So, you've decided on a Dutch oven as your next kitchen purchase. With the wide range of sizes and shapes available, you might have a few questions when it comes to selecting the right one for your specific needs. We've put together a list of some of the most common questions that arise when buyers are picking out a new Dutch oven, and hopefully, they will provide you with some guidance.
There's no standard size for Dutch ovens, but the most popular sizes in terms of sales are the 5 or 6-quart models. The general rule when feeding a family or group of friends is to allow 1 quart per person with another 1 or 2 quarts for leftovers.
With families of 4 being very common (as well as 4 being a common number of friends living together) you can see why the 5 or 6-quart ovens sell better than other sizes. So, it is important to consider the number of mouths you will need to frequently feed when you are weighing your options.
5 and 6-quart Dutch oven sizes are also popular as, unlike the smaller sizes, they provide enough room for roasting joints of meat or whole chickens, and also it'll be large enough to bake bread (remember, bread needs plenty of space to rise).
There is a rather large selection available when it comes to selecting the size of your Dutch oven. Most manufacturers will offer a range, from the very small, suitable for cooking for a single person, to the largest ones which will comfortably feed and entire extended family.
If you are looking to maximize the versatility of your cookware, look for Dutch ovens which feature a reversible lid. Some Dutch oven lids can also be used like griddles or skillets to cook different types of food. That way, you have three options depending on which size you need. Cook with just the main pot, cook with the inverted lid, or use both as a Dutch oven when you have a crowd to feed.
Deciding on the perfect Dutch oven size can be a difficult decision if you don't have a lot of experience with them. Go too small and you may leave guests hungry, but too big can make for longer cooking times and higher electricity or gas bills.
The most obvious measure for picking the right size is the number of people you usually cook for. As mentioned above, a good rule of thumb is to allow 1 quart per person with a couple of extra quarts so you'll have some leftovers, or you can feed an unexpected guest who turns up at the last minute (happens to all of us!)
However, capacity in quarts isn't the only thing to think about. You also need to consider what you're going to be using it for. If you're mainly preparing soups, stews, or casseroles, the quart per person rule is a good guide. But for other meals, it doesn't work so well. Here's an example, you're a family of two, and you love roasted chicken. Now using the quart rule, you'd maybe pick a 3 or 4-quart oven. But that's not going to give you room to roast a whole chicken. So, in that case, you'd be better off going for the 5 or 6-quart size.
Round Dutch ovens and oval Dutch ovens have slightly different advantages. The round version is great for maximizing space on a crowded stovetop and is ideal for soups, stews, curries, chilies, or really any type of recipe where the food is liquid-based.
Oval Dutch ovens, on the other hand, are better for cooking irregularly shaped foods, like legs of meat, whole or quartered birds, etc. They may also be better for oven use, depending on how shallow your oven is. It is important to consider what you like to cook most before choosing your ideal shape.
If you're only going to be using your Dutch oven on the stovetop, you want to make sure you pick a size that won't take up too much room. Depending on the size of your stove, this may mean you need to opt for a smaller size, such as a 1.5 or 2-quart oven, which would allow you to use it simultaneously with other pans.
The spacing and number of burners you have on your stove are important elements to keep in mind. If your stovetop has plenty of space you should be able to comfortably manage larger cookware. We suggest checking the diameter of a saucepan or frying pan you currently have in your kitchen to help gauge the maximum size that will fit on your stove without overlapping onto the other burners.
As we've said above, round ovens are better for maximizing volume within a small space, so that is another factor you may want to take into account when you are comparing various pieces.
If you're a fan of the great outdoors, there's nothing better than bringing along a Dutch oven and cooking up a feast for the group after a long day of fishing, hiking, or swimming. They're ideal for camp cooking, as you can use them over an open fire, or even pile up coals around them.
It's tempting to go for a really large Dutch oven, especially if you're traveling with a group. Even for small groups, it can be useful to have the biggest size possible, as you can get a big pot of chili or stew going and people can help themselves throughout the day.
When picking Dutch ovens for outdoor adventures, you need to keep in mind the weightiness of cast iron. Cast iron is very heavy. If you're heading out to the lake or the woods in an RV or a truck, you shouldn't have any issues, but if you're trail hiking or kayaking, you're going to want to minimize weight, so think about that when you're eyeing over that 14-quart monster Dutch oven. Maybe choosing something a little smaller, and therefore lighter, would better suit your needs!
Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate the market and know what to look for when choosing the right size of Dutch ovens to fit your family, your lifestyle, and your activities. Whatever size you buy, we're sure you'll enjoy many years of delicious home-cooked meals - just remember to keep it seasoned!