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what size dutch oven

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I'm looking into buying a Dutch/French Oven, probably Le Creuset. In spite of the price, I'm concerned about anything cookware made in China.

But I'm not sure what size to buy.
It's just my spouse and I. We don't eat red meat, so it'd be for chicken, or no-knead, or chili and other casseroles. When we entertain it's usually regular oven size parties or on the grill.

5, 7 or 9qt?

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  1. Size: A 5-quart round or 6-quart oval (typical crock pot sizes) are ideal for a first piece. A 7-quart round would be second or and maybe a 3-quart third. Anything bigger than 7-quart is overkill unless you need to feed an army. Anything smaller than 3-quart is really for dips and serving. Rounds work best overall, espially on the stove; ovals are nice for roasts.

    If budget is tight, consider plain cast iron dutch ovens (Lodge). Get the model with the loop handles (no wire bail). They come pre-seasoned, which means you can use right away. Acidic foods can cause problems, so spaghetti sauce or stuff simmered in wine is out. Maintaining the seasoning can be challenging if you use for "wet" dishes (soups and stews) which wear down the seasoning -- I try to work in popcorn or no-knead bread to build up the seasoning.

    For high-temp applications like no-knead bread, plain cast iron avoids concerns about crazing the enamel and melting the plastic knobs. Pretty sure there are laws in some states about cooking chili and frying chicken in something other than a cast iron pot. Keep it from rusting or cracking, and it is otherwise indestructable

    Some of the Chinese enameled cast iron is decent quality -- even if it isn't as rugged as Le Creuset or Staub, you could replace a Lodge Color or Cuisinart oven three or four times over for the cost of one LC oven. I say start with something inexpensive (it will cook just fine). If you find that you are using it often enough that it is permanently perched on your stove, use it till it wears out and replace with LC. If you use it less, say 2-3 per month, it is unlikely that you will need to ever replace, provided that you use it gently.

    1. I have several pieces and the 5 1/2 qt. round is the workhorse of my kitchen. Second would be the 6 3/4 qt. oval, but I generally use that only when I'm having company.

      1. We've got LC in a variety of sizes and shapes, but for my family of four the 3.5 quart round dutch ovens get 90% of the use. If you're only going to have one, you may want to get something slightly larger, but the 7-quart is pretty daunting in terms of size and weight, and the 9-quart is a monster.

        4 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes

          hmmmmmmm. CostCo has an 8qt oval for $200. Good price, so it would seem.
          And a Calphalon 8qt for $150.

          1. re: Fritz

            Good price, but 8 qt. is very large.

            1. re: Fritz

              way too big.

              5 qts is roomy for 2 people, probably just right for 4.

            2. Another vote for the 5 qt range. I also suggest that you look at Staub.

              1. I have a 5 1/2 qt LC and I think the size is perfect.

                1. My kids are gone and come and go but in our home- it is also just two The 6.75 LC( beautifulbut tooo large) is being given to a family member who entertains because it is SOOOOO big OMG I used my 2.5 Staubs bought on sale and clean up was incredibly simple I think the 4 or 5 wold be ample but I am going to sitck with my small ones and add a 3.5 regular staub I have a 3.5 wide LC and those will cover all our needs I share your concern re quality control from Chinese products I am sticking to those with long history like my older made in USA plain ( no enamel) Lodge my LC and Staub both made in France and my Chantal EOS not DO but made in Germany with super thick enamel The Staub comes in a close tie with Chantal for enamel thickness and ease of cleaning but the LC has it for the twang in the heart :) quality factor and all 3 C LC and S have life time warranties which you cannot beat

                  1. just made the true whole sized no knead bread in the 3.5 wide and it is perfect for sandwiches and a great shape almost 8.75 by 6.75 good size for 2 The bigger pan made a very long loaf and we had to freeze half of it but it does not do the "bread to lead" thing that many homemade bread loaves do and the other 2 I have made stayed great 2-3 days to our surprise

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gulfcoastgal

                      If you are only going to go with one dutch oven, buy the 7.25 quart (6.75 litre) Le Creuset. Most versatile size. I have a 5 quart Staub too which is great, but find it a tad too small for many recipes. If I'm making something in these pots I generally want leftovers, so the bigger pot is generally the one I'll reach for.