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help me buy a dutch oven

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I am looking to buy a dutch oven but don't know which one or how big to go. I would love to make one pot meals (soups, stews, pot roasts) for my small family (3 of us) but don't want to go too small in case I have 6 or 8 people over for dinner. Should I buy 2, one for family meals, one for entertaining? Maybe one for now and think about a second later on since I don't entertain all that much? I have a smooth glass top stove, GE profile electric range. I know Le Creuset is pricey but will spend the money if it's really THAT good. I have a small Le Creuset enamel/cast iron grill pan which I am enjoying, but still learning how to use. I put in a little olive oil last night to grill a chicken breast and no grill marks! The pan is new (only used it a few times) and had wonderful grill marks without the oil but food sticks like crazy. Any way, I digress. Sorry. Just need help for now with size and brand for a dutch oven. Thanks!

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  1. If you can afford Le Creuset, then by all means invest; it will last a lifetime. If you can't, there are alternatives. Five-quart is probably all you need. I have a Lodge (naked) cast iron. Of course learning how to season and maintain naked cast iron properly intimidates a lot of people. I admit it took me a while until I got the hang of it, but now that I have I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE cooking on it. I also have a 3.5 enamel cast iron made by Tramontina in which I make the stuff that naked cast iron balks at like tomato-based or vinegary sauces. Neither of these dutch oven cost more than $30.

    1. Dutch ovens are really "ovens", and not for stove top use.
      Although I know you are using "dutch oven" as a description for the shape of the pot.
      I have a Le Creuset for stove top and in-the-oven use.....soups, stews, pot roasts...etc.

      Check Ebay for best prices.

      "Staub" is real good too, but more $$$.
      http://www.staubusa.com/

      Alton Brown had a great episode on Dutch Ovens...
      Here is the show, but may not last there for long (copyright issues
      )http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfvj2h...
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld20FX...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Freq Band

        On these boards, Dutch Oven usually means an enameled cast iron pot, relatively deep, with a well sealing lid, i.e. Le Creuset and such. While ideal for braising in the oven, they work just fine on the stove top for stews. Not that you need enameled cast iron to do any of this. You can braise in a disposable roasting pan with a foil cover, and stew in the nonstick sauce pan.

        The Dutch Oven in the AB episode (with the power outage) is some times called a 'camp oven'. While overall shape is similar, it has several features that make it suitable for camp use - with coals. Usually they are plain cast iron, not enameled. The lid has a rim, allowing you to place coals on top. And there are legs, allowing you to set it over a bed of coals (though a shallow tripod stand does just as well). Without legs this kind can be used on the stove top, and also works in the oven (even with legs).

        Cast iron is available in lots of other shapes (and more so in the past), including skillets and griddles. These can also have an enamel coating. Enamel can also be put on other materials, most commonly inexpensive steel.

      2. I would say a 5-6 quarts is a good size. Personally I prefer bare cast iron Dutch ovens over enameled cast iron Dutch oven because you can do so much more in bare cast iron. For one, you can heat up bare cast iron to a much higher temperature, so you can really do all the cooking in one pot, not true for enamel Dutch ovens. However, you have smooth glass top stove and probably worry about bare cast iron roughing your stove.

        According to Cooks Illustrated, Lodge Color enamel Dutch oven is just as good as Le Creuset. I have one and it is good. Now, I stopped using it now because I prefer the Lodge bare cast iron oven, but there is nothing wrong with the Lodge Color enamel one. If you really insist in Le Creuset, and worry about the price, try stopping by Home Goods, Marshall, or TJ Max. You can easily buy the Le Creuset Dutch ovens at half the prize.

        1. I have a Le Creuset about 4 qt pot (we English measure them in cm, mine is 24cm, round).
          This is almost exclusively used to cook for me and my girlfriend. The one time it was really full up, I had 5 drumsticks and about 10 chicken thighs in there for a curry, which was enough for about 6 people. I think that's correct.
          Whenever I cook chili from a kilo of steak, we always get 4 meals from it, and I could probably just about double that.

          So I think you need about a 6qt one, maybe?
          *edit* oh, and I recommend LC for customer service and quality, though I haven't experienced anything else.

          1. I have a 26-cm (5.3-liter, 5.5-quart) round Le Creuset French oven and think it is a good all-around size. I'm single, but like to make large batches of chili, beef stew, gumbo, etc. and then freeze meal-size portions. For any of the above dishes, the 5.5-qt FO would make plenty for 6 to 8 people. (And assuming my math isn't too rusty, I figure you could fill it half way to feed 3 or 4 people.)

            As for the grill pan, enameled cast iron doesn't strike me as the best choice. IMO, the whole point of a grill pan it to get it almost smoking hot so you hear the food really sizzle when you put it in. I don't think enameled cast iron is meant to be used like that, and would suggest picking up a Lodge plain cast iron grill pan to get those pretty (and tasty!) grill marks.

            10 Replies
            1. re: tanuki soup

              My enameled LC pan goes really hot and it cooks fine. I'd call it a frying pan rather than grill pan though - even though I rarely use oil.

              1. re: Soop

                Soop,

                Your enameled LC pan is a enameled skillet, right? You know, enamled outside, but the cooking surface is still bare cast iron, no?

                http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I...

                I think these can be heated to higher temperature, but I don't think the fully enameled dutch oven should. Let me know otherwise.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Mine is this one, enamelled inside
                  http://blog.pricegrabber.co.uk/chefsh...

                  1. re: Soop

                    That looks rather like Teflon inside Soop. They used to produce skillets with the cream coloured enamel inside, just like their Dutch ovens, but I haven't seen one since the old king died.

                    1. re: Soop

                      Soop. I agree with Robin Joy. Are you sure the black thing inside is enamel porcelin? Usually the cooking surface is enameled with white porcelin if any. I could be wrong, but double check and let us know.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        I have a Lodge enameled cast iron frying pan, and it is also black and kind of rough inside. It feels like Excalibur nonstick, but is actually textured enamel (Lodge calls it "black matte enamel"). Lodge says that you can wash it with soap and water, but I believe it will still build up a patina over time. From what I've read, the Staub enameled cast iron skillets are the same.

                        The only enameled cast iron frying pan I have with a smooth cream enamel interior is my Mario Batali saute pan.

                        1. re: tanuki soup

                          Tanuki,

                          Really? I always assume that black rough cooking surface is bare cast iron.

                          1. re: tanuki soup

                            Tanuki,

                            This is taken out of Staub website regarding the black matte enamel:

                            "Our black matte enamel is highly indestructible and provides better cooking results; over time your Staub pot will slowly season itself as oils used when cooking will penetrate the pores of the black matte enamel. The black matte enamel will also brown, braise and reduce better!"

                            So how is that different from bare cast iron?

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Hi CK,

                              I think the advantages of "black matte enamel" are that you can wash it with soap and water or cook with wine, tomatoes, or other reactive ingredients without worrying about screwing up the surface (i.e., removing the seasoning from a plain cast iron skillet). On the downside, I can't imagine that it is as tough or heat-tolerant as plain cast iron.

                              I have to say that my enameled cast iron Lodge skillet doesn't get all that much use.

                              1. re: tanuki soup

                                Tanuki soup,

                                Thanks. I guess was in this mood of "It looks like bare cast iron (because it is black) and it is described using similar terminology as bare cast iron."

                2. Thank you all for your help. I think I might look into the 5 quart DO. I'm concerned about the heft of cast iron though. I'm a bit of a lightweight and once the pot is full, I may need to call a handyman to help me lift it if my husband or son are not around (both strong guys!) My little LC grill pan is heavy but very manageable. I could, as someone here suggested, braise in a disposable roaster with foil, but I'd rather have a pot. If anyone knows of a brand that is good but isn't as heavy as cast iron, please share. I love the look of LC. So pretty. Tonight, I will grill another breast sans olive oil. I think the oil is preventing the grill marks as the pan worked perfectly the first couple of times I used it ungreased.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: addicted2cake

                    A 5.5 LC has served me well.. only time I find its size a problem is large groups - if you want to braise osso buco for 8 people, its not going to fit. But that's a small percentage of things.

                    I would second a lot of posters here - LC and Staub are great, an expense with a long long life, but a lot of less expensive dutch/french ovens get great reviews. Tramontina sells one at Wal-Mart that Cooks Illustrated gave high marks to. And if you do buy a LC, look in stores like Tuesday Morning or TJ Maxx.. if you buy a second, just make sure the enamel is in good shape and the LID FITS WELL..

                    On the subject of base cast iron, I had thought you need to be cautious about cooking acidic stuff in it (tomato-based braises, etc)...

                    1. re: grant.cook

                      I second that. Tramontina get great reviews, but the problem is that they are difficult to find. Lodge enamel dutch oven also get nice reviews as well.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Wal-Mart does a lot of Ship2Store from their website for free.. I had them ship a couple of the Tramontina tri-play sauce pans to my local store and it worked out fine. I think the service is a bit new..

                      2. re: grant.cook

                        For many years, the only enameled cast iron available was LeCreuset and other lesser known but equally pricy brands. I think these have more mystique and reputation than real performance difference from the many less expensive lines now on the market. I have an ancient naked flea-market 4qt, an enameled K-Mart Martha Stewart 3qt, and a 6.5qt enameled Tramontina. They all work great (cooktop stove) and I use them on the cooktop far more often than in the oven.

                        There's a keeping up with the Joneses element to wanting LC and AllClad that I just don't buy into. I would recommend a 6quart because it will hold its temperature better than a smaller one.. You probably won't have it brimming full very often - for lesser ingredient amounts there's only a few pounds difference between having them in a 4qt and a 6qt.

                      3. re: addicted2cake

                        YOu know, mine isn't that heavy. My frying pan *seems* heavier, but that's because of the law of moments (long handle).

                        The DO is quite thin iron, and it's lighter than I thought. If mine was full up it would be heavier, naturally, but then anything that full would be heavy. The CI doesn't add too much weight - I guess you should find one and try it out

                        1. re: addicted2cake

                          I'll put in another vote for the Le Creuset. Yes, they are a bit heavy, but that also is EXACTLY what makes them so durable and, more importantly, cook so evenly. As another poster pointed out, the cast iron is a bit thinner than a regular cast iron pan, and they really aren't as unmanagable as you are imagining.

                          Pretty - you bet. They come in nine colors now. (Makes me sorry that both of mine are in black and will outlive me.) I've attached a photo of the new Marine color (roll your cursur over the little photo on the bottom left.) There's a sale now, including the new colors in some sizes, and larger sizes have free shipping.

                          Here's the link: http://anythinggoesgourmet.com/174/le...

                          I cannot imagine you would ever regret buying a Le Creuset. I wish all my cookware were this good.

                           
                        2. Size wise I reckon about 1 qt. (or 1 litre to us Euroslave Brits) per serving is a guide. So a 4 and a 6 or thereabouts should cover you up to 10 servings.

                          1. i cook for two but my bf has a really large appetite. most of the time the 5.5 quart round le creuset works fine. i also have 6.75 quart oval but i don't like the shape for stovetop cooking. sometimes i wish i bought a larger round because i like to make larger amounts. i usually will give a container of food to my friends. they are new parents so they really appreciate the food. i just sent them a quart of chili and will send them a container of vietnamese curry when i make it tonight.

                            i also have a smooth glass top stove and the le creuset works fine. i like the le creuset over some other brands because their pots are cast a little differently resulting in a thinner and lighter pot. they are still heavy compared to my stainless steel pots but are considerably lighter than my bare cast iron dutch oven.

                            i got all my le creuset pots at a discount. look for sales and check the le creuset outlets. they carry both first and second quality items.

                            1. Since I am currently unemployed and really could not afford the Le Creuset that I really wanted, so I went to Costco and bought a Kirkland 6 quart oval enamel cast iron ducth oven. Works good and it was only $49.00

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: energy

                                I too bought the costco brand 6 quart oval enamel cast iron dutch oven. The times I've used it it has worked very very well. I am completely happy with it. It is tremendously heavy. The rid fits very snug and the clean up has been very simple. I did a short rib braise and it took only a couple times with the sponge.

                                It does takes up a large amount of cabinet real estate but it is without a doubt my favorite equipment purchase this year.

                                tomorrow, bean soup...

                              2. I bought the 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven a few years back and I am VERY happy with it. Great size, we make every kind of spaghetti sauce, stew, soup in it on the stove top. It is obviously marvelous for braising in the oven, making pork/duck confit, "Almost-No-Knead Bread" (from Cooks Illustrated, we use it for this more than anything else). It is weighty, but it's not like I'm carrying it very far. Holds heat amazingly well. We store it on top of the stove, actually.

                                My only complaint about it is that it has been hard to get cooked-on food off the outside of it. I'm not talking chunks of cooked on food, just the grease splatters that turn dark brown. It's kind of a patina, but I'd like to get it looking like new.

                                This is easily one of the most satisfying pieces of kitchen gear I have ever bought (not least of all that it's a Le Creuset :) I HIGHLY recommend it.

                                It's $245 on Amazon.com. Jeff.

                                1. You might want to check out the All-Clad Dutch Ovens.

                                  Advantages: works with any type of stovetop and oven, lighter weight than cast iron, will not crack, chip or craize and very easy to clean. Available in 5.5 and 7 qt.

                                  Disadvantage: expensive but about the same as LC.

                                  I've had the stainless version for 10 years and really like it.

                                  http://www.amazon.com/All-Clad-Stainl...

                                  The LTD line can be found heavily discounted.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pestojeff

                                    I was out shopping today and looked at the LC 5.5 DO and the Mario Batali DO, 6 qt, I think. I could barely lift them empty. Full will do me in, especially if I'm putting pot into oven from top of stove. I will look into All Clad. I'll spend the money if this the best I can do for a lighter weight vessel. Looked at the 5 qu. Greenpan DO at Crate & Barrel. Much lighter empty. Maybe I should consider this, too? I would love to have an enameled cast iron DO, but the heft - just can't do it. Thanks for your help. I do appreciate it!

                                  2. I have said it on other threads, but my 5 qt. round LC is the workhorse of my kitchen (and I have 4 LC's in various sizes) . You can make smaller amounts of food, as well of large amounts of a stew or chili.

                                    When you get your next one (and you will want another one!), a larger size might be good if you entertain often.

                                    1. Have you thought about the LC braiser? I think it's a lot more versatile - can do *almost* everything the dutch oven does, plus some. The 3.5 quart (bigger surface area so probably more roomy than you're thinking) retails for $200. Do I think LC is REALLY worth the price? Nah. You can get something just as good for less. But, it's just so damn pretty and I'm the kind of materialistic gal that gets a sick little thrill out of using nice things. Plus, I work in a kitchen store so I didn't pay that much (but still too much).

                                      I don't own any enameled Lodge, but I do have a few of their regular cast iron pieces and I would not hesitate to recommend them. I've also heard very good thing about the Tramontina that was also mentioned in this thread.

                                      As for size, personally I'd splurge on the one you will use on a regular basis. Pick up something cheaper and larger later if you really feel that you need it.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: foodpoisoned

                                        goodness, I hate to sound so ignorant, but what exactly is a braiser? Could I use this to make soups, stews, pot roasts, other one dish meals? I've been cooking for years, but am not knowledgeable about different types of cookware. I own a clay pot, stock pot, and have used inexpensive roasting pans but am ready to move up as I'd like to cook more one pot meals. Does the LC braiser go from stovetop to oven? Thanks for your help. Thanks to everyone else who has replied. I read all posts and am very appreciative.

                                        1. re: addicted2cake

                                          It's what you buy when you have an empty wall that needs to be decorated with expensive copper pans. :)

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            OK. No extra wall space, so I'll focus on buying a D.O. I've ben searching AC and found a 5.5 qt D.O. at Wasserstram Restaurant Supply for $156.00 and change. Maybe I can find one in the kitchen stores or a dept. store just to feel the weight before I commit. Sounds like a good price for AC.

                                            1. re: addicted2cake

                                              My wall space comment applied specifically to a braiser, which, can be defined as just 'A kettle or pan for braising.' Now LC applies this name to a pot with rounded sides, and a domed lid, where as DO are usually a bit deeper, with straight sides, and shallower lid. The LC braiser reminds me of one of my first cooking items, a 1 1/2qt Pyrex baking dish with lid. The shallower braiser might look nicer at the table.

                                          2. re: addicted2cake

                                            I would not recommend a braiser for your first LC. The sides are much lower and it is a much more shallow pot. You could make pot roasts, but it is not ideal for stews or soups. Yes, the braiser goes from stove to oven, but if you are going to buy one pot, I think it should be one with higher sides. I have this braiser, and while it looks nice, and it is good for some things, it is not as versatile as a round LC dutch oven.

                                            http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                        2. Checked through the teand did not see Le Creuset Dou Feu mentioned. This is the one with the deep well in the top into which you put ice cubes and whatever is inside NEVER dries out. For me it is the bomb, have a round and an oblong one and would run out of the house when burning with the oblong one. Already picked the kid to use for next generation.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            I just got one of these. First project is braised short ribs. I guess I already knew that the dou feu is the least known pot they make, (in the US anyway) but for many reasons it was my pick for my one and maybe only Le Creuset pot. My query is regarding adjusting the amount of liquid in a recipe to take full advantage of the dou feu and its self-basting properties. How much would you reduce the liquid in a rib recipe that calls for as much as 8 cups? (serving 6 people) Many of the recipes included in the dou feu booklet are as little as 1 cup of liquid for the same amount of meat. I thought to reduce it by half and then use less if it turns out well.

                                            1. re: cupandplatesf

                                              Sorry did not check this post for a while.As l like the goop as much if not more than the solid stuff, use a lot of liquid in braising. Easier also as under fluid so turning is never necessary, Did make one oxtail recipe in Dou Feu with little fluid( all tomatoes) and with no turning still was wonderful. If a lot of fluid, sometimes put a few large quartered unpeeled potatoes or rutabaga in about 90 minutes before end and smoosh them up just before serving.

                                          2. I'm making a cassoulet right now in my 4qt LC. In there, I can fit 3 chicken thighs, 3 drumsticks, 4 sausages, 1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots, pancetta and 3 cans of beans.

                                            It's nearly full, but that makes loads and loads.

                                            1. I have the LC grill pan. Chances are you either didn't heat the pan enough (do it on med. high) or the pan was too crowded and you are literally steaming the chicken. I have never have experienced no grill marks. I always wipe the pan down with olive oil and a paper towel, let it get hot, put two or three boneless breasts in there (two is better) and let is sit undisturbed for a few minutes. If the pan is hot enough, there should be minimal sticking because it sears the chicken where the grill lines are. In some ways, that pan is very similar to a plain cast iron grill because if it doesn't have some kind of oil, the food will stick.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: RGC1982

                                                Not about LC, but isn't olive oil a bad choice for grilling, given its very low smoke point?

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I always use it, and I've heard that, but in my experience it's always been fine. I only use oil on the meat though, just a rub down.

                                                  1. re: Soop

                                                    Soop,

                                                    You are probably right. I just heard olive oil is not so great for high heat cooking like grilling. I should verify that to make sure. Thanks.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Chemical, the standard recommendation to counteract the low smoke point of OO when using high heat is to add a tbsp. or two of butter. I've never understood exactly how this works, since butter on its own can burn, too. But it's something about the protein in the butter.

                                                      It's always worked for me, regardless of how it works.

                                                      1. re: Normandie

                                                        Normandie,

                                                        Thanks. I have heard of using butter to make food less stick to stainless steel pans as well. I have never tried it. Or I should say I have never did a head-to-head experiment to verify it. If what you said is true, then this only work for butter and not ghee. Sometime, I use ghee to cook instead of butter. Ghee is clarified butter.

                                                2. re: RGC1982

                                                  I cooked another chicken breast in my LC grill pan without oil. Beautiful grill marks, but didn't release that easily. Left it to cook for several minuntes on each side, maybe heat was not high enough. Also, I don't know what is meant by patina. The instructions that came with the pan say to wash with soapy warm water, nothing abrasive. Maybe I'm washing off the patina because I don't like greasy looking pans or little chunks of what looks like left over food. Really, I think I'm a bit out of my league with this pan, but my son loves the taste of his chicken breasts so I'll keep on trying. Maybe I'll rub pan with less olive oil than I did a couple tries ago - after it gets hot and see if food doesn'tt stick.

                                                  1. re: addicted2cake

                                                    No worries, I use non-abrasive, but I use elbow grease to remove any black marks.

                                                    1. re: Soop

                                                      Good to know I'm not messing up my pan! Thanks again.

                                                3. I assume you are asking about enameled cast iron dutch ovens.

                                                  I would buy a 5-8 qt size. I like the oval best because it can hold a larger size roast.

                                                  I have 2 Le Creuset dutch or french ovens. However a Le Creuset will set you back $200 or more.

                                                  A lot of people don't agree with me but I would buy a tramontina or a lodge dutch oven for about $60. I have a hard time believing that Le Creuset worth paying almost 4 times what a tramontina or a lodge costs.

                                                  Cook's Illustrated did some tests and they liked All Clads Stainless steel version then next the Le Creuset and then Tramontina and then Lodge. They felt that Tramontina and Lodge were best buys.

                                                  With that being said, CI performed cooking tests. As far as I know, they did not perform extensive and or destructive tests like sawing them in half and measuring the thickness of the iron or the enamel. They did not perform a series of hot and cold cycling tests to see if they could make the enamel crack or chip.

                                                  So it is possible that Le Creuset is heavier metal or thicker better enamel and some people swear they are. Le Creuset also has a lifetime warranty that they are, apparently serious about. I don't know about the cheaper brands warranties.

                                                  I suspect that there is very little difference in the performance of Le Creuset and the cheaper brands but even if there is a small difference, Let's say that Le Creuset is 20% better than Tramontina or Lodge. Is it worth paying 230% more for that added performance and the lifetime warranty?

                                                  I say for a 1st dutch oven, why not buy a cheaper one and find out how serious you are about cooking. Maybe later, you will want to see how much better a Le Creuset is.