Learning to Cook · Miss Mary

Learning to Cook, 411 on Dutch Ovens

2016 LTC my DOMy pasta pot was used for all things that needed cooking in a large pot.  I admit it, I thought an expensive Dutch Oven was just too posh for me and I could do all things in another pot.  Then the envy took hold.   Cooking shows would cook in it then pop it in the oven. There it was in all its glory, just its ‘ol porcelain face taunting me every single time I’d watch these shows.

Here’s the scoop, a pasta pot cannot go into the oven because it wasn’t built to withstand that kind of heat, and the one I owned had plastic handles.  I had to get over my pride.  My angel of a sister, Jennifer, came to my rescue and found one for me for Christmas probably 10 years ago.

According to The Science of Good Cooking, when evaluating a Dutch Oven you should be looking for an enameled cast iron or stainless steel pan.  They suggest a 6 qt, I have a 5 and it suits me just fine, thank you.  If  you have a larger family than four, you’ll need a larger size. Make sure you have a tight-fitting lid and really strong sturdy handles.

A Dutch Oven will provide even cooking, depending on your stove top whether it’s gas or electric.  Sometimes your gas burner needs balancing.  A Dutch Oven provides excellent heat retention because the cast iron under base holds the heat.  2016 LTC cuisenart DO mineAn enameled oven will be stick-resistant, but not stain resistant, mine is to the right and you can see the balance problem I have with my gas stove top – I just keep turning the pot.  The pot is unbelievably sturdy and durable; it will last forever.  And hallelujah, it’s ovenproof.

Dutch ovens are perfect for making Beef Burgandy, or as Julia Child would say, Boeuf Bourguignon.  Culinary Director, Daniel Gritzel from Serious Eats, does an excellent instructional post on the making of the dish all using the Dutch Oven.  The technique of cooking the dish is different from Julia’s but he explains why he prefers his method – I like that a lot.  The best part of his post is the discussion of the type of meat to use and why, the cooking method and why.  I’m always conflicted when I go to the meat counter in picking out beef, do I stay healthy or decadent today?

I did not know this, but some of these Dutch Ovens are considered heirloom quality.  WHAT?  I guess so.  Wiki history discusses how George Washington’s mother left her pots to her granddaughter and her grandson.  So which one of my kids wants mine?

The Sweet Home did a study and picked these Dutch Ovens as the best of the best.  Please visit their sight as they do go into depth their testing and reasoning behind their lengthy testing.
2016 Lodge enamled 6qtLodge Dutch Oven, tested to be of equal quality as the heirloom ridiculously high priced Dutch Ovens.  Here’s their evaluation:  “The 6-quart Lodge Color Enamel Dutch Oven is our top pick, because it cooks stews just as well as other Dutch ovens selling for four times the price. The Lodge’s shape works well for most cooking tasks, and the light interior makes it easy to determine browning. It produced one of the best stews, with well-browned meat and a flavorful, concentrated liquid. The enameled interior is easy to clean, and the oven has ample handles that make a big difference when cooking large recipes that may make the oven heavy to carry.”

2016 LTC cuisenart DO 7qtCuisinart 7qt came in second.  This “HUUGE” pot is great for large families.  It will need it’s own shelf, or store in the oven.  Here’s their evaluation:  “…the Cuisinart produced the most ideal stew in our tests. The larger surface area resulted in the highest percentage of evaporation during braising—20.5 percent. That extra concentration made for more flavorful liquid, but the same thing could be accomplished in another Dutch oven by letting it simmer a few minutes longer.”
2016 LTC Le CreusetThe heirloom Le Creuset 5.5 qt Dutch Oven.   Here’s their evaluation:  “In testing, the Le Creuset turned out perfectly caramelized onions, tender rice that didn’t scorch even when purposely overcooked, and a flavorful, concentrated broth with a total evaporation of 13.79 percent. The cooking surface is about a half inch larger than that of the Lodge, which makes searing batches of stew meat easier. And like our top pick, the Le Creuset’s light interior makes it easy to monitor browning.”  They did extol the qualities of this pot as setting the bar for all others.

Just a 411 on cost, Home Goods offers lots of Dutch Ovens under $100.  Their online site does not have them listed, you’ll need to visit their store.  There’s a fun trip!  The Lodge is under $100, the 7qt Cuisinart is $137 at Sears, and the heirloom, pause – just shop around for a better price if you have your heart set on this.  For $300 I can purchase an entire set of pots and pan somewhere.

Lot’s of luck finding your Dutch Oven.  Show me those photos of Daniel Gritzel’s Beef Bourguigon.  I’m dying to make it too.  A little wine for the stew, some for me….




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