This article was last updated on January 3rd, 2021
Having a good Dutch oven among your cooking pots and pans matters because it will serve as one of your most versatile pots in the kitchen. Dutch ovens can braise meats, cook soups, stews, rich sauces, fry, and even roast a whole chicken. Picking the right size ensures that you will get the most out of your Dutch oven.
What is the best size Dutch oven to buy? The 5 1/2 quart round Dutch oven and the 6 3/4 quart oval Dutch oven are the top sellers for the Le Creuset brand. These two sizes hand you the most flexibility, and you can scale it up or down based on your needs. They’re neither too small nor too big and will easily feed a family of 4.
This short answer highlights what will work for most people emphasis on “most”. People with larger families may find the measurements too small.
We are going to take a deeper look at Dutch ovens and how to pick a size that works for you. Read on to learn more.
1. How Many People Will You Feed?
You can measure the size needed based on this rule of thumb. For every person, add one quart of food and round up that number as needed.
Cooking experts use one quart as the measurement because people will usually eat about one quart of food.
This explains why the 5 1/2 quart round Dutch oven has become the most popular choice. Families today normally consist of four people.
That makes the 5 to 6 quarts the ideal Dutch oven for most people. Leave room for leniency if you would have friends over for a meal.
Naturally, you may think that the biggest Dutch oven at 7 quarts will lend you the most flexibility. That may have truth to it on some level, but you’d be wise to check off the following before deciding on the size of your new Dutch oven.
* Will a 7-quart Dutch oven fit in your conventional oven comfortably?
* You want to lift the lid easily when filled to the brim.
* You want to be able to lift the Dutch oven when fully laden.
* Can you put it back in the cupboard for storage without trouble?
2. Speaking of Size: What Shape Should I Get?
The oval Dutch oven may look like it can accommodate the whole chicken and larger meat, but a round Dutch oven of at least 5.5 quarts will cook meat just as easily.
Round Dutch ovens have a key advantage over the oval-shaped ovens: They sit better on the burners. Sitting well on the burners will ensure the even distribution of heat.
Let’s say that you plan to cook a feast for the holidays. Having round Dutch ovens leave room for the other burners to fire all at once. Meal preparation like sautéing, browning, and frying all work better with round Dutch ovens.
On the other hand, oval Dutch ovens work best in the oven. They won’t fit on the stovetop burner as well as the round one. You’d want an oval Dutch oven for things like braising longer cuts of meat or cooking bread, which has a better shape in a Dutch oven.
When Does a Mini-Dutch Oven Work?
Mini-Dutch ovens work best for individual portions. They don’t take up much table space, and they hold the heat.
The foods that you might put in a mini-Dutch oven include:
- Braised greens
- Fruit crisp
- Deep dish pizza
- Fish chowder stew
- Rustic French onion soup
When Does a Medium Dutch Oven Work Best?
A 6-quart Dutch oven is considered a medium Dutch oven. You might call this size your all-purpose Dutch oven because it can fit a variety of scenarios. It’s not so big that it feels cumbersome yet not so small as to be limiting.
This versatile style of Dutch oven can work for a variety of situations and fits perfectly into everday cooking – you know those recipes we make over and over – the ones we can make in out sleep 🙂
Some of the foods that you can cook in a medium Dutch oven include:
- Browning meats
- Braising meats
You’d consider this the all-purpose Dutch oven that you’d use more often than a mini-Dutch oven or a large Dutch oven.
It works for cooking most things. Hopefully, this highlights what you can do with each size to determine your choice.
When Does a Large Dutch Oven Work Best?
Do you serve a big crowd often? Large Dutch ovens 7 quarts and up to 13 quarts work best for the big party servings. You can cook a big batch of soup, homemade chicken, or beef stew in red wine sauce.
The extra surface space makes it the perfect choice for the stovetop, and with the large metal handles, you can hoist it from the stove over to the dinner table. Some of the foods to cook in a large Dutch oven include:
- Coconut chicken curry
- Chicken and dumplings
Dutch ovens can reach up to 13 quarts. However, you should understand how the larger the Dutch oven, the heavier it becomes. A 13-quart Dutch oven has a typical weight of around 8 pounds.
Every Size Has a Use
Every size of Dutch oven can be used for something, but given the cost, you probably want the most versatile choice like the 5 1/2 quart oven.
Mini-Dutch ovens can sit on the stovetop without disturbing too much when not in use. They make a poor choice for large crowds, however, rendered useless.
Large Dutch ovens can serve large crowds, but they have the disadvantage of heavier weight and being more cumbersome. After each cooking session, you have to haul it back to the kitchen cabinets.
Should You Go Larger Than 7 Quarts?
Generally speaking, no, you wouldn’t want to have a Dutch oven larger than 7 quarts because you wouldn’t put it to use for much.
Unless you have a family of six or more and you like to cook in batches, larger sizes won’t have as much use.
Meanwhile, you have to check the measurements of your oven to ensure that it will fit the oven.
What Size Dutch Oven for Whole Chicken?
Having a round Dutch oven at 5 quarts will fit a whole chicken that weighs 4 pounds. If you wanted some extra room to cook vegetables, you might opt for the 7-quart Dutch oven because it can cook a whole chicken with some veggies on the side. Dutch ovens work especially well if you want to slow-roast a chicken.
Roasting improves texture while deepening the flavor. This style of cooking takes advantage of the natural sugars within the meat and concentrates the flavors to create a sweeter flavor. Many of the vitamins in the chicken will remain for healthier eating, rather than getting cooked away. Roasting uses dry heat to cook the food.
All meat should rest for between 10 to 20 minutes after you have roasted it. You want it to continue cooking even after you have removed it from the stovetop or the oven. The main reason to let the meat rest comes from the fact that it allows time to distribute the juices evenly throughout the meat.
3. Budget – Do the Bigger Dutch Ovens Cost More?
The cost of a Dutch oven depends only slightly on the quarts in the Dutch oven. It may increase the cost a bit, but in most cases, this doesn’t influence the price too much.
Usually, the brand that you choose will have a bigger influence on the cost. These costs can be attributed to higher quality materials as well as the ovens being hand-finished.
Favorite Medium-Sized Dutch Oven
This is my Le Creuset 5.5-quart enameled round cast-iron Dutch oven. It comfortably feeds 4 adults with leftovers. Check out similar Dutch ovens in various colors here at Amazon…
Or check out my full article that goes into more details about the Le Creuset 5.5-quart enameled round cast-iron Dutch oven – here
Final Thoughts – What Is the Best Size Dutch Oven to Buy?
Choosing the right size Dutch oven for you is a big decision. Hopefully, this has helped you to better decide on the next Dutch oven that you want to purchase.
You now have a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each type, size, and shape of the Dutch oven.
By asking yourself the above questions you will then be able to ascertain the best Dutch oven for your particular needs.
Many times, someone can make a simple mistake by thinking that the largest Dutch oven will work best for versatility, but that isn’t always the case.
A 13-quart Dutch oven can leave you exhausted and wishing that you had bought a smaller and less cumbersome oven.
That said, the biggest factor in determining the size will always come down to the average number of people that you will serve meals to.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks
Great article Dutch ovens for families of 4 – here
Great article about the best size Dutch ovens for whole chickens – here
Great article that dives deeper into why Dutch oven can be so expensive – here