Cast Iron Cookware
I’m in the market for cast iron Dutch ovens, like no other time before. Maybe it’s because I enjoy reading the Dutch oven posts over at Chilebrown’s Mad Meat Genius blog or that there’s been quite a bit of Dutch activity of another sort ’round these parts. I have been on a cast iron kick of late, with a few articles on cast iron grates in tow. Whichever the case, it’s time to at least look into which cast iron Dutch ovens are best for varying budgets.
These are for two very different uses, as the former really needs to see some hot charcoal action, while the latter is primarily an ‘indoor cook’ type of cooking vessel. Still useful, but not something you’d want to show up to a camp fire cook with. Before we get into the finer points of each type of cast iron Dutch oven, I want to provide a little bit of background on cast iron Dutch ovens for those who might not be familiar with them.
Cast Iron Dutch Ovens Overview
Cast iron Dutch ovens as we know them today date back to the late 1600s when Dutch metal foundries began to produce metal cooking vessels from sand molds. This process was later copied and brought to England, where Dutch ovens were then made and distributed throughout Great Britain and her colonies.
Later, the basic legless Dutch ovens were modified with legs added for use resting over hot coals, and American colonists. From this point, cast iron Dutch ovens varied little from the design we see today.
The two main categories of Dutch ovens consist of those meant to be used over a fire (camping or chuck wagon Dutch ovens) and those meant for the stove top (modern Dutch ovens).
Dutch ovens are well suited for long, slow cooking, such as in making roasts, stews, and casseroles.
Using Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
The traditional camping or chuck wagon style Dutch ovens with a lipped lid can actually be used as outdoor ovens. Once you master keeping the correct temperature using charcoal, you can cook pretty much anything your imagination can “cook up.” Tasty Dutch oven treats include everything from stews and chili to biscuits, breads, and pies. Sometimes outdoor cast iron Dutch ovens are even stacked several high so as to make use of the rising heat. Very cool.
Modern or enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are meant mainly for use in and on top of conventional indoor ovens.
Best Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
Traditional Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
Hands down, I believe in buying American when our products warrant it. The cast iron Dutch ovens made by Lodge get consistently high reviews and definitely fit into this category.
An American company based out of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, the Lodge cast-iron cookware foundry has a long tradition of producing high quality cast iron cookware with superior heat retention and distribution capability. Now, the Lodge foundry offers its Lodge Logic line. Lodge Logic cookware, like this 5-quart Dutch oven, comes preseasoned with a proprietary vegetable oil formula and is ready for cooking right of the box–unlike traditional Lodge cookware, which needs seasoning in the oven before use. The timesaving process allows the oil to penetrate deeply into the cast-iron surface, maintaining the cookware for generations and creating an attractive heirloom finish.
This traditional style cast iron Dutch oven measures 10-1/4 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep–an ideal size for most family recipes. Whether baking casseroles, enchiladas, pasta sauce, or a compact pot roast, the pan delivers a smooth, consistent temperature without wasting heat. The pan’s esteemed heat retention is especially ideal for slow-cooking recipes that prize tender meats and rich, seasoned flavors. In addition, the underside of the lid contains several self-basting tips that allow the condensed liquid to remoisten the food, keeping the contents from drying out. With proper care, Lodge Logic cast-iron cookware will last a lifetime. The company recommends hand washing the Dutch oven with a stiff brush and hot water. In addition, the pan carries a lifetime warranty.
Modern Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
|Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 7-1/4-Quart Round French Oven, Cherry Red|
141 total customer reviews...
Though this example is called a “French Oven,” it works pretty pretty much like a Dutch oven. Reviewers of this 5-1/2-quart enamel covered cast iron Dutch oven by Le Creuset call it one of the most forgiving pieces of cookware they’ve ever used.
The heavy cast-iron oven provides a colorful, long-lasting exterior enamel that resists chipping and cracking and a durable, nonreactive sand-colored interior enamel that offers a smooth surface for cooking, as well as an optimal palette for food presentation. As cast iron is unparalleled for even heat distribution and superior heat retention, and enamel is impervious to acids and odors, the oven browns and cooks food uniformly and gently without hot spots and can be used for marinating, cooking on the stovetop, or finishing in the oven.
Two loop cast-iron side handles help ensure safe transport and a steady grip even when wearing oven mitts, and the unit’s secure-fitting lid locks in heat and moisture while cooking. The lid’s phenolic knob withstands heat up to 350 degrees F, and the vessel can be safely used on any stovetop, including induction. Though dishwasher-safe, the French oven should be hand washed for best results.
It’s perfect for use on any heat source–gas, electric, radiant, ceramic, halogen, induction, or solid fuel. There’s also a tight-fitting, enameled cast-iron lid that helps seal in heat and flavor. Food will be kept hot as you bring it to the table for serving. And you will certainly want to serve out of this beautiful piece–the deep color and shiny finish will brighten any table setting.
Lodge Cast Iron Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker
Who doesn’t like a 2 for one deal? Well, OK… two traffic tickets… not such a great deal. But, two pieces of cast iron cookware from Lodge in one is indeed a great deal.
Chef Tom Douglas uses the Lodge Cast Iron Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker
to cook chicken “under a brick.” Buy the Lodge Combo Cooker now.
The Lodge cast iron pre-seasoned combo cooker gives you a three (3) quart cast iron skillet and a 10.25″ shallow skillet that functions as either a griddle or a lid for the skillet. I know that many cast iron skillet and cast iron grate users don’t put too much stock in pre-seasoned cookware, but Lodge does a pretty good job getting its cast iron ready to go out of the box. Over time, you’ll have to re-season this cast iron cookware, but the pre-seasoning is a nice touch.
Why Cast Iron?
Simple. No other cookware heats as evenly and retains heat as well as cast iron. As an added bonus, you get a nice touch of nutritional iron with your dinner! No kidding!
Another thing about cast iron is that it can flat take the heat! Check out the photo above. This is cowboy cooking at its best. Perfectly seared steak with peppers and mushrooms. It’s guaranteed that the folks cooking this meal enjoyed it.
List Price: $41.99
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It's a deep skillet, a fryer, a Dutch oven, and the lid converts to a shallow skillet or griddle. This versatile piece of cast iron cookware allows the preparation of almost any recipe. Great for kitchen and outdoor cooking. Includes a 3 qt deep skillet / Dutch oven base, and 10.25 inch shallow skillet / griddle / lid. Preseason and ready to use
- Dual pan set with 3-quart Dutch oven complemented by 10-1/4-inch shallow skillet that doubles as lid
- Rugged cast-iron construction heats slowly and evenly
- Pre-seasoned with vegetable oil formula and ready for immediate use
- Long handles with holes for hanging, complemented by helper handles
- Lifetime limited warranty; hand wash with warm water only
Hands down, the Lodge cast iron combo cooker is one of the best pieces of cookware you’ll ever own. It functions as a knock out chicken fryer, dutch oven, and skillet. In fact, the limits to exactly how you can use this cast iron monster are pretty hard to test. Many users find the bottom half of the combo cooker works great for chili and sauces, while the top is great for frying up breakfast ‘griddle’ style or doing a nice sauté.