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10 Dutch Oven Buying Mistakes to Avoid (What to Look For)

Buying a Dutch oven is a big decision – it’s an investment that will last for decades, so you want to get it right.

In this guide, I break down the biggest mistakes people make when buying a Dutch oven.

You’ll learn what to look for and the sizes, shapes, materials, and designs you should avoid.

Use the links below to navigate the comparison:

Mistake 1: Material

The first mistake to avoid when buying a Dutch oven is choosing the wrong material. There are two main types of Dutch ovens: bare cast iron and enameled cast iron.

Bare cast iron Dutch ovens (like this one from Lodge) require seasoning with oil to prevent rusting. When simmering liquids for extended periods, especially acidic liquids like tomato sauce, the seasoning can degrade, causing tiny bits to flake into the liquid, affecting the taste and texture of your dish.

Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are protected by a coating of fused glass particles that are melted down and sprayed onto the cast iron.

Cuisinart Dutch oven
Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven

This coating is hard, durable, and non-reactive, allowing you to cook any ingredient for any amount of time without issues. You don’t need to worry about rust or seasoning the pot like you would with bare cast iron.

While bare cast iron is excellent for searing meats, roasting vegetables, and baking, it’s not the best material for large pots, like Dutch ovens, which are often used for cooking liquids.

Boiling water and simmering acidic sauces like tomato sauce will break down the seasoning on bare cast iron, causing it to flake into your food and affect the taste and texture.

Unless you plan to use your Dutch oven over a campfire, an enameled version is the better option. It offers the benefits of cast iron’s heat retention but is also a more convenient, low-maintenance cooking experience.

When shopping for an enameled Dutch oven, look for a high-quality, smooth, and evenly applied enamel coating. Avoid pots with a reputation for chipping, cracking, or rough spots, as these can lead to rusting and further damage over time.

When you shop, search reviews for words like “chip,” “crack,” and “scratch.” If these issues are commonly reported for a particular brand, don’t buy it.

Mistake 2: Size

Another common mistake when buying a Dutch oven is choosing the wrong size. Dutch ovens come in a wide range of sizes, but a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven is ideal for most home cooks.

Le Creuset Dutch oven on electric stove
Le Creuset 5.5-Quart Dutch oven

These sizes are large enough to cook generous batches of soup, stew, chili, and bread but not so big that they won’t fit on your burner or take up too much space in your cabinet.

One to three-quart Dutch ovens are good for side dishes and serving, but they’re not big enough to use as your primary Dutch oven.

Even if you cook for yourself or one other person, a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven is a better choice because you’ll have the option to cook enough food for leftovers or to freeze for later.

When considering the size, also think about the dimensions of your Dutch oven. A wider, shorter pot will have more surface area for browning and searing, while a taller, narrower pot will be better for soups and stews that require less evaporation.

Unless you have a large household with over five people or plan to cook for large gatherings regularly, a Dutch oven over 7 quarts might be too big and heavy for everyday use and may not fit well on most standard burners.

Remember that the capacity listed for Dutch ovens usually refers to the total volume to the brim, but in practice, you’ll only fill the pot about 2/3 to 3/4 full to prevent spillovers and allow for proper circulation.

Mistake 3: Oval vs. Round

Another mistake to avoid when choosing a Dutch oven is selecting the wrong shape. Dutch ovens come in two main shapes: round and oval.

Round and oval Dutch ovens

Round Dutch ovens fit nicely on round burners, ensuring even heat distribution. They also occupy less space on the stovetop, leaving enough room for other pots and pans. They’re also easier to store since you can stack them on top of other round pots and pans.

Round Dutch ovens on electric cooktop
Round Dutch ovens on electric cooktop

Oval Dutch ovens take up more space and don’t heat as evenly on the stove because the ends extend beyond the burner. However, they’re better for roasting large, long cuts of meat in the oven, like a leg of lamb, pork shoulder, or beef tenderloin. They also allow you to bake traditional long loaves of bread. With a round Dutch oven, you’re limited to round loaves.

Oval Dutch oven too long for the stovetop
Oval Dutch oven too long for the stovetop

It’s not necessarily a mistake to buy one shape over the other; the mistake is not thinking about the types of meals you’ll be cooking most often.

I recommend a round Dutch oven for most home cooks because it’s more versatile and better for stovetop cooking, which is how many Dutch oven recipes start. The round shape also facilitates stirring and whisking, making it easier to create smooth sauces and gravies.

However, if you plan to cook a lot of roasts or bake long loaves of bread, an oval Dutch oven might be the better choice. Just keep in mind that its oval shape may limit its effectiveness on the stovetop.

Ultimately, the best shape for you depends on your cooking style and the recipes you plan to make most often.

Mistake 4: Interior Color

Another common mistake when buying a Dutch oven is overlooking the importance of the interior color. The interior of most Dutch ovens is either black or a light sand color.

Dark interiors like Staub’s do a better job of hiding stains and scratches. However, they make it more difficult to monitor browning or see if your food is sticking or burning.

Fond development not visible in a Staub Dutch oven
Fond development not visible in a Staub Dutch oven

Light-colored interiors like Le Creuset’s provide better visibility, allowing you to easily monitor your food’s progress. With a lighter interior, it’s easier to prevent overcooking, burning, or sticking because you can clearly see the cooking surface.

Visible fond development in a Le Creuset Dutch oven
Visible fond development in a Le Creuset Dutch oven

Although I appreciate that a dark interior makes discoloration less noticeable, it’s more important to be able to monitor your food’s progress. So, if all else is equal, I prefer Dutch ovens with a light interior.

Mistake 5: Lid Knob Material

Most people don’t think about the lid knob when buying a Dutch oven, but that’s a mistake.

The material of the knob impacts the maximum oven-safe temperature and safety on the stovetop.

For example, Le Creuset Dutch ovens come with either a black plastic knob or stainless steel knobs with either a brushed steel, metallic gold, or copper finish. The Classic black knob is oven-safe up to 390°F, the signature black knob is oven safe up to 480°F, and all steel knobs can handle up to 500°F.

Le Creuset knob temperature thresholds
Le Creuset knob temperature thresholds. Photo source: LeCreuset.com

Although knobs made of plastic materials can’t handle as much heat in the oven, they stay cooler on the stovetop.

Touching plastic and metal Dutch oven lid knobs
Cool plastic knob (left), hot metal knob (right)

Fortunately, most Dutch oven knobs are easily removable. So if you want the best of both worlds, you can purchase two knobs and use the plastic one for stovetop cooking and the steel one for high-temperature oven cooking.

Mistake 6: Lid Knob Design

Knob design is another detail that’s often overlooked. You want a knob with a wide top and a long stem. The larger top makes it easier to grip and tilt the lid, even when wearing an oven mitt. And the longer stem allows you to grip the knob without your knuckles touching the hot lid.

Made In has the largest knob I’ve seen with a diameter of 2.25 inches and a stem that’s over an inch long.

Measuring the diameter of Made In Dutch oven lid knob
Measuring the diameter of Made In Dutch oven lid knob
Made In Dutch oven lid knob height
Made In Dutch oven lid knob height

Although I’m a fan of Staub Dutch ovens overall, their small lid knobs make it difficult to get a firm grip, especially when wearing an oven mitt.

Measuring Staub lid knob
Measuring Staub lid knob

Avoid looped handles, like the ones on the Great Jones Dutch oven. While these handles may look attractive, they are not functional because you can only fit a couple of fingers inside the loop.

Mistake 7: Lid Design

Lid design is another factor most people don’t consider, but you should. You want a heavy lid with a tight seal to lock in moisture, but there are a few other features to consider.

Some lids, like Le Creuset’s, have grooves on top to rest a spoon without it sliding off. Other lids, like Staub’s, are flat with raised edges. With this design, you can rest utensils and put ice on top while you cook.

Resting a spoon on the lid of a Le Creuset Dutch oven

Why ice? When the hot steam from inside the pot makes contact with the cold surface of the lid, it quickly condenses back into liquid, dripping back into your dish. Doing this creates an even more moist environment inside the pot.

Ice on a Staub Dutch oven lid to convert steam into liquid
Ice on a Staub Dutch oven lid to convert steam into liquid

The interior of the lid also matters. Many brands, like Made In and Staub, have tiny bumps that capture evaporating liquid and evenly redistribute it back into the pot.

Staub Dutch oven lid interior
Staub Dutch oven lid interior

Based on my tests, this feature does work. The lid with the self-basting dimples collects and distributes moisture much more evenly than the lid without any texture.

Staub versus Le Creuset moisture distribution test results
Staub (lid with bumps) on the left. Le Creuset (lid with no bumps) on the right.

Mistake 8: Side Handles

Don’t buy a Dutch oven with small side handles or handles with a thin opening that doesn’t comfortably fit your hand. And definitely don’t buy one with handles that are just ledges with no opening.

Look for handles that stick out at least 1.25 inches with an opening of .75. The best side handles are on Le Creuset Signature Dutch ovens. They stick out 1.5 inches with an opening over one inch.

Measuring Le Creuset Dutch oven handles
Measuring Le Creuset Dutch oven handles

Remember, these pots are extremely heavy, and you’ll be lifting them when they are hot. You need side handles that feel good even when you’re wearing a bulky oven mitt.

Mistake 9: Weight

Speaking of weight, another mistake is buying a Dutch oven that’s too heavy to pick up.

These pots have thick walls and can weigh anywhere from 5 to 20 pounds, depending on the size. Most 5- or 6-quart Dutch ovens weigh around 13 pounds empty and over 20 pounds filled with liquid.

Weighing a Staub Dutch oven
Weighing a Staub Dutch oven

Make sure the one you buy is light enough for you to lift and transport. When you look at the weights listed online, add 2 pounds per quart of capacity. That’s how much it will weigh when it’s nearly full.

Mistake 10: Overpaying

High-end brands like Le Creuset and Staub make quality Dutch ovens, but you don’t need to spend $400 to get one that performs well and lasts long.

Many lesser-known brands use similar materials and construction processes but cost less because they sell primarily online, don’t invest as much in advertising, or lack the brand recognition that drives up demand and prices.

My favorite lower-cost options are Made In, Lodge, Cuisinart, and Tramontina.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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