Monday, June 22, 2009

Kitchen Essentials: Dutch Oven...

This week’s Kitchen Essential is the Dutch oven. This indispensable product is something that every cook should have at least one of in their kitchen. Dutch ovens come in a variety of sizes and are usually made of either cast iron or enamel over cast iron. The key feature of any Dutch oven, however, is a tight-fitting lid that seals in moisture as the food cooks. This makes these pots ideally suited for braising and stewing. They can be used on top of the stove or in the oven…and you can even serve your dish right from the pot, which means faster cleanup.!

The Dutch oven that I use in my kitchen is Le Creuset’s 5.5-quart enameled cast iron. I use it for making soup and gumbo in the fall and winter. I also use it year-round to cook roasts or whole chickens in the oven because they come out tender, juicy, and evenly cooked every time. The cast iron heats quickly and evenly…and it retains the heat very well. The enamel coating is what I love because it acts like a non-stick surface, allowing me to use very little added fat when I use it to cook. This Dutch oven can go from the stove or oven to the table…any leftovers can go straight to the fridge in the pot to be reheated the next day!

Keep in mind that an enameled cast iron Dutch oven will require an initial monetary investment on your part. When not on sale, a Le Creuset Dutch oven can cost upwards of $200. I realize that’s not a small amount of money, but it’s easier to spend that much money if you think of it as a one-time investment. These are heirloom pieces that last a lifetime and are even be handed down through generations in some families. You can find them for much less on sale at Le Creuset outlet stores.

A non-enameled Lodge cast iron Dutch oven can be purchased for between $50 and $100, depending on size. The trade off is that this type of pot will need to be “seasoned” with oil before using to prevent your food from sticking in the new pot. Over time, cast iron continues to season, so sticking becomes much less of an issue.

No matter whether you opt to go with a basic cast iron Dutch oven or splurge on an enameled cast iron version, just do it! This is one essential kitchen tool that you want to make sure you have in your kitchen’s bag of tricks!!

1 comment:

  1. I love my Le Creuset too and have several pieces, most of which were aquired at a good discount through one of their outlet stores:
    Happy shopping! Dare I mention that Williams Sonoma also has outlet stores...