What is the best affordable Dutch oven? well before I start, I need you to understand this. The humble Dutch oven is my favorite piece of cookware by a long way…a long long way.
The reason is simple, it’s pretty much all I need to work with…it does pretty much most things…and fantastically well at that. Whether it is baking, searing, stewing, frying…it does everything…and it is so hard wearing and robust. I’ve owned mine a long time and it is still going strong. I wholeheartedly recommend Dutch ovens to everybody, and I mean it. They are too good to not experience them.
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Best affordable Dutch oven under $100
Here is a selection of affordable Dutch ovens. I have based my decision on my actual experience of using them and user reviews.
What is sure is that they all performed well in the cooking performance tests and the quality of the build was at a minimum good.
Lodge Color 6-Quart
This Dutch oven is winner of my Best Dutch oven test, beating the likes of Le Creuset and Staub to the best oven title.
Yes, the premium makes were better built and had a nicer finish, but all things considered, this Lodge Dutch oven offered the best value when factoring the price and cooking performance…which was excellent.
Buy this Lodge Dutch oven if you want great cooking performance, a nice design and something that offers value beyond its low price. Backed by the historic Dutch oven brand, Lodge…it is a great purchase.
Another very affordable Dutch oven and a real option. Attractive looking with a good quality build, it represents good value. The cooking performance was good in my test and it represents very good value.
There was little to call in when compared against Lodge so be reassured that this is a good Dutch oven.
Cuisinart 5 Quart
This Dutch oven again represents good value at under $100. It performed very well in my cooking test delivering one of the best dishes. The build quality is aimed at the mid-market and you can tell that they are slightly better made than Tramontina and Lodge.
The build quality was good with a nice tight-fitting lid and even enameling all the way through. A nice item and well worth the money.
Marquette Castings 6 Quart
A newcomer to the market, they are making great waves with a high-quality product made in the USA. The finish on this Dutch oven is exceptional and the design is beautiful. I can see why their reviews on amazon are very high. Last time I checked, it was priced around $90…which is well worth that price.
AmazonBasics 6 Quart
This is the newest entry into the budget Dutch oven market. By far and away the lowest price offering, the feedback to date on Amazon has been surprisingly good. It clearly represents good value and is an ideal starter oven or workhorse. At this price, it is worth looking at and you still have the Amazon brand guarantee as a back up.
Verdict – Which one would I buy?
Firstly, it is important to say that they all have their merits and disadvantages. The best thing you can do is read the user reviews on Amazon. This gives you a better idea on quality. My opinion, is just that, my opinion.
If I had $100 to spend, personally I would buy the Marquette Castings Dutch oven. The main reason is the quality of the build and I do like the design. It also looks like a premium product…without the price tag!
Having said that, I would be happy with any of the options I have listed as I know that they are great value and offer good cooking performance. If I was to be given any of the above, I would be happy… but given the choice, my eye is drawn to the Marquette Castings Dutch oven.
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Why is it good to start with an inexpensive one?
You may think that buying a cheaper one is a false economy but, in most circumstances, it makes sense.
There are some tasks that you may not want to use your expensive Dutch oven for…such as frying…some people still get nervous about it.
You may also want to experiment with this style of cooking without committing to pay a premium price for a top brand Dutch oven.
Ultimately, they can be expensive so there is always room in the market for an affordable Dutch oven.
What size should Dutch oven should I get?
As with most products, buy a smaller one and they tend to be more affordable and cheaper.
However, we have to find a balance here. We need to buy a big enough Dutch oven that will meet most your needs but not so big that you are wasting space and money.
I would always look for a Dutch oven which is at least 5 quarts. This size is large enough to accommodate a family of 4 while still having leftovers. It is also the perfect size to roast a whole chicken for example and even bake a loaf of bread.
It is the perfect size for balancing usability, flexibility and price.
Why are some Dutch ovens affordably priced and some really expensive?
As with most markets for goods, you get items that are priced at different levels. Some will be the cheaper end with mass market appeal…others will be at the top end with exclusivity pricing.
This is what happens in the Dutch oven market. There are prices designed to appeal to various different markets.
However, this market is a little stranger because whether you are in the high end or low end, they all pretty much do the same thing and perform in a relatively similar way…not the same but it is closer than you might imagine.
It is normally the brand, the quality of the finish and service that accounts for the price difference. Fundamentally, they are all cast iron and enameled.
Buying the best affordable Dutch oven does not mean you are getting less.
Frequently asked questions
What is a Dutch oven and why would I need one?
There are essentially two types of Dutch oven…outdoor cast iron and enameled cast iron. The enameled versions are designed to be used indoors and have an enamel coating to make them easier to maintain and use.
They have tight fitting lids that keep the moisture in the vessel and the cast iron retains and distributes heat very evenly. They are essentially used for one pot cooking and the qualities of the cast iron in the Dutch oven often results in great cooking performance.
I think that most kitchens could benefit from an enamel Dutch oven as they are so versatile. Whether you are frying, searing, roasting, braising…even baking, this can all be handled in a Dutch oven. Quite frankly, even the most average cook can deliver great dishes using a Dutch oven.
What can you cook in a Dutch oven?
I mentioned above that you can do a variety of cooking tasks such as baking, frying, searing etc as well as its main task of stewing. What is important to know is that they have been around a long time and there are millions of Dutch oven recipes dedicated to them. They really are that popular.
What makes them affordable?
The reality is that the ‘affordable Dutch ovens’ are made to a lower quality in terms of finish. They are obviously not as well finished as the premium brands such as Le Creuset or Staub.
However, cast iron is cast iron. It operates the same way therefore the performance is not that different through the pricing spectrum.
The ‘brand’ is also relevant here. The more affordable brands do not spend significant sums creating a brand or lifestyle images…Le Creuset and Staub do. That needs to be paid for through product pricing. At the affordable end of the market, it is word of mouth and user reviews that drive sales.
What size Dutch oven do I need?
If you are lucky enough, it is wonderful having a range of sizes. If you are one of those that has to make do with one, then it is better to get a slightly larger one to give you the flexibility. I would always recommend a minimum size of 5 quarts going up to 6 quarts as a good starting point.
What should I look for when buying a Dutch oven?
There are a few things that you need to look for. Generally speaking, the main brands tend to be fine with nothing to worry about. However, on receiving your enamel Dutch oven, it is worth checking the following.
Check there are no cracks or chips in the enamel, if there is, send it back immediately.
Check that the cast iron thickness is uniform all the way around as well as the enamel.
Look at the lid, does it fight tightly? This is where the ‘wobble’ test comes in, is there much movement when the lid is on the body.
Is it worth buying an inexpensive or cheap Dutch oven?
Yes, you will be surprised at how good they can be. We are so used to price being an indicator of quality so it does affect our opinion. I have detailed the reasons why the price at the top end does get very high. At the base of the market, the quality…especially from a mainstream brand is more than acceptable and the cooking performance is great. It is worth reading my Best oven review.