Choosing the Right Dutch Oven: Size, Capacity, and Cooking Needs

How Many Dutch Ovens Do I Need?

Dutch ovens are versatile and can be used to bake, broil, roast, simmer and saute. A general rule of thumb is to allow one quart per person, but different sizes can have specific benefits depending on your cooking style and needs.

For example, a 5.5 quart dutch oven is large enough to make stews and no-knead bread. However, it’s also small enough to easily fit in your cupboard and be ready for weeknight meals.

How Many People Are You Cooking For?

Before slow cookers, Instant Pots and super-powered blenders, there was the Dutch oven. This versatile piece of cookware has been cranking out stews, braises and even baking bread for 400 years. Unlike some other large-capacity cooking appliances, a Dutch oven is small enough to maneuver easily from stovetop to oven and back again.

While there are many different dutch oven sizes to choose from, our recommendation is a mid-size round 5.5 quart option. This size is big enough to make a show-stopping dinner and yet also works well for individual servings or warming up a batch of classic mulled wine.

There are also options in oval shape as well, which can be more efficient for roasting and braising foods since they offer a bit more room than a traditional round dutch oven. Ultimately, the best choice comes down to the types of food you like to prepare and how many people you typically cook for.

How Much Food Are You Cooking?

Dutch ovens range from teeny-tiny to huge, and it’s important to consider how much food you cook in one pot. The smaller dutch ovens, like our senior food editor’s 3-1/2 quart model, are perfect for side dishes, one- or two-person meals and reheating single servings of soup. A little bigger (like a 5 or 6-quart model) is ideal for family dinners, weeknight meals and even cooking up a batch of no-knead bread.

Home cooks that frequently prepare food for crowds often choose larger models (like 7 or 8 quarts) to accommodate up to nine servings in one dish. While these ovens can take a little longer to heat up and cool down, they offer the greatest versatility when it comes to baking and braising. One rule of thumb to follow when determining your ideal size is to allow one quart per person plus an extra quart for leftovers. This helps ensure you don’t end up with an overabundance of leftovers that will require extra refrigeration space.

How Much Space Do You Have?

Before slow cookers and Instant Pots ruled the world of cooking, the Dutch oven was the go-to for braising meats, simmering stews, roasting vegetables and baking bread. The Dutch oven comes in a range of sizes and shapes — round and oval — but they all share the same basic characteristics.

Round dutch ovens are the best choice if you’re planning to cook on a standard stove top burner as they fit easily with other pans and can accommodate a variety of burner configurations. Oval dutch ovens, on the other hand, are typically designed for more specific types of cooktops, often with burners that are positioned closer together.

Most people find that a mid-size, 5.5 quart, round Dutch oven is ideal for everyday use. This size can be used to cook small or large quantities of food and can easily handle larger recipes such as a party-sized bouillabaisse or a batch of sourdough. It’s also the perfect size for using outdoors.

What Type of Food Are You Cooking?

When shopping for a Dutch oven, consider what you plan to cook and how often. If you’re only planning to use it for special occasion cooking, a smaller pot will be sufficient. However, if you’re looking for a dutch oven that will be used as everyday cookware, opt for one with a 5.5-quart capacity. This size can accommodate most family meals and is suitable for a variety of cooking techniques, including stews and roasts.

If you’re going to be using the dutch oven for more than just cooking dinner, like preparing a roast or braising meats, you should invest in a larger size. However, it’s important to remember that the more space a pot has, the heavier it will be when filled. And lugging around a heavy Dutch oven isn’t an ideal situation for most people. A 5.5-quart size is perfect for most families as it can still be easily carried when full. It is also a great size for accommodating leftovers for the next day.

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