Dutch ovens can either be cast iron or aluminum. Cast iron Dutch ovens can be the traditional matte black or have an enamel coating…inside and out. Stainless steel Dutch Ovens are usually enamel coated.
The traditional uncoated Dutch oven is perfect for outdoor camp fire type cooking but for everyday use in the kitchen, you may prefer the enamel type. For two main reasons…first…they don’t have to be seasoned and…second… the enamel coating essentially creates a “non-stick” surface making cleaning much less of a chore
The Dutch oven is a very versatile piece of cookware. They have a thick bottom and sides. This feature creates even heat distribution and no hot spots. Dutch ovens also have a heavy, snug fitting lid. Flavor of the food is enhanced because the heavy lid helps retain moisture. The versatility of the pot is evidence by its multiple uses. You can bake, broil, sauté, braise or roast a dish. It can used stove top on any surface or in the oven. Roast vegetables…braise some ribs…brown meat… create your favorite soup or stew. Enamel coated cookware is very attractive and can be taken directly from the stove or open to your table.
Dutch ovens come in two shapes…oval and round.
If you’re roasting fish, pork chops, beef or chicken, the oval shape is said to be better. I’ve read that it is also better for making no knead bread.
The round shape Dutch ovens provides even heat distribution as it fit better on a round burner. It also works a little better when you have to stir soups or stews.
If you’re looking to get your first, and possibly only Dutch oven, give some thought to the size. They come in a wide variety of sizes to suit your most common need. Think in terms of a one quart size is good for a one person meal. Unless you are into larger dinner parties, a five quart round or 6 quart oval pot will serve you well for most family/small party needs. My personal thoughts are that a little larger is more practical than a little smaller.
If you do want a Dutch oven for camping, here’s what you should know…
• It should be cast iron. Not aluminum or other metals.
• The wall and bottom thickness should be uniform for even heat distribution.
• It should have those 3 stubby legs on the bottom for stability and allow a little clearance between the pot and the coals.
• Lid should fit tightly to keep the heat inside.
• Lid should have a raised rim so coals can be put on top for campfire baking.
• Should have sturdy “bail-type” handles so you can safely handle very hot and very full ovens.