A good Dutch oven is a kitchen essential. Thick cast-iron walls, wide handles and a heavy lid – this versatile piece of equipment can be used for everything from braising chicken legs to baking bread. But which one do you buy? Do you need to invest in the $500 pot when a $100 one will suffice? Should you get the biggest, deepest casserole, or will a shallow braiser accomplish the task? These are all questions worth asking, especially when this is a piece of equipment that you will use for years to come. From big to small, round to oval, and deep to shallow, here are five types of Dutch oven sizes to consider (and what to cook in them).
1. Medium Dutch Oven
A 6-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is just the right all-purpose size for most of your cooking tasks. It has high walls that prevent spillage and enough surface area to brown meat for a braise, but it’s not so big that you need help hauling it in and out of the oven. It’s also the perfect size for bringing to the table. This Dutch Oven from Martha Stewart comes in a wide array of colors and is incredibly durable for the low price. Use this pot to cook pasta like Spaghetti with Clams and Braised Greens. The pot is big enough for tossing your pasta with the sauce without making a mess. Plus, it can then go right to the table for serving. The thick cast-iron walls help retain the heat and keep your food warm.
Martha Stewart 6 Qt. Dutch Oven, $100 at macys.com
2. Large Dutch Oven
If you’re often cooking for a big crowd, then a 9-quart is a good size for you. A large deep casserole, like this Le Creuset Dutch oven, is great for big batches of soup, making homemade chicken stock and dishes with a lot of liquid like this Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce. The extra surface area makes it ideal for stove-top use, but the large handles also make it easy to hoist from stove to oven to table.
3. Mini Dutch Oven
These mini cast-iron cocottes are a great way to serve individual portions of shakshuka, fruit crisp or braised greens. The enameled cast-iron sides and the mini lids keep the food warm on the table. Plus, the 1-cup capacity is the perfect single serving. Try them out with this silky Mac and Cheese with Cracker Crumble.
Staub Cast-Iron Mini Round Cocotte Set of 3, $200 at williams-sonoma.com
4. Oval Dutch Oven
An oval-shaped Dutch Oven is best for dishes that cook in the oven since it does not have as much surface area as a round enameled casserole. We suggest using it for roasting chickens or oblong roasts like this braised Brisket with Apricots and Prunes. Our pick is the 6 3/4-quart oval baker from Great Jones. This Dutch oven is stylish, just the right size for a dinner for 4 people and does not break the bank.
The Dutchess, $145 at greatjones.com
5. Shallow Dutch Oven
Because braising requires less liquid than stewing, a shallow braiser has lower sides than a standard Dutch oven. The tight-fitting lid has the same effect as that of a larger cast-iron pot, keeping all of the steam and moisture inside and making the food inside extra tender. We love this stylish matte black braiser from Staub because it has a chip-resistant enamel coating and looks so elegant on the table. Try it out with this cozy winter recipe for Braised Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Porcini and Dried Cherries.