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Ask any seasoned cook and they’ll tell you a Dutch oven is an irreplaceable tool in the kitchen. It makes the best stews and pot roasts, transitions from burner to oven seamlessly, will last for years with proper care and looks damn fine sitting on your stovetop.

But considering this pot can cost you a pretty penny (and by that we mean anywhere from $50 to $500), it’s worth doing some research to find the right one for you and your kitchen. Lucky for you, we did the hard work ahead of time to find the 10 best Dutch ovens currently on the market.

What exactly is a Dutch oven, anyway?

You might think of a Dutch oven as just a pretty (and very heavy) saucepan, but that’s not the full story. Technically, a Dutch oven is a thick-walled pot with a tight-fitting lid. It’s usually made from seasoned or enameled cast iron but can also be made from cast aluminum or ceramic, too.

Dutch ovens have been around in some form or another for hundreds of years. According to The Most Powerful Idea in the World, in 17th century Europe, they were made from brass and much more expensive. Once the Dutch method of making molds from sand was applied to cast iron (a cheaper material than brass), the Dutch oven as we know it in the U.S. was born.

Also worth noting: They’re called cocottes in France and casseroles in other English-speaking countries. The Dutch actually use something called a braadpan, which is made of enameled steel, more often than they use Dutch ovens.

What is a Dutch oven good for?

The Dutch oven’s thick walls and heavy, tight-fitting lid aren’t just for looks. They’re essential for low, slow heat transfer with minimal evaporation. This makes the Dutch oven ideal for tender, juicy stews, braises and roasts. And those tall, wide sides retain heat and contain splatters, which translates to easy stovetop browning of meats and veggies. (You can also use it to deep fry and even bake bread, since it retains heat and holds temperatures so well.)

As long as the lid handle is heat-safe (or removeable), a Dutch oven makes easy work of stovetop-to-oven recipes. And if the inside surface is enameled, it can do double-duty as a nonstick cooking surface.

Since Dutch ovens are usually pretty large, you might think they’re a fine substitute for a stockpot or pasta pot, but not so fast. That thick, heavy-duty cast iron might hold onto a ton of heat, but it takes a long time to heat up in the first place. Stick to a thinner pot for boiling large amounts of water or pasta, and reserve your skillets for quick sautés.

Factors to consider when choosing a Dutch oven:

Shape: A round Dutch oven is the most versatile and easy to work with, since it fits over one stove burner and heats evenly across the surface of the pot. An oval Dutch oven can be finicky when it comes to heat distribution (since it doesn’t fit neatly over a burner), but it can hold a lot more food. Also, check out the sides: Are they straight or sloped? Sloped sides means less surface area for browning, but it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker.

Size: A five-quart Dutch oven is probably the most useful and versatile size for everyday cooking, but other capacities have their merits too. Cooking for one or two most nights? Opt for a smaller size, such as three or four quarts. Feeding a crowd? Choose a larger capacity, closer seven or eight quarts.

Weight: The heavier the Dutch oven, the better it will retain and maintain heat. Lightweight options tend to be lower quality and can develop hot spots that scorch your food. A sturdy, high-quality Dutch oven will typically weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds.

Color: No, we don’t mean orange versus blue versus the limited-edition seasonal color. We mean the inside color. Light-colored surfaces make it easy to see browning and caramelization (and therefore avoid burning), but darker surfaces won’t show stains.

Finish: Enamel finishes are very nonstick but can chip if you’re aggressive with cooking utensils. Non-enameled surfaces require more maintenance but won’t chip or show stains over time.

How to care for a Dutch oven:

So you’ve just splurged on a gorgeous Dutch oven. Now you want to take care of it so it lasts longer than you do. (Kidding. Kind of. They’re pretty damn durable.)

Rule no. 1: Do not put your Dutch oven in the dishwasher under any circumstances. Even if it’s enameled and especially if it’s not. Over time, the dishwasher will wear away the enamel coating and, for raw cast iron, will cause it to rust. The best way to clean a Dutch oven is with hot water, soap and a little elbow grease. (Stubborn marks can usually be lightened with a mild abrasive cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend.)

Rule no. 2: When cooking with a Dutch oven, it’s best to skip metal utensils in favor of wooden or plastic ones to avoid chipping or scratching the enamel or seasoning. And since enamel is like glass, it does have the potential to crack if subjected to extreme temperature changes (so don’t preheat an empty Dutch oven in your oven or use extremely high heat on the stovetop).

And if you’re working with a non-enameled Dutch oven, treat it like you would a cast-iron skillet, seasoning regularly and avoiding long sudsy soaks.

The 10 best Dutch ovens of 2020, at a glance:

  1. Best Overall Dutch Oven: Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Dutch Oven
  2. Best Splurge Dutch Oven: Le Creuset 5.5-Quart Enameled Round Dutch Oven
  3. Best Oval Dutch Oven: Great Jones The Dutchess Dutch Oven
  4. Best Nonstick Dutch Oven: Caraway Home Dutch Oven
  5. Best Non-Enameled Dutch Oven: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven
  6. Best Budget Dutch Oven: Target Threshold 5-Quart Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven
  7. Best Small-Capacity Dutch Oven: Staub 3.75-Quart Essential Oven
  8. Best Lightweight Dutch Oven: Dansk Kobenstyle 4-Quart Casserole
  9. Best Dutch Oven for Camping: Lodge 8-Quart Deep Camp Dutch Oven
  10. Prettiest Dutch Oven: Milo by Kana 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven

RELATED: 20 Dutch Oven Chicken Recipes That Pretty Much Make Themselves

Amazon

1. Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Dutch Oven

Best Overall Dutch Oven

This Dutch oven performs just as well as—if not better than—competitors, at a fraction of the price tag, and that’s why we think it’s the best Dutch oven overall. While not available in quite the spectrum of hues of a Le Creuset, it comes in a decent amount of colors and features a similar cream-colored interior for easy browning. It’s oven-safe up to 500°F, including the knob, and can be used on all types of stovetops, including induction. (It also comes with a lifetime warranty and consistently has stellar reviews on Amazon.) Lodge claims it’s dishwasher safe, though we would stick to handwashing.

$89 at Amazon

Sur La Table

2. Le Creuset Signature Enameled 5.5-Quart Round Dutch Oven

Best Splurge Dutch Oven

Fortunately for you and unfortunately for your wallet, the most talked-about Dutch oven really is worth the money. While the French brand offers a full selection of sizes, the 5.5-quart round Dutch oven is the most versatile by far. It’s large enough to feed a crowd but not so big that it’s cumbersome to move or store, and like the Lodge, is safe at temperatures up to 500°F including the knob. You won’t find as many colors to choose from with another brand, either. To make the price more palatable, consider it a lifelong investment.

Buy it ($360)

Great Jones

3. Great Jones The Dutchess Dutch Oven

Best Oval Dutch Oven

If you have extremely hungry mouths to feed or really love to roast an entire chicken, this 6.75-quart oval Dutch oven can do those jobs and more. It comes with the requisite 500°F temperature limit and works on all types of burners. The unique gray interior still allows you to keep an eye on browning but is less likely to hold onto stains like a cream interior. Unlike most on the market, the finish is a modern matte, and it comes in a selection of permanent and limited-edition Instagram friendly colors. Great Jones also claims this one is dishwasher safe, but you remember our rule. (Wink, wink.)

Buy it ($155)

Caraway Home

4. Caraway Home Dutch Oven

Best Nonstick Dutch Oven

Sure, enamel is non-stick, but it’s not the slickest surface out there. This ceramic-coated number, on the other hand, is slippery enough to fry an egg with no oil. Oh yeah, and it can do all the work of a traditional Dutch oven too. Think of it as a hybrid between a Dutch oven and a nonstick skillet. It has the high sides and tight-fitting lid that retain heat for stews and slow roasts, but the aluminum core means it heats up in record time. It’s also oven-safe up to 550°F and free of toxic coatings like Teflon.

Buy it ($125)

Amazon

5. Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven

Best Non-Enameled Dutch Oven

Truth be told, we prefer an enamel-finish on our Dutch ovens. But if you like a rustic look, use your Dutch oven for frequent high-heat applications or just can’t be bothered with stains, this non-enameled option is your best bet. It has all the perks of the enameled Lodge Dutch oven, with the added benefit of a lid that converts into a skillet and a seasoned surface that gets better with age. (It’s also extremely affordable. Just saying.)

$50 at Amazon

Target

6. Target Threshold 5-Quart Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven

Best Budget Dutch Oven

So you have Le Creuset taste on a Target budget. No big deal, because Target’s Dutch oven is actually top-notch. In fact, this editor had hers for five years before noticing signs of wear. The 5-quart size is heavy, sturdy and finished in a glossy enamel that looks a lot more pricy than it is, and the lighter interior makes for effortless caramelization. The only caveats? Target doesn’t specify that this model is oven-safe, so take care when working with super high temps and maybe don’t stick the knob in the oven; we’ve noticing some discoloration to our red enamel after using it to bake bread at 400°F.

Buy it ($50)

Sur la Table

7. Staub 3.75-Quart Essential Oven

Best Small-Capacity Dutch Oven

Sometimes you need to make enough food for eight plus leftovers, and sometimes you just want to make a dinner for two. This Staub Dutch oven is slightly smaller than our other picks—just large enough to braise three or four small chicken thighs—which is ideal for smaller spaces or meals. Unlike the common cream interior, the black interior won’t show stains, and the metal knob makes it stove-to-oven compatible. Our favorite feature, however, is the textured interior lid. It’s cast with small bumps, which catch steam and allow it drip back into the dish for moist, juicy final results.

Buy it ($457; $200)

Sur la Table

8. Dansk Kobenstyle 4-Quart Casserole

Best Lightweight Dutch Oven

This Dansk casserole will appeal to two camps: Those who don’t want to haul a 15-pound pot in and out of their cabinets, and those who are obsessed with mid-century design. We like it because the enameled steel is lighter than cast iron, but just as easy to clean as a traditional Dutch oven, and the uniquely shaped handles are easy to grab and transport. The nifty lid doubles as a trivet, it comes in a range of colors and it’s relatively affordable, too.

Buy it ($165)

Amazon

9. Lodge 8-Quart Deep Camp Dutch Oven

Best Dutch Oven for Camping

You can’t spend a weekend in the great outdoors and live on s’mores alone (believe us, we’ve tried). This Dutch oven was designed specifically to withstand the rigors of camp-style cooking, so go ahead and nestle it straight in the fire. The tripod-style legs keep it secure in those hot coals, and the lid is slightly concave, so you can place coals on top for more even cooking. A thick handle makes removal from the fire safe and easy, and the non-enameled cast iron will develop an attractive patina the more you use it.

$90 at Amazon

Verishop

10. Milo by Kana 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven

Prettiest Dutch Oven

She’s a looker but she’s also a cooker. (Heh.) This Dutch oven is similar to others we love, but the gold knob and lacquered finish give off an air of elegance that’s hard to resist. Oven safe up to 500°F, it can handle braises, stews, bread-baking and roasts just as well as the rest…plus you’ll want to snap a photo for the ’Gram when you’re done. Even better, it looks as good as any top-of-the-line Dutch oven at a much more appealing price.

Buy it ($135)

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