The pride of every kitchen, the Dutch oven is on every gift registry and in every well-stocked cabinet (if it ever sees a day when it’s not in use). But what is it used for?
A good Dutch oven is a kitchen essential, heavy and thick enough to conduct and retain heat and deep enough to handle large cuts of meat and quarts of cooking liquid. While a Dutch oven is ideal for braises, stews, and chilis, you can ask it to do much more. Below are a few Dutch ovens uses that make it such a kitchen must-have.
Use Your Dutch Oven to Cook Pasta Directly in the Sauce
Dutch ovens are perfect for serving up a pasta feast, and the best part is that they help you eliminate the pot of boiling water. The key to cooking pasta without all that water is to use an intensely flavored, moisture-heavy cooking liquid that can easily work as a sauce. We like using combinations of water, wine, the liquid from canned tomatoes, and broth, depending on the flavor profile of the dish. This trick will save you time and turn out a pot of fully loaded pasta.
Use Your Dutch Oven to Steam Side Dishes
When we want sides that don’t disappear into the dish, we look to our steamer basket to hold vegetables above the fray. Placing our steamer basket above the protein and cooking liquid allows vegetables like broccoli and asparagus to steam through under the Dutch oven’s tight seal without turning soggy, a trick that makes it easy to serve up a distinct side right from the same pot containing even the sauciest entrée.
Use Your Dutch Oven to Cook Hearty Stews
Great stews are defined by their thick, rich texture. Rather than lengthen our ingredient lists with added thickening agents, we use the low-and-slow cooking technique to our advantage, allowing starchy ingredients to break down and add body to a stew naturally. From cooking sweet potatoes until they start to disintegrate to simmering quinoa until it sloughs off its starch, our best thickeners are right in front of our faces.
- Use Your Dutch Oven to Poach Eggs, Chicken, and More
Poaching eggs in a Dutch oven filled with just 6 cups of water leave plenty of headspace above the eggs so that steam fully cooks the notoriously gooey portion of the white nearest the yolk. But this method can also be applied to other proteins. A steamer basket and plenty of water can perfectly poach chicken breasts and fish on the stovetop in a Dutch oven.
- Use Your Dutch Oven for Baking
Dutch ovens have long been used to bake bread. In a covered Dutch oven, trapped steam provides a crisp, crackling crust to a sourdough loaf. It delivers sweet, baked treats as well (and doubles as the mixing vessel), for recipes like a delicious chocolate lava cake. The best part? The Dutch oven's heat-retaining walls effectively keep the cake's center gooey and warm between servings. (Trust us, you’re going to go back for seconds of this one.)
The word “cocotte” conjures up visions of terribly fancy and difficult French cooking, suitable only for trained Michelin-starred chefs in their 80s. We talk about it as hands-off, easy, and fuss-free as cooking gets.
We only recently rediscovered en cocotte cooking because we wanted to know how would it be the roast chicken and we observed the essential is the kitchen exhaust fan. And, as you may know, the high temps needed for the perfect roast chicken tend to produce some smoke. So we started looking around for a way to cook this chicken without the smoke alarms alerting the fire at any luxury department. And then we remembered, "at cocotte".
“Cocotte” means cooking in a tightly covered pan… a “cocotte.” And I bet you have one, even if you don’t know it. For example, any Dutch oven-style pot is, in essence, a cocotte.
For a whole chicken (4-5 pounds), or a bone-in turkey breast (6-7 pounds), all you need to do is salt and pepper the meat, and then brown the fowl, breast side down in the pan with a bit of oil and some chopped aromatics (celery, onion, carrot, garlic, and an herb sprig or two) for about 5 minutes, then turn it over for another 6-8 minutes. Next, cover the pot with foil, put the lid on, and place it in a very low-temperature oven (250 degrees or so) until the bird reaches the desired temperature. That is generally 160-ish for the breast, and 175 degrees for dark meat; it will take around 2 hours. Then tightly tent the bird to rest. And if you feel like it, make an easy gravy with the liquid in the pot. Done!
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But we do need to warn you—this is not a recipe for crispy skin lovers. This is a recipe for those who cherish meltingly tender and moist meat above all else. In this cooking method, the skin is only there to flavor the broth and protect the meat, and should be discarded after cooking. But between the bird and the incredible, deeply flavored juices—believe me, you are in for a treat. And, the only hands-on work you did was browning the bird. The rest was done in the oven, without you even peeking. And it only took around 2 hours! I know it’s never a good idea to say “never,” but at the moment, I’m so in love with this method that I may never use any other for chicken! And for anyone who thinks turkey breast is dry and tasteless, this is an absolute revelation.