Last updated February 2021
If you don't have a Dutch oven, you need to get one ASAP!
Seriously, along with a frying pan and a sheet pan, they are one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you can own, especially if they are of the enameled cast iron variety.
Here, we take a deep look at enameled cast iron Dutch ovens: what they are and what they're used for, why enameled cast iron is best, which are the best buys, and more. Our research and testing gave us three results we think are worth recommending. Plus, we'll provide a brief look at some other brands we researched and tell you what we did and didn't like about them.
Whether you're on a tight budget or have unlimited resources, we'll tell you which Dutch oven is best for you.
Best Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens at a Glance
In the case of enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, there are a lot of brands to choose from in a huge price range: you can spend $30 or more than ten times that. And the question on most people's minds is, "Is the expensive one worth the cost?"
We think the answer is yes, but...you can also find good options for less.
Our testing resulted in three final contenders: le Creuset, Cuisinart Chef's Classic, and the newcomer Marquette Castings, which was a happy surprise to all of our testers.
Le Creuset offers top quality at a premium price, while both Cuisinart and Marquette Castings have the features we thought were most important at a considerably lower price point.
When buying at the lower price, you do risk getting enamel chips--somehow, le Creuset and Staub have perfected their enamel game in a way no other manufacturer has yet been able to do--but these two brands passed all of our tests, and they get stellar reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.
Here's a summary of our top three picks. You can read more detailed reviews below.
- 12 lbs
- Made in France
- Light interior (easy to gauge browning)
- Excellent handles
- Resin lid pull (Signature line has stainless pull)
- Comes in several colors and sizes
- Lifetime warranty.
Best Value: 6 qt. Marquette Casings
- 13.8 lbs
- Light interior (easy to gauge browning)
- Stainless lid pull
- Great handles
- Oven safe to 500F
- Made in China
- Lifetime warranty.
- 17 lbs
- Light interior (easy to gauge browning)
- Stainless lid pull
- Great handles
- Made in China
- Lifetime warranty.
How We Tested
First, we researched several options to weed out brands that didn't meet our criteria. For example, we only tested round ovens and didn't look at oval ones. And we only looked at enameled cast iron; other materials can make nice Dutch ovens, but cast iron is really the best option for how most people use a Dutch oven (more on that in a minute). Other features that resulted in a fail were signs of poor quality (such as chips or cracks in the enamel), design we didn't like (e.g., too thin a lid, uncomfortable handles, bare cast iron rims), uneven heating, or poor user reviews.
We narrowed the field down to 5 Dutch ovens, and tested them by doing stove top dishes (soup), oven dishes (baking bread, braised short ribs), and both stove top and oven dishes (beef stew). Our three picks performed best and were easiest to handle, cook in, and clean.
Below, we give a brief summary of all the brands we tested; if you're interested in another brand, you may find it there. A few of them were even good enough to earn a recommendation, although it didn't quite make the top three.
What Is a Dutch Oven (And What Is It Used For)?
A Dutch oven is simply a deep, short-handled pot with a well-fitting lid:
Dutch ovens come in many different sizes, but for preparing meals for a family, 5.5-7 quarts is ideal; any smaller and you may find it too small for the roast, chicken, or batch of chili you want to make; any bigger, and it can be hard to handle, especially when full of food--cast iron is heavy even when it's empty.
(If you find that you use your Dutch oven frequently, you may want a second, smaller one for side dishes. A 3- or 4-quart size is great for scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese, and countless other delicious sides.)
A Dutch oven is an extremely useful and versatile piece of cookware. One of its primary functions is for braising--that is, stewing browned meat in a closed container with liquid: think short ribs and pot roast. The short handles make it easy to get in and out of the oven, while the snug, heavy lid holds in moisture (and therefore flavor).
It doesn't stop there, though. You can use a Dutch oven for many other tasks, including sautéing (yes, it can function as a frying pan, too, making it ideal for one-pot meals), stock making, soups, stews, chili, as well as making rice and pasta. It's also great for stove top deep frying (especially cast iron Dutch ovens, which won't crash when you add food to the hot oil).
One more truly great use for your Dutch oven is baking bread. The lid holds in steam so your bread gets that wonderful crispy crust. Here's a recipe for one of the easiest and most delicious breads you'll ever taste.
A Dutch oven is so versatile, it may even be more useful than a skillet, depending on how you like to cook.
A Dutch oven is a deep, short-handled pot with a tight fitting lid. It's used for stews, soups, stocks, braising, deep frying, bread baking. It can even function as a deep skillet, making it ideal for one-pot meals.
Why Cast Iron and Why Enamel?
Like all cookware, Dutch ovens are available in many materials, including clad stainless, ceramic, nonstick, and regular cast iron (non-enameled). You may own a clad stainless or nonstick Dutch oven that you got in a set of cookware. But even if you do, you should consider investing in an enameled cast iron one.
Why? Because cast iron is the best material you can use for braising and other low-n'-slow cooking methods, both stove top and oven. The heavy construction and heat retention properties also make it ideal for baking bread, too (you just won't get the crispy crust effect from a pot with a lighter lid).
Why enamel? Enamel is tough as well as easy to keep clean, so it makes the pot lower maintenance than bare cast iron. It's non-reactive, so you never have to worry about rusting or acidic foods reacting with it. Enamel also comes in a lot of colors so it's prettier than bare cast iron, which may or may not be a factor in your purchasing decision (you can set a Dutch oven right on your table and serve from it, so you may prefer a pretty one that matches your decor).
Clad stainless Dutch ovens are great for stove top uses (soups, making stock), but fall short in the braising and baking departments because the lids are too lightweight to hold moisture--and the clad stainless doesn't hang onto heat as well as cast iron, either.
Nonstick fails for its all-around lack of durability, which is an essential feature of a Dutch oven.
Ceramic Dutch ovens hold heat well and have nice heavy lids, but they're fragile--a bad trait for such a heavy pot.
And we already discussed bare cast iron.
That leaves enameled cast iron--the most useful, most versatile, most durable type of Dutch oven you can get. And remember that it also has the best heating properties for what most people use their Dutch ovens for (more on heating in a minute).
Cast iron has the heat retention properties you want in a Dutch oven, while the enameled surface provides a tough, non-reactive surface that won't rust or react with acidic food.
What About Bare Cast Iron Dutch Ovens? (Are They Any Good?)
Bare cast iron Dutch ovens (here's one from Lodge) will last forever, and they're great for many things--the same things you'd use your cast iron skillet for, plus being an excellent choice for outdoor cooking.
However, you may not want to use a bare Dutch oven for braising, which is arguably the best use for a Dutch oven in your kitchen. The liquids used for braising can eat away at the seasoning on bare cast iron Dutch ovens. This isn't dangerous, but it can impart a metallic flavor to your foods--and it can require frequent re-seasoning, which is a pain to do more than once or twice a year.
These days, you don't see very many bare cast iron Dutch ovens in kitchens. They are still popular for outdoor cooking, grills, and campfires, largely because they won't get discolored from flames. But for common kitchen use, enameled Dutch ovens are highly preferable to bare Dutch ovens.
There is one excellent kitchen use for bare cast iron Dutch ovens, and that's baking bread. If you're making artisan breads, a bare Dutch oven is a great choice, because the high heats used can discolor your pretty (expensive) enameled Dutch ovens.
Also, you may be wondering why this isn't the case for skillets; that is, why we recommend enameled Dutch ovens but bare skillets. Here's why: most skillet cooking doesn't involve large amounts of liquid, so there's less concern about the seasoning being eaten away. The high heat/low liquid frying and searing you use a skillet for work very well with bare cast iron.
Enameled cast iron skillets are nice, but not necessary.
What's the Best Dutch Oven for Baking Bread?
Any cast iron Dutch oven will work great for making artisan bread. However, because these breads are baked at very high temperatures--often above 500F--you will get a lot of baked-on stains on your Dutch oven. These are hard to remove and while they don't affect performance, they detract greatly from appearance.
For this reason, a bare cast iron Dutch oven is the best choice for baking bread. If you are into artisan breadmaking, our recommendation is to have a bare cast iron Dutch oven dedicated to bread, and an enameled Dutch oven for everything else (e.g., braising, soups, stews, etc.).
What Should You Look for in an Enameled Dutch Oven?
When buying cookware, there are six categories to consider: heating properties, durability, stability, design, ease of cleaning, and value. We'll look at each of these.
Heating properties are arguably the most important aspect of any cookware you buy. After all, heating is what cookware is for, right? So if it can't do a good job of heating, it doesn't matter how easy it is to handle, how easy it is to wash, or how great it looks.
The physics of heating is complex, but when we test cookware, we look at two main aspects: 1) thermal conductivity, which is how quickly and evenly cookware heats, and 2) heat capacity, which is how well--or how long--cookware hangs onto heat.
For Dutch ovens, the most important of these two is, for most uses, heat capacity: how long it hangs onto heat.
This is because of how Dutch ovens are used. They don't need to be fast and nimble because you use them for long, slow cooking tasks: stocks, stews, braises, soups. For these tasks--especially braising--heat capacity is what matters most. A pot that can hold heat for a long time is going to produce the best results.
Nothing holds heat better than cast iron. While it's not the fastest or the most even heating material--that is, it has mediocre thermal conductivity--it hangs onto heat like nothing else.
(Also, in case you're wondering, the workaround for cast iron's poor thermal conductivity is simple: just allow it to preheat for several minutes before cooking to even out the temperature. If you do this, your cast iron cookware works great even for sautéing and other stove top tasks.)
Clad stainless and aluminum (nonstick) have their place in the kitchen, but for braising, baking, and deep frying, enameled cast iron is the best choice.
Testing: Interestingly, we didn't find a lot of difference in heating among the cast iron Dutch ovens we tested. Even though the pot weights differed considerably, they all heated similarly. If we had to pick a winner, we'd go with le Creuset, which heated the fastest and browned the most evenly--but the results were all very close.
The truth is that there's nothing revolutionary about cast iron; it's basic, in fact. So in choosing a cast iron Dutch oven, heating properties are pretty much a given and unlike other cookware, you don't have to spend more to get great heating properties. Instead, the most important factors for most people are durability, weight, and ease of handling.
Durability is probably the second most important aspect for many cooks. You want your cookware to stand up to hard kitchen use and last for more than a few years.
(Well, if you're a fan of nonstick cookware, then maybe you don't mind replacing pans every few years. But nonstick shouldn't even be in contention for a Dutch oven.)
Cast iron is the most durable cookware material on the market. (Clad stainless is a close second, but nothing can beat cast iron.) A $20 cast iron skillet can last hundreds of years. It can take a beating, it can rust, it can lose its seasoning, and you can restore it to good as new easily. (Moral: if you find a rusty old cast iron skillet in a barn somewhere, take it home and clean it up. It just may become your new favorite pan.)
But you may be wondering: Does the enamel coating make cast iron more durable or less durable?
This is an excellent question, and the answer is both yes and no.
Enamel is basically ground glass baked into a glaze at a high temperature. This makes enamel extremely tough and able to withstand a lot of abuse in the kitchen. However, it isn't quite as durable as cast iron itself, so you do have to take a few precautions with enameled cast iron. For example, don't heat an empty enameled cast iron pot or it can crack. And--unlike bare cast iron--don't use it over a campfire for the same reason.
Also, not all enamels are created equally, and chipping and cracking can occur with regular use. However, if you buy one of our recommended brands, you're unlikely to have these issues. (And all of them have excellent lifetime warranties, too, so you can get replacements if you ever need to.)
One more thing: if your enamel develops tiny hairline cracks, this is normal and won't hurt the pot's performance. Even if it develops chips it's safe to use and will still work just fine, but you may want to replace it (especially if enamel chips are getting into your food).
Testing: Because all cast iron is durable, we mainly tested the enamel coating. le Creuset was the clear winner here, too. It stood up to everything we did to it with no sign of chipping or even cracking.
Some brands came out of the box chipped, earning them an automatic fail. (That may sound unfair, stuff happens, but we chose to weed them out, anyway.) Others couldn't withstand our tests, such as banging the lids down on them and whacking them with stainless utensils. If they chipped from this treatment, they also earned a fail.
Stability is important because you don't want cookware that reacts with food to impart off flavors, and you don't want cookware that rusts or corrodes easily.
Bare cast iron has both issues: it can react with acidic food (especially if not well-seasoned), and it rusts very easily.
An enamel coating solves both of these problems: it makes the cookware extremely stable, so you have no worries about the it reacting with food or rusting if you forget to dry it immediately after washing.
Testing: In testing, we found that all the enameled cast iron had perfect scores in stability. We had no issues with acidic foods, rusting, or any other indications of instability.
Note that some enameled Dutch ovens do have bare cast iron around the rim; this is not a design flaw, but rather a normal part of the construction. If you notice any rusting, just coat the bare rim with a thin layer of cooking oil after washing (preferably high smoke point oil like flax seed, peanut, or avocado oil. Don't use olive oil.)
Design: Size, Shape, Weight, Handles, Overall Aesthetics
Since all enameled cast iron Dutch ovens have similar heating, durability, and stability features, design is probably the most important thing to buy for. Because they're so heavy, you really want to pick one that's easy to handle when it's full of food.
Here are the important design considerations.
Because we're talking about cast iron, weight is an important consideration for most people--more so than with other cookware.
The 5.5 quart le Creuset weighs in at a little over 12 pounds, and that's the lightest Dutch oven we tested. The Marquette Castings pot weighs just under 14 pounds, while the larger (7 quart) Cuisinart weighs just 17 pounds. (Uffda! Does that change your mind about getting the bigger size?)
For comparison, the Staub Dutch oven weighs about 13.5 pounds, the Cuisinart 5 quart weighs about 13 pounds, and the le Creuset 7.25 quart weighs about 13.5 pounds. (We would recommend the le Creuset as the best larger size, but it's almost $400--that's a lot to spend on one pot. However, if you have ergonomic issues, it may be worth it to you.)
If weight is a concern for you, le Cresuet is your best bet in any size. Alternatively, you could buy a 4 quart size, which is lighter yet still roomy enough to prepare meals for two or three people, or side dishs for a crowd.
Note: Here, we're talking about the handles on the pot itself, not the handle pull on the lid (we discuss that next).
Handles are incredibly important because they largely determine how easy a Dutch oven is to maneuver. We were surprised how many we tested had terrible handles: either too small, or impossible to get a good grip on, or just uncomfortable, digging into your hands when lifting the pot off a burner or out of the oven.
Once again, le Creuset wins the category, with big, roomy handles that are easy to grip:
You could fit your fingers all the way around with no problem. The rounded surfaces are comfortable and don't dig into your hand (even when the pot is full of stew).
We also like the handles on the Cuisinart and the Marquette Castings pots. Cuisinart has a design similar to le Creuset, a little more squarish and slightly smaller but still roomy and just as comfortable:
Marquette Castings has good handles too. They are a little on the thin side and without pot holders they can dig into your hand uncomfortably if the pot is full. But they have plenty of room to get a good grip, which is arguably the most important aspect:
Lid Fit and Lid Handle
The two important features of the lid are 1) how tightly it fits the pot, and 2) how easy the handle is to hold.
Lid Fit: Cast iron is heavy, part of what makes it so great for braising. The weight of the lid naturally holds in steam and moisture for minimal evaporation. This is especially important for braising and baking bread (and also why stainless lids don't work very well for these tasks).
We tested lid fit by boiling water and measuring the amount of evaporation. Interestingly, there was a fair amount of variation among different brands. Staub had the least amount of evaporation, while Lodge had the most. le Creuset, Cuisinart, and Marquette Castings were all somewhere in the middle.
In our experience, this is what you want: too much evaporation means dry food and possibly burning and scorching, while too little evaporation means watery, flavorless stews and braises.
If you want the least amount of evaporation, go with Staub. This would be good for baking bread, but we found we didn't like stews and braises as much in the Staub, even compared to much less expensive brands. Since braising is one of the main purposes of a Dutch oven, this is why the Staub didn't make our top three, despite its excellent quality and construction.
Lid Handle: Since the lid isn't as heavy as a full pot, the lid handle isn't quite as important as the pot handles. Having said that, you definitely want something that's easy to grab and hang onto.
We didn't find huge differences among lid handles. Most of them were knobs that were easy to grip, even if the shape was asymmetrical (although we hated the heart-shaped pull on the Ayesha Curry pot). We really liked the Cuisinart knob, which was big and fat and easy to hang onto. The Marquette Castings handle is thinner but still easy to grip. Two of our testers disliked it but the rest thought it was a non-issue.
Stainless vs. Resin Knob: One important note here is that some of the le Creuset pots come with a resin knob and some (the "Signature" series) come with a stainless knob. You might think this is a cost savings decision, but the resin knob is actually so you can lift the lid without a heating pad during stove top cooking. It's oven safe up to 500F, as well, so you don't have to swap it out for a stainless knob. If you want to, though, it will cost you about $20 to do so on Amazon.
Pot Shape and Overall Design
Pot shape may not be as critical as weight and handle design, however, it can make a difference to your cooking.
All of our picks had flat (not curved) sides with a good amount of flat cooking surface. Some pots, like the Lodge shown here, has curved sides that taper towards the bottom, which reduces the amount of flat cooking surface:
The difference is surprisingly large, and can mean having to brown stew meat in two batches or three (or possibly more).
On the other hand, you might like a Dutch oven with curved sides because there are no corners where food can get stuck. It's also easier to stir and whisk in--but since we don't do a lot of whisking in our Dutch ovens, we prefer the larger cooking surface.
There's no right or wrong answer here; it's all about preference. If you like the curved sides, we suggest you go with the Lodge. The price is right, and it's cute, too.
Speaking of cute pots, the only other thing we want to say about overall design is that you should buy a brand that you find attractive. Even something as utilitarian as cookware should be a joy to use, and if you don't think it's pretty, you won't enjoy using it as much.
Color (Both Inside and Outside)
If having a certain color is important to you, your best bet is le Creuset, which has many colors to choose from; 17 at last count, and they add new ones frequently. Staub and Cuisinart also have several colors to choose from, but not as many as le Creuset. Other brands only offer a few colors, including our pick, Marquette Castings, which only comes in red, navy, light blue, and white (which for some reason is on a different Amazon page).
Internal Color: Probably more important is the inside color of the pot. Some pots have a light interior and some have a dark interior, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Light colors are easier to cook in because you can gauge browning and doneness much more easily. However, they show stains and scratches.
Dark colors are harder to gauge cooking in, but they hide stains and scratches.
Ease of Cleaning
While ease of cleaning is important in cookware, we considered this less of a priority for enameled cast iron cookware. Since they are all enamel, the cleaning was similar across the board. Enamel is what we call semi-nonstick: it's not officially considered a nonstick coating, but it's a smooth, slippery surface that cleans up pretty easily. We had no issues with cleaning on any of the brands we tested.
If we had to pick a winner, we'd probably go with Marquette Castings, which had a super high gloss interior finish. But they were all very close in this category. The Signature line from le Creuset was also very high gloss and cleaned up easily.
All well-used Dutch ovens are going to get stains on them eventually. If you want something that camouflages stains, our recommendation is to go with a dark exterior color.
Value and Warranty
There are a few ways to gauge value. You can invest in a top brand like le Creuset that's going to last for decades, in which case your initial investment is high, but your cost-per-year-of-use is low.
Or, you can go with a cheaper brand that still gets good reviews and which may last for decades. In this case, your initial investment is lower, but you're taking a bit of a gamble on how many years of use you'll get out of the pot.
The truth is that no makers besides Staub and le Creuset have figured out their enamel game nearly as well, so if you go with a budget brand, you will probably get chips in the enamel eventually.
You also have to decide how important factors like color, weight, and good handles are to you. If you're willing to sacrifice a little in any of these areas, a budget pick might be the way to go. Remember: The cooking and cleaning performance is similar among all Dutch ovens, so if you pay a premium, you're paying for a lighter pot, a color, handles that are easier to grab, and possibly longer lasting enamel.
If le Creuset isn't in your budget, you will still get many years of use out of our other picks. They are all good quality and you won't regret spending the money on any of them.
Warranty: When considering value, you also have to look at the warranty. We think all enameled cast iron cookware should come with a lifetime warranty because it should all be that durable. If a pot doesn't have at least a 30 year warranty, we suggest you keep looking.
You also want to understand the maker's customer service. Even some that claim to offer lifetime warranties do not honor them very well. You may have to pay to ship a defective item, or you may just get no response at all. This can be especially true for Chinese manufacturers, and even if it's a popular brand name.
You don't have to buy le Creuset or Staub to get good customer service and a company that honors their warranty. There are Chinese makers who provide good service. Just be sure you choose one of those.
All of our picks, including the asterisked ones below in Our Take on Other Brands, provide good customer service. (Others may, too; we just didn't do enough research to recommend them).
If you're looking at a different brand, read the reviews on Amazon to find out if people had any problems with customer service (or otherwise). This is probably the easiest way to figure out if it's a brand you want to invest in or not.
Which Dutch Oven Shape Is Better: Round or Oval?
The best shape is largely a personal preference. We prefer round because it heats more evenly on a stove top burner and for most people, it's easier to store. We also think it's the most versatile choice for most dishes. Round is also a more common shape, and will be available in more colors.
However, if you prefer oval, that's fine, too. There's no right or wrong answer here, and as long as you buy a good quality brand, both round and oval are fine choices.
Is the Le Creuset Signature Model a Better Choice than Their Classic Line?
Le Creuset's Signature line is their newer line, and yes: it has some features that make it better than their Classic line.
Here are the differences:
- Signature lid pull safe up to 500F (whether stainless or resin); Classic lid pull safe to 350F.
- Signature lid pull is also a bit thicker and wider.
- Signature inner enamel is more thermal resistant than Classic, so it won't crack as easily.
- Signature handles are 45% larger than Classic handles.
- Signature lid fits more snugly (this according to le Creuset--we didn't notice much difference).
- Signature has more pronounced grooves in the lid (a purely aesthetic change).
In testing, we also found that the Signature enamel cleaned up more easily than the Classic enamel, though le Creuset doesn't mention this. Signature enamel was the closest to nonstick of any enameled cookware we've ever used.
Classic le Creuset is still a great choice, but you can often find the Signature line for the same price or not a lot more, and we think the upgrades are well worth it.
Our Recommendations: Le Creuset, Cuisinart, Marquette Castings
Our three recommendations have a few things in common, including great handles, light colored interior, and straight sides that maximize the flat cooking surface. le Creuset is a premium brand at a premium price; both Cuisinart and Marquette Castings cost significantly less, but still all the features we like, including a lifetime warranty and a reputation for good customer service.
Le Creuset 5.5 Quart: Lightest Weight, Easiest to Handle
For many people, "le Creuset" is synonymous with "Dutch oven," and there's a good reason for this. Le Creuset has been making Dutch ovens, in France, for almost 100 years now (since 1925). They're made in the original foundry the same way they've always been made, by skilled artisans. Each piece is carefully inspected twice before shipping. Le Creuset's quality control is unsurpassed in the cookware industry.
le Creuset Dutch ovens are as practical as they are high quality. At just 12 pounds, the le Creuset is the lightest Dutch oven we tested. (Their website says they have the lightest product in the industry.) Roomy handles make it easy to grab, carry, and stabilize, even when full of food. (Why don't all Dutch ovens have handles like this??)
The lid is flat, also easy to handle and not bulky (our main complaint about the Staub). It comes with either a resin (yes, plastic) handle or a stainless handle (on the "Signature" model). Or you can upgrade to the stainless knob, which will fit any sized lid. However, unless you are regularly heating the pot to temps of 500F (as you may be if you're baking bread regularly), the resin knob is actually a thoughtful feature: unlike stainless knobs, it stays cool during stove top cooking, so you don't need a heating pad to remove the lid.
We find this very handy.
We also love the light-colored interior, which makes it much easier to see what you're doing than a dark interior. (In fact, all the Dutch ovens we recommend have a light interior for this reason.)
While all cast iron Dutch ovens have good heating properties, the le Creuset was just a little bit better at doing an even sear than the others. The heating was faster and more even (probably because the iron is thinner than found on other brands).
Evaporation was right in the middle of the pack, which is where we wanted it. Too much evaporation can result in dryness or scorching, while too little evaporation can result in watery stews and braises that lack good flavor.
Cleanup was easy, too. Don't expect nonstick easy here, but the enamel is smooth and grime came off with minimal effort.
Overall, this is a great Dutch oven. It has all the features we love with none that we don't. The fact that it comes in so many colors, with a new one introduced every year, is just icing on the cake.
With a 95% positive rating on Amazon, users agree: le Creuset is the best Dutch oven in the industry.
- 12 pounds (lightest of all we tested)
- Light-colored interior makes it easy to tell doneness/browning
- Resin knob that stays cool during stove top cooking
- Roomy handles that make handling easy (the roomiest of all we tested)
- Flat lid that handles and washes up easily (not a lot of nooks and crannies)
- Oven safe to 500F
- Dishwasher safe
- Induction compatible
- Made in France by artisans
- Lifetime warranty
- Available in several sizes and more than a dozen colors.
Le Creuset Pros and Cons
Le Creuset Recommendation
If you can afford it, the le Creuset is the best Dutch oven in the industry. Great minimalist design, lightest weight, easiest to handle, and available in several sizes and colors.
BUY THE LE CREUSET 5.5 QT. DUTCH OVEN NOW ON AMAZON:
Best Value: Marquette Castings 6 Quart Dutch Oven
See it on Amazon (red, light blue navy blue)
See it on Amazon (white)
In all honesty, we're not huge fans of small startup companies. We prefer companies that have been around for awhile and have established themselves as excellent purveyors of their goods, with established reputations and good customer service. When you buy from a new kid on the block, you take your chances.
We made an exception for the Marquette Castings Dutch oven because it's just.that.good. The company has been around since 2016. Most of their products get stellar reviews on Amazon.
Interestingly, their enameled cast iron is as affordable as their bare cast iron skillets are expensive. This is because they use a special casting process for the bare cast iron that results in extremely smooth and lightweight products (so if you can afford it, they're probably worth 5-10 times more than Lodge products, which is what they cost).
They don't need to use this special casting for the Dutch oven because it's coated with enamel (so smooth cast iron isn't important). Thus, the price is extremely approachable: at about $90 for a 6 quart Dutch oven, the price easily competes with other budget brands.
It's okay that it's made in China, as this is what you can expect at this price.
We liked everything about this Dutch oven, except for a few small glitches like the skinny handles and lid knob (and judging by reviews, we weren't the only ones who disliked the lid knob). But performance was excellent, cleanup was easy (the super high gloss interior almost felt like a nonstick surface), and it was easy to handle.
A note to induction users: If you have an induction cooktop, this Dutch oven is designed with a totally flat bottom to maximize induction. You may not notice a difference in how you cook, but the efficient design will probably save you a few bucks on your electric bill over time.
They'll be adding new colors and sizes, too; there's now a lovely white available, and you can get it in the 4 quart size, too.
With all the fervor for artisan cast iron now, we think Marquette Castings will be around for a long time.
- 13.5 pounds
- Light-colored interior makes it easy to tell doneness/browning
- Stainless lid handle
- Roomy pot handles that make handling easy
- Flat lid that handles and washes up easily (not a lot of nooks and crannies)
- Oven safe to 500F
- Very flat bottom ideal for induction
- Made in China
- Lifetime warranty.
Marquette Castings Pros and Cons
Marquette Castings Recommendation
If you're willing to take a chance on a small startup, this Marquette Castings Dutch oven is really nice (and reviewers are happy with the customer service). It has all the features we like and none that we don't. At around $90, this 6 quart Dutch oven is a great deal.
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Best Large Size: Cuisinart 7 Quart
See it on Amazon (stainless knob)
See it on Amazon (colored knob)
Cuisinart is a brand known for good quality budget cookware. They make one with a stainless lid knob and one with a colored one; the stainless knob model gets slightly better reviews. The color choices are also different, with the stainless knob having several colors to choose from, while the colored knob oven has only three. The plastic knob oven is called the Chef's Classic on Wal-Mart, but not on the Amazon listing.
We liked everything about this Dutch oven, from the thick, sturdy lid pull to the light interior to the squarish shape that provides a lot of flat cooking surface. Yes, it's heavy, but unless you want to spend upwards of $400 for a 7 quart pot, this is a great option. You can sometimes find it on sale for $89 on Amazon--a fabulous deal.
It heated evenly, browned meat nicely, and did a great job on artisan bread. Cleanup was easy, too.
The Amazon pages were a little confusing, with round and oval options on the same page, so be careful which you're on before you click "buy." An oval Dutch oven this large could have problems heating evenly on the stove top, so we suggest you stick with the round.
The number of negative reviews was small, but the vast majority were about chipping enamel; in some cases, before they'd even used the pot. We didn't have any problems at all with chipping during our testing, so we're recommending the pot anyway as a good budget option. Cuisinart has a reputation for good customer service, so if you have any problems, you should be able to get the pot replaced fairly easily.
This Dutch oven is frequently out of stock on Amazon, so check the Wal-Mart page or just keep checking back on Amazon. They'll be back in stock soon.
Also, some colors go on sale more often than others. So if you don't care about the color (or get lucky and it's the color you want), you can often find these on sale for under $100.
- About 17 pounds
- Light interior to gauge browning easily
- Flat lid that's easy to handle
- Roomy handles and great lid knob
- Comes in several colors
- Available in round and oval shape
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Made in China.
Cuisinart Pros and Cons
Cuisinart is an established brand that's known for good quality budget cookware, and this Dutch oven fits in that category. If you want an extra large Dutch oven but don't want to spend hundreds and don't care if it's a little bit on the heavy side, this is the way to go. You also have your pick of several colors. Once again, we'll remind you that the round and oval Dutch ovens share an Amazon page, so be careful when you buy that you get what you want.
You can go with a smaller Cuisinart oven, too, but they only have a 5 quart, which is a little smaller than the 5.5-6 quart we recommend as the best all-purpose size. If that works for you, the Chef's Classic 5 quart is also a nice Dutch oven (though it comes in only 2 colors, plus a non-enameled option).
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What About Staub Dutch Ovens?
Staub is a premium brand. Like le Creuset, it is made in France and has a lifetime warranty. It comes at a premium price, though not quite as premium as le Creuset.
People love their Staub Dutch ovens (or cocottes, as Staub calls them). And while it performed well in our tests and is certainly a top quality product, we decided against recommending it. It had a few features that we just didn't like, including:
- The dark interior made it harder to gauge browning and doneness.
- The lid is bulky, making it a little harder to handle than other brands
- The lid actually fit too well: Staub had the least amount of evaporation, to the point that our stews and braises didn't concentrate flavors as well as we like them to.
- The knobbly bumps on the underside of the lid are supposed to promote condensation, but we didn't really think they did much of anything except make the lid harder to clean.
- At 13 pounds, it's heavier than the le Creuset (though lighter than some other brands).
Most of our testers also just preferred the aesthetics of the other brands. The Staub just isn't very pretty.
You may disagree with these points. You may want a dark interior because it doesn't stain. And full disclosure, the Staub interior was extremely smooth and cleaned up quite easily. (Or was it just that we couldn't see grime as easily on the black surface?)
You may prefer the tighter lid fit, especially if you're using it for bread. And you may like the smaller handles, particularly if you have small hands. And yes, the quality is excellent.
But overall, we thought that for the layout of cash required for the Staub, there were better options.
If you like the Staub, know that you can get it with cute, animal-shaped handles. It comes in several colors, too, though not as many as le Creuset, and the colors are more muted and earthy rather than bright (again, that may be a plus for you--it's all in your preferences).
Check prices carefully, as certain colors go on sale more often than others (i.e., the red is often cheaper than other colors).
Our Take on Some Other Brands
Of the dozens of brands we started with, here are our thoughts on the others we looked at.
An asterisk (*) indicates a recommendation.
Amazon: At first glance the Amazon Dutch oven looks great, but its reviews got an "F" rating on Fakespot.com, citing insufficient trustworthy reviews and removal of reviews by Amazon. Too bad, because it has a lot going for it: light interior, decent handles, and a budget price. But because of the possibly deceptive reviews, we can't recommend it.
Anolon Vesta: Great reviews, users love it, and Anolon is a good brand--but we hated the handles. 5 qt. weighs only about 9 lbs (very light compared to other Dutch ovens, leaving us wondering if it's actually cast iron).
Ayesha Curry: Nice shape, but hated the irregular (heart) shaped lid handle, and the pot handles were a little too small for a safe grip.
Calphalon Contemporary: Aluminum with nonstick coating (not a contender; aluminum can't hold onto heat the way cast iron does).
Caraway: This Dutch oven only comes in a set, and it's coated with nonstick ceramic, not enamel. People love this brightly colored cookware, but the ceramic nonstick was an instant fail for us as it does not stand the test of time and is nowhere near as durable as enamel. The pot is also probably not cast iron (the writeup was vague--another black mark for us).
Crockpot: Too narrow and deep. However, it comes in a lot of pretty colors, gets mostly good reviews, and is very affordable.
Dansk Kobenstyle: Terrible handles and organized by color on Amazon, making it hard to shop for. Steel, not cast iron.
Emile Henry: Ceramic, not cast iron. Terrible, tiny little handles.
Great Jones: We really disliked this Dutch oven. It comes only in oval and is only one size--6.75 quarts. People love this brand, but we didn't like the oval shape (is just isn't going to heat as evenly as a round one, period), we hated the handles (too thin), and we also disliked the matte colors. Granted, most of our complaints are aesthetic, so if you like the design, it's probably a good quality oven from yet another startup direct-to-consumer brand. And at about $150, it's a decent price for such a large pot. It just feels more like a roaster pan than a Dutch oven (but if that's what you're going for, give this one a try).
Landhaus: Nice pot, but at 4.7 quarts, on the small side, and a pound heavier than the 5.5 qt. le Creuset (at almost 13 lbs). Also not a lot of colors available. Handles are okay but just a little on the small side. Great reviews on Amazon, though.
*Lodge: Very popular economy brand, good quality, but we didn't like the curved, tapered sides, which made for less flat cooking surface. If you don't mind the tapered sides, it's a good economy option with a ton of positive reviews.
Martha Stewart: This brand had a recall a few years back for cracking, but Martha Stewart is back with a new Chinese manufacturer. Its 6 quart size is roomy, the handles are easy to grab, and we like the light interior. But the $200 price tag puts it out of competition with budget brands, and we think it's overpriced for a made-in-China brand. It also weighs almost 2 pounds more than the 5.5 quart le Creuset (though it is only a half quart larger).
*Milo: Milo is a new, direct-to-consumer cookware maker that saves you money by manufacturing in China and avoiding the retailer middle man. Honestly, this was a really nice Dutch oven. It was a little heavier than the le Creuset but lighter than many others. It's well designed, with roomy handles and a pretty, minimalist design. Our only complaint about this oven was that the dark colors--so far just black and hunter green--also had a black interior, while the white oven had a white interior. If they had all had a light-colored interior, this could have made our top three. But if you don't mind the dark interior, this is a good budget option.
Puricon: Good reviews, but we hated the too-thick handles and were concerned by some comments that it arrived damaged and chipped easily.
Rachel Ray: Oval, only one color (powder blue).
*Staub: A top notch brand made in France and similar to le Creuset. We didn't like the black interior (though it doesn't show stains, less, so you might), and we didn't like the bulky lid. It also held in too much moisture--this resulted in watery-tasting stews and braises. However, if you like the dark interior and want a super tight-fitting lid (great for bread making, for example), Staub is super high quality.
Tramontina: Much as we like Tramontina products--they produce some of the highest quality Chinese-made stainless steel cookware--this Dutch oven got a "D" rating in Fakespot, which said there were too many deceptive reviews. That doesn't necessarily mean that Tramontina is engaging in shady practices (we doubt they are), it just means that the reviews may not be trustworthy. We liked this oven: it's lightweight (the 5.5 quart size weighed just under 12 lbs), has roomy handles, and has a lot of flat cooking surface. Not to mention the affordable price. Going with Tramontina is rarely a mistake, but we can't recommend this one. We'll check back with Fakespot to see if this changes, but as of now (early 2021), this is a "no."
Uno Casa: Good shape, nice handles, great reviews. A contender for best economy option, though we prefer a light interior (this has a black interior).
Vremi: Great price, good design with lots of flat cooking surface, but we hated the squarish, too-small, uncomfortable handles. It also has a resin lid knob that is nowhere near as durable as the one on the le Creuset Dutch oven, and is also a little small to allow for a secure grip. It's also pretty heavy. This oven gets stellar reviews, people love it, it has the light interior we like, but the handles made it a "no" for us.
A Dutch oven is a must-have kitchen tool for any serious cook, and probably even for those not-so-serious. The cooking and cleaning performance is similar among all Dutch ovens, so if you pay a premium, you're paying for a lighter pot, a color, handles that are easier to grab, and probably longer lasting enamel.
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