Dutch Oven vs Stainless Steel Pots “Which Came out on Top”
Cast Iron Dutch Ovens and Stainless Steel Cookware are immensely popular in the kitchen. Both types of cookware have their place when preparing food. That is until we start comparing which piece is better than the other.
The one major difference between cast-iron Dutch ovens and stainless steel cookware is that the latter is seen as the more modern form of cookware.
Is a Dutch oven better than a Stainless Steel pot? The answer to this question can only be determined by what it is that you wish to get out of the pot. Identifying the factors that reveal whether it is better to use a cast-iron Dutch oven or stainless steel cookware are heat conduction and retention, the chemical reaction to specific food sources, and durability.
Then there is also the small matter of affordability. Is a Dutch oven more affordable than stainless steel pots? We will also dive into that a little later. Stick around to learn a bit more.
Both Dutch ovens and stainless steel pots score well in several spheres. Ultimately it is what you the individual will be using the pots for that will determine the type of cookware that is better to use in the kitchen.
When all has been considered, you want the cookware that you will use most in your kitchen. At some point, you will need to determine whether a Dutch oven is more versatile and durable than stainless steel cookware.
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State of the Art Cookware vs Tried and Test Cooking Methods
Before even doing a deep dive into which cookware product is better, there are those among us who will likely be attracted to what they view to be “state of the art” cookware.
In fact, when you briefly examine any “state of the art kitchen” on the market, it becomes immediately apparent to all and sundry that “state of the art” actually means just covering the whole kitchen in steel and leaving some wood behind for nostalgia.
On that score, stainless steel cookware has a tremendous amount going for it. We are even tempted to call it a slight edge. It is shiny and it looks more imposing.
However, being modern can also be a drawback for the product and anybody who already owns a Dutch oven will tell you why. Nostalgia is one element to it but it ultimately extends beyond that.
There is also the overriding sentiment in some sections of the community that the old ways are always the best.
Some people simply do not trust modern developments. For them, the cast-iron cooking that comes with the territory when using a Dutch oven is a tried and tested technique.
Truthfully speaking it is very difficult to fault the logic, even in the 21st century because those who produce cast-iron Dutch ovens have developed an uncanny ability to adapt to the times.
They have managed to keep the cast-iron Dutch oven relevant over centuries of cooking.
At some point in history, the world managed to move on from relying on fire as a heat source when cooking. The modern cooking options are actually endless.
These days people operating a kitchen can choose from a list that includes:
- The Gas Stove
- Gas On Glass Top
- Gas Underneath Glass Top
- Induction Cooking
- Halogen Cooking
- Solar Cooking
- Ceramic Cooking
- Oven Cooking and
- the most common which is electric cooking
It is also worth noting that fire remains a very popular heat source when cooking. You will find that the cast-iron Dutch oven is a suitable cooking option under most of these circumstances, especially when the time comes to cook over a fire.
The ironically more modern stainless steel cookware might give you a few more problems when you are trying to adapt to the various heat sources for cooking.
It is important that we try to understand why which is why we need to get clarity on what cast-iron and stainless steel actually are.
More Detail on Cast Iron
While the accepted history is that specifically, Dutch ovens have been in operation since the early 18th century, cast iron actually has a richer history than that. Dutch ovens have merely become the signature product of cast-iron cooking.
Cast iron actually traces its roots back to somewhere in the late 7th century – about 680 to be a little more precise. For example, we know about cast-iron kettles being used in England during that period, more or less.
In this article, I have researched extensively Dutch oven history – great read…
Modern cast-iron cookware includes – but is not limited to – panini presses, waffle irons, crepe makers, dutch ovens, frying pans, deep fryers, Tetsubin, woks, Potjies, karahi, flattop grills, and griddles. That is quite a wide range.
A defining feature of cast iron is that it has a carbon content of more than 2 percent. Because cast iron has a very low melting temperature, producing cast-iron products – cookware included – is a much cheaper and quicker process than that producing other products like stainless steel.
Iron alloys with a lower carbon content than 2 percent are what we would regularly refer to as steel. That is a defining feature of cast iron, especially in the context of this article.
More Detail on Stainless Steel
The most defining feature of stainless steel is the 11 percent chromium content that you find in it. Critically – and we tapped on this above – the maximum carbon content in stainless steel is 1.2 percent.
That effectively means that producing stainless steel cookware will generally require a little more time, effort, and ultimately money. Insofar as consumption is concerned we would ordinarily find stainless steel in products like cookware, cutlery, surgical instruments, and major appliances (e.g washing machines).
Is Stainless Steel Better Than Dutch Ovens With Heat?
For those who do not know Dutch ovens are renowned because they retain heat better than any other cookware product on the market.
All cast iron products are able to cook at very high temperatures without any damage being sustained by the pot – in this context that would be the Dutch oven – and without burning the food…or the kitchen, come to that.
Not only can you cook slowly and for long periods with a Dutch oven but you can also sear and fry food much more effectively than you would with any other cookware product.
Slow cooking, what this means is that you can cook better stews with a Dutch oven than with any other pot or casserole dish.
Dutch ovens also distribute heat as well as any other cookware product on the market. We are tempted to say better than any other product on the cookware market but that is not entirely conclusive detail. That means nutrients are better retained when cooking with a Dutch oven and that all food is better “cooked” with a Dutch oven.
Finally – and this might just seal the deal for some of you – you can also bake very effectively with a Dutch oven because of its outstanding heat retention properties. Dutch ovens bring the heat.
At this point, it does not actually matter what we write about stainless steel cookware and its heat retention properties because even if stainless steel had outstanding heat retention properties, they would lose the argument against the best product in the business – the Dutch oven.
However, because I strive for some balance, I remain open to all possibilities. I have explored in depth the heat retention properties in stainless steel.
In all honesty, anybody who has ever cooked with stainless steel will tell you what a poor heat conductor it is. Not only does stainless steel take forever to heat up but when it does, that heat does not spread anywhere as evenly as it would with a Dutch oven.
While modern attempts have been made to compensate for that – and to some degree, they have been useful – the fact you have to go through all that additional effort, which will cost a considerable amount more for the manufacturer, the vendor, and yourself are somewhat of a drawback.
Are Dutch Ovens Easier to Clean Than Stainless Steel Cookware?
Even if you are not a lazy person, this will probably be among the greatest determining factors when deciding on whether to purchase a Dutch oven or stainless steel cookware. The reality is that we are living in the 21st century, where time is always of the essence.
Like most people you simply do not have the time to wash dishes. The longer it takes to wash dishes the less likely you are to purchase the cookware product.
Dishwashers are amazing as we know and almost every package containing anything new we purchase will likely have a great big “safe for dishwasher” stamped on it.
However, dishwashers can only take you so far and at some point, you will need to intervene or take over the process.
Related read this article is about whether or not you should put a Dutch oven in a dishwasher
The key to understanding what your prospects in the sink or dishwasher are, we need to take time out to try and understand which product is easier to clean than the other before the technology is introduced.
Again, we will say straight up that anybody who has used stainless steel will tell you that cleaning a pot can be an absolute nightmare, especially for something that has been cooked at high temperatures.
Stainless steel cookware, as useful as it can be, is not non-stick. That invariably requires that you take additional steps when cooking and when cleaning. That is a burden you do not really want to carry in your already busy life.
Professional cooks have even had to come up with creative ways to try and clean stainless steel cookware as effectively and thoroughly as possible. Among those cleaning remedies are lime and salt; cream and tartar; dryer sheets and even baking soda.
The lesson here is that the stainless pots are only stainless to a point. At some point, an extra intervention will be required to maintain the quality of the stainless steel pot.
Even then, the stainless steel pot will reach a point of no return. When that happens, there will be no cleaning left to be done. Just throw the thing in the bin.
Cast-Iron Dutch Ovens
Cleaning is one area in which Dutch ovens do stand out from other cookware. Towards the end of the 19th century, the enamel coating on the inside of the Dutch oven was first introduced by cookware manufacturer BK.
In the early 20th century another cookware manufacturer Le Creuset introduced the enamel coating both on the inside and outside of the Dutch oven. Both developments are important in the context of this blog.
Not only did the introduction of the “double coating” have a meaningful impact on the aesthetics of the Dutch oven – where it also beats stainless steel cookware by the way – but it also made cleaning the Dutch oven considerably easier on the inside and the outside.
Now, the one aspect about uncoated – seasoned Dutch ovens – that nobody can avoid is that they eventually do rust, especially when neglected.
That can be remedied by seasoning and restoring the Dutch oven. However, cleaning and seasoning a Dutch oven can be an enormous undertaking – even for those among us with an exceptional work ethic.
Given what we have said about the 21st century and the unavailability of time, the already enameled Dutch ovens are a complete game-changer in this regard.
The enamel-coated Dutch oven minimizes and essentially eliminates the rust problem that you might have had with the more traditional Dutch oven. So, we are giving this category to the Dutch oven too.
While it is actually recommended by some that you do not use your dishwasher for a Dutch oven cleaning, we do not think you actually need to put it in the dishwasher anyway because it is so easy to clean by hand. We suspect you might even enjoy doing it.
Are Dutch Ovens Safer Than Stainless Steel Cookware?
From the traditional Dutch oven point of view, this hinges heavily on the enamel coating which is such a prominent feature of the product. The two big words that are associated with Dutch oven health research are “Dietary Iron”.
The great fear that every Dutch oven owner has is centered on the level of dietary iron produced by a traditional and unseasoned Dutch oven. Just how much of that iron will end up in your food and how much of it will you be consuming?
In studies (source) that have been conducted on this subject matter, it has been revealed that iron levels leached into food cooked with a Dutch oven can be exceedingly high.
However, there has been a way found to mitigate that – and this is where the enamel coating on the inside and outside become so important. The enamel basically eliminates the health risk that would ordinarily be posed by the unseasoned Dutch oven.
Having the enamel coating basically also ensures that you are able to cook most kinds of food in that Dutch oven.
While stainless steel cooking is largely safe. There is certainly a lot less to think about here than when you are using a Dutch oven. Stainless steel cookware does not react to any foods, whether that be alkaline or acidic. That is primarily because stainless steel is resistant to corrosion.
If you are careful and consult the experts about this in-store, I still suggest purchasing the Cast Iron Dutch Oven over the Stainless Steel Pot anyway.
However, if you do not want to overthink this issue choosing to purchase and cook with stainless steel is a perfectly reasonable option, especially when you are worried about your health and the health of your family.
Dutch Oven vs Stainless Steel Comparison Chart
|Dutch Oven||Stainless Steel Pot|
|Used For||Slow Cooking||Faster cooking, deep pots liquid dishes|
|Food Prep||Stews, chilis, roasting, frying, baking||frying, soup, stock|
|Materials||Seasoned or enamel cast iron||Stainless steel, aluminum core|
|Heat Source||Oven, gas, electric, glass, ceramic, halogen & induction||Gas, electric, glass, ceramic, halogen & induction|
|Heat Conductivity||Heats up slowly||Heats up quickly|
|Heat Retention||Retains heat more than any other cookware||Does not retain heat once of heat source|
|Usability/versatility||Use any heat source to prepare any dish, easy-care||Limited heat source capabilities, not oven safe (check the packaging as this varies)|
|Weight||Twice as heavy||Light to medium (depends upon the amount of cladding)|
|Durability||Lifetime||Limited life span|
|Price||Affordable to heirloom prices||Expensive for a quality product|
Quick answers to some commonly asked questions about cast iron and stainless steel.
Are stainless steel Dutch ovens ovenproof?
Yes, stainless steel is ovenproof. Unfortunately, there is an exception. That is the handle and pot lid hook may not be suitable for the oven.
You should check with the manufacturers’ instructions as to whether the accessories are oven-proof.
As with all manufactured products, the ones that cost more tend to have the materials to meet your needs.
More information about using Dutch ovens in a conventional oven can be found here.
Can a Dutch oven be stainless steel?
Yes, there are Dutch ovens made from stainless steel. Stainless steel Dutch ovens are known by various names. To name a few –
- Dutch Oven Stockpot
- Dutch Oven Casserole Stockpot
- Stock Pot
Brand names include Anolon, Cuisinart, Calphalon, Tramontina, and Farberware. Click here to go to Amazon and check the variety, reviews, and prices out for yourself.
What is the best material for a Dutch oven?
This could be construed as a trick question. But here goes!
The best material for a Dutch oven when one wants to use the pot for all the uses a traditional Dutch oven can carry out is “Cast-Iron” or “Enamel Coated Cast-Iron”.
The modern age has bought us Dutch ovens made from many different materials. Ovens made from various types of material including stainless steel cannot carry out all the duties that the original cast-iron pot can.
Wrapping Up: Dutch Oven vs Stainless Steel Pots
When you have considered whether you would like to purchase a Dutch oven or not, we actually do not think the price will be a major determining factor.
It is true that when stainless steel cookware sets are advertised, it can often feel like you are getting more for less.
When you conduct a basic search for Stainless Steel Cookware at Amazon, for example, the first thing that comes up is a 12-piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set. However, what vendors do not tell you is whether the stainless steel cookware set is non-stick, easy to clean, or even durable.
- Will, stainless steel be set to distribute and retain heat better than a Dutch oven?
- Will that stainless steel set last you a complete lifetime?
These are game-changing details that are too often overlooked and sometimes completely ignored.
I am quietly confident that when you do eventually conduct your assessments, you will establish that spending money on the Dutch oven instead will be well worth your while. We think money on a Dutch oven set is money better spent and that there is no other way of looking at it.
The difference in pricing is also negligible, especially when you consider that the Dutch oven is the more versatile cookware product, whether that comes to how you cook with it or what it is that you choose to cook. You will find that two Dutch oven pots can achieve more than 12 stainless steel pots and pans.
Which type of cooking pot do I choose? The cast-iron Dutch oven as it can back up every time and prepare any dish I wwish to make.
Ah but do not be mislead – I have a full set of stainless steel pots and pans with built in copper bases that I have had for 27 years (wedding gift).
These pots my steam vegetables and other types of cooking that requires plenty of water or liquid. I never fry in them and bareley prepare anything that requires excessive heat or sauces. They still look brand new as they have never been in the dishwasher.
So in my kitchen both types of pots have their place.
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Michelle – Author
Hi, I’m Michelle the founder, owner, author, and editor of OvenSpot. My passion for one-pot cooking commenced when I was working to prepare cafeteria lunches for school students. I am now on a mission to assist you in choosing the cooking pot or appliance you will use every day. As well as in-depth information to assist you in using and caring for your cookware and appliances.
Questions? Reach out to Michelle at email@example.com