Dutch ovens lie at the heart of the American tradition and whilst many these day spurn them for modern ‘tat” many are now returning to these wonderful tools that lie at the very heart of great cooking outdoors; Its easy to get it wrong when buying a Dutch oven; it really is important that you buy the best you can; quality counts. For the best choice and value its advisable to go online.
Before you buy your Dutch oven you need to make a basic decision. Do you want to cook on a grill or on a campfire because the oven thats best suits each is different. If its for the campfire, go for the 3 legged version with a lid suitable for holding coals; if the oven is for use on the grill go for a flat bottom oven.
What is it that really defines a great Dutch oven?
1. The oven must be a standard thickness throughout; inconsistency in the walls of the oven can lead to hot or cold spots, warping or cracking! Don’t worry about a rough texture in the cast iron; this is not a problem; over time it will flatten as you continue with the seasoning; if the ovens surface is too smooth the seasoning will not take so a smooth is not good!
2. A Dutch oven should be made of well constructed heavy gage metal; especially the legs if you’re going for the outdoor fire version; thin legs near the base will not last;
3. The quality of the lid is especially important; it should fit snugly and tightly; if it doesn’t you’ll have problems when cooking; it should have a good lip for stopping materials falling into the dish when its lifted; and it should have a properly formed loop so it can be lifted with a lid lifter;
4. The oven should not be riveted. Dutch ovens are heavy. It doesn’t make sense to have riveted handles that can easily break when its fully laden;
5. Price is not a predictor of quality but if its low then in this market you’re usually not buying quality! Good quality heavy gauge cast iron is not going to be cheap;
Now you know what type to buy you have to decide what size you need. Most people buy 2 or 3 so that a mix of needs can be met. Basically you have to think about: what am I going to be cooking with my Dutch oven and for how many people will I be cooking? If you’re new to cast iron cookware and unsure about what to buy then a 8.5 quart is a good choice. Its a great size for family roasts, stews vegetables & bread; but if you’re going to be cooking for larger groups then a 12 quart oven might be for the best. For smaller, simple cooking of vegetables, desserts & sauces for 2 to 3 people, or even for small roasts then a 2 or the 4 quart oven will be okay. Remember over 12 quarts and the ovens start to get heavy and harder to handle, but they’re great for larger sized groups.
Last but not least, get yourself: a lid lifter to make light work of picking up the hot heavy lids; a pair of loose fitting leather gloves that are heavy duty & wrist high; and you’re going to need some briquettes; I recommend that you go for the best quality, the difference is worth the money.