There is perhaps no single product in kitchendom more underrated and undercut than the Dutch oven. Now treated as décor as much as it is cookware, they sit atop ranges, about as used a lighthouse in 2018 — that is if a person even owns one. If not, it’s because someone thought they didn’t need one, or their Instant Pot could do the job, or some other patently incorrect excuse.
Frying, browning, braising, and stewing — name another piece of cookware that doesn’t just do those things, but excels at them. The best have high price tags (you don’t have to start with the best), but that doesn’t mean they’re for the landed gentry — the Dutch oven is the master of the one-pot, very-few-ingredients, minimal-cleanup meal. An investment in a Dutch oven, if made wisely, is one that will pay for itself for the duration of your days on earth. Here are 20 recipes that show off its versatility (and yes, they do look good on top of your stove).
Chicken Thighs with Tomato, Orzo, Olives, and Feta
This is the quintessential, easy-as-hell weeknight meal, all cooked in a Dutch oven and most of which you already have in your food stocks. If you thought Beef Bourguignon was all a Dutch oven was good for, you were wrong.
Chicken and Dumplings
Born of need and scarcity, chicken and dumplings is the humblest in the pantheon of Southern food (yes, moreso than even fried chicken). It was made in times when meat wasn’t so easy to come by, but, if done right, would never disappoint. It is a dish that is purely about the enriching of basic, cheap food, and for that there is no better vessel than the Dutch oven.
French-Style Pork Stew
Courtesy of the recipe and kitchen gear testers at America’s Test Kitchen, a classic (but not-well-enough-known) French dish that isn’t overly-indulgent or pompous. It’s a pork stew that is sort of a French take on throw-everything-in-a-pot-and-let-it-rip recipes.
Traditionally served as a first course in its native Portugal, caldo verde is a silky soup of potatoes, sausage and a smattering of spices and greens. The Dutch oven’s ability to release a low, but steady stream of moisture thickens the mixture into a velvety, rich, comfort food. It is a humble dish that’s easy to make, but still delicious and obscure enough to impress friends and family.
Linguine and Clams
Steam. Steam is the engine by which clams are best prepared. Steam is also something the Dutch oven is uniquely qualified to create and cook with. This is a classic recipe that, apart from the clams and maybe anchovies, you probably have everything to make already.
A Southeastern side courtesy of the biggest magazine in the Southeast, Hoppin’ John is essentially a practice in lifting fatty meat, peas and rice into something much, much more. Remember to fluff the rice.
Another example of French cuisine being far more than stuffy, heavy chef food. Fricassee is basically an in-between of sautéeing and stewing chicken and vegetables. In other words, it won’t take as long as a stew, but it will carry more and richer flavors than a straight sautée.
Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
It’s doubtful there’s a more classic Dutch oven recipe than braised short ribs. It flexes the best aspects of the Dutch oven — searing, reducing liquids over time and superior heat retention — and the final dish is about as impressive as home cooking gets. Just don’t skimp on the wine.
Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup
A very Midwestern soup that’s the equivalent of throwing a bunch of things that are good in a pot and turning up the heat. Aside from the namesake beer and cheese, there are not a whole lot of mandatory ingredients in a beer-cheese soup — this one includes broccoli so you don’t feel as bad for indulging.
Yes, bread. Once again, a food that requires a mixture of moisture, heat and dryness to allow it to rise, cook through and develop a gorgeous crust is a food that is suited perfectly for the Dutch oven. Pro tip: throw wax paper down for easier removal.
Sun-Dried Tomato & Sausage Pasta
Use this as a foundation for a thousand pastas to come. Simply brown a protein with garlic and a decent veggie, throw dry pasta and your preferred liquid in, bring to a simmer until the pasta is cooked through. This is the beginning of mastering the one pot meal.
Chicken Coq au Vin
This is a dish with a fancy name. It also tastes and looks fancy, but it isn’t all that troubling to make. More or less, you’re adding more and more ingredients to your Dutch oven and taking it in and out of the oven. Pay close attention to how quickly the wine is reducing; if you let it get too low your food will begin to burn.
Whole Roasted Chicken
Not to belabor the point, but you can cook anything in a Dutch oven and it will come out juicier than you could’ve prepared it otherwise. A whole bird and a smattering of veggies with a bit of salt is all that’s needed for a supremely moist protein with minimal effort or babysitting. Make a gravy out of the jus and throw the chicken on a roasting rack and into a broiling oven to crisp the skin if you want to go the extra mile.
This is how you make pulled pork when it’s raining. Serious Eats notes, rightly, that the Dutch oven is perfect for developing the crucial mix of wetness and bark that slow cookers and instant pots fail completely at. The key is, again, the release of some moisture, but not all.
Don’t let anyone fool you – crumbles and cobblers are the lazy man’s pies and custards, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. Quite literally just cook a filling of fruit, sugar and whatever tertiary ingredients you fancy, throw some biscuits or dumplings over the top and bake with the lid on for a bit. If you don’t put ice cream on top afterward it hardly even counts.
Roasted Goat with Potatoes and Onion
It’s Greek and, yet again, it’s simply a matter of throwing things in the Dutch oven and letting them cook for a couple hours. The combination of low and consistent heat breaks down the collagen in the goat and converts it into gelatin, which makes for meat that doesn’t require a knife to cut through.
In the words of Garden & Gun editors, “…this is fried chicken in its most fundamental form.” If you thought the Dutch oven was only good for low-and-slow cooking, you were wrong (bonus points if you fry in bacon fat).
Chicken and Brunswick Stew
To those forlorn souls who’ve yet to find themselves in front of a cup of Brunswick stew, I’m sorry. This version adds in chicken to make what’s traditionally a side the main attraction. The result is a more fulfilling Brunswick stew that retains all of its weirdness.
One of the signs that cold weather has arrived, the beef stew is best prepared in a Dutch oven. Find the cheapest meat and cut the veggies as large as possible so they don’t break into too small of pieces. Also, do not skip the flour, even though you’ll want to.
This recipe for chili is camp-centric, but it doesn’t have to be. All the reasons you cook with a Dutch oven play a part in making a richer chili experience. As noted in the recipe, you can sub out the meat listed for any fatty meat full of connective tissue — it will all be broken down by serving time.
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