You’re cooking that soup you love in your classic stockpot. Your friends have talked about how much a dutch oven might deepen the flavor of this classic soup, but are they right? What’s the difference between a dutch oven and your trustworthy stockpot?
Quite a lot, depending on the materials, size, and usage. These two classic kitchen tools are staples in cooking, but if you’re wondering which you should buy first, we have some thoughts. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both stockpots and dutch ovens to see which one might be right for you.
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What is a Stockpot?
Stockpots are classics in traditional kitchens as well as commercial kitchens. They’re designed to be large enough to accommodate the ingredients for a good, homemade stock – hence the name – without being too heavy to carry.
Stockpots give you plenty of space to add large amounts of liquid without sacrificing stirring. In traditional pots, you may run out of room to add in the liquid for your stock. Their biggest drawback, however, is the awkward handle on one side. It’s tough to pick up a pot like that when it’s completely full of sloshing liquid.
Stockpots assume you’ll be draining and straining the contents, so they feature dual, short handles designed to pick up safely and efficiently. The sides are typically taller than the width but not so tall that they’re top-heavy.
What is a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens are braising tools, but they’re also excellent all-purpose cooking tools. They’re made of cast iron, and most household ovens are lined with an enamel coating that makes it easier to cook. The enamel reduces food sticking and eliminates the need for seasoning the cast iron before use.
Dutch ovens provide excellent even heat for things you need to cook low and slow. They require some preheating, but once ready, can move from stovetop to oven without missing a beat. They have tightly fitting lids that help hold in moisture to break down tough cuts of meat and keep things cooking evenly.
Dutch ovens are incredibly heavy, so cooking stock could be tough once you’re ready to strain the stock out. For many people, lifting the pot to strain it would be an exercise in futility. However, for oven-roasted meals, few tools are as useful.
Should I Get a Dutch Oven or Stockpot?
Deciding between the two depends on a few things. Let’s take a look at where each tool shines to see which one might be more appropriate.
Stockpots use lighter materials such as aluminum or stainless to reduce weight. Manufacturers assume you’ll be moving the pot around to either drain the liquid off or change the ingredients for other dishes, and materials shouldn’t add too much weight to that prospect.
The best stockpots have glass lids so that you can see what’s happening while you’re simmering. Some also have metal lids, but I definitely prefer the glass for visibility.
Dutch Ovens use cast iron. In some cases, the cast iron is pure while in budget options, some of it is recycled. However, cast iron uses less heat to cook food and has fewer uneven spots. Enamel coating helps reduce sticking and is a durable addition. No seasoning is required for it to be nonstick. The downside is that they’re too heavy for liquid-intense recipes.
Both options have higher-end and budget options, but stockpots typically are a little cheaper than dutch ovens. You can usually get a good stockpot for less than $100, but you could go as high as several hundred for higher-end name-brand options.
Cast iron is typically on the more expensive side with some costing as much as several hundred dollars. A few companies have come out with budget versions of cast iron with more palatable price tags for those in the market for an entry-level dutch oven.
In reality, both options have a wide range of budgets, so you should be able to find what you’re looking for. If this is your first model, you have plenty of choices in the budget tier. If you’re upgrading, you can definitely find those, too.
Cooking with a Stockpot
Stockpots are excellent for those unwieldy dishes that require a lot of liquid to pull off. For example, if you’re doing a stock, you’ve got to add a lot of liquid to get the amount you need. A traditional pot won’t have the capacity, and a dutch oven will only become impossible to lift and carry.
A stockpot can handle high heat, so if you’re boiling water or stock for a period of time, it’s safe. Glass lids allow you to keep tabs on your liquid, so it doesn’t get too hot. Vents in the lid allow excess moisture to escape but keeping most in for a good cooking environment.
Choose a stockpot if you’re:
- simmering soups for large amounts of people or to put up for later
- making homemade stocks and broths
- need to boil larger pieces of meat for dishes, but you won’t be saving the liquid for the dish
- cooking any dish that requires you to drain the liquid off easily and quickly
Cooking with a Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens are excellent all-purpose tools. Their heavy materials create an even heat that helps break down tough cuts of meat, simmer stews, and impart unique flavor for vegetables. You can get some excellent results with meat without having to boil them to death like you would a stockpot. Plus, they can go on both the stovetop and in the oven.
Dutch ovens don’t need a lot of heat, so start with a low heat setting on your stovetop. Allow your dutch oven to preheat for at least ten minutes or so to get an even cooking environment. Bump the heat up slowly and allow the dutch oven to preheat again until you’ve got the right temperature.
Choose a dutch oven if:
- you need a versatile cooking tool
- frequently cook with less than ideal cuts of meat
- cook dishes that require moving from stovetop to oven
- want to cook things low and slow
The Winner – Both
I don’t normally like to award a tie, but these two kitchen tools are some of the most versatile and essential tools you can have. If you end up with both, you can create such a wide range of homemade meals without having to flounder around for pots that can handle each part of the recipe.
A good stock pot allows you to create your own stocks and broths, simmer soups, and create stews. It’s lightweight and easy to store. They offer the chance to make a lot of prepared foods that are far cheaper to make than to buy. Plus, they help you use kitchen scraps in the stock process.
A dutch oven is excellent for dishes your whole family will love. They’re too heavy to make stock, but they do have lots of other benefits that can help keep your kitchen adventures running smoothly. They’re wonderful as stove and oven tools and give you the option of a lot of different dishes.
Having a range of kitchen tools helps keep you from spending so much money eating out and gives you more options to cook. Investing in an excellent dutch oven is a great way to get more meals on the table with less than ideal ingredients while a stockpot is a versatile way to cook the basics like broth or soup.
Both options have plenty of choices in a range of price points, so whatever your budget, you can feel comfortable getting the tools you need. Later on, if you decide to upgrade, you can always get a higher-end model, but you won’t have to compromise on quality just by getting something in your price range.
Remember to take care of your kitchen tools, and they should provide long-lasting service. Dutch ovens can’t go on high heat the way stock pots will, or you’ll ruin the enamel. Stockpots definitely can’t go in the oven. I also recommend hand-washing your kitchen tools so that they give you the longest life and the best service. Happy cooking!