The classic Dutch oven is a timeless piece of cookware, and it's a piece of cookware that every budding chef should have in their kitchen. But sometimes, your trusty Dutch oven isn't where it should be. Maybe you lent it out to a family member. Perhaps it needs a good clean, or worst-case scenario, you might have left it behind on your last camping trip!
Never fear, because while it's difficult to accurately re-create the cooking conditions of a cast iron Dutch oven, many excellent alternatives work well as a Dutch oven substitute. From a Moroccan inspired tagine pot to slow cookers and crock pots, there are plenty of other options to use until your Dutch oven is back in the kitchen.
Here are our favorite alternatives for when you need a Dutch oven substitute!
A Dutch oven is a popular, traditional piece of cookware that has been in use for centuries. Initially popularized in the Netherlands and produced from cast iron, the Dutch oven has found a place in kitchens and campfires across the world.
The Dutch oven is essentially a large, rounded pot with a tight-fitting lid. Dutch ovens often have short legs or a large top handle designed to be placed directly into a fire. The shape and material combine to re-create the conditions of an oven, although, in the modern kitchen, a Dutch oven works incredibly well inside a standard oven. Newer Dutch ovens are often enameled, making them much easier to clean and care for than heavy cast iron ovens.
The best uses for Dutch ovens are slow-cooking and one-pot meals. They are perfect for stews and are a fantastic way to cook up a roast. Countless recipes call for a Dutch oven, but if you don't have your trusty Dutch oven on hand, there are plenty of alternatives that make excellent substitutes for Dutch oven style cooking.
Recipes that call for Dutch ovens are generally dishes that take a long time to cook. They are slow-cooked meals, such as stews, that require an even application of heat for a prolonged time.
However, a Dutch oven is also incredibly versatile, which makes it so good as a one-pot cooker. You can fry, braise, or sautee meats and vegetables in the bottom of a Dutch oven, or you can use it as a pot for roasting or even just cooking up pasta. The options are endless.
Traditional Dutch ovens are perfect for camping trips too, as they'll easily survive the rigors and tests of the backwoods, and allow you to cook up a feast in the campfire.
Finding another piece of cookware that evenly cooks your food like a Dutch oven may seem impossible. But there are a few pieces of cookware that work pretty well. They include the following:
As you'll see, some of these will work better as a substitute for a Dutch oven in different cooking environments. For instance, a slow cooker will work wonderfully in the kitchen, but you can't take it camping. A cast iron skillet will make do as a Dutch oven in the campfire, but it isn't the right choice for cooking a whole Sunday roast at home!
Let's take a look at our Dutch oven alternatives in more detail!
As we mentioned already, one of the best uses for a Dutch oven is slow cooking, be it stews or one-pot roast, because a Dutch Oven allows your ingredients to cook delicately and stew slowly in their juices.
In fact, in many situations, a slow cooker will be much simpler to use than a traditional Dutch oven. Slow cookers are a modern development, but they use the same slow-cooking technique that the Dutch oven does, and they allow you to simmer food for hours at a time.
Slow cookers are electronic, and they allow you to regulate the temperature automatically and leave the food cooking away all day on your kitchen counter. In this respect, they are a lot easier to use than a Dutch oven, as you don't have to worry about the temperature, and you can even leave it unattended while you go out for the day.
But where the slow cooker loses out to the Dutch oven is durability and versatility. You have to plug the slow cooker in and only use it to simmer ingredients that you already have fried or braised beforehand.
Crockpots are a particular type of slow cooker that was one of the first appliances of its kind to become popular in kitchens across the country.
Crockpots work like most other slow cookers, except that they have an inner pot made from stoneware, rather than metal.
If you're looking for a quality Dutch oven substitute when you need to slow cook, then a crockpot is a fantastic option. You can set the temperature and leave the Crockpot to simmer away while enjoying the rest of your day, not having to worry about cooking!
An often-overlooked alternative to a Dutch oven is the Moroccan-inspired tagine pot, which is a popular piece of kitchen equipment for chefs looking to recreate the unique tastes of North Africa.
Tagine pots use the same slow cooking principles that a Dutch oven does, to ensure that the ingredients inside receive an even application of heat over an extended period. Because a tagine pot consists of a bottom pan and a conical lid, it's also wonderfully versatile. You can braise, fry, or sautee your meat and vegetables in the tagine pot before enclosing everything, and allowing it all to simmer for a few hours.
The unique feature of a tagine pot is the vent at the top of the cylindrical lid. The vent allows the food to simmer in its spices and juices while being gradually reduced.
Traditionally, a tagine pot would have been produced from clay and used exclusively to cook tagines. A modern tagine pot will most likely be enameled, making it easy to use and to clean. You don't just have to cook up a Moroccan-style tagine either, although that would be delicious!
If you have a tagine pot in the kitchen, you can also use it for cooking up one-pot roasts, braised meats, and slow cook any other type of stew you might enjoy.
Another versatile alternative to a Dutch oven is the classic pot or stockpot - and the best thing about this substitute is that every kitchen should already have a large pot!
Stockpots work particularly well, as they have high sides and a lid that will allow you to simmer your ingredients for an extended time. Their design is best for cooking stock or broth on the stovetop, but you can use them for braising, cooking pasta, or simmering a delicious bolognese sauce.
If you're slow cooking a stew, the stockpot is a great Dutch oven substitute; the downside is that stockpots aren't generally suitable for cooking in the oven.
What's a French oven, you might ask? It is, in fact, very similar to the Dutch oven, but there are a few key differences.
The French oven originated in France (of course), but it's just a modern take on the traditional Dutch oven. French ovens are the same size and shape as a Dutch oven, but they are produced from more advanced materials, with enamel being the most popular style.
French ovens are newer Dutch ovens. That means they can cook up the same food that you'd cook in a Dutch oven, with no trouble whatsoever. You can braise, fry and sautee, before simmering and stewing.
You can use a French oven on the stovetop or in the oven, making this an excellent item to have in your home kitchen. It's easier to clean and care for than a cast iron Dutch oven, but the major downside is that a French oven is less durable.
A French oven shouldn't be taken camping with you, as the enamel is easy to scratch or chip, and it definitely won't hold up great in the fire!
One of the best qualities of a Dutch oven is its hardiness. That's the main reason why they are so beloved by campers. A Dutch oven can be thrown into the campfire, and will emerge hours later, unscathed, with a delicious home-quality stew bubbling away inside!
There aren't too many campfire alternatives that will allow you such versatility as a Dutch oven, but a good option is a cast iron skillet. A large cast iron skillet will enable you to fry and braise, and if you can find a suitable covering, you could also use it for simmering and slow cooking.
Dutch ovens are an indispensable piece of cooking equipment, but if you don't have this classic piece of cookware to hand, don't fear! As we've shown, there are plenty of fantastic Dutch oven replacement options to choose from, whether you're cooking up a campfire feast or slow roasting a leg of lamb!
Bookmark our handy guide so you can quickly find an alternative to a Dutch oven the next time you want to cook something delicious but are stuck in a pinch!