Best Dutch Ovens From Consumer Reports' Tests

    Le Creuset is nearly synonymous with Dutch ovens, but our tests found that Lodge and others that cost a lot less are just as good or better

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    Guest with dutch oven Photo: Getty Images

    You might be tempted to store a bulky Dutch oven in the back of a cabinet, but consider this heavyweight’s versatility. From stovetop to oven to your table, a Dutch oven can brown, boil, braise, and bake bread, even deep-fry.

    Our test engineers put a selection of Dutch ovens through their paces in the lab, boiling water, browning meat, simmering tomato sauce, and baking bread. They also recorded handle temperatures and evaluated ease of cleaning. Staffers gathered in our lab to weigh in on the moistness and tenderness of braised briskets, and the taste and texture of the bread.

    All the Dutch ovens we tested are round, similar in height (4.5 to 5 inches), and available in a variety of colors. Each pot holds 5 to 6 quarts—ideal for everyday cooking—and works on any type of stovetop, including induction. Prices range from $45 to $340. If cared for well, these pans can last a lifetime, so don’t be afraid to spend a bit more if it means getting the one you truly want.

    Our tests found that any of these pots can do a fine job braising meat, and most can quickly bring 4 quarts of water to a near-boil. But we also found significant differences.

    Here’s a look at the top six Dutch ovens in our tests. They appear in alphabetical (not rank) order. For all the details, see our Dutch oven ratings.

    CR’s take: The 6-quart Ayesha Curry Dutch oven is among the easiest to clean, garnering an Excellent rating in that test. But weighing 15 pounds, this Dutch oven is the heaviest of the group, and the cooking surface measures only 7 inches in diameter.

    CR’s take: The fire-engine red Cuisinart Chef’s Classic CI650-25CR we tested also comes in many other colors, including a dark blue. It aced our speed of heating test and posted Very Good scores in both heating evenness and ease of cleaning. Bread baking was so-so, and it’s not the best pan for simmering sauces.

    CR’s take: The 5.5-quart Le Creuset Signature topped our ratings for years but lost its place to a newcomer this time around. It earns an Excellent rating in our browning tests—the only Dutch oven to do so—and is a cinch to clean. It weighs 12 pounds, less than most, and has an 8-inch cooking diameter. The loop handles are nice and wide.

    CR’s take: With more than 120 years in the business, Lodge knows a thing or two about cast iron, and the Lodge 6-quart Dutch oven turns out bread that’s nicely browned and crispy, rating a Very Good in our bread-baking test. Cleanup is a breeze. It weighs 14 pounds and has a 7-inch cooking surface diameter. Like the Le Creuset, the Lodge has wide loop handles.

    CR’s take: The good-looking Martha Stewart Dutch oven is also attractively priced. It’s a speed demon at heating up water, and the bread we baked came out well, earning a Very Good on that test. It’s pretty easy to clean, but cooking evenness was just middling. Its main downfall is simmering sauces, in which it notched a subpar score.

    CR’s take: At a little over 7 pounds, the Merten & Storck German Enameled Iron 1873 is the lightest Dutch oven in our tests. That’s because it’s made of enameled carbon steel vs. enameled cast iron, like the rest of the models. The advantage is that it’s easier to lift and heats up fast. In our tests, It baked bread like a champ, earning an Excellent score, and was a cinch to clean. Its performance in our simmering sauce and cooking evenness tests was on a par with the other pots on this list.

    Mary H.J. Farrell

    Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.