Does an oval cast-iron Dutch oven cook as well as a round one?
Since our favorite Dutch oven in the test kitchen has long been a round model, we’ve never put this question to the test. To answer it, we bought a 6 3/4-quart Le Creuset oval enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, the closest equivalent to our favorite 7 1⁄4-quart round oven. (A quick refresher in geometry assured us that despite their difference in capacity, the surface areas of the two Dutch ovens were very similar.) So would the two long ends of the oval pot, which are never directly over the burner, make for uneven cooking and browning?
To our surprise, we found that beef chunks browned equally well in the two vessels, and long pork roasts were also evenly colored. The key, it turns out, is the cast-iron material of the ovens: Because it’s not an especially efficient conductor of energy, cast iron takes longer to heat up than less substantial materials, but once thoroughly heated, it retains heat very well, making those end areas not in direct contact with the burner just as capable of browning meat as the center.
The bottom line: As long as you adequately pre-heat it, an oval cast-iron Dutch oven should cook as well as a round model, without any adjustments to cooking times or procedures.