How to Choose the Best Cast Iron Dutch Oven

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Cast iron Dutch ovens are a classic kitchen staple. If you don’t have one, then you’re missing out on what this sort of pot can do for your daily meals!

A Dutch oven is the original slow cooker, and it’s also great for a variety of unexpected things, like baking bread.

Cast iron lasts just about forever, so don’t go cheap on your Dutch oven selection. Pick something that you’ll use and enjoy for decades and possibly generations.

Although there are a surprising number of factors to consider when choosing a cast iron Dutch oven, there are only two main types: bare cast iron and enameled cast iron. Neither one is really better than the other. S

tart by picking which type you prefer, and then consider the following aspects when selecting a particular Dutch oven.

ProductGlazeHandlesLidLegs
#1. Lodge, Double
Our Best Pick

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NoneTwo integrated side and lid handlesDoubles as a skilletNo
#2. Utopia

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Enameled, blackTwo Side handlesSelf-sealing, loop handleNo
#3. Lodge, Enameled

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Enameled, various colorsTwo Side handlesKnob handleNo
#4. Lodge, Dual Handles

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NoneTwo Side handlesSelf-basting domed, loop handleNo
#5. Lodge, Deep Camp

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NoneSingle wire bail handleFlat, converts to griddleYes

Criteria for choosing

  • Tight lid. You don’t want the liquid inside to evaporate. You want it to keep on cooking inside the Dutch oven! Make sure that whatever pot you pick has a tight lid. Cheaper Dutch ovens are more likely to have a loose-fitting lid, so it’s a good idea to spend a little more if you can ensure that your lid fit is correct. Otherwise, you’ll never get optimal use from your pot.
  • Size in quarts or number of people it can feed. Dutch ovens come in all shapes and sizes. The right size for you depends on how many people you plan to entertain at a time. Do you just want to feed your family each night, or are you throwing large dinner parties regularly? Choose accordingly. A Dutch oven as small as four quarts will feed up to twelve people, but It’s best to err on the side of extra servings (and leftovers). Of course, total amount of people a cast iron Dutch oven can feed depends on what you are cooking and how much your family or guests will eat.
  • Loop Handles. It is important to select a cast iron Dutch oven with loop handles, particularly if you are using it in your oven or on your stovetop. Cast iron is heavy, and Dutch ovens are big, so you need something you can easily grip when you’re moving a full, weighty pot of food from place to place. Safety first! If you’re getting a Dutch oven for camping, however, a wire handle is ideal.
  • Seasoning. Cast iron seasoning is a thin layer of polymerized oil. A pre-seasoned pan is best, because seasoning is a tough job. Although you should still season a pre-seasoned pan as soon as you get it home, it won’t be as hard of work.Vintage pans have the best seasoning, since they were made to last. The nonstick quality is superior in very old cast iron pans. If you hate seasoning your pot, an enameled Dutch oven is probably best for you, since bare cast iron pots have to be seasoned more often and with greater care.
  • Material: enamel or pure cast iron. The two main types of cast iron Dutch ovens are bare cast iron and enameled cast iron. Which is better? That’s hard to say. This is really up to you. Enameled will not rust as easily, and bare cast iron has to be seasoned more often. However, enameled tends to cause food to stick more often. Enameled is better for acidic foods (like tomato paste), and it will not hold the flavors of last night’s dinner. Overall, enameled cast iron is better when it comes to Dutch ovens, but bare cast iron works nearly as well.
  • Size of bottom, height and top. You definitely want to get a Dutch oven with a wide base, since this will also make it easier to lift and fit in your oven. Remember, cast iron is heavy! Think about how much you can lift, because pots are a lot heavier when they are full. Another thing to consider is how wide your burners are. If your burners are small, it will take a long time to heat up a big pot. Match the base size of your Dutch oven to the size of your burner. As far as height goes, think about how much space you have in your oven and your cabinets. It needs to be able to fit comfortably.
  • Can you use it on ceramic top or glass burners, induction cooktops. Glass burners and ceramic tops can handle heavy items, but be careful not to scratch them or crack them with careless handling. Cast iron is both hard and heavy, so gentle use on glass burners is recommended. Induction cooktops are also fine for cast iron Dutch ovens. Just be careful to handle the Dutch oven properly and avoid damaging cooking surfaces.
  • Will it work with open fire or charcoal grill? If you’re looking for a Dutch oven to use on camping trips or for backyard cookouts, cast iron is your best option. Cast iron won’t melt in a fire, so you can use it in most an open fires or a charcoal grill. Dutch ovens that are used for camping should have camp legs, so that you can balance them easily and keep the entire bottom a little ways off the ground. They should also have one wire handle rather than side handles so that you won’t get burned.
  • Thickness of the metal. When it comes to metal thickness in a cast iron Dutch oven, the thicker the better! The material of your Dutch oven should be equally as thick on the sides as it is on the bottom. Thick, sturdy metal will heat up slowly, but it will keep your food nice and hot, making the perfect slow cooker and food storage during a long meal.

#1. Lodge L8DOL3 Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Dual Handles, Pre-Seasoned

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This is just like the Dutch oven your grandmother used. It’s heavy, built well, and makes good food!

One common problem with Dutch ovens is moisture escaping from the lid. You won’t have that problem with this Dutch oven! The lid is self-basting and seals well.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Domed lid
  • Self-basting lid
  • Good value
Cons
  • Low-quality preseasoning
  • Very heavy to lift

Verdict

This Dutch oven is a great choice. It’s simple and classic, and it is made well enough to last you for years. If you just want a good, old-fashioned cast iron Dutch oven, this is a great option.

#2. Utopia Kitchen Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Dual Handle and Cover Casserole Dish

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This is a classic cast iron Dutch oven. It’s heavy-duty, long-lasting, and versatile.

However, it does have one feature that makes it stand out among other similar cast iron posts.

This Dutch oven has a high domed lid, so you don’t have to worry about cramming in awkward shaped meat. The lid will seal even if your food is sticking out above the rim!

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Domed lid is great for bulky food items
  • Inside of the lid designed to return moisture to the pot
  • Good for indoor or outdoor use
  • Great price
Cons
  • Not preseasoned well
  • Must be seasoned frequently or it will rust

Verdict

This is a good cast iron Dutch oven for the money you’ll spend on it. It’s heavy-duty and has a great lid design! However, it’s not as high-quality as some of the others on this list and you must take very good care of it in order to keep it from rusting.

#3. Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

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This is the most beautiful Dutch oven on our list! It has a lovely enamel, and it comes in a variety of colors. You can get plain white for a minimalist look, or go with something striking, like emerald green or purple.

Despite the artistic finish, this is a tried and true Dutch oven. It can do anything that an unglazed oven can do, and it doesn’t react with the food.

This Dutch oven’s lid is different from other others on our list. Rather than a handle, it has a knob.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Beautiful colors
  • Knob lid handle for easy lifting
  • Easier to season than plain cast iron
Cons
  • Using heavy-duty cleaning tools, like nylon pads, will damage the porcelain finish
  • Enamel coating can chip or flake, so it’s less heavy-duty than plain cast iron
  • More expensive than most plain cast iron

Verdict

If you like enameled cast iron, this is a good choice.

This product comes in many fun, modern colors, so you can keep it out all the time as a kitchen accent.

However, while enameled cast iron is easier to clean, it is harder to keep in good shape.

Because of this, I would go for a plain cast iron Dutch oven rather than this enameled one.

#4. Lodge L8DD3 Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven

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If you want both a cast iron Dutch oven and a cast iron skillet, this is a great choice! The lid converts to a skillet.

This five-quart Dutch oven is made of un-enameled, pre-seasoned cast iron. It’s fairly similar to the classic cast iron Dutch oven, but the handles are different. The handles for the top and side are integrated, so you can easily grip and lift the entire pot.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Lid can be used as a skillet
  • Integrated Handles
Cons
  • No handle on the top of the lid
  • Unusual lid shape makes campfire cooking more difficult

Verdict

This is a great Dutch oven to choose if you want both a skillet and a pot! Both items can be pretty expensive, so buying both in one product can save you money.

Even though the two-in-one design is awesome for utility purposes, it does make the Dutch oven harder to use in some ways. The integrated handle is good for safe lifting, but it can be harder to get the lid off.

Still, this is an awesome design that is safe, versatile, and effective.

#5. Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Deep Camp Dutch Oven

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This camp Dutch oven is great for outdoor cooking. The legs make it less ideal for stovetop or oven use, but they are awesome if you are preparing meals over an open fire!

Another great camping feature for this Dutch oven is the wire bail handle. You can easily remove the oven from open flamed by using a pot lifter, or you can simply hang the Dutch oven over your fire.

The biggest selling point for this Dutch oven is the lid. The lid can be removed and flipped for use as a griddle! You really get two cookware items in one with this product. You can make your stew at night, and your pancakes in the morning.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Features camp legs
  • Multi-use lid
  • Large size
  • Durable
Cons
  • It’s possible to use it in the oven or on the stove, but the legs make it more difficult
  • Very heavy

Verdict

This is your best bet for camp cooking in a Dutch oven! It is high-quality and great for multipurpose cooking in the great outdoors. While I wouldn’t buy this for household use, I would definitely buy it for camping trips and cookouts.

Final Verdict

Cast iron Dutch oven selection may seem straightforward, but not all Dutch ovens are created equal.

While all of the choices above are popular, I would not go with the camp oven or the enameled oven. Both legs and an enameled finish limit what you can do with your Dutch oven.

I also would skip the Utopia Dutch oven. It is much cheaper than the others, but it’s also not as well made and is more likely to rust or crack.

This leaves to remaining possibilities: The Lodge L8DOL3 Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Dual Handles or the Lodge L8DD3 Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven.

Both are great, but I would definitely go for the Double Dutch Oven. I love that the lid on this pot doubles as a skillet! Both a skillet and a Dutch oven are essential pieces of cast iron cookware, and it’s ideal to save money and space by getting a two-for-one. Versatility wins!

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