We've Tested 12 Dutch Oven Brands:
Here's what we found

By Eric Steckling
Posted at 11:00 • 24 March


"I spent $1,642.12 on 12 Dutch Ovens to test and destroy so we can find out how they stack up against one another."

While cast iron cookware is all the rage, navigating the ever-growing universe of models and brands is downright enraging. Over the years, I have read a TON of reviews on cast iron Dutch ovens. I’m taking the time to make my own because they all suck.

Here’s why.

Most reviews focus on imperceptible differences in cooking tests but fail to test the variables that set this Dutch oven apart from that other Dutch oven. This is generally because the individuals testing them are chefs and have little, if any, knowledge of the manufacturing processes involved. The other reason? Only a handful of Dutch oven reviewers buy and test the products. Most just read about the products on the internet, which makes for unoriginal opinions. Not to mention the slight possibility that their reviews might be skewed toward one goal: earn affiliate dollars.

In this article, what you'll find is the definitive 2022 cheat-sheet, comparison chart and basically everything you need to know to make an informed decision.
Which you should want to, given that the thing will likely outlive you.


Cast iron for generations to come

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Why Enameled Cast Iron?

Let me preface this with a reminder: nothing performs like enameled cast iron. It is heavy and slow to heat, which means it is great at retaining heat and not scorching food. It is this specific quality that allows cast iron to excel at recipes that require long simmer times or extremely high heat. Cast iron pots spread heat more evenly (read: up the walls of the cookware) than other cookware materials, which are prone to hot spots on the bottom. Enamel is also a ridiculously durable and functional coating. It is basically melted on glass and can only be applied to substrates (like iron) that have a very high melting temperature. Enamel has an extremely long life and is very easy to clean and maintain, making it the perfect coating for iron cookware. Lastly, it comes in endless colors and textures.

My favorite comfort food would have been braised beef. You know, beef, slow-cooked in a Dutch oven or in a slow cooker until it falls apart with simple mushrooms, some onions and lots of fresh thyme and garlic.

Tyler Florence


Models We Tested

For this review, we chose Dutch Ovens between 5.5 and 6 ¾ quarts in round models, as these are the most popular size and shape. (To note: our findings do apply to the other sizes in these manufacturers' lines.)

Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven (5.5 Qt.)
Misen Dutch Oven (7 Qt.)
Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte (5.5 Qt.)
Lodge Enameled Cast Iron (6 Qt.)
Amazon Basics (6 Qt.)
Crock-Pot Artisan Cast Iron Dutch Oven (5 Qt.)
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Enameled Cast Iron (5 Qt.)
Martha Stewart Enameled Cast Iron (6 Qt.)
Great Jones The Dutchess Oval Dutch Oven (6 ¾ Qt.)
MC’s Dutch Oven (6 Qt.)
Tramontina Dutch Oven Cast Iron (5.5 Qt.)
Milo Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven (5.5 Qt.)


What We Tested

Casting Quality (thickness, finish)
Design Considerations (volume, depth, handles, lids, colors, etc.)
Enamel Quality (finish, durability, scratch resistance, etc.)
Support / Service / Company (warranty, delivery time, responsiveness, etc.)


How We Tested

I have been designing and manufacturing various types of cast iron cookware for nearly a decade. In working with chefs, industrial designers, foundries and enameling companies, I have learned everything there is to learn about what makes pieces of cookware different.

I have decided NOT to include any actual cooking tests in this review because none of the results are quantifiable. As a consumer, you should know there is NO functional difference between the generic $50 Dutch oven and the French made $350 Dutch oven. To put it another way, none of these options will actually make food better than another. While there are many other differences, the results of the food you cook is not one of them. I know this from heating empty pots and examining them with a thermal camera. [insert thermal image] All the pots we tested had the same heat distribution profile. More on this.

What I’m digging into here is: what are the real, quantifiable differences between some of the most popular options for Dutch ovens available? There are a few points of differentiation between the Dutch ovens tested that I thought important to focus on, such as weight and thickness, enamel durability, design and shape considerations, price, customer service and support.


Findings

Materials and methods have real consequences on the resulting product"

  • Casting Thickness – Despite what some manufacturers suggest, there is no functional difference in iron formulations between any piece of cast iron cookware. The differences in heating and cooking between cast iron pieces come from the differences in thickness in the walls and bottom.

Thicker profiles will heat slower but retain heat longer, while thinner castings may heat up faster but not have the capacity to retain as much heat. The practical answer here is that nearly all Dutch ovens tested here have wall thickness that are similar enough that there would not be perceivable differences in cooking. I also heated the pots while they were empty over a high burner and tested the heat disbursement at 1 minute and 5 minutes and found very little difference using thermal imaging between the thicker castings and the thinner ones. The thinner castings are slightly lighter, which I think is more beneficial than the slightly improved heat retention of the thicker castings. The pots did vary in weight, but I found this mostly from design differences in the handles, rim and lid. My preference here would be towards thinner castings.

  • Heating considerations – Heavier pots will take longer to heat, there’s no way around this. The more mass of iron the longer it will take to heat up and cook. We recommend sizing the pot correctly with the recipe: Don’t use that 8 qt beast for everything you do. That would be like driving a semi-truck to pick up your kids at school. Bigger is rarely better unless the recipe calls for that size.
  • Casting quality – When it comes to casting quality, it should be noted that all Dutch ovens in this test are cast in the same way, using an automated casting line like this DISA system.

What this means is that the entire process is automated, and the parts (pots) have to be produced within the limitations of this casting process.

After casting, all parts need to go through some level of hand finishing before they are ready for enamel. This is where you will see the differences between factories. {find pics of finishing errors} Some are better at this than others. A serious flaw in the casting that should have been corrected at the factory is rare – although it does happen from time to time. With ANY manufacturer. Be sure to understand the company’s warranty and replacement policy before ordering.

  • Enamel – As I was unboxing Dutch ovens in our test, I did notice some differences in how the exterior enamel looked. [click here for unboxing videos] Some colors were solid and flat, others had fade and depth. Different enamel colors can have very different finishes. Most manufactures make a range from solid matte colors to glossy fades. Make sure you can find some close-up pictures or see it in person before you buy. Check out our article with links to close up videos of the enamel finishes of all the Dutch ovens we reviewed so you can get a closer look.

The MOST COMMON PROBLEM with enameled cast iron cookware is...

The properties of the enamel are one of the most important differentiating factors when choosing a Dutch oven. Enamel quality determines how the piece looks and preforms, and even how long its lifespan may be. Chipping has to be the MOST COMMON PROBLEM with enameled cast iron cookware. During normal use, it is pretty easy to bump a cast iron pot in a way that will cause a chip. Not all enamel is the same! We tested the durability of the enamel in several different ways and found some fairly significant differences in enamel durability between the brands.

We applied impact tests to both the outside and inside of the pots, tested hardness and tested the enamel’s ability to withstand thermal shocks. All real and practical tests that mimic the experience your Dutch oven will have after years in the kitchen.

In order to consistently apply the same amount of force to the outside of the pots, I made this enamel whacking device where the hammer can be stopped at a consistent point – so we can smash each pot with the same force.

  • Enamel Thickness – We also measured the thickness of the enamel coatings and found a fair bit of variation between the brands. These results didn’t seem to have direct correlation with durability, with some of the thinner enamel preforming very well in testing.
  • Design Considerations – Many of the design considerations are up to user preference, but after getting feedback from a number of chefs, there were some themes that came out with design. Here’s some design considerations that most chefs noted as important:
    • Flat cooking area – having larger flat area on the bottom of the pot, makes it easier to brown meat and evenly sear ingredients. Sloping bowl shaped pots weren’t quite as good at this task
    • Light colored interior – most chefs preferred a lighter colored interior to help monitor the food cooking inside. Matte enamel generally won’t be as easy to clean as a glossy enamel.
    • Large loop handles – larger handles are easier to grip – especially with oven mitts.
    • Low walls – lower walls and larger diameters work better for most recipes. We found that Dutch oven’s in our tests have VERY similar wall heights.
    • Lid Pulls – lid pulls should be solid metal. Plastic lid pulls may not be able to withstand extreme temps and may age quicker.
    • Lid Fit – evaporation test – some lids fit tighter than other. Tight fitting lids can be good for making bread, but struggle to evaporate enough liquid when making soups or stew. Dishes with long simmer times generally need and benefit from some level of evaporation.
    • Packaged for gifting – everything we tested we ordered online. Not all arrived in a package worthy of gifting.
    • Colors available – color will totally change the way these pieces come across. Some brands have many more choices than others.
  • Evenness of heating/scorching etc. - Other reviews have suggested differences in Dutch ovens based on how they have seared food. I can tell you from experience from examining the thicknesses of major Dutch ovens as well as heating empty pots and using a thermal imaging camera to analyze heat distribution that there are NO significant differences on how one will perform over the other as it pertains to “evenness”, “searing ability” or scorching food” because of two basic facts. 1) All cast iron Dutch ovens have very similar bottom thicknesses. 2) Cast iron Dutch ovens are made of the same material (gray cast iron) and therefore have the same thermal properties.
  • The details - In our tests there was a variation of about 2 mm between the thinnest (quickest heating) and the thickest (slowest heating) Dutch ovens. We also found that larger Dutch ovens heated slower, even if they had thinner bottom profiles, due to their overall mass. So if one Dutch oven “scorches” food while another doesn’t its because either the heat settings were different, not closely monitored or simply not correct for the cookware that was being tested. It is possible to burn food in any cookware, if improper heat was applied to the cookware, the cookware itself cannot be blamed for the poor results.
  • Real considerations with heat - Comparing different types of cookware and different materials with real-life cooking scenarios can be useful. For example, cast iron’s ability to retain heat and heat slowly makes it perfect for long stove top simmering where other materials would apply too much heat to the bottom and not enough to the sides. Thicker cast iron does have the ability to hold more heat and provide more “searing power” than thinner iron, but the practical application of this is that even the thinnest cast iron will sear very similarly to the thickest and both will outperform any aluminum pan.

The RIGHT amount of evaporation...? No such thing.

  • The Lid Fit Issue – When it comes to the lid fit, all Dutch ovens will allow different amounts of moisture to escape. There is no one RIGHT amount of evaporation. Given the versatility of the Dutch oven, for some use cases a very loose-fitting lid is ideal for high evaporation and condensing flavors. In other situations, a tight-fitting lid works best when you want very little moisture to escape (baking bread for example). Lid fit can be adjusted for the situation with the creative use of tinfoil. Either make bumps around the edge of the pot to lift the lid off a bit more, or run a band all the way around to make a tight seal. Nearly all Dutch ovens are designed to allow some evaporation. You can notice usually 3 very small bumps cast into the underside of the lid. This holds the lid off the rim of the pot just enough to help steam escape. So, next time you read a review noting that a pot left a recipe “too watery”, you can blame the chef for not using the cookware properly.

Other Considerations

  • Warranty/Support - One thing we found contacting the brands was that a not all “lifetime Warranties” are created equal! With some brands, you will need a defense attorney to prove to the company that the damage was not your fault (jk)! Most brands that sell on Amazon, rely on Amazon for customer support and warranty claims. The chart below outlines some basic warranty questions and how each company responded. At Marquette Castings, we decided that we didn’t want customers to have to prove the damage wasn’t their fault, so we adopted an extremely lenient warranty policy.
  • Price - Here’s what the price breakdown looked like for the Dutch Ovens we tested – we can group these in 4 categories. Starting on the low end, we looked for the cheapest enameled cast iron Dutch oven that we could find in the 6 qt range. We found many on Amazon that were in the $45-$55 range and picked one from a brand called “Ober” which was also the same price as the Amazon Basics. Most of the Dutch ovens in our test fall in the second category with price points between $79-$99 for a 6 qt size. There were 3 outliers that were made in China and a bit more expensive between $135-$165. And the 2 French Dutch ovens were far and away the most expensive at $285 and $355. I think there are good options for people at all price points EXCEPT that third tier where the 2 most expensive Chinese made pots didn’t outperform their less expensive counterparts on any metrics.

After all of our testing, we came up with a few different conclusions. There wasn’t one Dutch oven that outperformed any others in a way that could be described as being “Best”. But we do have top picks. And we broke our findings into a few different categories.

  • Budget-Friendly – Buy the Amazon Basics instead of the Lodge. If you are on a tight budget, it makes sense to stick with the Amazon basics over the Lodge. Because it's about half the price. Amazon did a phenomenal job copying the design of the Lodge Dutch oven and even making slight improvements on the lid pull. If you are buying Lodge, you are likely buying it from Amazon anyway, so you are stuck with the same warranty situation. Our tests show the exterior enamel on the Lodge may be a bit more durable, but that point alone likely isn’t worth twice the price, given that every other element on the 2 pots is the same.
  • Best Overall - For the best pick overall, I would recommend the Tramontina or the Marquette Castings. Tramontina offers a good array of colors, favorable design and good shape characteristics at a very reasonable price point. Buying from their website is the same price as Amazon and will get you better customer service and warranty support. The Marquette Castings is slightly more expensive but tested much better in terms of enamel durability. The Marquette castings pot had similar design characteristics but was slightly larger at 6.1 qts. vs Tramontina’s 5.3 qts. Marquette Castings also has by far the most lenient warranty policy, replacing cookware even if the damage is the fault of the consumer.
  • Retail Picks – If you want to buy the Staub or Le Creuset and don’t mind paying for it, I would not steer you away from these options. They are great Dutch Ovens and tested above average when it comes to durability and the appearance of the enamel finishes. Between the two, pick the design that you like better. The LC is a fair bit more so that is something to consider. Don’t expect them to make you an expert chef. Our tests show that none of these products will make better food than another. I would not recommend buying either of these online. The LC took forever to ship (even thought I bought it from amazon), and there is always a chance of getting a counterfeit, Plus both LC and Staub have less then stellar customer service and warranty policies, so I would highly recommend buying from a local authorized distributer if you are choosing one of these products. They can offer recommendations AND support that you won’t find from the brands.

Final Thoughts

  • Le Creuset - $354 - Without a doubt a great Dutch oven. Durability is above average, its lighter weight and the range of colors this comes in is fantastic. It is however considerably more expensive than any other product we tested. Get the LC if your bank account can handle it and you love cooking. Would highly recommend buying from a local retailer rather than rely on LC or Amazon for customer service. Feel free to be skeptical of anyone who tries to tell you that the LC is WAY better than other options. It's not. Sure, I like that the casting is light, but there really isn’t that many more actual differences in the product. Its also worth mentioning that this product won’t be any better at actually cooking food.
  • Staub - $284 - A great alternative to LC if you really want French-made cast iron. Fantastic durability, good color selections but still really pricy. The interior enamel is darker and has less sheen than almost all other Dutch ovens tested. This may make it harder to monitor food and clean. Its enamel was thinner than others but very resistant to chipping.
  • Lodge - $79 - Once an inexpensive option, it no longer is. Lodge’s quality isn’t any better than the much lower cost, no-name brands available on Amazon. Lodge’s enameled line isn’t made in America and doesn’t benefit from any of the experience or expertise of their American casting operations. The design is stuck in the 80’s and, in my opinion, really doesn’t look good. The shape of the pot is one of the most pronounced bowl shapes we tested and really limits the cooking surface on the bottom. They DO have lots of color options, but many are not always available. If you buy one, it may be made in either Vietnam or China – If they continue to manufacture in Vietnam, it is possible that they won’t have the durability that people have come to expect from the Chinese enamel.

That's what you get when you put zero effort into design...

  • Amazon Basics Enameled Cast iron Dutch oven - $46 - Although the Amazon basics didn’t fare well in the durability testing, it did no worse than the Lodge – in fact, their design and shape are nearly identical (Amazon did a great job copying that one...) I’m sure that makes Lodge feel great about selling on Amazon – knowing that they completely copied one of their best-selling products. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Amazon basics is made in the same factory as the Lodge. They even finished it with this very nice machined stainless lid pull, which was one of the nicest lid pulls in our tests – including the expensive brands. Buy the Amazon basics if you attach no emotion to cookware and are just looking for a functional and inexpensive piece. I wish they didn’t copy the Lodge exactly and made the shape with steeper walls and more cooking area – but that’s what you get when you put zero effort into design.
  • Cuisinart Chef's Classic Enameled - $99 - At the time of writing this Dutch oven only comes in one color with the blue version costing $50 more. The exterior enamel proved durable while the interior enamel failed a bit earlier than others in our test. It was also the smallest actual capacity in our test at 4.86 Quarts. With no colors to choose from, unclear warranty its hard to recommend this product as it doesn’t stand out in any category. At this price point it can’t compete with the Marquette Castings Dutch oven given that its bigger, available in more colors and carries a better warranty.
  • Great Jones The Duchess Oval - $160 - The Great Jones was the largest Dutch oven in our test – the only oval shape (although they recently released a round 3.5qt that was too small for our test.) Given the price and characteristics, it is really easy to recommend you avoid this option. The exterior enamel on all color options is a matte finish and was proven to be very durable. Given this sheen it definitely lacked the beauty found in glossier finishes. The interior enamel however, was far less durable than others in the test, failing at the first impact level. At $160 I can’t find any reason to recommend this option to anyone. With the company being on uncertain footing, Whether Great Jones will be around to actually support the lifetime warranty is anyone's guess. {Don’t Buy Graphic}
  • Amazon "Generic" "Ober -$45 - I purchased this for $46. At the time of writing, the price went up to $55. I believe this is the same piece as the “Best Choice” Dutch oven which is selling for $60. Unsurprisingly, one of the lowest priced enameled cast iron Dutch ovens available is of very generic design (looks just like Lodge), in few color options (1). ...Not bad for a brand that sells treadmills. Prices on Amazon fluctuate a bit but this is basically the least amount you can spend to get into this product category. All corners are cut from finish to packaging to customer service to be able to get this to your door for $46. When it comes to durability, the “Ober” generic option was one of the first to fail the exterior enamel durability, but it fared well in the interior enamel durability, matching the resistance of the top performers. Here’s what you get - a fully functional Dutch oven with all the legendary properties of cast iron and enamel for a fraction of the price of the fancy brands. Here’s what you don’t get: any support or warranty.
  • Marquette Castings - $99 - The enamel on the 6qt differs quite a bit between the color range with the Red and Gray having the most depth and the matte finishes in the white and black. The 6qt is priced at $99 which was just a bit more than the least expensive options but well below pots on the higher end of the price list. The interior enamel is bright white which you will either love or hate, love because it’s a lot easier to monitor the food or hate if you obsess over every discoloration that will naturally come with time. The larger than normal lid pull has the added benefit of being able to hold the lid upside down on your countertop if you don’t want a drippy lid making a mess. Enamel durability held up with the most durable pots we tested. Other metrics like wall thickness, weight and capacity were right on par with others in the test. I think what sets Marquette Castings apart here is the extremely lenient lifetime warranty they offer – including replacements if the damage is the customer’s fault. {Buy Graphic}
  • Tramontina Enameled Dutch Oven - $79 - Rated as one of our top picks, the Tramontina is mid-range in terms of price, has favorable shape characteristics and performed well in durability tests. The enamel had a deep rich color and it is available in a good array of colors. The company is the 2nd oldest among our test brands and will likely be around to live up to that lifetime warranty. The shape of the pot had favorable design characteristics with steep walls and decent cooking area even thought the pot was a bit smaller than most others in our test at 5.3 quarts.
  • Milo Enameled Dutch Oven - $135 - I wanted to love the Milo Dutch oven. The depth of the color on the enamel was fantastic, it has a great shape and a very good lid pull. From a “Looks” perspective the Milo is a winner. The interior enamel on the Milo is dark, which is less than ideal for monitoring food and it also has more of a matte finish on the inside which could make cleaning more difficult. Where it starts to go wrong is the durability of the exterior enamel. It failed on our first test. Just like the most inexpensive options, yet the Milo was one of the pricier options on the list. The lid pull has a funny silicone ring under it which made it come loose – not sure why they put it there. On top of that their warranty was less than Steller. Their customer service team basically said screw off if it wasn’t damaged in shipping.
  • Misen - $165 - Big, heavy, expensive. The Misen undershot their 7qt claimed capacity by more than a half quart yet was still the heaviest Dutch oven we tested, at 15.6 lbs (with the traditional lid). Using their offered “Grill pan lid” option would make the weight unbearable in comparison to the others we tested. I was excited to test out the enamel since Misen has made some claims about their enamel durability. Their enamel thickness and durability was in line with other brands tested. Not superior as claimed – failing the interior ball drop test at the same point as the other most durable brands. At $165 Misen sells the most expensive Chinese made Dutch oven we tested. This is especially surprising given the brand’s previous commitment to “incredible kitchen tools at honest prices”. I didn’t find a use for the included silicone lid, as opposed to using the cast iron lid it came with.
March 25, 2022 — Michel Sitruk

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