If there is one kitchen appliance purchase that officially catapults you into the realm of adulthood, it is the dutch oven. Whether you’re using it to braise protein, bake bread, or make delicious stewed vegetables, the dutch oven does it all (and even when it’s not in use, it remains easy on the eyes).
For literal centuries, the dutch oven has been the cornerstone of most kitchens. Made of cast iron, these vessels are unparalleled in their ability to retain heat, which makes them perfect for cooking both stews and sautes, and for keeping those finished dishes warm until you’re ready to serve. In their original form, they actually came with short legs so that they could stand alone atop flames or hot coals. But in the early 20th century, the dutch oven got a major makeover thanks to French company Le Creuset (among others). The legs were done away with, the lid was made slightly domed, and of course, the entire pot was coated in enamel, giving the dutch oven its luxe signature look that it still bears today.
While Le Creuset and its many colored pots have become synonymous with the dutch oven, it is not necessarily the case that you have to spend many hundreds of dollars to get one of these excellent cooking vessels. In fact, our favorite cast iron dutch oven costs a literal fraction of the price, and is able to deliver the same results with the same consistency. The best cast iron dutch oven bang for your buck? Lodge’s Pre-Seasoned 5-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven ($43).
With over 11,700 five-star reviews on Amazon, the Lodge dutch oven is high-quality, well-constructed, and–dare we say–downright chic. Ringing in at under $43 (no, that’s not a typo) for its five-quart size, this dutch oven is entirely made in the United States and comes pre-seasoned with 100 percent natural vegetable oil so foods won’t stick to its surface.
Like all of Lodge’s cast iron cookware, this pot is extraordinary at retaining heat, whether you’re using it on gas, electric, induction, or in the oven. Want to throw it on the grill? Go right ahead; it’s even campfire safe. Cooking with it couldn’t be easier: simply heat oil in the dutch oven before adding protein or veggies to give them a nice sear, or bring the dutch oven to temperature slowly with cooking liquid inside to beautifully braise your main dish (or make a soup or stew). Better yet, combine these two methods to tenderize meat, fish, and/or veggies after browning.
Thanks to the self-basting tips found on the lid, this dutch oven will actually recirculate any moisture that condenses on the cover, keeping your food moist and promoting a perfectly tender finished product. The dual handles help you easily move your dutch oven from the cooking surface right to your serving surface, too. Good thing it’s pretty enough to go straight from the oven to your tabletop.
And in case stovetop, oven, grill, and campfire use wasn’t enough, know that this dutch oven’s deep capacity and ability to withstand high heat means you can use it to fry chicken, fish, or vegetables directly in the pot without needing to invest in a separate deep fryer.
The Lodge dutch oven comes in a total of four sizes, with the largest coming in at just under $70 on Amazon. The smallest size, the 1-quart, is ideal for folks that are often cooking for one or looking to make side dishes with their dutch oven. The next size up, the 2-quart, is ideal for smaller soups, stews, and beans. The popular 5-quart size can handle just about anything you throw at it (and is less than $50). Lastly, there is the larger 7-quart size, an excellent option for those who like to entertain and/or roast hearty cuts of meat.
Caring for your Lodge dutch oven is much like caring for any other cast iron appliance: hand wash gently with a little soap and warm water, and be careful not to let it soak. This piece will last you forever, but with a price tag this low, you may just want to get a couple extra just in case.
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