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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.


                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

                2. arielleeve: One person's stockpot is generally a taller person's Dutch Oven. If you are only to get one pot now, it should be able to be put in your oven. Other than that, there is little difference in SHAPE that should concern you.

                  Material and construction matter more. Both cast iron and SS are poor heat conductors, but SS is worse. IMO, all SS has going for it is the dishwasher. Both materials hold heat very well, but since CI pans are thicker, CI pans tend to hold heat longer. Both tend to stick solid foods, and both are prone to hotspots. Multilayer clad SS pans heat more evenly at their bottoms, but hardly at all up the walls.

                  If I were you, I'd get a 5-8Q enameled Dutch Oven.

                  1. I've never had a dutch oven until recently, and never really felt like I was missing anything - a large saucepan or a small stockpot always let me do the same kinds of things. We do have a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven as well, and it does see a fair amount of use, for everything from bread baking to soups and stews. Ours has a chip or two on the outside, but as the other poster said, the inside parts seem to be fine (and even if it chips, shouldn't be a big deal). Costco has a store brand one that's like $50. There's something kind of nice about using a pan that solid for a hearty stew, and enameled cast iron looks nice, but I think it's more psychological than anything else.

                    If you're planning on using it for the type of stuff you're talking about (beans, things containing tomatoes, anything acidic), you would probably want to avoid bare cast iron.

                    If it were me, I'd spend ~ $50 on an enameled 6 qt cast iron dutch oven (Lodge or Kirkland, or maybe a used piece), and $70-100 on a slightly bigger commercial kitchen style stainless steel short stockpot with a heavy aluminum (or copper, if you can afford it) disk base and a lid, rather than spending the big bucks for brand new Le Creuset or Staub. These will come under different names - half-stockpot, short stockpot, casserole, etc. You could go for an 8 qt or a 12 qt; if you plan on making your own stocks or really large batches of soup / stew, the 12 qt would probably be handier. And if I really had to pick just one, I'd probably go with stainless steel over the enameled cast iron.

                    http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/b... [smaller]
                    http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/b... [bigger]

                    (you'd want a lid too, which adds a little to the cost)

                    1. I use an 8 qt All-Clad copper core stockpot as my dutch oven. Lid fits tightly, I can braise at high heat, and heat distribution is better than a cast iron piece. Only downside is that it can't really be put on the table for serving... well, it could, but it just isn't as pretty as an enameled dutch oven. The size is good, not too tall, and wide enough that I can fit plenty in it. Even heating isn't an issue for anything in an oven, and as for braising on the stovetop it's just as good as a frying pan. As for holding heat, I don't know why people always expound on the virtues of cast iron for holding heat. The food holds a lot more heat than the cast iron ever will, so unless you've got a dutch oven that weighs in at 20 lbs, it's not a factor. Water, for example, holds 9 times as much heat per pound as iron. So 2 lbs of food is about the same as 18 lbs of iron. Or 9 lbs of aluminum.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ThreeGigs

                        Interesting point re: food's ability to hold heat - never thought of that!

                        It would seem then that thermal, insulated and/or double-walled carafes to hold hot water/tea/coffee tea are over-rated too, then (??). Although they do seem to work. Or am I completely missing something?

                        1. re: ThreeGigs

                          I agree with everything you wrote. I just can't bring myself to pay $445 for any stockpot. (That's a current Amazon price).

                        2. I don't think we can make the call, "do I really need a dutch oven?" for you. All we can do is give our own experiences and our viewpoint. I don't own a real stockpot, but I do use a large stainless vessel to make soups in. But I also use a pressure cooker to make bean soups. For chili, and for a slow braise, I use a Berndes cast aluminum DO. I like the Berndes for several reasons. It goes from cooktop to oven, handles acids in foods, and it holds heat well, and it is much, much lighter than cast iron. In fact, I don't want a cast iron Dutch oven because it would be so heavy.

                          The Berndes has a non-stick property that appears to be integral to the vessel itself.

                          The disadvantage is that the handles are small. You receive two little mittens to cover the handles, and that works OK, but for some reason I am not fond of the little handles. It comes with a glass lid as well.

                          My point is that there are other options for a DO besides cast iron or stainless. There are also ceramic DOs, but they don't do top of the stove duty.

                          For me the DO is more versatile than a stockpot. But only you can make the call for yourself.

                          1. This set looks like a great deal - supposedly from a functional perspective, it's the best of the All-Clad line.


                            But it isn't recommended for D/W and is not induction ready. I've heard that it's much thicker than standard All-Clad SS (3 or 5 ply).

                            The 6-Q looks like it can double as stockpot and dutch oven. Amazon also carries it separately and it gets great reviews.. at least one reviewer said it's his most used pot. The other pieces look useful and you can then get a jumpstart on completing the rest of your new collection!

                            1. Yesterday on a local Los Angeles radio show called "Food News with Melinda Lee" a caller asked if they needed a dutch oven or could she get by with using a SS stockpot rather than buying a Dutch oven. Melinda Lee spent many years as a caterer and several years with a call in radio show about food and cooking.
                              Melinda told the caller would be fine using her SS stockpot and didn't need to invest in a dutch oven and that caller was going to braise meats, make stews, etc... and not the limited uses you have in mind.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: monku

                                If a SS Stock Pot has Metal Handles, I would agree......but many non-commercial stock pots have plastic handles and may not be a good fit for oven use...which to me is better for braising than on a stove top.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  From the OP's post it sound's like they won't be using it in the oven.

                              2. I have a good dutch oven (a LC), which I love. Even my husband who at first didn't understand why I wanted it so much (for $200) now says that the LC pot is going with him if we ever divorce. :) Anyhoo, we use it for soups, cooking beans, making stock, and braising. We have a cheap aluminum pot for pasta and boiling potatoes that I hope to upgrade soon. I will say that as a person who loves to make soups, I sometimes end up using the cheap aluminum pot if the soup requires some pureeing. This may not be the case for everyone, but I'm nervous about using the immersion blender in the expensive LC dutch oven (though my IB is a Bamix so it has a steel casing). Just something to consider...I hope to get perhaps the All Clad Soup pot for these instances one day. Also, I don't use it for this purpose but some people use dutch ovens for baking bread. I also think it's great to have a pot that goes from stove to oven. A dutch oven does that but of course there are alternatives.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: DCcook

                                  D:This may not be the case for everyone, but I'm nervous about using the immersion blender in the expensive LC dutch oven (though my IB is a Bamix so it has a steel casing). Just something to consider.

                                  Good point. Last year I saw a photo - Bamix in LC - at Williams-Sonoma's website, which made me almost dizzy. I don't think I will ever do it with LCs.

                                  1. re: hobbybaker

                                    I know exactly which video you're talking about. I was dumbfounded. I have used the bamix once in my LC pot but that was with a soup that I only partially pureed so I never let it hit the bottom. Those braver than I can try but I know I would literally fall to my knees if I ended it up chipping the pot that way.

                                  2. re: DCcook

                                    Buy a plastic immersion blender! I too didn't want to use my SS immersion blender on my 5.5qt LC dutch oven, so I bought a plastic one. It's not fancy, it's not very portable as it must be plugged in, and it has no variable speeds, but, I love it and it works! When you buy one be sure the wand/neck is long enough for your DO. I searched quit a bit before purchasing. I ended up buying a Proctor Silex model 59735 Hand Blender. The blade is SS and very small, but wow does it work. by the way, all of my soups are vegan.

                                  3. This is really a personal question and it depends upon how and what you cook. For me I use stock pots daily while the Dutch oven is used once a month. Granted there are many things I could substitute the DO for that I regularly do in stock pots but the exact same thing can be said the other ways round. I just find for MY style of cooking that I would have 2-3 stock pots before I ever bought a DO.

                                    1. I know nothing about about pescetarian cooking, my use of the DO has always involved some sort of dead animal, and although a stock pot can be used for such purposes, I find the DO to be superior in its perfomance of these tasks.

                                      If you decide on a DO, I would suggest you stay away from those made in China, which excludes all but La Cruset and Staub. Lodge is better than the other made in China stuff, but there are still enough issues with chipping that some shopkeepers will not carry them. A 5 to 6 qt. DO will hold a lot of food, that's a really good size range for starters.

                                      1. I agree with the majority, it depends on what you're comfortable with. Many of us have both, not acquired at the same time but over the years. I've got a 7 qt. Le Creuset, and it's ridiculously heavy when full of red beans & rice and you're bending over trying to get it out of the oven. Same thing when full of water at the stovetop. Enameled cast iron stains, and clean up can be awkward if you don't have a large sink. But it also handles acid foods better than plain cast iron. SS will provide you with the flexibility to do both oven and stovetop cooking if you get a stock pot with relatively short sides and metal handles. I've done beans, pasta, red sauces, chicken broth, stew, rice, basically the gamut with no problems in my 6 qt. Cuisinart stock pot, so SS of the right capacity and dimensions would be my choice. If you can only have one, get the SS. Then wait for a really good deal on a LC!

                                        1. As a near pescetarian, I would not want to be without a Le Creuset roasting pan or au gratin dish that's large enough to roast vegetables, and when the veg are 7-10 minutes away from being done, a piece of fish which I put in the same pan and roast until it is done.

                                          The size you choose depends (obviously) on how many people you're cooking for. You can find used au gratin pans very inexpensively on eBay, the roasters less frequently (though I bought a brand new one for $99 last year on eBay). If you're interested, let me know, and I can help you pick one out.

                                          As for Dutch ovens, I like both my All Clad (so-called "stockpot") and Le Creuset. If it matters, the stainless steel is considerably lighter. You could try this roasting idea, then if you feel inspired to do so, then choose your Dutch oven based on how much you like the LC roaster.

                                          1. As an owner of Lodge cast iron, Le Crueset, Staub, and All-Clad Coppr'Core dutch ovens I have some personal opinions based on my use.

                                            The All-Clad just doesn't get much love from me. I'm not sure what I was expecting considering my stove, but it just isn't as versatile for searing meat, cooking things in general, and while the stainless steel stands up to acidic cooking and things that would transfer too much iron flavor I still don't have much love or use for it.

                                            Lodge cast iron is cheap and effective. You just can't do acidic cooking or leave things in it very long without ill effects. Cast iron is what a Dutch should be made of IMHO. Heat it up on a weak stove top and it will still sear meat. An oven with hot and cold spots can really benefit from the cast iron dutch oven too. After searing, toss it in the oven or on the fire and you can finish roasting, braising, or cooking what ever you want until done. The thermal mass also keeps it warm a long time for slower holiday meals.

                                            Enameled cookware is where it's at for me today. I started with Le Crueset but, find I'm liking Staub better over time for mainly "cosmetic" reasons.

                                            1. The first cast-iron thing I bought, back when I was still fumbling at this cooking thing, was a no-brand dutch oven from a hardware store, which my girlfriend and I proceeded to take up the west coast from NoCal to Oregon and back. She broke it in making an Armenian lamb stew over an open fire. I still have it - the pot, that is. Very many years after that I began finding and buying enamelled iron pots in antique malls and at flea markets; I now have two big ovals, one 2-quart round and a whole lot of smaller ovals, rounds and gratin pans, none of which cost over $25. I use every one of them several times a year, even after Mrs. O stopped eating her fellow critters. The stock pots (3) I use much less frequently, as it's hard making stock from just vegetables, and impossible with tofu. But back when pork bones and chicken carcasses were standard leftovers, and when I was frequently making pots of gumbo to last all week, those guys came in really handy too.

                                              The iron stuff, enamelled and otherwise, is what you want for braises. Brown the meat, sauté the vegetables, throw everything in with a little wine or stock, cover and put into the oven. The tall pots are for just barely simmering bones and gristle and seasoning vegetables and water into a rich, well-seasoned but not murky (if you do it right) elixir from which can come soups or stews or new meat-and-pasta dishes.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                Of course I said all that ignoring the fact that the OP is a pescatarian. However, those enamelled pots are perfect for my favorite fish stews, and vegetable ones as well.

                                              2. Perhaps both a Dutch oven and a stockpot? If the Dutch oven is good quality & large enough for most things you cook (I have a 6-qt. Lodge Color and a 3-qt. Tim Love Collection - both enameled cast iron), you can get by with a cheaper stockpot for truly big cooking tasks. The latest America's Test Kitchen email linked to a 2011 Cook's Country review of cheap stockpots; unfortunately, the 2 best-rated cheap stockpots are both out-of-stock from most online vendors. (Might still be available from eBay, though.)