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Jun 30, 2010 10:18 AM

Dutch Oven Materials

I have a Le Creuset 5.5 Quart Dutch Oven that I have used plenty to make tomato sauce, bolognese, and braises and I do like it very much. I also have a nice 12 Quart tall/narrow stainless stock pot and and am now looking to pick up a larger size Dutch Oven, but am torn between going the Le Creuset or other enameled cast iron route or Tri-ply Stainless after using the All Clad 8 Quart to make a bolognese at a friends house the past weekend.
Would appreciate peoples thoughts of the enameled cast iron vs triply or any brands of either you particularly like. Thanks!

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  1. I use my AC 8 qt. stockpot as a dutch oven. Works great.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ThreeGigs

      The lid on my 8qt AC doesn't fit nearly as well as the one on my LC. i could get by with aluminum foil if I wanted to, but I like the LC best. That said, through technique, you can braise equally well in either, you'll just have to experiment.

    2. You bring up a good point. I have been using my bare cast iron Dutch Oven and had used enameled cast iron Dutch Ovens. I prefer the bare one, but it is just a personal thing. I think you bring up a good question about stainless steel Dutch Ovens. I don't own a stainless steel Dutch Oven, so you actually have better hands-on experience than I do. Nonetheless, the arguement is that the stainless steel Dutch Ovens have smaller thermal mass. Cooked foods also stick more to stainless steel than seasoned cast iron or enameled cast iron. Finally, stainless steel Dutch Ovens do not absorb heat as well in an oven because of the reflection. Nevertheless, I think their lighter weight is attractive.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        The thermal mass difference didn't bother me so much, but never thought about SS not absorbing heat as well because of reflection...very good point to take into account.

        Does your (assuming it is well seasoned) bare cast iron give you any trouble with acidic foods? Always read that a well seasoned cast iron should be fine, but never tried any acidic foods for longer than a quick deglaze in my bare cast iron pan.

        Thanks for the thoughts

        1. re: dcole

          I am sure about the reflection aspect, as we know a shiny cookie sheet does not heat up as fast and hot as a dark cookie sheet. On the other hand, it may not matter to you. You may need to pop the stainless steel Dutch Oven in the oven at a slightly higher temperature for longer.

          I think all of my cookware have given my some challenges at one point or others. My bare cast iron Dutch Oven has given a few minor problems. Its seasoning surface did came off once or twice and I had to pop it in the oven and reason it. Not a big deal. I know I can always fix my bare cast iron Dutch Oven, but I know if I mess up the enameled surface of an enameled Dutch Oven, then that is the end of it.

          Most people don't cook acidic foods all the time. As long as you rotate between acidic and non-acidic foods, the bare cast iron Dutch Oven should be fine. I do understand the advantages of enameled Dutch Ovens as I owned two. There are pros and cons for them.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            it would seem like the difference in cooking techniques between a sheet pan and a dutch oven is significant enough to not necessarily take the reflection factor as being as important, or even truly noticeable. Considering you're cooking 95%+ of the food away from the obscured surface, and the mass of what you're cooking is generally speaking (we're talking about 8qt pots here) far greater than anything you would normally cook on a sheet pan (as well as far more liquid), I think the effect is likely negligible, at best.

            1. re: LeroyT


              I can see this both ways. The fact that Dutch Oven cooks its food 100% enclosed actually makes the reflection factor important because the enclosed food completely depends on the Dutch Oven temperature. In this case, the food does not see the actual electric oven, only the Dutch Oven. When the shiny Dutch Oven heats up slower, so does the enclosed food. Being cooked in a shiny vs a black Dutch Oven has the difference like sitting in a silver vs a black car in hot summer day. The interior temperature can be very different. Or wearing a white vs a black shirt.

              I think what makes it negligible is the fact that Dutch Oven cooking is a slow cooking technique which is not about precision timing or temperature. Cookies baked at 350F can be very different than those at 375F, but I don't think that level of demand exists for slow cooking, so I do agree with you that the reflection factor may not matter for a Dutch Oven.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I like the car seat analogy. I also generally am cooking in the dutch oven on the stove top before it goes in the oven, so at least some pre-heating has taken place. I actually think that the heavier (much) LC dutch is far superior because it regulates and slows down the cooking process. The AC, though heavy for stainless, does not have the heft of the LC and therefore means I need to pay more attention to it, which sort of defeats the biggest benefit of braising. I like to braise in my LC overnight at 275 or so and wake up to a great smelling kitchen and dinner already done for the evening.

      2. I have LC, Staub and recently aquired an AC stainless. For stovetop cooking, I only use AC now. I fell for the "even heat distribution" myth of cast iron. When simmering, I noticed only the area directly over the flame would bubble. When I'm deglazing, only the area over the flame had significant fond buildup. It was a revelation to use the AC. No more hot spots. True even heat distribution!! For oven use, I would still use AC only because it is lighter.

        2 Replies
        1. re: pabboy

          Do you know which AC line you have? I have an AC soup pot and it has a hot spot.

          1. re: E_M

            Stainless 8 Quart Stock Pot

        2. I own and use stainless steel Dutch ovens, Le Crueset and Staub enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, plus one bare "Jambalaya" pot, essentially -- a cast iron Dutch oven that was part of a goofy department store bundle purchased as a gift for me many years ago. Here is my personal opinion based on my experience, as I will only respond to your post based on that experience. Frankly, I have not responded to many items in the last few months because this board seems to be filled with speculation and theory, and we cooks really don't need to hear more of that. We need to hear what other cooks have experienced, so thank you to the responders who share their actual cooking experiences.

          They all have their uses, but there is a fair amount of overlap. I tend to make soups stovetop and stews usually stovetop but sometimes in the oven, in the LC and Staub, because I perceive that these big, heavy pots seem to regulate the low and slow heat better when cooking things that take more than an hour, or perhaps three hours. This would include things like pot roast and veal stew made from shoulder, with the typical array of pototoes/sauce and other veggies added later. If I am feeling lazy, they look great if carried to the table and set on a heatproof pad. I have also experienced that there is sometimes food buildup and slight burning in the center of these pans, so I try very hard to keep the burners very low when used stovetop. I actually think these work best in the oven, For me, it is a tradeoff -- the burned circle of sauce or food in the middle versus how the rest of the pot cooks. Not perfect for stovetop, but near perfect in the oven.

          I tend to cook my tradtional meatballs/tomato sauce in my favorite Paderno disk bottom Dutch ovens (actually called Rondeaux). These are stainless steel, and have luxurious thick disk bottoms that tend never to burn tomato sauce on the bottom of the pot when used on a properly regulated burner. It is my perception that they do this better than enameled cast iron. I actually find that tomato sauce tends to burn at the center of the enameled cast iron somewhat quickly versus these thick bottomed pots. Now, these are constructed a bit differently from Tri-ply, but please read on.

          I rarely find a use for my bare cast iron Dutch oven, as I have always instinctively stayed away from cooking things with tomato sauce in bare cast iron, even though I know from experience that my well-seasoned cast iron skillet can stand up to an acidic assault very well. Therefore, I only drag this big boy out for deep frying. Something about simmering tomato-based sauces for hours seems to make me think my other pots are a better choice.

          Now, I can assure you that I occasionally break my own rules here and switch things around, but that is usually because of size needs for the amount of cooking I will be doing that day. For example, one of my Paderno's (which BTW, are all Grand Gourment) is the largest of the pots I use regularly, and it can hold the biggest batch of soup or veal and peppers. I do not hesitate to use a ss pot when this happens, and the results are always very good. I don't own any enameled cast iron that is larger than seven quarts, as I find the weight of a filled pot a bit hard to deal with. However, my stainless steel is far from light, so if you are really a weakling, I don't really know how much of a break you are going to get, at least at the medium sizes.

          I also have some clad pots in this category -- one All Clad (approx. three quarts), plus a heavy Demeyere conical sauteuse that I use constantly (approx. four quarts), as well as a very large tri-ply Tramontina. The sauteuse has a long handle on one side, but it works fine for this application. I think these do a fine job of most tasks, and I have done small batches in both of the smaller pots with success. Success depends on how you regulate your heat and what your heat source is, However, I must confess that I have a just a bit more faith in the disk bottom pans versus the clad for avoiding burning of a tomato based sauce on the bottom of the pot when used stovetop, again based on experience. It may also be that my cooktop simmer setting is too high for me to use these clad pans as successfully for a long-cooking recipe like Bolognese. Please note also they are not much lighter than enameled cast iron in these smaller sizes. I think that if you are going to be working at the 12 quart size, any weight savings would be recommended, as the pot will be incredibly heavy when filled with liquid and meats. When I have to reach for anything that big, I go for my tri-ply Tramontina. It always works well.

          As I said earlier, there is quite a bit of overlap. I would recommend choosing a lighter pot in the bigger sizes, and if you choose well made things, you will be using them for the next twenty plus years or so, at which time you might not be visiting the gym to lift weights on a regular basis. Hope this helps.