You could easily pay several hundred dollars for an enameled cast iron Dutch oven from that famous French company. And the one you get for that price would probably be great. But it’s no better than one from a much less expensive competitor – which is also a respected brand in cast iron products.
The best enameled cast iron Dutch oven for the money isn’t from a foreign brand. It’s from a respected American-owned company that’s been making cast iron for more than 120 years. Why wouldn’t you choose it over that well-known French brand? Sure, the French product is good, but there’s no way to justify the high price.
Keep reading to learn more about cast iron enamel Dutch ovens and the one that will provide you the most value for your money.
What is a Dutch oven?
A Dutch oven is a heavy pot with a good lid that maintains a constant temperature and is safe for the stovetop or the oven. That means it doesn’t have plastic handles that will burn in the oven, and it’s also made of a fairly thick, robust material to stand up to whatever your cooking processes throw at it.
This type of cooking pot is usually fairly shallow and wide. The lid must fit tightly to prevent evaporation during cooking.
While you can buy an uncoated cast iron pot and season it well to prevent many foods from sticking, most cooks choose an enamel coating (which is what that French brand has). The best enameled cast iron Dutch oven has a metal handle on each side to make moving it easy as well – although you’ll definitely need some sturdy heat-resistant potholders.
(Interesting note: There are two other kinds of Dutch ovens. One is an actual oven made of brick, and the other is a shield placed around a cooking flame to direct the heat.)
What can you cook in a Dutch oven?
You can make a variety of dishes in a cast iron enamel Dutch oven, although people most often use them for braising and stewing. You’ll find that yours is the perfect vessel for cooking a tough cut of meat slowly on low heat so that it becomes tender. You might consider using your Dutch oven for a chuck roast, a pork shoulder, a brisket or even lamb shanks.
Because the meats typically cooked in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven are cheaper cuts, your one-time investment in the best Dutch oven you can get could save you hundreds or thousands on meat costs over the coming years.
Additionally, there’s no better way to roast a chicken or small turkey than in one of these pots, and you can even use yours for deep-frying or baking bread. You can use it while camping too, if you don’t mind lugging it around with you.
If you take care to avoid scratching and misuse, the enameled pot you buy today could last your lifetime and beyond, providing a nearly endless variety of dishes to your family and those who come after you.
The Lodge 6 qt cast iron enamel Dutch oven
Forget that French brands and all other options. You can get the best enameled cast iron Dutch oven at an affordable price from an American company that’s been making cast iron products for more than a century. I recommend the Lodge EC6D33 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, available through this Amazon affiliate link.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of this pot is the low price, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on quality. This Dutch oven is made of high-quality Lodge cast iron with a porcelain enamel coating baked onto it at a high temperature, creating a heat-tolerant surface that isn’t compromised by water or foods that come in contact with it.
Use this pot to bake, roast, braise or boil on the stovetop or put it in the oven at temperatures up to 500 degrees. You can also simmer, fry or sauté.
Another thing that makes this the best enameled cast iron Dutch oven for your kitchen is that it comes with six pot protectors that help keep the pot from chipping when you store it, and they allow moisture that may have stayed inside the pot to escape during storage so that it doesn’t create mold, mildew, rust or surface damage.
I haven’t seen any quality issues with the product after repeated uses. I’ve also looked through hundreds of online reviews on several sites and don’t see any real quality concerns mentioned except those caused by misuse or abuse of the product.
The only downside of this enameled cast iron Dutch oven is that it’s one of the Lodge products that isn’t made in America, which disappoints some purchases or would-be purchasers when they find out. I’d rather it was made in the USA like the company’s non-enameled products, but it’s still made to Lodge’s exacting standards, and that’s good enough for me. You’ll see the quality when you get yours.
How to take care of your Dutch oven
As with any cooking pot, you must take care of a Dutch oven. Even the best enameled cast iron may develop problems over time or become unusable if it’s not handled correctly.
The most important thing to remember is to never put a Dutch oven that’s still hot into cold water. The sudden shock could cause the enameling or the cast iron itself to crack, making the pot almost useless. The best way to wash the pot is to wipe out any remnants of food or oil, then wash it with a sponge and hot, soapy water. You should not use metal scrapers or steel wool, which can scratch the enamel surface.
It’s also a bad idea to soak it in water for a long time or put it in the dishwasher, which won’t hurt it at first but will eventually shorten the life of the coating.
Sometimes, the enamel along the rim of your pot can chip off, but that’s not a problem in most cases. You don’t usually fill it all the way to the top with food and liquid, so a few chips along the edge are acceptable, although not ideal. To keep yours from chipping, be careful taking off and putting on the lid, and make sure you store it with a towel, cardboard or special spacers (included with the Lodge model) between the pieces.
Make room in your kitchen for an American tradition, a Dutch oven
The best enameled cast iron Dutch oven is a heavy piece of equipment that you will have to make room for in your kitchen and take care of to make sure it stays at its best. But it’s worth the effort.
If you make soups, stews or cheap cuts of meat on the stovetop or in the oven, you need a Dutch oven cooking pot. If you sometimes deep-fry or bake bread, you need one too. And you’ll find so many other uses for yours once you start exploring the possibilities.
The best enameled cast iron Dutch oven might just change the way you cook for the better – and for decades to come.