With so many cooking appliances on the market today the question of what a Dutch oven looks like is not uncommon. Being somewhat of an expert on the subject here is a quick answer…
Dutch ovens are cooking pots with thick walls and even thicker bases. Originally made from cast iron. A substantial handle on each side of the pot is designed to bear a heavy load. Finally, a heavy self-basting lid that fits tightly to its oven base to keep the essential steam for cooking inside the pot.
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What Does a Dutch Oven Look Like?
What Is A Dutch Oven?
Firstly you need to know that there are two types of Dutch ovens.
Those that are made from seasoned cast iron and those that are cast-iron coated with enamel.
Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
Seasoned cast-iron Dutch ovens can be used outdoors over an open fire as well as indoors (with care) utilizing heat sources in your kitchen.
They are large pots with a handle on each side these handles are cast along with the pot not added later.
Camp Dutch ovens either have a flat bottom to sit on a stove or hang over a campfire. Some have legs on the bottom so they could actually stand amongst the coals. We still have these types available today. They are called cast iron camp Dutch ovens.
These ovens come in various shapes and sizes. Some have a wire bail that extends from one handle of the oven to the other for lifting. It still gets hot so be careful. Use oven mitts.
Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Ovens
Enamel Dutch ovens should not be used on open fires as the exterior will be ruined. They can be used on heat sources in a kitchen including a conventional oven.
These enamel cooking pots such as Le Creuset Dutch ovens come in all shapes, sizes, and fashion colors.
These pots are versatile and can be used for more than cooking a meal. You can store pre-cooked or cooked meals in the pot refrigerator as well as serve meals from the hot pot at the dinner table.
Importantly unlike seasoned cast-iron cooking pieces, enameled cast iron can be clean in a dishwasher. (Read manufacturer instructions first)
Dutch Oven Safety
Safety should always be front of mind when using any Dutch oven.
You will notice the handles on each side of the oven. In a great Dutch oven they should be quite large. So you can use mitts to lift the oven safely.
These handles are cast along with the pot not added later. These handles are less likely to break off, unlike handles that are adhered to at the end of the manufacturing process.
Dutch oven lids have either a loop handle that can be lifted safely with a lid lifter. Or a knob that can be lifted with mitts.
It should also be noted that cast-iron Dutch ovens are heavy and you should keep that in mind when considering a purchase.
Even though cast iron is a poor conductor of heat they withstand high temperatures.
They should be heated up slowly when the oven is at the required temperature it stays hot.
That is when you can actually reduce your heat source and conserve energy because the food will continue to cook in the hot Dutch oven.
You will need to monitor your temperature and cooking time.
Combine the features above with the heavy lid which is usually self-basting allowing heat retention and also giving you tender dishes every time.
Dutch Oven Uses
How is a Dutch oven used? See a wide range of uses here also…
In your Dutch oven, you can saute, shallow and deep-fry, roast, prepare large batches of soups, casserole, stews, beans, chili, popcorn, scrambled eggs, oats, desserts, make pizzas, bake, and the list goes on.
Let us not forget baking delicious treats as well as making perfect bread.
Check out my Dutch oven recipes and other tips for baking bread here
Dutch ovens are perfect for reducing sauces due to the wider base and short walls of the pot the moisture can easily evaporate leaving a thick sauce.
At home cooking in a Dutch oven is as easy as braising or sauteing meat and vegetables, then adding other ingredients and liquids as required on the stovetop then popping in the oven to finish the one-pot meal.
Outdoors cooking can be even easier all ingredients in one pot replace the lid and wait for your meal to cook…
After the cooking process is complete the heat from the oven will keep the prepared dish warm for a long time.
If you use an enameled Dutch oven you can serve straight from the oven as it really is a decor piece.
The History of Dutch Ovens
Written evidence referencing Dutch ovens can be traced right back to the Bible. They were referred to as Black Pots or Cooking Cauldrons. They were made from cast iron and sat over open fire pits.
Around the world, they were manufactured in different sizes, shapes, and material quality. Ultimately they all carried out the same job which was to nourish the masses.
In the 1600s in The Netherlands, the Dutch were using manufacturing techniques on what they called Braadpan’s. They were using a dry sand process in their molds which would give the Dutch oven a smoother surface.
In the early 1700s, the English adopted a similar manufacturing technique which he would then introduce to the American colonies and then the world.
The colonists had been using a similar cooking appliance to the cast iron version of the Dutch oven, but they were made from much lighter metals.
The cast-iron Dutch oven quickly became a valuable commodity and was widely used for trade amongst Native Indians and colonists.
Dutch ovens have evolved throughout the years like all other necessary inventions.
We now have available us Dutch ovens made from various materials which consist of the traditional cast-iron ovens to much lighter versions for use in the kitchen.
Very recently Dutch manufacturer Combekk in The Netherlands has re-commenced molding cast iron Dutch ovens. The original range was cast from historic pieces of railway track.
Their next range will soon be cast from iron from decommissioned jails or prisons. This range could possibly be called “The Prison Edition”.
Read more about Dutch oven history here
Frequently Asked Questions
Quick answers to a couple of questions you should know the answers to.
What Makes a Dutch Oven Different?
- Can cook any recipe
- Slow cook abilities
- Fast cook abilities
- Self-basting to keep nutrients in
- Heat retention
- Energy Saver
- Price – economical
What Can Be Used Instead of a Dutch Oven?
The choices are endless, as long as you are able to adapt a chosen Dutch oven recipe you can cook in a Dutch oven substitute.
Some of these Dutch oven alternatives include
Read more about Dutch oven substitutes in my article here – it is a real eye-opener.
What Should I Look for in a Dutch Oven?
- Determine the size you require
- Where you will be cooking with the oven
- What types of food you cook determines the shape
Read more about choosing the perfect Dutch oven for you in my article here.
To Finish – What Does a Dutch Oven Look Like?
You now have an idea of what a Dutch oven looks like. A little history of these classic cooking pots that are hundreds of years in the making. Also an insight into what’s so great about Dutch ovens.
Traditional seasoned cast-iron Dutch ovens have been around for hundreds of years and were originally made from cast iron. It should be noted that a great quality piece of cast iron if cared for, will last generations.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks