This Is the Perfect Size of Dutch Oven

This essential kitchen tool comes in many sizes, but one reigns supreme over all the others.

When I graduated from college, I asked for one thing as a graduation gift: a Le Creuset Dutch oven. It struck me as an excellent item with which to start my adult life — long-lasting, classic, beautiful, and super utilitarian. All of the qualities that I wanted to bring with me as I crossed over into my grown-up world. I asked for the absolute largest size possible, the oval fifteen and a half quart size. Again, I thought space in my Dutch oven would equal space in my life for many new friends, who would surely gather around my gigantic, beautiful French pot for long, wine-soaked meals.

There have certainly been a few long, wine-soaked meals centered around my Dutch oven. But the reality of adulthood is, of course, far more meals cooked for one and two people. Most days are just regular days, and regular days rarely require me to haul out my truly enormous Dutch oven. Several years into my adult life, I have acquiesced and purchased a second Dutch oven in what I have determined to be the perfect size: a round, five and a half quarts.

The round shape is important here — one thing I didn't consider about the oval Dutch oven is that it doesn't heat evenly on a regular stove. The center of the pot gets hot, while food around the edges doesn't cook, so it's hard to achieve even browning. The five and a half quart size is ideal for several reasons. It's large enough that you can cook a whole chicken in it, but not so big that it feels insane to bring out for a quick weeknight pasta for two people.

white dutch oven

The reality of any enameled cast-iron pot is that they're pretty heavy, so it's important to walk a line between size and maneuverability. Before I caved and added a smaller pot to my collection, there were many nights when I wanted to use my huge Dutch oven, but decided against it because the darn thing was so heavy and difficult to wash. The five and a half quart option, while still heavy, is much easier to move around, and gives you plenty of space for caramelizing, braising, simmering, and roasting.

Buy It: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven ($360, Williams Sonoma)

Your first Le Creuset is a big moment in any cook's life — it certainly was for me. In addition to the excellent quality of the pans, there's a certain mythical quality to the brand. They're what Julia Child used! If you treat them correctly, they'll likely be passed down through your family. Every time I use mine, it sparks real joy for me, something I can't say for all my pots and pans.

So I'm here to save you the mistake that I made. Buy the five and a half quart size, and enjoy a lifetime of soups, braised meats, perfectly crusty breads, and, yes... many long, wine-soaked dinners.

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