Innovative Dutch Ovens

Published July 1, 2013. From Cook's Illustrated.

Can newfangled designs improve on—or even stand up to—the tried-and-true Dutch oven we’ve used for years?

Overview:

We love our favorite Dutch oven, but when we looked around at new options, we pondered the possibilities of even more. One claims to speed up cooking with aluminum ridges on the outside of its base. Another boasts a silicone oil chamber in its base that promises to build heat slowly, retain it evenly, and prevent scorching. And one has a lid that locks in place for straining and a keep-warm bowl for nesting in the pot. To test these out, we browned meat and made it into stew, deep-fried a pound of frozen French fries, steamed 4 cups of rice, and timed boiling water.

The results? Mixed. The groove-bottom pot excelled at deep frying, but browning meat or cooking rice forced us to drastically lower the flame—or get a burnt-on mess. The pot with the built-in strainer scorched any food that touched its thin walls near the base of the pot, and large solids blocked the strainer's exit, rendering it useless. Only one pot delivered: That silicone oil chamber, which is sandwiched in the pot’s base, retained heat brilliantly and never… read more

We love our favorite Dutch oven, but when we looked around at new options, we pondered the possibilities of even more. One claims to speed up cooking with aluminum ridges on the outside of its base. Another boasts a silicone oil chamber in its base that promises to build heat slowly, retain it evenly, and prevent scorching. And one has a lid that locks in place for straining and a keep-warm bowl for nesting in the pot. To test these out, we browned meat and made it into stew, deep-fried a pound of frozen French fries, steamed 4 cups of rice, and timed boiling water.

The results? Mixed. The groove-bottom pot excelled at deep frying, but browning meat or cooking rice forced us to drastically lower the flame—or get a burnt-on mess. The pot with the built-in strainer scorched any food that touched its thin walls near the base of the pot, and large solids blocked the strainer's exit, rendering it useless. Only one pot delivered: That silicone oil chamber, which is sandwiched in the pot’s base, retained heat brilliantly and never scorched even when we allowed chili to simmer in it unattended for an hour. Its unwieldy size was the only factor that kept it a notch below our winner.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended - Winner

    Pauli Cookware Never Burn Sauce Pot, 10 Quart

    This large, sturdy pot has a thick, multilayer base that encloses a silicone oil chamber designed to spread heat slowly and evenly. It browned meat uniformly and helped reduce stew to the ideal velvety thickness. It also retained heat well, producing fluffy rice. We let a big batch of chili bubble away for an hour without stirring, and it didn’t scorch at all. The only drawback was its mammoth size. Heavy and broad, it needed well over 3 quarts of oil to get sufficient depth for cooking French fries; its tall sides got in the way when we scooped out fries, and its temperature recovery was a bit slow.

    • Rice ★★★
    • Stew ★★★
    • Fries ★★

    $229.99

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  • Not Recommended

    Turbo Pot by Eneron Stainless 7 5/8-Quart SaucePot

    This steel stockpot features ½-inch-tall aluminum ridges across its base. They’re designed to spread the heat of a gas flame more quickly across the base, and they do help: This pot was a brilliant French fry cooker, since the oil temperature recovered more quickly than it did with all the other innovators (and at about the same pace as the Le Creuset). Three quarts of water boiled in 10 minutes, shaving 2½ minutes off the time of the Le Creuset. But it was prone to overheat and scorch unless we lowered the flame substantially: Fond scorched and burned on when we browned meat for stew. The grooves don’t work on electric or induction stoves.

    • Rice
    • Stew
    • Fries ★★★

    $76.39

  • Not Recommended

    Twiztt by Joan Lunden 5-Quart Cook, Strain and Serve 3-Piece Set

    This flimsy pot scorched any food that touched its thin walls, which bulged out from its small 7.5-inch base. The small diameter of its cooking surface meant browning stew meat in five tedious batches. Rice came out mushy and unevenly cooked. As for the locking lid designed for safe straining, it worked adequately for straining pasta and egg noodles, but chunkier foods like butternut squash blocked the opening. The melamine keep-warm bowl worked, but it was hard to care about that when the pot itself was this poor.

    • Rice ★★
    • Stew
    • Fries

    $79.99

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