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Medium Dutch Ovens

Published May 2019
More on the Best Dutch Ovens
We also tested and recommend the small and full-size versions of these Dutch ovens. Our full review of Dutch ovens with detailed brand comparisons is available here.

How we tested

Dutch ovens are our most-used pots in the test kitchen. We bake, simmer, braise, roast, and boil in them, and we love these heavy-bottomed pots for their versatility, durability, and heat retention. Our preferred large Dutch oven holds at least 7 quarts—it’s the ideal capacity to handle any task, from cooking a whole chicken to preparing enough baked ziti to serve six people. However, when doing research for our cookbook Cook It in Your Dutch Oven, we found that many home cooks own a medium-size (5- to 5.5-quart) Dutch oven. With that in mind, we developed all our recipes for Cook It in Your Dutch Oven to work in both large- and medium-size Dutch ovens. What are the advantages to a pot this size?

In our review of large Dutch ovens, we gave top marks to the Le Creuset 7¼ Quart Round Dutch Oven and the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole. We loved their light-colored interiors that allowed us to monitor browning, large cooking surfaces, and secure, large handles. To see if these qualities were still present in the smaller versions of these pots, we tested the Le Creuset 5.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven, which costs about $340, and the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron Cookware 5 Quart Round Covered Casserole, which costs about $80, using them to cook rice, brown meatballs, fry French fries, and make Braised Short Ribs with Wild Mushroom Farrotto from Cook It in Your Dutch Oven.

Despite its smaller size, the 5.5-quart Le Creuset accommodated enough meatballs to serve four to six people, a full pound of French fries, and, while a bit snug, 4 pounds of short ribs. White rice came out fluffy, meatballs were browned all over, short ribs were tender, and French fries were golden and crispy. Its light interior allowed us to easily monitor food while it cooked, and its generous looped handles made it easy to move the Dutch oven comfortably. When we measured the pot, we were surprised to find that it actually has the same 9-inch cooking surface diameter as the full-size Le Creuset; its walls are just a bit shorter. Its ample cooking surface meant that browning was effortless; however, its shorter stature felt a teensy bit cramped when we braised a large batch of short ribs.   

The 5-quart Cuisinart also impressed us with its versatility. All the food we made in it was on par with the food made in the Le Creuset. However, since it has a slightly smaller capacity (its cooking surface was a quarter of an inch smaller), its size was a bit of a hindrance. The short ribs were too cramped, and it fit fewer meatballs than the Le Creuset. Overall, though, we thought that this was an excellent Dutch oven at a solid price. The full-size version of this pot weighs a whopping 13.7 pounds when empty, so we appreciated that this slightly smaller pot weighed 2 pounds less, making it easier to lift.

We still prefer a large Dutch oven because it comfortably accommodates everything from a big batch of paella to a large loaf of bread. We also like that full-size Dutch ovens have taller walls for safer frying. However, a medium-size version might be a good option if you rarely cook for a crowd, don’t do much frying, or need a slightly lighter pot. If you’re looking to buy a 5-quart Dutch oven, we can recommend both the Le Creuset 5.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven and the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron Cookware 5 Quart Round Covered Casserole.


Methodology

We tested the medium-size versions of our top-rated full-size Dutch ovens, using them to cook rice, brown and simmer meatballs, fry frozen French fries, and make Braised Short Ribs with Wild Mushroom Farrotto from Cook It in Your Dutch Oven. We rated the pots on their cooking performance and how easy they were to use and move around the stovetop and oven.

Rating Criteria

Cooking: We cooked white rice and meatballs, braised short ribs, and fried French fries. We awarded points to pots that produced evenly cooked food.

Ease of Use: We liked pots that were easy to cook in and move around. We also liked pots with comfortable handles that provided a secure grip—given that Dutch ovens are fairly heavy—and lower, straight sides and light interiors that gave us good visibility when cooking.

Durability: We scrubbed and whacked the pots repeatedly with a metal spoon to make sure that they could withstand years of heavy use. We rated a pot highly if it didn't chip or crack.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*