Recently, a friend said her husband returned from a camping trip where he witnessed a couple of Dutch ovens in action and he wanted to get one. She wanted to know what I would recommend. Of course, my answer was, “Well, it depends.”
Before you buy, you need to figure out how much you want to spend, how you’re going to use it, how many you need to feed, and what you want to make? Let’s explore these in more detail.
How Much Do You Want to Spend?
If you have the money, Lodge is probably the best brand on the market. They’ve been making quality cast iron cookware since 1896. Lodge is an American company and still family-owned and operated. For many, Lodge is considered the Cadillac of cast iron.
While much, much younger, Camp Chef is another solid American brand with a vast selection of products, including some great Dutch ovens and skillets. Since 1990, Camp Chef has been designing their products to be rugged and reliable.
There are also a number of other well-made, quality brands out there such as Texsport, Stansport, Bayou, Cajun, Le Creuset, just to name a few. I have 2 Texsport 12-inch deep Dutch ovens that are at least 15 years old and they have served me very well over the years. I have absolutely no complaints.
No matter which brand you go with, Dutch ovens can be expensive, but they are also an investment. If well cared for, your Dutch oven can be handed down to future generations. Imagine someday your grandchildren begging you to teach them how to cook in the Dutch oven.
How Are You Going to Use it?
Style is an important consideration. If you’re going to suspend it over a fire or use it on a conventional stove then your Dutch oven doesn’t need to have feet and will have a flat bottom and a domed lid. These are also known as bean pots. If your plan is to use it as a camp oven with coals on top and bottom, then you should get one with short legs. These have lids that are flatter and flanged (a lip around the rim) so the coals won’t roll off. Some lids also have their own short legs and can double as a griddle, essentially giving you two for the price of one.
How Many Do You Need to Feed?
To feed a family of 4, my 10-inch Dutch oven is great. It has a 4-quart capacity and will feed from 4-7 people so that gives us plenty of extra for seconds and/or leftovers. When I started cooking for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, I picked up the 2 12-inch deep Dutch ovens because we needed to feed 24 girls and 3+ adults. Each Dutch oven has an 8-quart capacity and will feed 16-20 people.
Here is a chart that shows sizes, capacities and servings of Dutch ovens.
What Do You Want to Make?
Cast iron’s ability to withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures make it a common choice for searing or frying, and its excellent heat retention make it a good option for long-cooking stews or braised dishes. Other uses include baking such as cornbread, cobblers and cakes.
Ovens with shallow sides of about 4” are called “bread” ovens and the deeper sided ones are known as “stew” or “meat” ovens. The 12” to 16” regular ovens are excellent for baking pies, cakes, breads, and biscuits or rolls. You can even bake a pizza!
The “deep” ovens can more easily handle turkeys, hens, hams, and even standing rib roasts! They can also handle large batches of soups and stews.
It’s Time to Go Shopping!
Now that you have a good idea of how you want to use your Dutch oven, you can find the one that will work best for you—one that you will be able to legacy to your children. And if you have more than one child then you will need to get more than one Dutch oven; otherwise, they’ll fight over it!