Which Size Dutch Oven Should You Buy? A Chef Weighs In (2024)

A good Dutch oven is a kitchen essential. Thick cast-iron walls, wide handles, and a heavy lid — this versatile piece of equipment can be used for everything from braising chicken legs to baking bread. But which one do you buy? Do you need to invest in the $500 pot when a $100 one will suffice? Should you get the biggest, deepest casserole, or will a shallow braiser accomplish the task? These are all questions worth asking, especially when this is a piece of equipment that you will use for years to come.

We spoke with Taffy Elrod, a chef instructor, recipe developer, and food writer, for her expert insights on the matter. Elrod frequently turns to her Dutch ovens for a variety of tasks: “I like to make stocks, soups, stews, and important for home cooking, I use a Dutch oven to deep fry.”

From big to small, round to oval, deep to shallow, here are five types of Dutch oven sizes to consider — and what to cook in each of them.

Medium-sized is the most universal

Anywhere between a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven is the right all-purpose size for most cooking tasks. It has high walls that prevent spillage and enough surface area to brown meat for a braise, but it's not so big that you need help hauling it in and out of the oven. It's also the perfect size for bringing to the table.

“For a home cook, a 5-quart Dutch oven should be large enough for most jobs without being unwieldy or taking up too much space,” says Elrod. “I have a vintage, 5-quart, cast iron Dutch oven that I love. Lately, I've been using a 7-quart Cuisinart enameled Dutch oven my husband got a great deal on. Those two sizes are always in rotation in my kitchen.” (We also really like the 7-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven, too.)

Is a 3-quart Dutch oven too small?

If you live alone or only cook for one or two people, a 3-quart Dutch oven should do the trick for most dishes. That said, we'd still recommend going larger for more versatility.

What size Dutch oven is best for bread?

Again, your best bet is anywhere between 5 and 7 quarts. Most recipes, including sourdough, will happily thrive in a medium-sized oven.

We’ve put the top Dutch ovens through their paces, and while we are big fans of multiple brands, like Lodge and Le Creuset, the Staub consistently tops our tests. It’s great for getting a deep brown caramelization and is big enough for tossing pasta with the sauce without making a mess. Plus, it can then go right to the table for serving, and its thick cast-iron walls help retain the heat and keep your food warm. Beyond that, it’s ridiculously durable and surely built to last.

But if you’re feeding a crowd, go bigger

If you're often cooking for a big crowd, then between 8 and 10 quarts is a good size. A large, deep oven is great for big batches of soup, making homemade chicken stock, and dishes with a lot of liquid, like this Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce. The extra surface area makes it ideal for stovetop use, but be sure to look for one with large handles to make it easy to hoist from stove to oven to table.

“Folks who like to do batch cooking, make preserves, do canning, or bake in a Dutch oven will want a large size,” says Elrod. “A large Dutch oven might not be great for folks who only cook for one or two people, folks who can't lift or move large, heavy objects, and people who really do prefer quick, simple cooking. For quick cooking, maybe invest in a good skillet or saute pan.”

What size Dutch oven is best for a family of four?

While you certainly go for a larger-sized oven, we'd still recommend a medium-sized one, between 5 and 7 quarts. For families or crowds of five or more, we recommend sizing up.

Another winner in our testing, we also love the Le Creuset Signature Round 9-Quart Dutch oven. It cooks well, cleans easily, and looks gorgeous. Invest in one of these, and it will likely be an heirloom piece for a lifetime.

Minis are great for single servings

“Obviously, mini Dutch ovens look great and are just fun to use,” says Elrod. “They can also offer the benefits of durability, even heating, holding temperature for service, and versatility, just like a full-sized Dutch oven. A mini Dutch oven can go from stovetop to oven, to tabletop, and even on the grill.”

Of course, a mini Dutch oven is also great for single servings. These mini cocottes are a great way to serve individual portions of shakshuka, fruit crisps, mac and cheese, roasted garlic, or braised greens. Elrod also suggests bruléeing French onion soup or making a molten cake that can double as a serving dish. With any Dutch oven, the enameled cast-iron sides paired with the mini lids do a nice job of keeping the dish warm on the table.

Choose an oval shape for roasts

If you tend to do lots of cooking in the oven or like to roast large meat dishes or oblong roasts, we suggest an oval shape.

According to Elrod, “Oval Dutch ovens offer more flexibility for baking, roasting, and braising. The oval shape allows space for whole chickens, whole fish, meat on the bone, and larger roasts.”

Our pick is the oval Dutchess from Great Jones. This Dutch oven is stylish, just the right size for a dinner for four people, and does not break the bank. It’s great for dishes like this braised Brisket with Apricots and Prunes or a roast chicken.

To braise, stick to something shallow

Shallow Dutch ovens, or braisers, are great for — you guessed it — braising. Because braising requires less liquid than stewing, a shallow braiser naturally has lower sides than a standard Dutch oven.

“The shallower depth is convenient for searing and browning meats and vegetables,” says Elrod. “Most importantly, the low profile paired with a tight-fitting, heavy lid encourages the best braising process by keeping the moisture circulating close to the food at a low temperature to continuously concentrate and enrich the braising liquid while creating the most tender, flavorful foods. I love a good braise, in case you couldn't tell.”

We love this stylish matte black braiser from Staub because it has a chip-resistant enamel coating and looks elegant on a range.

Our Expertise

  • Julia Heffelfinger is a cook, recipe developer, writer, editor, and food stylist. She is the original author of this piece.
  • Dana Fouchiaupdated this piece. She is the Senior Commerce Editor and has over eight years of experience writing for publications like the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, New York Daily News, Allrecipes, and more. For this piece, she used Food & Wine's latest tested insights and interviewedTaffy Elrod, a chef instructor, recipe developer, and food writer.
Which Size Dutch Oven Should You Buy? A Chef Weighs In (2024)

FAQs

Which Size Dutch Oven Should You Buy? A Chef Weighs In? ›

A 5–7 quart Dutch oven is the sweet spot for most home cooks. This size is great for cooking for four people (often with leftovers). Representatives from both Staub and Le Creuset

Le Creuset
Le Creuset (French pronunciation: [lə kʁøzɛ], meaning "the crucible") is a French-Belgian maker of cookware. They are best known for producing enameled cast-iron cookware.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Le_Creuset
tell us that their most popular size is 5 1/2-quarts, and that's the size most Epi editors have at home, as well.

What is the best size of Dutch oven to buy? ›

Anywhere between a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven is the right all-purpose size for most cooking tasks. It has high walls that prevent spillage and enough surface area to brown meat for a braise, but it's not so big that you need help hauling it in and out of the oven. It's also the perfect size for bringing to the table.

How heavy should a Dutch oven be? ›

9 Quart
1 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven7 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Number of 8 oz. Servings (cups)321
Dimensions8.5" L x 6.75" W x 4" T14.68" L x 12.81" W x 7.12" T
Weight4.12 lbs18.1 lbs
Great Forside dishes and dessertsfeeding a crowd
3 more rows
Apr 20, 2021

What size Dutch oven does America's Test Kitchen use? ›

We've run extensive tests on Dutch ovens in the test kitchen, and our preferences are clear: Look for a heavy enameled cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid. Too-narrow pots make browning a chore, so we prefer Dutch ovens that are at least 8 inches wide and can hold 6 quarts or more.

What size Dutch oven for 4 pound roast? ›

For cooking your show-stopping main, nothing beats a 5.5 quart Dutch oven. Its size means it can accommodate larger or more awkward cuts of meat, like pot roast, ribs or brisket, while also being big enough to feed everyone.

What size Dutch oven does Ina Garten recommend? ›

An enamelled cast-iron Dutch oven is a kitchen classic, and of course Ina (who has a well-documented love affair with Paris) trusts French heritage brand Le Creuset. She prefers the brand's round, 5.5 quart Dutch oven because it's great for soups, stews and braising.

Is 7.5 quart Dutch oven too big? ›

Over 7 Quarts

Don't go larger than a 7-quart oven unless your family has six or more members, or you love to batch cook. If you're in either of those camps, make sure you can lift a full one, and that it fits in your oven comfortably.

What is the difference between a chef's oven and a Dutch oven? ›

The main difference between a chef's oven and a Dutch oven lies in their design and construction. A chef's oven features a wide, flat bottom and tall, straight sides, while a Dutch oven has a round, deep shape with a heavy lid.

What to look for when buying a Dutch oven? ›

The oven should feel heavy when you hold it, with a thick walls and an equally thick bottom. Take a look at the handles and the knob on the lid, and make sure you'll still be able to grasp them easily when wearing heavy oven mitts. We also recommend getting at least a 6-quart Dutch oven.

Do professional chefs use Dutch ovens? ›

And while there are plenty of sizes to choose from, like oval Dutch ovens, or shallow Dutch ovens, Cimarusti prefers the classic Le Creuset 5.5-quart Dutch oven. “The attention to detail is just great,” he says. If a Michelin-starred chef uses one everyday, it's worth adding to your kitchen.

Which is better, enamel or cast iron Dutch oven? ›

The key piece of information to keep in mind is the enamel coating—do you prefer the ease of mind that comes with a non stick surface and protection from rust? If so, choose enameled. Does the thought of a little care and maintenance not bother you? If that's the case, you can go with unfinished cast iron.

Are Martha Stewart Dutch ovens good? ›

High quality, not cheaply made. This Dutch oven is really nice, it's well made and durable, it's very heavy. It holds the heat well, and cleans up easily. Purchased before the Christmas price hike!

Why is my roast tough in Dutch oven? ›

Undercooked pot roast will be tough and chewy. If you're using tougher or bigger cuts of beef (other than a chuck roast), you may need to increase the cooking time to give the meat fibers plenty of time to break down and become tender and juicy.

Is 4.5-quart Dutch oven big enough for bread? ›

What is the best size Dutch oven for bread? I like to use a 4 or 5-quart Dutch oven or a 3.2-quart combo cooker for baking bread. These sizes are large enough to accommodate most bread recipes. If you have a larger Dutch oven, that will work just fine, too.

Is a 3.5 qt Dutch oven too small? ›

While a smaller Dutch oven is great for making day-to-day meals, like pasta or soup, you might find 3.5 quarts isn't quite big enough for when the family comes over or if you want to do some meal prep.

Is a 5.5 qt Dutch oven big enough for bread? ›

All that to say, if you don't have a Dutch oven yet, a 5.5-quart Dutch oven will set you up for decades of baking. Not too big and not too small, it's the perfect size for baking a large, shareable loaf of bread.

Is a 6 quart Dutch oven big enough for sourdough bread? ›

A well-shaped loaf should hold its shape in the center of a Dutch oven without touching the sides. If you are baking 500g flour-weight boules (950g dough weight) a 6-quart/6-liter round Dutch oven is a good size.

Should I get a deep or shallow Dutch oven? ›

In our opinion, shallow Dutch ovens are also the most versatile version and allow you to cook any recipe. Deep: These deep Dutch ovens are best for large quantities of soups, stews, and braises. Since the lid is farther away from the food inside, it doesn't brown the top of baked goods as well.

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