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Lovin’ the Dutch Oven: Rediscover This Kitchen Workhorse

The versatile cast-iron pot can take the place of lots of fancy cookware

mac and cheese in center oven and clockwise from top left short ribs and mussels and adobo and lamb shank and farotto

Courtesy Jennifer Causey

En español

Your kitchen cabinets may be filled with specialty pots and pans, but the humble Dutch oven can step in when it comes to boiling, baking, frying and braising.

"The Dutch oven is a jack-of-all-trades in the kitchen,” says Matt Clifton, coauthor with his wife, Emily, of The Ultimate Dutch Oven Cookbook.

These large lidded pots — the classic versions are made of cast iron with a glazed ceramic coating — can be used on the stove or in the oven, at high or low heat, for fast or slow cooking. And they look so attractive. “We usually end up bringing it to the table to serve,” Clifton says.​​

You should know​​

  • Good cast-iron Dutch ovens are expensive but usually worth it — though in some cases, you do pay extra for the brand name. They’ll last for decades if you take care of them, so use wood or silicone tools to avoid scratches.​​
  • Prestigious brands include Le Creuset, Staub and Lodge, but other top names in kitchen gear offer them, too. Skip cheaper knockoffs from unfamiliar brands; lower-quality Dutch ovens chip easily.​​
  • The heavy iron efficiently holds heat, but it requires some core and arm strength to transfer. For safety, lift with your legs (not your back). Use quality oven mitts.​​ 

Some dishes that Clifton recommends:

1. Short ribs

Brown meat; sauté onions, garlic, flavorings; add red wine; reduce. Add soy sauce and maple syrup. Braise in oven.

2. Mac and cheese

​Cook chopped kimchi in butter until soft. Fold into your favorite mac and cheese recipe before baking.​

3. Mussels

​Cook chopped onion and fennel. Add chorizo and beer. Simmer. Add mussels, then steam.​​

4. Chicken

Marinate chicken thighs in soy sauce, vinegar, chopped jalapeños and garlic. Reserve marinade to stew browned chicken.​

5. Lamb

Brown marinated shanks. Sauté with onions and tomato paste. Add chicken stock and cook 3 hours. Serve over couscous, with pomegranate seed garnish.​​

6. Farro

Cook risotto-style with vegetable stock. Stir in roasted butternut squash and toasted sage.​​

​Baking bread?

Bake with the lid on to create steam, then uncover at the end to crisp the crust.​

How to Use a Dutch Oven

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Kelsey Ogletree is a contributing writer who covers food and travel. She has also written for The Wall Street Journal, Midwest Living and Conde Nast Traveler.

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