fact. So you might want to just do the larger recipe and eat it for a while.

              Have fun!

          2. I have a couple of LC 3 qt. dutch ovens, a 5 qt. and what I use most anymore is my 6 qt. Fagor Duo pressure cooker. It is so fast that things that might have taken 2-3 hours or more are ready in 25 minutes or fewer. My dutch ovens get used more like sauce pans. The pressure cookers save on energy too.

            1. Just scale it down in what seems to be a reasonable manner, and check the liquid occasionally to make sure it's not boiling dry. If you think you'll only need a 2-quarter, just get a saucepan with a metal handle. For a smaller dutch oven, 5 quarts is a good size. BTW, many people here recommend only very expensive stuff even for those who may be on a budget. Tramontina is a much better buy; if you can't find it in stores, look it up on the web.