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Jan 6, 2009 01:54 PM

Le Creuset - 3.5 or 5 qt braiser/buffet casserole?

I'm torn between these two sizes, and looking for reactions from people who have one or the other or both.

When I compare these models in the store, I lean towards the additional volume in the 5 qt, but back at home I look at the size and spacing of my burners (GE profile 4 burner gas cooktop) and wonder if the 3.5 qt would be better.

Thanks in advance for sharing your experiences!

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  1. I have the 3.5 and love it. I use this more than any of my other LC pots.

    It's the perfect size for my needs. We're a two person household so this is just the right size if I want to braise a few chix thighs, a couple lamb shanks, a couple pieces of fish. Also great for pasta sauces and risottos.

    I have bigger pots to move to if I need to but that's rare. Have never felt the need for the 5qt (though I have a 5.5 qt round and 8 qt oval when I do need something bigger)

    1 Reply
    1. re: ziggylu

      Yours is the type of experience I was hoping to read about... Thank you for the quick reply!

      We are a two-person household as well, though we have 4-6 around the table pretty frequently. We also have similar-sized larger enameled cast iron pots: the LC 9 qt round and the 6qt Mario Batali, with the 6qt used more often than the beautiful, but large 9.

    2. My first piece of Le Creuset was a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven since I thought that would be large enough. After I used it, I realized I needed the 71/4 quart since there's more room to stir, and make enough for leftovers. Thank goodness Williams Sonoma has a very generous return policy. I brought back the smaller oven and use the larger one very comfortably on my GE Profile gas stove.

      3 Replies
      1. re: BelleJo

        Is there something to be said about the depth of food versus the cooking area surface?

        For example doing a pot roast and having veggies stacked up a few inches(ie 5.5 qt) as opposed to a larger DO (ie thinner layer).

        What about doing soups, deeper depth due to a smaller diameter DO?

        I hope this makes sense, I'm curious.

        1. re: spinblue

          For soups generally, the smaller diameter, deeper depth is fine. And in the case of soups that you will want to stick blend in a later phase of cooking, it's a really good thing.

          For a pot roast or a braise, depending on whether or not it's a recipe that wants you to only partially submerge the meat, the larger diameter is helpful. Your question is helping me think a bit more/differently about my uses for this piece versus what I already have.

          1. re: spinblue

            Since you have the 6-quart Batali, the 5 quart LC is a little redundant. Unless you are replacing the Batali, the 3-1/2 quart fills a niche.

            As far as how this effects a pot roast or soup, I think a good rule of thumb is that the pot should be filled somewhere between half- and two-thirds full. D

            Dutch ovens were originally proportioned to take advantage of the scant heat of an open-hearth kitchen. You still see it in what are called camp ovens (the kind that have legs on the bottom and a flanged lid.)

            These ovens were indeed used for baking bread and roasting meat. The ways these ovens work is you put a few coals underneath, and then you pile a lot of coals on top (the flange on the lid keeps the coals from falling off). For the heat from the coals heaped on the lid to adequately heat the food inside, the lid has to be fairly close to the food. (Remember, heat rises!)

            There are two basic camp oven proportions: regular ("bread oven") and deep ("meat oven"). A typical "bread oven" is between 10 to 14" diameter at the lid and 3-1/2" deep. The "meat oven" is typically 5" deep. Anyway, modern Dutch oven proportions appear pretty close to "meat ovens". An aside: a 14" bread oven is often called a pizza oven -- nothing like a fresh-baked deep dish pizza out in the wilderness!

            Of course with a modern range and oven, the proportions aren't quite as critical, but they do seem to work well, so no need to re-design the wheel.

            Check the International Dutch Oven Society website ( and you will see that folks are still finding creative ways to use these old pots.

        2. The 3.5 qt is a very versatile size, but it's too small to cook for 4+ regularly and I miss not having a 5qt heavy pot. Just having noticed that you've got a 6qt pot, I also don't see much point in getting a 6qt. I have a 7qt but it's just big enough to be huge and stays buried barring urgent need so I miss not having a 5qt but will probably get a non-enamelled pot instead - not quite as versatile but so much cheaper...

          1. Mike G & Mike B-
            The shallower depth of the braiser shape is appealing to me. While I know that I could make risotto, for example, in one of my two dutch ovens, I typically opt instead for one of my shallower shaped, and less massive, all-clad or calpalon pans.

            ziggylu's post sounds very similar to what I envision. The 3.5 qt probably is probably the choice that would get the most use.

            Thanks everyone, for sharing your thoughts.

            6 Replies
            1. re: souvenir

              If you haven't bought yet just another experience. I have both. Bought the 5 qt first and the 3.5 later. The 5 quart is the go-to LC pot in our 2 person house. I find that for me it works far better, I prefer the surface area in it and I find that if I'm doing a braise or, our winter favorite, a shepherd's pie, this gives us the right amount for dinner and a couple of lunches of leftovers. I used the 3.5 pretty infrequently.

              Another experience, my mother got the 3.5 because she didn't think she needed the 5 qt. She now also owns both and only cooks for her and my father.

              I don't think you can go wrong with either piece but the 3.5 is really smaller than you might think when you start adding veggies to your protein.

              1. re: redgypsy

                Thanks for adding your experience! We did go check out both the 3.5 and 5 qt today, and purchased... the 3.5 qt.

                I spent quite awhile going back and forth between the two sizes, while my SO was a strong advocate for the 3.5qt as the one he thought would be more frequently used. I am looking forward to trying it out tomorrow night.

                1. re: souvenir

                  Oh, I did not notice it was year ago post. It is 2010 already!!

                  Souvenir, Congratulation for your new 3.5qt. I am sure that you like 3.5 qt.

                  I used my 3.5 qt (Flame) last night for dinner, Shrimp and squid braising, from "All-About Braising". I was so happy as I can mix linguine directly in the 3.5 qt and bring it to the dinner table, keeping it warm during dinner time! This piece is the most used LC in my kitchen. Braising, Casselore, Roasting...

                  To me the LID of 5qt itselt is too heavy to lift only with my left hand.
                  Also, I cannot imagine that I can lift 5qt with full ingredience and move from the oven.

                  Happy cooking!

                  1. re: souvenir

                    Sorry for resurrecting such an old thread, but I'm also debating between a 3.5 quart and 5 quart Le Creuset braiser.

                    The 3.5 quart should be fine for weekday meals, but I entertain a lot and I wonder if the 3.5 quart would be too small if I want to prepare meat dishes for 8 people.

                    What do you all think?

                    1. re: eviemichael

                      Yes the 3.5 would be too small for meat dishes for 8.

                      1. re: eviemichael

                        5 qt would probably be good for eight people, but you need to check your burner space (as previously noted) and the weight.

                        I have a 3.5 and I love it, but even that is heavy. It works well in the 4 - 6 serving range.

                        The lid weighs almost as much as the pan, so when transferring to and from stovetop to oven, it's a two-step procedure, first move the pan and then add the lid going into the oven and reverse the procedure on removal. I personally cannot lift a full 3.5 with lid on. Of course, others have better upper body strength.

                2. I have both, the 5 qt gets used much more often than the 3.5.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rasputina

                    Good to know, thanks! One more question- would it be awkward to use the 5qt for smaller portions of risotto, meat dishes, etc?

                    1. re: eviemichael

                      I don't think so at all. I've got the 5 and cook for 2 (sometimes with leftovers). I really love it and find it to be very versitile. It's my favorite for risotto and usually it's just for 2-4 servings. I tend to love huge surface area though and usually go larger if it's an option. I also adore my All Clad 6 qt saute even though I'm usually only cooking for two.

                      1. re: olympia

                        Great, that helps. I can't wait to get my new braiser. I just have to decide between the cherry and dune color now. :-)