Our Guide to the Best Dutch Ovens

We braised, seared and boiled to find our favorite Dutch ovens.

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August 27, 2019
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Maybe your grandma makes her famous roast in one of these big pots on Sundays, or perhaps you just see lots of recipes calling for a Dutch oven and you're curious. Either way, a Dutch oven is essential for any serious cook. This kitchen workhorse is a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, usually made from enameled cast iron, which you can use on the stove or in the oven — and once you’ve braised a roast or simmered a stew in one, you’ll never look back. We put several to the test to see which ones are worth the investment.

Note: We tested round Dutch ovens, but you may want to consider an oval one, depending on what you plan to use it for. If you’ll use it mostly for soups, stews and standard-sized roasts, a round Dutch oven will suit you. If you plan to roast whole chickens, braise turkey legs or cook other large cuts of meat, an oval shape may work better for you.

Amazon, $115

No big surprise that the company famous for its cast iron skillets has its enameled cast iron Dutch oven game down. We love this Lodge Dutch oven for most people because of its affordability, durability and quality cooking.

It has all the features you want: Oven safe up to 500 degrees F, 6-quart capacity and excellent heat retention. In our tests, the pot got super hot, super fast, and cooked evenly, without hot spots. Pot roast came out tender and luscious, and the pan cleaned up easily. It is dishwasher safe, though handwashing is recommended.

This is a workhorse of a Dutch oven that you can use often and un-gently; it’s tough enough to do the work and the moderate price tag means you won’t feel the need to baby it.

Le Creuset, $350

This is the pot you might think of first when someone says "Dutch oven," and no wonder: The classic, sturdy 5½-quart Le Creuset works brilliantly, looks beautiful and cleans up in a flash. It comes in 24 colors, so there’s something for everyone.

The dome-shaped lid promotes heat and moisture circulation, yielding a perfect pot roast in our test. The pot gets very hot and stays that way, so for jobs like caramelizing onions, it’s a good idea not to walk away. But that also means your food will stay hot on the table (and cold as well; refrigerate a pasta salad in it overnight, then bring it to a barbecue, and your dish will keep it cool).

The manual says you can use the pot at any oven temperature (as long as you have a stainless steel knob; if you have the black phenolic knob, it’s safe up to 500 degrees F), and though the pot is dishwasher safe, the company recommends handwashing.

Williams Sonoma, $340

The modern, straight-sided look of this pot is very appealing aesthetically, as is the dark interior. Plus, the less-than-$350 price tag makes it more likely to appear at your wedding shower than some other expensive ovens. Though the dark interior made it somewhat challenging to see the browned bits on the pot during cleaning, it was a minor hassle in what’s otherwise an excellent Dutch oven.

The company says the interior has traces of quartz, and its somewhat rougher surface makes it good for browning — and in fact, we did get an excellent sear on the roast before braising. It features a self-basting lid, which is also quite heavy (more than 4½ lbs), which the company says helps to seal in moisture during cooking. The nice wide interior held a 4-pound roast easily.

Bonus: You get a free whimsically shaped finial with your purchase, which is fun; we like the pig.

Macy's, $179.99

Like its namesake, this Dutch oven has an elegant exterior while also offering solid cooking chops and toughness. It’s oven safe up to 500 degrees F, and features a ring under the lid that causes the condensation inside the pan to drip back onto the food, essentially basting it. Some of the more expensive models have this feature; here you get it on a moderately priced one. The straight sides and ombre-style color make it especially attractive for serving dishes at the table.

Amazon, $47.73

This would be the perfect Dutch oven to get for your first apartment, when you likely have a roommate that uses your stuff and isn’t as careful as you would like. It does everything you need a Dutch oven to do: cooks evenly, oven safe up to 500 degrees F, and has a self-basting lid. It took longer to boil water in this pot than others, but it cooked a roast perfectly well, and cleaning it was a breeze.

How We Tested

We purchased 10 popular, well-reviewed Dutch ovens. We evaluated their size and weight and any special features they offered (such as the self-basting lids). Then we put them through a series of tests: We heated 8 cups of water in each and noted how long it took to come to a boil. Then we caramelized an onion to find any hot spots and see how easily they came clean from handwashing. Finally, we cooked a 4-pound pot roast in each one, searing the meat on the stove, then braising in the oven. We dishwashed any that claimed to be dishwasher safe and handwashed the rest.

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