How to Use a Dutch Oven
This article should have been written a long time ago because our Dutch oven is by far the most used pot in our kitchen. I am yet to find something that cannot be cooked in a Dutch oven. Since the outside is made of cast iron, you immediately gain several great attributes:
superb heat distribution and retention
cooking method versatility
The inside surface is enamel which alleviates the need for seasoning like traditional cast iron cookware. With a 6-quart capacity, convenient handles, and a lid you’ve got yourself a cooking workhorse.
The geometry of the pot – wide base with tall sides and a domed lid – allows for the versatility in the kitchen. Sauté the vegetables before pouring in the stock, brown ground meat before adding crushed tomatoes and making a spaghetti sauce, or simply sear a steak.
One of the greatest benefits of cooking in a Dutch oven is the ability to start cooking on the stove top and finish in the oven. The handles and lid are safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit which is more than enough for everyday cooking. And because it’s cast iron, it’s virtually indestructible.
If you take a look at the Recipes page, you will see that Silky Smooth Rice Pudding, Roast Duck with Red Cabbage and Potato Dumplings, and All-curing Sopa de Ajo are all cooked in the Dutch oven. And recipes I have not yet posted include chicken noodle soup and a crusty country style loaf of bread. I also need to find an excuse to make some fried chicken to use the Dutch oven as the frying vessel. Some of those recipes were cooked on the stovetop and some in the oven and in all cases, the Dutch oven delivered excellent results.
The biggest downside of the cast iron Dutch oven by far is its weight. There is no shortcut when it comes to cast iron. With a 6 quart capacity and a beefy lid, you’ve got yourself one behemoth of a pot. But hey, you can work on your arm muscles when you are moving the Dutch oven around. In terms of care, even though you could put it through the dishwasher, I would advise against it. The enamel coating can chip and peel which would reduce its usability. Much like regular cast iron cookware, it's easiest to wash the Dutch oven while it’s still a little warm after cooking. Soft sponge and dish soap should do the trick – avoid any abrasive pads that could scratch the enamel coating. The same goes for the use of metal utensils. If you need to ladle the soup or stew it’s okay to use a metal ladle, but avoid excessive contact with the inside of the Dutch oven.
In terms of price, we have the Lodge brand which is one of the cheapest ones on the market and are completely satisfied with it. I have never had any of the fancy brands like Le Creuset or Staub, but I can’t imagine that cooking with those can justify spending the extra $300.
The bottom line is that a cast iron Dutch oven is extremely useful in the kitchen and everyone should have one!