Let us consider ceramic Dutch ovens vs cast iron in depth
When I normally talk of Dutch ovens, I am talking about cast iron. In fact, this whole website is pretty much dedicated to cast iron Dutch ovens.
As you can guess, I am a huge fan of them. I love them. I’m going to put aside my bias for this article to give you a true view around what Dutch oven may be more suitable for you.
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Before I start, it is worth mentioning the terminology. It is inaccurate to describe ceramic Dutch ovens as Dutch ovens. Historically, Dutch ovens have been constructed from cast iron. This is what they have always be known for.
Of course, ceramics and bakeware has been around for many years. They have done so in many forms and predate cast iron Dutch ovens by many centuries.
For the purpose of this article, I will refer to them as ceramic Dutch ovens. If I state Dutch oven, I am referring to the enamel cast iron variety.
In this article, I will give you the following;
- Advantages and disadvantages of cast iron Dutch ovens
- Advantages and disadvantages of ceramic dishes
- The similarities between the two
- What you need to consider before you buy
Let’s talk about cast iron Dutch ovens
As you may have seen, there are essentially two types of cast iron Dutch ovens. The first type, the original versions if you like are plain cast iron. They are seasoned using a variety of oils to prevent them rusting and offer some non-stick properties.
The second type of Dutch ovens are enameled Dutch ovens. These are coated with a porcelain enamel coating which is essentially glass. These were designed for indoor kitchens as it meant that you did not have to go through the seasoning process. It also allowed for more creative colors and a generally more attractive product for the kitchen. Again, the enamel coating offered non-stick properties, prevents leaching and protected the cast iron from rusting issues.
For the purposes of this article, I will assume that you are considering an enameled Dutch oven if you are considering a ceramic version. However, you can apply the arguments to the seasoned Dutch ovens, the difference being that you have to spend time maintaining and seasoning them.
Advantages of Dutch ovens
- Versatility – Bake, fry, stew and braise in them
- Easy to clean
- One pot cooking – easily move from the stove top to the oven
- Cook at high temperatures in oven
- Use on most heat sources on stove top
- Retain heat and distribute heat evenly
- Look fantastic and available in a variety of colors
- Very robust, can last decades if treated well
- Premium brands can become collectors’ items
Disadvantages of Dutch ovens
- Heat up slowly…patience required
- Can be brittle so don’t drop them!
- Not appropriate for the dishwasher
- Not 100% non-stick
- Can rust if not tried or stored correctly
- If the enamel cracks, they are effectively redundant
- The premium brands are expensive
Let’s talk about ceramic dishes (…ceramic Dutch ovens if you must!)
As I mentioned above, ceramic dishes have been around since the dawn of time. They are tried, tested and incredibly popular around the world.
Part of this reason is the cost, they are incredibly cheap when compared to most other types of cookware. The cost should not distract nor dismiss, they have fantastic qualities that other materials struggle to match.
Advantages of ceramic Dutch ovens
- Non-stick surface
- High maximum temperature
- PFOA or PTFE free
- Cadmium free
- Simple to clean and withstands all cleaning products
- Scratch resistant
- Very affordable
Disadvantages of ceramic Dutch ovens
- Easily chipped
- Considered brittle
- Cannot use on a stove top
- Need to heat up slowly
Similarities between ceramic Dutch ovens and enamel Dutch ovens
There are several similarities between ceramic Dutch ovens and cast iron Dutch ovens.
Firstly, they are both designed for oven usage. In fact, they are both perfect for it. They are both capable of high temperatures with the ceramic version capable of extreme temperatures. A word of warning, if you are considering an enamel Dutch oven, make sure the handle knob is capable of handling those temperatures. This is not really an issue on ceramic versions as they are also molded using ceramics.
They are both very attractive and available in a range of colors. The ceramic versions are glazed and available in a variety of colors. You only need to take one look at the new Le Creuset Stoneware range to see the fabulous array of colors. All guaranteed to add a splash of color to any kitchen. We already know all about the color availability in enamel Dutch ovens…simply wonderful.
Heat distribution and heat retention is a key quality of both. This is important in slow cooking especially as it means the even heat delivery results in consistent cooked foods. The evenness means that some parts do not remain uncooked while other areas cook. This is important if you want quality results.
They are both considered durable. Ceramics are durable because they need very little looking after, no polishing and no seasoning. However, be warned that if the base of the ceramics is clay based, it may be prone to damage quite easily.
Finally, clean up on both versions is a breeze. In both cases you can simply use some detergent and elbow grease to remove and residue. Read the following article on how to clean more stubborn stains.
How do I choose which one to buy?
There are a few things you need to consider when you decide which one to buy. My default position is to always go for the cast iron version. They are more robust and will stand the test of time. They are more suitable to my needs.
However, this may not be the case for you. Ask yourself the following questions to decide which one is better suited for you.
Your cooking style
If you regularly braise meats and then transfer then to the oven, then the cast iron Dutch oven is better suited for your needs. If you do not use a Dutch oven on the stove, then a ceramic version is more than good enough for your needs.
Enamel Dutch ovens can become quite expensive, especially if you have your eye on a premium brand. You can however pick up brands like Lodge, Staub, Tramontina and Bruntmor at very reasonable prices. Ceramic versions can be even cheaper so if it meets your cooking style, a ceramic version can be more than adequate.
So, this concludes the Ceramic Dutch oven vs cast iron debate. Ceramic Dutch ovens are more than acceptable for most peoples needs. However, ask yourself what your cooking style and budget dictates. Personally, I would always opt for a cast iron version as they last much longer and are more robust.
Let me know what you think…what would you opt for?
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