Let’s start with the bad news: The best Dutch oven is going to set you back a bit. The good news? There are excellent options at a range of price points, so “a bit” is subjective. If you have your sights set on a glossy, hefty, gloriously serious piece of cookware from Le Creuset or Staub, by all means. After all, the Dutch ovens from these prestige brands are beloved by our test kitchen team for everything from browning and braising meat to gently simmering stock to deep-frying. But a solidly constructed workhorse from Lodge is nothing to sniff at—in fact, we’d recommend it to most home cooks. The heritage American brand makes cast-iron Dutch ovens with enamel finishes that stand up to the top-tier brands in our product tests time and time again. If you’re looking for an option somewhere in between in terms of price point, we’ve got you covered with models from two of our favorite direct-to-consumer brands. Whichever pot you pick, you’ll end up with a beautiful stovetop- and oven-safe piece of cookware that’s sure to become your new best friend in the kitchen.
But before we tackle all things brand and budget, let’s address the two questions you’re probably asking off the bat: Which size and shape should you opt for when buying a Dutch oven?
What size Dutch oven is best?
The ideal size Dutch oven for most people is between 5 and 6 quarts. A 5-quart pot fits a sourdough boule perfectly, and at 5.5-quarts and above, you can fit a standard-size chicken inside to make stock. Smaller than that, and you’re not giving yourself sufficient room to brown meat or enough depth to simmer stock or beans. Worried about sacrificing room in your kitchen cabinets? You’ll be happy to know a 6-quart Dutch oven from Lodge measures just 10.75-inches across in diameter—a way smaller footprint than, say, your pellet ice maker.
What shape should I buy?
As you scroll down, you’ll notice that every one of these best cast-iron Dutch ovens we’re recommending, from the 5-quart through the big boy 7.25-quart, is round. We’ve found that while oval-shaped Dutch ovens are nice for roasting oblong cuts of meat in the oven, they can easily lead to uneven cooking on the stovetop, unless they’re large enough to stretch over two burners. So if you’re choosing only one to purchase, swing for a round Dutch oven to get the most out of your shiny new cookware.
The Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Dutch Oven: Lodge
The 6-quart Lodge enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is our top pick for the majority of home cooks. The sturdy loop handles are wide enough to grip even while wearing clunky oven mitts, and the pot itself has the ideal bottom-to-side ratio: roomy enough for browning meat, with sides high enough to contain sauce splashes and soup. The sloped edges along the base mean you can get to the very corners of the pot with a silicone spatula. It’s heavy, of course, but not atrociously so compared to other brands we’ve tested.
But the best thing about the Lodge Dutch oven? The price tag. Eighty bucks will get you a well-made piece of cast-iron cookware that lasts and lasts. That enamel coating is durable enough to stand up to plenty of scrubbing. It doesn’t chip or fade, nor does it go gritty. In fact, a well-cared for Lodge Dutch oven can almost work as a nonstick pan for years. —L.J.
The Best Mid-Price Dutch Ovens: Misen & Milo
You might be familiar with Misen knives (its bread knife is a favorite), but the DTC company makes cookware as well. Their Dutch oven is durable, well made, and reasonably priced. While the sides of a Le Creuset or Lodge Dutch oven meet the bottom at a gentle slope, Misen’s base is more angular, which frees up surface area for browning but does make it a tad tricker to get into the corners with a spoon or spatula. The high sides contain grease splatters better than competitors, and the generously sized, squared-off handles mean you don’t have to worry about a heavy pot of stew slipping from your grip. Choose between a regular lid and one that doubles as a grill pan—a cool feature, but tricky to remove from the pot when hot. Misen’s Dutch oven only comes in a 7-quart feed-a-crowd size, so if you’d prefer a smaller (or lighter—it clocks in at around 17 pounds with the lid) cast-iron pot, look elsewhere. —MacKenzie Chung Fegan, senior commerce editor
The chic, modern Milo by Kana Classic Dutch oven is not your granny’s cookware, but it performs just as well. With a minimalist feel, this simple enameled cast-iron Dutch oven comes in rich hues like navy and emerald. Both of those colorways, plus the matte black, sport a dark enamel interior like Staub pots; opt for the white Milo if you want light-colored enamel coating like a Le Creuset. The Milo Dutch oven is made of 40% recycled cast iron, and weighs in at 10.5 pounds—lighter than many of the others listed here. This is the type of cookware you store on open shelving for everyone to see. —Tiffany Hopkins, commerce writer
The Best Dutch Ovens Money Can Buy: Le Creuset and Staub
Into the idea of owning a piece of cookware that’ll last for generations to come? Le Creuset’s iconic Dutch (French?) ovens are genuine heirloom pieces. I’ve had mine for over a decade, my mom has had hers for 40, and I know lucky folks using Le Creusets that have been passed down from grandparents. Le Creuset Dutch ovens are more lightweight than competitors—which is key if you have an enormous family and are in the market for a 13.25 quart pot—and come with a lifetime warranty (most of the others mentioned here do, too, but Le Creuset’s is famously generous). We use them side by side with Staubs in the Bon Appétit test kitchen. The downside is, of course, the price—which is partly due to the quality and partly due to the fact that these things are still made in France, where the cost of labor is high. If you don’t have a Dutch oven and a $350 pot is not in the cards, get yourself a Misen, Lodge, or Milo and upgrade when you’re ready. Le Creusets are built to last, and no doubt when I’m 80, I’ll be using mine to stew prunes. —M.C.F.
Staub cast iron Dutch ovens (or cocottes, as the brand calls them) are another high-quality fan favorite among home cooks and chefs alike—including the BA food editors who use them in the test kitchen. Unlike the Lodge and Le Creuset, the Staub Dutch oven has a matte black enamel cooking surface with traces of quartz. This means that, unlike pots with light-colored enamel, you won’t have to worry about discoloration. That dark enamel also provides extra heat conduction for better browning—ideal for searing meat and caramelizing veggies. It does, however, make it more difficult to assess if you’re a minute away from burning that nice fond. The Staub Dutch oven also has a heavy-duty, tight-fitting lid that’s equipped with little bumps along the underside to guide all the evaporated juices back down onto the food, so you can expect less evaporation than you’d get with a Le Creuset. Staubs are still investment pieces, but they’re a little less expensive than the other French guy, and you can find good sales if you keep an eye out. —T.H.
The Best Dutch Oven for Big Families and Batch Cooking: Le Creuset 7.25-Quart
I’ve been a 5.5-quart gal for the last decade. But this year I decided I wouldn’t stuff the entire contents of my freezer stock bag into a too-small pot again: I’ve upgraded to a 7.25-quart enameled cast-iron pot. This option from Le Creuset is the ideal size for people who love to make soup, stocks, or big-batch beans, or those cooking for a big group. One thing to note: This Dutch oven is heavy. At 13.1-pounds, I need both hands and a deep breath to lift it from stovetop to oven when it’s full. But, once I get it there, I’m set up to make 6–8 servings of any one-pot meal, or enough stock for nearly a month of cold winter cooking. If large quantity cooking is your thing but spending upwards of $400 isn’t, the slightly smaller (and heavier) Misen mentioned above may be the option for you. —L.J.
Okay, I’m sold. Now what should I make in my new Dutch oven?
Use your Dutch oven to make tender, gently simmered meaty things like these red wine-braised short ribs, or this rich pomegranate lamb shank stunner. Or pot roast—after all, you need a pot to make pot roast! An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is perfect for braises because of its heft, which helps with heat retention and distribution. It’s ideal for searing meat over high heat on the stovetop and then transferring it to the oven for low-and-slow cooking. Plus, it doubles as a serving vessel—that’s functionality and versatility. You’ll wonder how you ever got through these miserable winter months without one.
We all (now) know that the key to glossy, better-than-restaurant pasta is adding starchy-salty pasta water to your sauce and then letting your noodles finish cooking right in there so they soak up all that sweet, sweet ambrosia. I used to attempt that in a regular old stainless-steel frying pan, and the pasta would always fly everywhere. That’s where the Dutch oven comes in—it’s the only vessel in my kitchen that will easily fit a pound of pasta, plus whatever I’m doctoring it up with. Sauté a bunch of garlic in plenty of olive oil, throw some cooked pasta in there along with pasta water and a good knob of butter, stir it all around vigorously, and you’ll be sold on this whole Dutch oven thing after one bite.
Deep Fried Things
A Dutch oven is an ideal vessel for deep frying because of its size and high sides—you can fit a lot in it without overcrowding, and you’ll minimize risk of coming into contact with any searing-hot oil splatters. Might we suggest these cardamom cream-filled doughnuts, or a batch of chicken and waffles?
Use your new Dutch oven to make soups. A lot of soup. After all, why would you ever make a small amount of soup? Aside from being the easiest (and tastiest) way to feed a crowd, it’s also perfect fodder for your freezer—consider a big batch of soup a gift to your future self. You can thank present-day you later.
Use your Dutch oven to bake bread. One day, anyway. It’s on your list. Dutch ovens are actually the perfect bread baking vessels, because they can be preheated in a crazy-hot oven, their lids help trap valuable steam, and the even heat distribution they provide will hit your loaf from all sides. The result? Puffy, crackly-crusted loaves of whatever bread floats your boat, from no-knead to hearty multigrain.
But maybe the best part about owning a Dutch oven? You can cook and then serve things in it, straight from the oven to the table—it’s just that pretty.
But wait, how do you clean a Dutch oven?
While some Dutch ovens are labeled dishwasher-safe, we recommend hand washing for peak longevity. Because they’re practically nonstick, you should be able to clean them with just a bit of (gentle) scrubbing. Use a sprinkle of Bar Keepers Friend if you’ve managed to scorch the bottom—just make sure you’re not using something abrasive enough to damage that beautiful enamel. For more on how best to clean your Dutch oven, read our piece here or check out the video below.