Posted on January 10 2022
Ever wondered why you should add a Dutch oven to your set of cooking tools?
Dutch ovens and their versatile nature make it the chef’s choice for baking, browning, roasting, searing, broiling, and deep-frying. Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, seasoned or enameled, and weigh between 11 to 20 pounds with a tight-fitting lid to hold moisture. Can be used on gas, electric, halogen, and induction.
Essentially a Dutch oven is a heavy-duty cooking pot with a lid. You can use a Dutch oven to cook delicious meals in a wide variety of cooking methods: Dutch ovens can sauté, simmer, braise, sear, fry, and even bake food. Not only are Dutch ovens heavy-duty; they are virtually all-purpose.
If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you should rush out to your nearest kitchen supply store—or hop on to Superior online store—and pick one up. A good Dutch oven serves as the most important—and most versatile—cooking vessel in your kitchen. There are so many different uses for Dutch ovens: Dutch ovens are great for both the stovetop and the oven, making them ideal for braising meat; cooking soups, stews, and sauces; boiling water for pasta; frying chicken; and even baking bread.
But for all their good qualities, Dutch ovens are also heavy and cumbersome, and can intimidate the inexperienced. To get the most out of your Dutch oven cooking—and understand how useful a pot it is.
#1 Even Heat Distribution: Dutch ovens heat your recipes from all sides when used in a conventional oven. The even heat distribution eliminates the need to stir for fear that the food will stick to the bottom. Cast iron distributes heat evenly, and it retains heat longer than pans made from other materials like aluminum.
Even cooking throughout the food matters because you don’t want hot or cold spots in the food. This distracts from the flavor, and it can endanger your health if you eat undercooked meat or chicken. Uneven heating can mean one section of the food burns while the other part remains raw and dangerous.
The tight-fitting lid plays an essential role in even heat distribution because it traps the heat inside of the oven. This seals off the oven and ensures that one part of the food isn’t too hot or too cold.
#2: Self Basting Lid: Ever wondered about the spikes on the lid of the Dutch oven? That isn’t there for fashion. It helps with self-basting your recipe so that you don’t have to baste the Thanksgiving turkey yourself every 30 minutes.
I like to use the self-basting lid for better flavor, better browning and juicier food. After the juices evaporate from the pan, the tight lid ensures that the water vapor can’t escape, which sends it to the spikes where it drips off onto the food. This leaves behind the seasonings.
Dutch ovens have self-basting spikes, but you can find this feature on electric roaster ovens too. Using the self-basting lid of the Dutch oven on turkey has a special advantage because this meat has an infamous reputation as being too dry. Cooked wrong, it certainly can be too dry.
#3: Cook Pasta Directly in the Sauce: Dutch ovens cut out the need for the middleman for cooking pasta in boiling water. Instead of boiling water, you will use an intensely-flavored moisture-heavy cooking liquid.
To give you a clear example, you could cook pasta in water, wine, broth, and the liquid from canned tomatoes. What you cook it in depends on the desired flavor profile of your dish.
Expert Tip: The Dutch oven may not cook every sauce well, and marinara and spaghetti sauces fall into the category of what not to cook in a Dutch oven. You may want to avoid tomato-based sauces, in general, because you don’t want sticky residue on your food. Enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens do better for sauces because many sauces have acidic properties.
#4: Dutch Ovens Cook the Best Soups and Stews Expert chefs define a great stew as one with a rich and thick texture. You don’t have to lengthen out a lofty list of ingredients to pull it off. Dutch ovens use the low-and-slow cooking technique to achieve the same richness and texture.
In particular, starchy ingredients in a stew break down and add to the body of the stew. To give you an example of starchy food, cooking down sweet potatoes until it disintegrates will serve as a stew thickener.
Why do stews do so well in Dutch ovens? The heavier weight of the pot lets you simmer the stew and cook it slowly, which results in a deeply flavored stew. Soups cook well in the Dutch oven for the same reason.
The self-basting feature and heavier lid ensure that none of the moisture escapes the oven. It drips right back down into the soup for the maximum flavor. Believe it or not, soups can dry out, and cooking in a Dutch oven prevents this.
Dutch ovens excel at simmering and braising foods, which puts it at the top of the list for cooking soups and stews. Even when you remove the heat source, Dutch ovens retain heat, and you can trust that your soups will remain piping hot for up to 30 minutes after removal.
#6: Cook on the Oven or Stovetop: I like the Dutch oven because it gives me the choice to either cook in the oven or on the stovetop, on a grill or over a fire.. For a stovetop Dutch oven, a rounder choice to fit the burner is usually your best bet. In the oven, choose the oval shape because it can bake loaves of bread better. The oval shape favors larger roasts, whole chickens, whole turkeys, and the leg of lambs.
#7: Make a Tough Meat Cut Tender. We live in times where you have to save money where possible, especially for families. Braising, an act that the Dutch oven does well submerges meat in liquid and covers the top.
Why does a Dutch oven tenderize the meat so well? The collagen and connective tissue help to hold the meat together. When cooked in ongoing moisture, the collagen dissolves into gelatin, which makes the meat more tender.
Expert Tip: Let’s understand the context here, however. Don’t cook a lean and naturally tender sirloin in the Dutch oven because it will ruin the sirloin. You’d find the Dutch oven the perfect choice for tough cuts like beef short ribs, lamb shanks, chicken legs, and lamb shoulders.
You can braise meat easily in a Dutch oven. The hands-off approach will leave you wondering if you did anything. Just add a self-basting lid, and you don’t have to worry about braising.
Pot roasts are another term for braising the meat to make it more forgiving and tender. When you can’t afford the more expensive cuts, this becomes your go-to option
#8: Lasts a Lifetime: You can buy a quality Dutch oven for $50, but the higher end French Dutch ovens command prices from $250 to $350. Lodge ranks as the most coveted brand. While they can cost a pretty penny, you typically only have to buy it once to keep it forever.
Dutch ovens, especially if they use cast iron, have a longstanding reputation for lasting anywhere from 50 to 75 years. You have families who have handed down cast iron through the generations because it lasts so long.
Granted, you can buy a Dutch oven made from ceramic or aluminum, but cast iron remains the crowd favorite. You buy it once and you can trust that it lasts. Choose carefully because how long it lasts depends on the brand and good maintenance.
#9: Use a Steamer Basket: Steaming asparagus or broccoli in the steamer basket works well because of the tight seal on the lid. The vapors can’t escape from the Dutch oven. Utilize the steamer basket to hold the veggies above the main recipe and steam without it turning soggy. Place it over protein and cooking liquid.
Using this trick lets me serve up even the sauciest entree from the same pot while it remains distinct. I can cook two dishes at the same time in the same pot. That saves space and cuts down on the number of dishes needed.
If you want to cook an appetizer or a side dish at the same time, the steamer basket is a must-have tool to add with your Dutch oven.
I love the Dutch oven because it provides me with many cooking options while never lowering the quality of the food. History is also on its side. People have used Dutch ovens for centuries, even to this day, Dutch ovens remain popular, and what sets them apart is that you can get them extremely hot while retaining heat for longer than other pots and pans because of the cast iron in them.