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Dutch Oven vs. Stockpot?

I am currently in the [very gradual] process of replacing all my cheap cookware with high quality, built to last cookware. My next purchase was going to be a dutch oven, but I need some advice regarding what to buy. To begin with, I am torn between a cast iron, enameled cast iron, and stainless steel dutch oven. The Lodge enameled cast iron seemed like a good buy but I read a lot of reviews that say it chips easily, and I'd rather spend the extra money now and have something that will really last. Then I also started thinking about whether I truly need a dutch oven, or whether a SS stockpot would be better. I am pescetarian, so the only things that I would use a dutch oven for would be soups, bean chili, and the like -- no meat. I am still fairly new to the nuances of various cookware so any advice people have on the subject would be greatly appreciated. Do I really need a dutch oven, and if so, which kind would be most appropriate?

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  1. Unless you like to make large quantities of soup/stock, i.e., for freezing and future use.....you can definitely get away with a large Dutch Oven....Still smaller than a stockpot. The Dutch Oven gives you better access and ease of use....it can be oval or round.....it doesn't have to be enameled. but just get the best one you can afford. ...I know many families who use an aluminum DO that has been passed down through the generations.......in the end, everything cooks.....

    1. I have a stainless steel stockpot that I never use, except to store utensils that I never use. I've been cooking soups, stews, chili, rice dishes, etc in my 2.5 or 5 qt enameled cast iron pot for over a year with no problems. I would say the only things I wouldn't attempt in a stainless steel pot are the bean or rice dishes for fear of sticking and crusting on the surface of the pot.
      there's a big difference in weight. cast iron will be heavier than stainless steel but if you go with Le Crueset or Staub, those will be lighter than some of the other cast iron options since their sides are thinner than the bottom.

      1. I'm the opposite of Redbean. Although we have four cast iron Dutch ovens (5 ifyou count the oval one)all but one of them enameled we still use our SS stockpots much more often. We have two 12 qt., two 8 qt. and a 5 qt. that get used for everything from pasta and potatoes to soups and stews. They all have thick disk bottoms and none of them cost more than $20 each. I just don't see the value in spending $300 or more for an All-Clad stockpot. We do use the enameled cast iron kettles too, just not as often. We mostly use them for long braises of meat.

        1. Dutch/French ovens have the advantage of being able to handle high heat for browning and being sized so they can be stuffed into an oven for braising. But browning vegetables and mushrooms is just as important as browning meat. Regular cast iron can't handle acids really well, but stainless tri-ply and enabled CI both get good reviews. My mom cooks in a Dansk Kobenstyle DO she got in the 60's for her wedding, so even a cheap enabled DO can last.

          A large stockpot is good for 1) big lots of pasta where you need a rolling boil (if your cooktop can't put out enough heat), 2) steaming a lot of lobsters and 3) stock or broth - even being a pescetarian, you might want to dump a bunch of fish frames or lobster shells into a pot to make stock.

          But in general, a DO is one of the most useful things I have in my kitchen. If you want to spend, remember, you might be a pescetarian, but if you had a kid, or marry a carnivorous partner, you probably want to(or might have to) give them a bit of land-based protein, so if you are taking the long view of this as an investment, assume one day you might be cooking up the beef chuck in there..

          A stockpot

          7 Replies
          1. re: grant.cook

            Yes, I'm torn. We make pasta a lot which is why I see a stockpot as being useful. On the other hand, our semi-chinsy one that we have now gets the job done, whereas we have nothing that does the work of a DO.

            As for the meat issue, my boyfriend (and likely to be husband) is veg too. I have no issues with kids who choose to eat meat, but they won't be doing it in my house, and especially not with my cherished cookware :)

            1. re: arielleeve

              Two myths......you need lots of water and rapid boiling water to cook pasta......I always use half the amount of water suggested and once I add the pasta to the water, I turn off the flame.....

              You do not need a stock pot to cook 1 pound of pasta.....you can do it in the Dutch Oven easily

              1. re: fourunder

                Small correction

                Many years ago dried pasta was rare while fresh pasta was the norm - when cooking fresh pasta you need lots of water and a rolling boil. The reason is you need the egg to cook as quickly as possible and bind the starch otherwise you end up with a gooey mess. Lots of water at a rapid allows reduced the thermal shock (cooling) when you introduce the pasta so it keeps cooking and you won't end up with mush.

                The other reason you need larger amounts of water and a stock pot when cooking dried pasta is when you are cooking loooooong varieties and you want even cooking.

                Cheers

                1. re: RetiredChef

                  "Many years ago dried pasta was rare while fresh pasta was the norm "

                  Exactly how many years ago? :)

                2. re: fourunder

                  I don't boil as much water as I used to when I cook pasta (4 qt. in an 8 qt. stockpot), but I also stopped making an entire pound each time. I don't think I'd ever get used to turning the flame off, though. Does the finished product taste better when you do it that way? Is there some other advantage?

                  1. re: Jay F

                    Tastes the same, no boiling over, saves time (for the pot to boil) and energy. I do a pound of spaghetti in a 3qt pot. Stir once after 5 minutes. It cooks evenly. For a while I wished I'd known about this before buying an 8qt pasta pot but now I use the latter for making stock - it's great to just lift out the strainer rather than having the struggle and splash when pouring hot stock through a colander to strain out the bones and aromatics. Here is the thread about not boiling pasta: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583856

                    In the OP's situation, I would invest in the pasta pot before the Dutch oven. My pasta pot, from BB&B, has the strainer insert plus a separate steamer insert and a glass lid. It fits in the oven. It was $20 though that may have been on sale.

              2. re: grant.cook

                my stockpot fits in the oven. makes a damn fine pot of rice. (9cups dry)

              3. I owned two Lodge Color cast iron Dutch Ovens (Lodge enameled cast iron). One of them has chipped at the handle after I wacked it with my wooden spoon. I don't know if this is considered easy or not, but as far as I know people only complain the exterior surface chipping, not interior.

                Personally, I like bare cast iron Dutch Oven better. If you read around here or anywhere, you will notice a lot of people ask/complain about stain removal from enameled cast iron cookware. Bare cast iron Dutch Ovens are simply more durable. You can use metal, you can scrap it, you can wack it. Worse come wose, the seasoning surface is removed. So what? We can always regenerate the seasoning surface. You cannot do that for an enameled cast iron cookware.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Get Staub enameled cast iron and you won't see the "stains" in that black interior. ;-)

                  1. re: Sid Post

                    :) I agree. Yes, the stains will bend right in the dark interior. :P