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help me buy a dutch oven

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: 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."