Oval vs. Round Dutch Ovens: Which Shape Is Better?

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Are you ready to buy a new Dutch oven but can’t decide between round and oval?

The right shape depends on the type of food you cook, culinary techniques you use, storage space, and much more.

In this comparison of oval vs. round Dutch ovens, I break down the pros and cons of each and explain the factors you should consider before buying.

I also reveal the results of a test I conducted to determine if round Dutch ovens heat more evenly on the stove.

Keep reading to learn whether an oval or round Dutch oven is the best addition to your kitchen.


Use the links below to navigate this guide:


Type of Food You Cook Most Often

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing between an oval and round Dutch oven is the types of meals you plan to cook in it.

Due to the longer shape, oval Dutch ovens are better suited for large cuts of meat, such as roasts and tenderloins. Oval Dutch ovens provide more room length-wise to accommodate meals like leg of lamb, turkey breast, brisket, and ribs. 

Round Dutch ovens work great for stews, soups, braised meats, and pretty much any recipe that doesn’t involve a large and long ingredient.

Stovetop Performance

A common concern with oval Dutch ovens is that they don’t fit on stove burners. And, since the side edges extend beyond the heat source, they don’t heat evenly.

While this makes sense, I decided to conduct a test to see if it’s true.

I poured three cups of cold water into a round and an oval Dutch oven and placed them on equal-sized burners. I turned the heat to the highest setting and set a timer.

Oval versus Round Dutch Oven_stovetop performance

My goal was to determine which Dutch oven boiled the water quicker and how evenly it distributed heat (as indicated by the distribution of bubbles).

Here are the results:

Round Dutch OvenOval Dutch Oven
Time to First Bubbles2 minutes and 15 seconds2 minutes and 58 seconds
Time to Boil2 minutes and 50 seconds3 minutes and 45 seconds
Heat DistributionUniform bubblesBubbles concentrated at one end

As you can see, the round Dutch oven heated quicker, boiling the water significantly faster.

There was also a notable difference in the heat distribution. The bubbles in the round Dutch oven were completely uniform across the cooking surface.

Heat evenly distributed across a round Dutch oven
Heat evenly distributed across a round Dutch oven

However, the bubbles in the oval Dutch oven were noticeably more concentrated on one side.

Heat unevenly distributed across an oval Dutch oven
Heat unevenly distributed across an oval Dutch oven

After four and a half minutes, the bubbles began to appear evenly across the oval Dutch oven’s cooking surface.

The key takeaway is that round Dutch ovens fit better on stove burners; therefore, they heat faster and more evenly than oval Dutch ovens. If you allow more time (over four minutes), oval Dutch ovens eventually distribute and maintain uniform heat.

Cooking Method

Do you plan to use your Dutch oven on the stovetop, or in the oven, or perhaps both?

Round Dutch ovens are the better choice for cooking on stovetops since they have a smaller footprint and fit nicely on round burners.

Round Dutch oven on the stovetop
Round Dutch oven on the stovetop

And, as my test results proved, round Dutch ovens heat quicker and more evenly on the stove versus oval Dutch ovens.

Round Dutch ovens are also better if you’re using multiple burners since they don’t take up excessive space like some oval Dutch ovens. 

If you have a large stovetop, this is less of an issue. But if your stovetop has smaller burners side-by-side, you won’t be able to fit other pans next to an oval Dutch oven.

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

Before you buy, find out the length of the Dutch oven and see if you’ll have enough room to fit your favorite pan next to it on the stove.

Round and oval Dutch ovens both perform well in the oven.

Number of Color and Size Options

Round Dutch ovens are more popular than oval Dutch ovens; therefore, cookware companies offer a lot more sizes and colors in round constructions.

For example, Staub, a French cookware company specializing in Dutch ovens since 1974, offers 95 round Dutch ovens and 18 oval Dutch ovens.

Lodge, another renowned cookware maker, specializing in cast iron, offers round Dutch ovens in five sizes and nine colors, but oval Dutch ovens in only one size and two colors.

Le Creuset, one of the best cookware brands in the world, offers an equal variety of its standard round and oval Dutch ovens. But, they provide unique designs in the round category, including Dutch ovens with a gold handle, a marble collection, and an extra-wide collection.

The key takeaway — with round Dutch ovens, you have your choice of size and colors. With oval, your options are limited.

Height

In general, round Dutch ovens have a smaller diameter and taller sides than oval Dutch ovens. You can even find options with extra-tall sides for high-volume cooking.

For example, the Tramontina Tall Round Dutch Oven, available on Amazon, has 6-inch walls (without the lid), while the sides of the Tramontina Oval Dutch Oven are 4.75 inches tall.

Oval Dutch ovens aren’t as suitable for liquid-heavy dishes like stews and soups due to the shallower sides.

Storage

Examine your storage space before deciding whether to buy a round or oval Dutch oven.

Round Dutch ovens are typically easier to store because they have a uniform diameter. Most other pots are round, so you can stack them inside the Dutch oven (always use pot protectors).

Oval Dutch ovens can be difficult to store, especially if you’re tight on space.

Ultimately, always check the dimensions of the Dutch oven you’re considering to make sure you have adequate space for it.

Choosing the Right Size Dutch Oven

While choosing the right Dutch oven shape is very important, it’s even more crucial to select the right size.

Both oval and round Dutch ovens are available in many sizes. The size is determined by the capacity measured in quarts.

The best way to decide which size is best for you is to consider how many people you cook for regularly.

If you have a large family or host dinner parties often, you may want to opt for a larger size. If you’re cooking for one or two most of the time, you can get away with less capacity.

When in doubt, I recommend a 5.5 or six-quart Dutch oven which is ideal for a five-person family or batch cooking for smaller families.

In Le Creuset’s helpful size guide, the company says that the 5.5-quart Round Dutch Oven and 6.75-quart Oval Dutch Oven are its most popular sizes, offering the most flexibility (not too big or small).

Remember that the bigger the Dutch oven, the longer it will take to heat. So don’t oversize unless necessary.

A larger Dutch oven also takes up more storage space. Going bigger on the off chance you might need it for the odd dinner party a few times a year isn’t always the better option.

Below is a handy table to help you determine which is the best size for your family and the types of meals you make.

CapacityServesIdeal for
1-2 quarts1-2 peopleIndividual servings, sauces, cobblers, small pies
3-4 quarts2-4 peopleSide dishes, soups, Cornish hen
5-6 quarts4-6 peopleFeeding a family, whole chicken, roasts, chili
7-8 quarts6-8 peopleBatch cooking, dinner parties, stews, stock, pulled pork, roasts, and turkeys (10 lb or less)
9+ quarts8+ peopleHolidays, gatherings, parties, larger batches, meal prep, large turkeys and chickens (10+ lb)

Bottom Line: Should You Buy a Round or Oval Dutch Oven?

Now that we’ve covered all the ways that oval and round Dutch ovens compare, it’s time to make a decision.

Let’s quickly recap the key differences:

  • Both perform well for soups and stews, but oval Dutch ovens are better for longer cuts of meat, like a leg of lamb.
  • Round Dutch ovens heat faster and more evenly on the stove.
  • Round dutch ovens typically come in more size and color options.
  • Round Dutch ovens take up less storage space.

Shape is important, but arguably more important is the size of the Dutch oven. Make sure the one you buy has enough, but not too much, capacity.

Ultimately, both oval and round Dutch ovens do a great job preparing meals. The right shape comes down to your storage space, the meals you cook, and your personal preference.

I recommend round Dutch ovens because they’re more suitable for stovetop cooking, which is necessary for most meals.

If you’re ready to buy or just want to browse reviews, the brands I recommend are Le Creuset, Staub, and Tramontina (more affordable). All three are available in stores and on Amazon at the links below:

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