How To Choose The Best Size Dutch Oven For You
Deciding to buy a Dutch oven is exciting. As one of the most versatile kitchen tools around, a cast-iron Dutch oven makes cooking all sorts of meals an absolute pleasure.
Of course, knowing you want a Dutch oven is just the first step. After that, you need to choose which size, and this all depends on how you answer the questions: “what do I want to cook?” and “who am I going to be cooking for?”
Whether you dream of recreating grandma’s famous roast, working on your sourdough bread recipe or spending a day preparing a month’s worth of meals, there’s a perfectly sized Dutch oven for you.
A rule of thumb you might see around is to have as many quarts as you have people to cook for, and then go a little bigger. This means a 5.5 quart Dutch oven should comfortably make enough food for five people, maybe a little more.
But this calculation can be less than helpful if you like to batch cook, have friends and family around for big feasts, love to feed your housemates or tend to cook for yourself.
This article is about helping you choose the best size Dutch oven to suit your kitchen and your style so that you can get the best out of your cast-iron cookware for years to come.
But first, some frequently-asked questions.
Is It Better To Buy A Round Or Oval Dutch Oven?
When you start shopping for a cast-iron Dutch oven, you’ll quickly realize that size isn’t the only thing to consider. Because they’re cast from a mold, Dutch ovens can be made in a whole range of shapes — some much more useful than others.
If versatility is your goal, round is the best shape for a Dutch oven. Round Dutch ovens heat more evenly on a regular cooktop, they can be used for recipes that require starting on the stove and moving to the oven, and they can even be used to bake cake.
The irregular shape of an oval Dutch oven, meanwhile, makes it hard to use on a cooktop and less suited for day-to-day use than its circular counterpart.
What’s The Most Popular Size Dutch Oven?
The most popular size for a Dutch oven is somewhere between five and seven quarts. If you’re cooking for family or friends fairly regularly, something like a 5.5 quart Dutch oven might be ideal for you.
It makes sense why this size tends to be what people go for — it can hold plenty of food and still fit on a standard cooktop. Also, a 5.5 quart Dutch oven is in that sweet spot between having a generous capacity and still being a reasonable weight.
How do I clean a Dutch oven?
This is a great question and here's all the info you need to clean your dutch oven properly.
What Size Dutch Oven Should I Buy If…
I Usually Cook Meals For One Or Two People
While a 5.5 quart Dutch oven is certainly the most-popular size around, it’s not really necessary if you’re going to be cooking for one or two people most of the time.
Smaller Dutch ovens (around three to four quarts) are ideal for recipes that involve at least a few steps on the cooktop — like risotto or boeuf bourguignon. They’re also a nice size for baking a loaf of Dutch oven bread.
You can easily cook a whole chicken in a 3.5 quart Dutch oven too. Look for “broiler” or “fryer” chickens that weigh around three pounds (or 1.5 kilograms) and try this recipe for roast chicken with honey and herbs.
Since it’s smaller, the chicken will probably cook a little faster than the one in this recipe, so use a meat thermometer to check if it’s done. Of course, if you dream of cooking a large chicken sitting on a bed of tender roast vegetables, a 5.5 quart Dutch oven is going to be the better size.
I Have A Family With Young Kids
If you’re juggling a busy schedule and have little kids running around, a 3.5 quart Dutch oven can be a more practical choice. It’s large enough to cook plenty of food, but it’s lighter and easier to store compared to bigger Dutch ovens. That said, storage might not ever be an issue since a Dutch oven sitting proudly on a cooktop elevates every kitchen.
While a smaller Dutch oven is great for making day-to-day meals, like pasta or soup, you might find 3.5 quarts isn’t quite big enough for when the family comes over or if you want to do some meal prep.
I Cook For A Bunch Of Adults
If the kids are grown up or you love cooking for your flatmates, a 5.5 quart Dutch oven is the way to go. Its generous size means everyone can get their fill, plus you’ll get to enjoy the pleasure of putting a beautiful dutch oven down in the middle of a busy dining table.
Some great recipes you can share straight from the pot include braised pork tacos, mac and cheese or vegetarian gumbo. Of course, anything you can make in a small Dutch oven you can make in a larger one, including this no-knead bread recipe.
I Love To Host Dinner Parties
For cooking your show-stopping main, nothing beats a 5.5 quart Dutch oven. Its size means it can accommodate larger or more awkward cuts of meat, like pot roast, ribs or brisket, while also being big enough to feed everyone.
Cooking dinner is not the only thing your Dutch oven is good for either. Warm drinks like this classic mulled wine stay at the perfect temperature for the whole evening thanks to the superior heat retention of cast iron.
I Do Tons Of Batch Cooking
If one of your biggest reasons for shopping for a Dutch oven is so that you can cook a lot of food, then a 5.5 quart is the best size for you. Whether you’re into prepping your meals for the whole week or you love making chutneys and sauces to give as gifts, the capacity of a 5.5 quart will not let you down.
A large Dutch oven is an excellent tool for making homemade tomato sauce or a sweet and spicy mango chutney. And when the holidays roll around you’ll be able to wow everyone with this zesty cranberry sauce.
It bears repeating: a Dutch oven is one of the most versatile cooking tools you’ll ever bring into your kitchen. No matter which size you go for, your cast iron Dutch oven is about to become your new best friend.
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