Stock Pot vs. Dutch Oven: Do You Need Both?

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If you’re shopping for new cookware, you might be wondering:

What’s the difference between a stock pot and a Dutch oven? Do you need both? Or is one versatile enough for most kitchens?

If you’re asking yourself these questions, you’ve come to the right place.

In this comparison of stock pots vs. Dutch ovens, you’ll learn how they differ in construction, performance, versatility, price, and more.

By the end, you’ll have all the facts necessary to decide which piece of cookware you need (or if you need both).


Use the links below to navigate the comparison:


What Is a Stock Pot?

True to their name, stock pots have traditionally been used to brew bone broth or stock.

That requires stockpots to be noticeably taller than your average pot, with a thin base, wide diameter, and straight sides to contain large quantities of liquid.

Stock Pot

Although most stock pots have tall sides, they come in various sizes. For example, the All-Clad stock pot (pictured below) has shorter walls and a wider opening.

All-Clad Stock Pot

The sides are straight to contain large quantities of liquid.

Stockpots feature two helper-handles riveted to each side. They come with a lightweight lid with another handle on top.

Stockpots tend to be one of the larger pieces of cookware you’ll find in the average kitchen. They range in capacity from as little as four quarts, all the way up to 20 quarts.

What Is a Dutch Oven?

Dutch ovens are named for their association with craftsmen in the 18th-century Netherlands. These cast iron pots are thick and sturdy, with a heavy lid to lock in moisture.

Le Creuset Dutch Oven

With the ability to make soups, stews, sauces, braises, and even bread, Dutch ovens are incredibly versatile.

These pots are ideal for slow-cooking due to exceptional heat retention and the ability to seal in moisture during the cooking process. They are stove and oven-safe and come with two side handles for safe transfer between cooking range to oven.

Dutch ovens are all one piece; the handles and pot are cast together during the manufacturing process.

Most Dutch ovens are coated in colorful enamel, which not only makes them aesthetically pleasing but also provides a non-reactive, stick-resistant cooking surface.

The combination of aesthetics and heat retention makes Dutch ovens popular cooking and serving vessels.

Stock Pot vs. Dutch Oven: Comparison Chart

Refer to the chart below for a quick comparison between stock pots and Dutch ovens.

Stock PotDutch Oven
Primary PurposeStock, broth, soupsSlow cooking (braises, stews, chilis, etc.)
ConstructionStainless steel (fully-clad or impact-bonded)Enameled or bare cast iron
Heat ConductionHeats significantly fasterSlow to heat up
Heat RetentionCools down quickerSuperior heat retention
VersatilityLiquid-heavy focus (boiling, simmering, steaming), stovetop onlyStovetop and oven compatible, ideal for soups, sauces, meats, bread, frying
Compatible with OvensNoYes
Weight (5.5-quart option)5 pounds12 pounds
StorageEasy to stack other pans insideHeavy, enamel can chip when stacked, more difficult to store
PriceLess expensive (check prices of top-selling brands)More expensive (check prices of top-selling brands)

Construction and Materials

Most Dutch ovens are crafted from heavy enameled cast iron that’s been fired in what’s known as a “sand mold.”

Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

You can find bare cast iron (no enamel coating) and stainless steel Dutch ovens, but they’re rare.

Stock pots are almost always made of stainless steel, but you can find options crafted from copper or aluminum, too.

Fully-Clad Stainless Steel Stock Pot
Fully-Clad Stainless Steel Stock Pot

When comparing the two, you’ll immediately notice that Dutch ovens are significantly thicker than stock pots.

Cast iron has high carbon content, which adds strength but also makes it brittle and rigid (non-malleable). To counteract the brittleness and increase durability, the walls of Dutch ovens need to be thicker.

By contrast, stainless steel is much more malleable and not brittle. Therefore, the walls of stainless steel stock pots don’t need to be as thick, and cookware makers can stamp or spin thin sheets of bonded steel into shape.

Stainless steel stock pots can be crafted with either fully-clad steel construction or an impact-bonded base with steel sides.

The difference is that full-clad stock pots have several bonded layers (typically steel on the exterior and interior with a conductive aluminum core) throughout, while impact-bonded stockpots have single-layer steel sides and a layered bottom.

Fully-clad stock pots heat more evenly, thanks to their conductive base and sides. The downside is that they’re significantly more expensive. For comparison, here are the relative prices on Amazon:

Heat Conduction Test

Due to their thinner walls and overall lighter construction, stock pots heat more rapidly than Dutch ovens.

But how much quicker do they heat?

To find out, I conducted a simple test.

After pouring exactly three cups of cold water into an enameled cast iron Dutch oven and a fully-clad stainless steel stockpot, I placed each on equal-sized burners and turned the heat to high.

stock pot versus Dutch oven heat conduction test

My goal was to see how long each took to boil the water. Here are the results:

Dutch OvenStock Pot
Time to First Bubbles2 minutes and 25 seconds1 minute and 31 seconds
Time to Boil3 minutes and 6 seconds2 minutes and 5 seconds

As you can see, the stock pot boiled the water about a minute faster, which amounts to a 33% difference.

That may not seem like a big difference, but if you run the same experiment with more water, say 10 cups, it takes even longer for each to heat, and the gap between the Dutch oven and stock pot’s time to boil gets wider.

Heat Retention Test

Dutch ovens excel at retaining heat, making for a more predictable, low-maintenance cooking process. It’s why Dutch ovens are ideal for slow cooking.

But how does the heat retention of Dutch ovens compare to stock pots?

After recording the time it took each vessel to boil water, I conducted another simple experiment to see how much better Dutch ovens are at retaining heat.

I took each pot off the stove and set it aside. After five minutes, I measured the temperature of the water.

The water in the stock pot measured 120.7°F.

stock pot versus Dutch oven_stock pot heat retention results_2
Stock pot heat retention results after 5 minutes

The water in the Dutch oven measured 131.5°F, a 9% difference.

stock pot versus Dutch oven_Dutch oven heat retention results
Dutch oven heat retention results after 5 minutes

After another five minutes (ten minutes total), I measured again.

At this point, the water in the stock pot measured 103.0°F.

stock pot versus Dutch oven_stock pot heat retention results
Stock pot heat retention results after 10 minutes

The water in the Dutch oven measured 112.2°F, which is, again, about a 9% difference.

stock pot versus Dutch oven_Dutch oven heat retention results_2
Dutch oven heat retention results after 10 minutes

The key takeaway is that Dutch ovens retain heat better than stock pots. In fact, Dutch ovens retain heat about 9% better than stock pots, according to my tests.

Versatility

Although the versatility of a stock pot or Dutch oven varies based on its quality and the brand or manufacturer, there are some dependable differences between the two.

The thick, usually cast-iron construction of Dutch ovens means that they are designed for use on both stovetops and in the oven. 

They tend to have a high temperature-safety rating and are wide enough to be used for a large variety of dishes, including stewing, braising, boiling, frying, roasting, and baking.

Stock pots, by comparison, are only meant to be used on a stovetop. They’re ideal for stock, bone broth, soups, pasta, potatoes, steamed vegetables, and any other liquid-heavy dish.

Cooking soup in a stainless steel stock pot

The one caveat is that Dutch ovens tend to be rather heavy and difficult to maneuver when they contain a significant amount of liquid — keep that in mind if you plan to use yours for soups, stews, or other fluid-heavy recipes.

Overall, if you are looking for versatility, the Dutch oven is the way to go.

Storage

Due to their overall bulk, Dutch ovens can be difficult to store. Heavy lids, significant width, and sizable handles take up a lot of space and make these pots somewhat challenging to maneuver and arrange.

You have to be careful about where you store Dutch ovens as well. A standard 5.5-quart Dutch oven weighs in at a whopping 12 pounds — not ideal for hanging on a rack or flimsy shelf. A stock pot of the same volume, by contrast, will only weigh about five pounds.

Additionally, a Dutch oven’s enamel coating can chip or scratch if you bang it against other pots or try to store other cookware inside it.

In most cases, stop pots are easier to store because they’re lighter, thinner, and you can stack other pieces inside of them.

Price

Dutch ovens are generally more expensive than stock pots. But, there’s a decent amount of price variation by manufacturer, material, and retailer.

For example, a fully-clad stainless steel stock pot manufactured by a premium brand — such as All-Clad or Demeyere — can carry a price point that’s comparable to that of an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.

Even so, if you purchase a Dutch oven from a top-of-the-line brand such as Le Creuset, you can expect to pay as much as five times more than you’d pay for a stockpot by a brand such as Cuisinart.

The bottom line is that Dutch ovens’ price varies tremendously, and having a budget in mind before you begin shopping around is a smart move.

This pricing comparison chart should give you a solid foundation to start with:

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Bottom Line: Do You Need a Stock Pot, Dutch Oven, or Both?

Now that you know the similarities and differences between stock pots and Dutch ovens, it’s time to decide which is best for your kitchen.

To recap, the key differences between stock pots and Dutch ovens are:

Stock pots are tall and fairly wide with a thin base and walls, whereas Dutch ovens are thick, wide, and short.

Dutch ovens are constructed with heavier materials such as enameled or bare cast iron, while stock pots are made from lighter materials like stainless steel and aluminum.

Stock pots are better at conducting heat (they heat faster), while Dutch ovens feature excellent heat retention (holding heat after removed from the source).

Dutch ovens are more versatile, as you can use them on a stovetop or in an oven, but they’re harder to store. Stock pots are easier to store but are limited to liquid-heavy meals.

Generally speaking, Dutch ovens are pricier than stock pots, but there is significant variation by brand, retailer, quality, and material.

If you have space and the budget, my recommendation is to purchase both a stock pot and a Dutch oven.

If you’re only interested in purchasing one of these options, go with a Dutch oven. Its versatility means you’ll get more for your money. Stock pots are great for soups, pasta, or other liquid-heavy recipes but are otherwise more limited than a Dutch oven.

Le Creuset is, by far, the best Dutch oven brand, but its products are very expensive (view on Amazon). If Le Creuset is out of your budget, check out these high-quality yet much more affordable alternatives.

For stock pots, I recommend All-Clad and Made In. Both are made in America with premium fully-clad stainless steel. Check out All-Clad stock pots on Amazon and Made In stock pots on MadeInCookware.com, or read my comparison of the two brands to learn more.

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