Tips for How to Use a Dutch Oven for Cooking & Baking
With the ability to help you prepare and create rustic artisan breads, deliciously seared pork shoulders, hearty root vegetables and even sweet apple cobblers, the dutch oven is one of the most useful pots you can have in your kitchen. Read this guide to learn more about using a dutch oven.
What is a Dutch Oven?
A dutch oven is a wide, relatively shallow pot with a tight-fitting lid that can be used for anything from one-pot meals to crusty homemade breads to a savory and aromatic brisket cooked low and slow all day long.
Dutch ovens are heavy, often made of cast-iron and are capable of maintaining a temperature for a long period of time whether on the stove or in the oven. With the help of a dutch oven, you can braise, sauteé, simmer, slow cook and more.
The two most common types of dutch ovens are enameled cast-iron and traditional cast-iron. Enameled cast–iron has a smooth, non-porous surface and can go from the stovetop, to the oven straight to the table. They should not be subjected to extremely high temperatures, so avoid using your enameled cast-iron dutch oven on a grill or in a campfire.
Traditional cast-iron dutch ovens are sturdy and durable. They should be seasoned before they are used and should only be cleaned with hot water. Just like their enameled counterparts, traditional cast-iron dutch ovens can be used on the stovetop or in the oven. They can also be used over the campfire or on a grill, for even more versatility.
12 Ways to Use a Dutch Oven to Cook in Your Kitchen
Once you learn how to use a dutch oven, you can experiment with different techniques, recipes and uses. The dutch oven can be used for a multitude of different cooking methods and foods from savory dinners to sweet confections and everything in between.
1. Baking bread
A commercial bread oven uses steam injection to keep the inside of the bread moist and soft while the outside becomes crusty and flaky. A dutch oven can create a similar result because of its ability to hold the bread in a nice shape and contain the steam released by the bread. If you enjoy mixing, kneading and baking your own bread, try using a dutch oven to explore its baking possibilities.
2. Deep frying
The dutch oven is also great for deep or shallow frying your crispy, golden favorites or creative new recipes such as Deep Fried Cappuccino Pastry S’mores. For shallow frying, add about an inch of oil and for deep frying fill the dutch oven about halfway with oil. When the oil reaches about 350° F, lower your food into the oil carefully. For the crispiest results, fry food in batches to avoid overcrowding the dutch oven. Overcrowding can drop the oil temperature and cause your fried food to become soggy and oily rather than light and crispy.
3. Slow cooking
Dutch ovens can retain heat extremely well because of their cast-iron construction, which means they are a great vessel for slow cooking. Using the lid to trap moisture and flavors inside and being able to cook tender meats slowly all day make the dutch oven an essential tool for low and slow cooking methods on the stovetop or in the oven.
Just as the dutch oven retains heat, it can also keep things cold. Fill your dutch oven with ice water for about ten minutes and then empty it. You can use it to keep things like Creamy Pasta Salad cold ahead of a summer party.
5. Homemade stock
The dutch oven isn’t just great for roasting a whole chicken, but also for making homemade chicken stock afterwards. A dutch oven will help you evenly steam the chicken, trapping moisture for a tender result. Once you’re done roasting, save the leftover parts, toss in some aromatic and flavorful herbs and spices, top with water, and create delicious homemade stock you can use in a variety of recipes.
6. Soups and stews
One of the most classic uses for a dutch oven is to make a hearty and comforting soup or stew. With the dutch oven, you can sauté onions and garlic or brown meat before adding liquid. A KitchenAid® immersion blender is a great tool to combine all of your ingredients before you allow the soup or stew to simmer and the flavors to meld together. The perk of this method beyond the flavorful end result is that you can do all of this with just one pot.
From peach and apple cobblers to pineapple upside down cakes, the dutch oven is a great tool for baking desserts. It might seem unique or even intimidating if you haven’t tried it, but once you’ve tried dutch oven brownies or pecan pralines, you will be convinced.
8. Braised meat
Dutch ovens are great for braising meat because the heavy, thick-walled pot will help hold a consistent temperature, allowing your meat to become tender and delicious. Start by searing the meat in your dutch oven, then add your vegetables and then add your liquids. Low temperatures and longer cooking times make for a kitchen filled with delicious aromas and a meal full of flavor.
9. Outdoor cooking
For the Makers who also love to be outdoors, the dutch oven doesn’t have to stay in the kitchen. Consider bringing it along on your next outdoor adventure. You can prepare, cook and even serve your food in a dutch oven outdoors.
Turn your campfire into an oven by preparing a meal, such as Shepherd’s Pie, in the dutch oven and nestling it in the coals. Cast iron dutch ovens can also be used over a fire or on a grill. If you have an enameled dutch oven, you will want to avoid high temperatures like this. With the dutch oven’s ability to maintain a temperature for a long period of time, you don’t have to worry about losing warmth on a chilly evening around the fire. The dutch oven makes for the perfect rustic meal.
10. Homemade sauce and gravy
Whether you are creating a savory Baked Goat Cheese Marinara or creamy gravy to pour over homemade biscuits, you can use your dutch oven to slowly simmer your recipe. For many gravies and sauces, the key is to cook low and slow, and that’s one of the dutch oven’s best features. Each flavor of your sauce or gravy has time to blend together and the dutch oven’s construction allows for even heating and cooking.
Enameled dutch ovens are durable and do not have a porous surface, making them useful for marinating foods before you cook. Another advantage of marinating right in the dutch oven is that you can prepare, cook and serve all in the same pot. If you have a cast iron dutch oven, you’ll want to avoid marinating in it.
A dutch oven can be used for steaming with the addition of a steamer basket, rack or colander. You can even cook two things at once by cooking something in the dutch oven and steaming another food above it in the steamer basket.
Tips & Tricks for Using a Dutch Oven
You might be using a dutch oven for braising flavorful meats, slow-cooking comforting stews, baking homemade bread or even deep-frying. Use the tips and tricks below to help you get the most out of your dutch oven as you bring your kitchen inspirations to life.
1. Browning meat
To avoid crowding the pot, brown large pieces of meat in batches. Browning your meat can be useful for creating a delicious pan sauce. When the pot is crowded steam can build up, which can cause the meat to become tough. It is also important to the flavor of your meat that you avoid steaming it.
2. Cooking in the oven
One of the best parts of the dutch oven is that it can go from stovetop to oven and from oven to tabletop. Dutch ovens make beautiful serving dishes, but don’t forget to place a trivet underneath to protect your table’s surface.
Typically, the entire dutch oven can be placed inside the oven, including the lid. The lid will help trap heat and moisture. Sometimes the lid on the dutch oven has a plastic knob on it. The knobs are often durable up to a certain temperature, but can also be removed if you are concerned about them melting or otherwise being damaged. Simply twist off the knob and cook without it, if needed. You should also refer to your owner’s manual to ensure that your dutch oven is oven-safe.
3. Cutting meat and vegetables
Whether you are chopping, dicing or mincing vegetables, it is important that the pieces are uniform in size. The same applies to pieces of meat. You do not want to run the risk of uneven cooking. Cutting meat and vegetables in uniform pieces will help ensure that you don’t end up with under- or over-cooked foods.
4. Searing meat and vegetables
When searing meat and vegetables, first sear the meat and then set it aside on a plate. Then turn down the heat and add the vegetables. This will allow the vegetables to take on some of the flavor from the meat while cooking at their own pace.
5. Layering flavors
Although you might be tempted to toss everything in the pot all at once, the dutch oven gives you the ability to layer the flavors as you decide what goes in the pot when. Try searing your meat first in hot oil to allow for more flavorful dimensions to your meal.
6. Caring for your dutch oven
Properly caring for your dutch oven can help ensure that you are able to use it for years to come. Always wash it by hand and if it is a traditional cast-iron dutch oven, properly season it before the next use. Avoid scouring stains and using harsh cleaners to clean your dutch oven, rather opting for natural cleaners like water and baking soda.
7. Cooking low and slow
One of the best benefits of a dutch oven is its ability to maintain a temperature for a long period of time. This allows you to use the dutch oven like a slow cooker for large, tough cuts of meat or soups and stews. Slow cooking makes for fall-off-the-bone meats and deliciously flavorful meals.
8. Heating your dutch oven
When dry cast-iron is heated too quickly, the enamel can crack. Always put a bit of oil or butter in the pan prior to heating. Other liquids like water or broth can help protect the enamel, as well.
9. Confit cooking
A dutch oven can also be used to confit meat. To confit, foods are usually cured with salt and then cooked slowly in fat at a low temperature, usually under 300° F.
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Can you use a Dutch oven in a convection oven?
It is generally safe to put your dutch oven in a convection oven. Some dutch ovens can only tolerate up to a certain temperature, so just be sure to know the temperature threshold for your dutch oven and the internal temperature your convection oven will reach.
You will also want to consider the type of food you are making and if convection is the best cooking method for it. Refer to your owner’s manual for more information about your specific dutch oven.
Can you use a Dutch oven on an induction cooktop?
You can use a dutch oven on any kind of cooktop, including induction, as long as the dutch oven is cast-iron or another induction-compatible material. When you are using the dutch oven on a direct heat source, just make sure that the temperature does not get too hot and scorch it.
Can you put a cold Dutch oven in the oven?
Rapidly changing the temperature of your dutch oven can cause it to crack. It is not recommended to put a cold dutch oven in a hot oven. However, you can put it in the oven as it preheats. The oven and the dutch oven can heat up together, slowly.
How do you clean a Dutch oven?
An enameled dutch oven can be cleaned with warm, soapy water and a silicone pan scraper or a nylon brush. A regular cast iron dutch oven should be cleaned with hot water only. dutch ovens should be dried thoroughly before being stored so that they do not rust. If your dutch oven has any stains or cooked-on messes, you can use baking soda to help lift them. Avoid scouring it with harsh materials and cleaners.
Although some enameled dutch ovens are dishwasher safe, it is recommended to use the dishwasher only if necessary, as it could dull or scratch the enamel over time.
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