This definitive guide to the best Dutch ovens you can buy in 2021 covers only what you need to know about the most flexible piece of cookware there is, including price, performance, red flags and more.
You could make the argument that a Dutch oven is the only pot you need in a kitchen. Its heavy, cast iron build holds heat over long periods of cooking with extraordinary consistency. The enamel coating most are covered in eliminates the need for seasoning, a necessary chore for bare iron pots, and cleans easily. The standard size Dutch oven — about 5.5 to 6 quarts — is large enough to cook most dishes for a family of four, but not large enough to have problems with mobility.
The bottom line: Dutch ovens can sear, bake, braise, stew and steam with the best of them. A regular home cook greatly benefits from having one. From brands like Lodge, Le Creuset, Staub and more, these are the best Dutch Ovens you can buy, and what to look for when shopping.
The Best Dutch Ovens You Can Buy Right Now
Lodge 6-Quart Cast-Iron Enameled Dutch Oven
A good Dutch oven should work well in the moment, and continue working well for decades. While we can't confirm Lodge's enameled iron Dutch oven pot will hold up for decades yet, it has held up for three years of regular use with no sign of performance or material degradation.
The Lodge is our top pick because it successfully incorporates the thoughtfulness of ultra-premium options like Le Creuset with a wallet-friendly price. Lodge opted for a shorter and wider pot design, which allows for the edges of the base to be more rounded than its competitors, which makes stirring food around the sides easier with spoons of any size. This design also means it has more cooking surface than most of its competitors, which makes it among the very best at high-heat cooking, like browning chunks of beef for stew. And while the pot is heavy, as all Dutch ovens are, it features the best handles in the game. They're long and wide, and big enough to fit a good part of a gloved hand through. Its lid also fits as it should: tight, but not so tight that no moisture escapes.
Lodge marks the product on sale often, so the price will fluctuate, but it's typically about $85 for the standard 6-quart size. For that price, it can't be beat.
Many reviewers are surprised to learn the Lodge Dutch oven is produced in China and not Lodge's Tennessee factories. Lodge only produced seasoned cookware at these sites; its enameled Dutch ovens are made overseas. The performance of the product suggests this isn't an issue.
Further Reading: Guide to Lodge Cookware
Le Creuset 5.5-Quart Round Dutch Oven
The brand that brought about the modern Dutch oven remains one of the best producers in the market. Its round Dutch ovens are slightly lighter than standard, which makes them easier to lug around the kitchen — especially when carrying dinner — and handle in the sink when cleaning. Like the Lodge pot, Le Creuset is goes wider than most Dutch ovens, and its edges are rounded so getting an angle on stuck-on pieces of food isn't an issue. Also like the Lodge, its side handles are big enough to grip with an oven mit on, as is the knob on the lid. Its lid also fits perfectly, as it releases just enough moisture so that stews and braises become richer without evaporating the base liquids too quickly, resulting in richer flavors across the board.
Why pay three- to four-times the price of the Lodge? The Le Creuset brand is certainly more romantic. It remains one of the most-requested items on wedding registries, and retains its Made in France status to this day. But it's the brand's long history of making this specific Dutch oven that earns it the most cred. There are many vintage Le Creuset pots from the '60s on Ebay and Craigslist to this day, and that kind of realized longevity can't be argued with.
Further reading: Le Creuset vs. Staub
Tramontina 6.5-Quart Round Dutch Oven
If money is tight, this Tramontina Dutch oven is what you want. It misses on some of the clever design tweaks present in the Lodge and Le Creseut ovens, but it makes up for it with a nice $50 price tag and adherence to the fundamentals of cast-iron Dutch oven cooking.
Its base is extra-heavy, which means it holds heat as well or better than Dutch ovens that cost five-times more. Its lid, again, fits snugly, but allows some moisture to escape. Tramontina's design also features a stainless steel knob on the lid, which increases its oven-safe temperature to a whopping 450 degrees, significantly higher than most Dutch ovens.
Though the enamel coating didn't crack, craze or chip during testing, we can assume it's not applied as evenly or as well as Le Creuset or other premium options. This means it's especially important to avoid shocking the pot with dramatic temperature shifts or scraping the interior with metal utensils, both of which are the chief cause of enamel issues. Basically, use a wooden spoon and let the pot cool before you wash it in the sink.
Further Reading: 25 Things to Cook in a Dutch
Staub 5.5-Quart Cast-Iron Cocotte
The second of the legendary French Dutch oven makers, Staub makes a product more specialized than Le Creuset, Lodge or the rest. Its differentiating features are its heft and the fit of its lid, both of which shape how to best use it. The lid is a much tighter fit than any other Dutch oven we've tested, which means moisture has a tougher time escaping, thus a stew will not thicken like it would in, say, a Le Creuset. That said, too much evaporation can lead to a braise scorching or a light soup becoming too dense. The Staub is also weightier than most Dutch ovens, which makes it especially suited for extra-long cooks, when even, consistent heating is most valuable.
Cuisinart 5.5-Quart Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Cuisinart's well-made Dutch oven is neck-and-neck with the Lodge, our top pick. It's wider and shorter, like the Lodge, and its interior rim is even more rounded. However because its handle design is less spacious and the pot itself is much heavier than the Lodge, the whole thing is tougher to handle when full of food. It's still offers strong value if you prefer the look (or colors) of it to the Lodge, but otherwise the Lodge is the superior product.