If you ever wondered 'what is a dutch oven?' or it is called that, this is the time to discuss this kitchen essential and what it brings to the table.
There’s a reason why a Dutch Oven is considered one of the most versatile pieces of cookware that a home chef can own: It can be used to cook virtually anything. Whether you’re frying, braising, broiling, or sautéing, a Dutch Oven is your best friend. Plus, they look super photogenic and can add a bright pop of color to any kitchen.
Keep reading this guide from Caraway to discover what makes a Dutch Oven so special, how it got its name, and eight things you can cook in it.
What Is a Dutch Oven?
A Dutch Oven is an incredibly versatile piece of cookware that’s useful for any kitchen enthusiast: casual or professional. Otherwise known as a French oven, this is a large piece of cookware that can go directly from the stovetop to the oven and vice versa.
While it’s called a Dutch Oven, this critical piece of a complete Cookware Set is (technically speaking) a pot. It most closely resembles a regular stockpot but with shorter walls and a wider base. Some Dutch Ovens even come with ceramic coating which prevents sticking when you’re frying and sautéing your favorite foods.
Dutch Ovens tend to be heavy and come with a tightly-fitting lid, which allows you to control the moisture and humidity when you cook. In addition, unlike the cast iron options of the past, today’s Dutch Ovens come in a variety of bright colors, which makes them a gorgeous addition to your kitchen.
Because of their versatility, most home cooks really need only one Dutch Oven. These can last you a lifetime and even be passed on through generations.
Why Is It Called a “Dutch” Oven?
The Dutch Oven is heavily utilized in French cooking—after all, who doesn’t love the decadent Coq au Vin? So, you might be wondering how this piece of cookware got its name. To answer this question, let’s go back in history a few centuries.
In Europe, around the 17th century, the most popular cookware was made of cast iron. While there are many reasons for this, the most prevalent one was that it could safely be used on the open flame. Similar to today’s Dutch Ovens, most cookware was deep and had a large base, making it perfect for cooking one-pot stews.
Amongst the Europeans, the Dutch were renowned for making the best cookware. For this reason, an Englishman named Abraham Darby traveled to Holland to research their techniques. One method he came across is called sand molding, which he adapted to his own purposes, creating the Dutch Oven as we know it today.
Some historians believe that naming it “Dutch Oven” was Darby’s way of paying homage to the original creators of this cookware. Yet other historians believe this piece of cookware got its name thanks to this style of pot being sold by Dutch traders all over America.
Regardless of its specific origins, the Dutch Oven became an incredibly popular piece of cookware as many people were moving west in the 1800s. Due to its versatility and durability, it was used by all kinds of explorers, including Lewis and Clark.
So how did the Dutch Oven become synonymous with French cuisine? Well, thanks to world-renowned French chefs, such as Julia Child, the Dutch Oven became incredibly popular amongst home cooks who were interested in replicating their one-pot recipes.
To this day, this style of cookware is still needed to make popular French country recipes, such as beef bourguignon.
What Do You Cook in a Dutch Oven?
Dutch Ovens are incredibly versatile and can be used for virtually anything from baking to searing to deep-frying.
Here are some of the things you can cook in this do-it-all piece of cookware:
1. One-Pot Meals
A Dutch Oven is the ideal piece of cookware for preparing hearty stews. Because it can be used to cook at low temperatures, all your ingredients will have a chance to marinate together and to develop a complex flavor. Because a Dutch Oven has a tightly-fitting lid, you can ensure that none of the heat escapes.
Plus, unlike with a regular stockpot, you don’t have to constantly monitor while you cook and can leave the ingredients to simmer all on their own.
2. An Entire Roasted Chicken
If you don’t want to take out your Bakeware Set, then you can use your Dutch Oven to roast a chicken—or any type of meat, for that matter.
In addition, you can cook vegetables in the same pot, allowing all ingredients to become tender and to develop a complex flavor. With its high sides and tightly-fitting lid, your roast will come out perfectly tender every time.
3. A Loaf of Sourdough Bread
If you love crispy sourdough bread as much as we do, then you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can bake it using your Dutch Oven.
The trick to making it come out perfect every time? Baking it in a moist environment. The tightly-fitting lid that your Dutch Oven comes with is the perfect way to accomplish this.
4. French Fries (Or Anything Else Deep-Fried)
A Dutch Oven is ideal for deep-frying—even more so than a regular pot. That’s because a Dutch Oven can operate at higher temperatures than other types of cookware, which is important for making sure your deep-fried food comes out perfectly crispy every time.
Thanks to its high walls, a Dutch Oven will contain all the oil you need to make any deep-fried dishes without the potential of spillover. If you notice that your oil begins to splatter, then you can simply place the lid on top of your Dutch Oven while your food finishes deep-frying.
As much as we appreciate the convenience of a microwave, it’s hard to add oil to your popcorn using this method. And we all know that oil is the secret ingredient to making delicious popcorn.
To make popcorn in your Dutch Oven, all you need to do is add a few tablespoons of cooking oil and a few tablespoons of popcorn kernels. Cover the Dutch Oven with its (always-handy) lid and let the popcorn cook for several minutes. To make it even more delicious, add some butter at the end.
6. An Apple Crisp
We saved the best for last: Dessert. The best desserts to make in a Dutch Oven are cobbler-style desserts where fruit goes on the bottom, and a crispy layer of dough goes on top.
Our favorite dessert to make in a Dutch Oven is an apple crisp. To make it, all you have to do is place some chopped apples on the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Then, layer some crumble on top. You can bake it covered in your oven for about an hour for a delicious and loss-hassle treat.
A True Kitchen Staple
A Dutch Oven can be used to accomplish pretty much anything. Whether you’re braising, boiling, or frying, this time-honored kitchen essential will be the perfect piece of cookware every time. For a Dutch Oven that lasts you a lifetime, discover our colorful collection at Caraway.