So you’ve decided to purchase your first piece of enameled cast iron. These are powerhouses in the kitchen, but it’s not just about what brand and what size. Whether you’re investing in a high-end dutch oven like Le Creuset or going for a bargain with a brand like Lodge, you’ll want to know which shape is the best option for your style of cooking. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of round and oval dutch ovens so you can make the best decision.
Capacity and Size
Both round and oval dutch ovens come in a range of sizes and capacities. The distribution is slightly different, but whether you’re cooking for two or 20 people, you should be able to accommodate both shapes.
Different companies use different measurements to show capacity, so pay careful attention to both. With oval shapes, your capacity can be larger but shallower while the round sometimes gives you a lot more depth. If you like leftovers, go for a size up from your needed serving capacity, and make sure you take into account how heavy some cast iron can be.
Enameled cast iron is non-stick and avoids scorched food through lower heat. Enameled cast iron can be used on the stovetop or in the oven and typically is dishwasher and microwave safe.
Round shapes cook well on top of the stove because their shape is consistent with the eye. Heat is applied to the entire base of the pot, giving you an even overall heat. Larger cuts of meat can still fit well into a round dutch oven, and you’ll have a consistent surface for stirring.
Oval dutch ovens really shine in the oven. They have longer, flatter shapes that accommodate longer cuts of meat, allowing you to fit more into your dish for oven cooking. On the stovetop, an oval shape may not distribute heat quite as evenly, although if you preheat the dutch oven while you’re preparing food, you may not notice as much.
Before you purchase either shape, make sure the lid fits well and the way you like it. If you often cook tougher cuts of meat, you may want to consider a tighter fitting lid to help keep moisture inside and prevent drying your dish out. If you prepare a lot of stews where you need moisture to cook off, a looser lid could work.
Round dutch ovens are more convenient to store, in my experience, because they can often stack two deep on a shelf, and you don’t have to worry about turning the shape in just the right way. However, for some of you with larger hands, an oval shape may offer a more balanced grip while still staying relatively simple to stack in storage.
The Verdict – It’s a Tie
Both the round and the oval dutch ovens are great options. I’m way more concerned about the heat rating, handle size, and lid fit than I am about the shape of my dutch oven. I think that once you consider your serving size, the shape of the dutch oven may not matter so much.
I do recommend looking over your cast iron dutch oven in person so you can get a feel of the weight and how it feels holding it. Both of these shapes can be very heavy, and it’s also best if you can inspect the surface enamel before you make a decision.
Choose a round dutch oven if:
- you cook on the stovetop more than in the oven
- you want a deeper cooking capacity
- you have less available storage space
Choose an oval shape if:
- you cook whole cuts of meat in the oven
- you have larger hands and need a wider balance for your pot
- you have plenty of storage space.
Whatever you do, make sure your serving capacity is spot on and that the options you have for lids have a high enough heat rating that you can cook in the oven without worry. Otherwise, the shape of the dutch oven isn’t a significant deciding factor. Go for other factors first and then narrow down to the one based on shape.