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November 16, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

What size dutch oven should I buy?

I stumbled across the no-knead bread recipe online and really want to try and make it. I only have two large stock pots, one le creuset and one calphalon non-stick, both of which don't belong to me and are expensive so I don't want to risk ruining them.

I like to cook in general and would like to get one that's a good size for general cooking as well as the bread. I usually just cook for my boyfriend and I, and I don't mind having some leftovers, but I'd prefer enough for 2-3 meals afterwards and not have to eat the same thing all week (my boyfriend doesn't eat them usually). We own a 3-quart slow cooker and I definitely do not find it too small- it's just about the right size.

I know the no-knead bread recipe calls for a 6-8 quart dutch oven, but I have seen lots of people say this size produces a flat loaf and if you want a taller loaf to use a smaller pot. I'm debating between this version and the larger, six quart version. I am a little worried that the 4.5 quart will be too small to do anything practical in besides the bread, and I don't want to spend that much money on a one-use piece of cookware.

What do you think? Do any of you cook successfully for two with a 4.5 quart or smaller, or have any of you made no-knead bread and liked the results in the 6 quart?

Thanks!
posted by queens86 to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I have a five-quart le creuset dutch oven, and I think it's about the best thing ever. I use it for any slow-and-low cooked hearty dish -- gumbo, marinara sauce, soups, stews, beans, caramelizing onions, etc. It's one of the most useful kitchen items I own.

I find that the 5-qt is perfect for a meal for two with enough leftovers to be useful but not so much that we're eating for years. It's also the perfect size for large batches of things that aren't a main course; for example I'm planning on making this onion jam in it time for the holidays.
posted by Sara C. at 4:51 PM on November 16, 2012


I highly recommend the Lodge 5qt Double Dutch Oven. The ability to use it upside down, so that you can more easily drop the loaf into dutch oven (instead of from a great height with an enameled model that you can't use the lid as a base for, or even worse, not preheating at all) is worth it. It is good for a 2lb loaf of white bread, more for whole grain. It is also plenty large for cooking for two for a few meals. Plus, you get a cast iron skillet out of the deal and it is cheaper than the enameled versions.

FWIW, as someone who has baked many, many loaves of bread, I don't think the size of the dutch oven is a significant factor for loaf size. There are many more important factors and even with all else equal, the dutch oven size effect is going to be very small.
posted by ssg at 5:08 PM on November 16, 2012


I have a 5-quart calphalon dutch oven and like Sara C. I think this size is just about perfect. I've been doing bolognese sauce in it lately and it's enough for two meals with a couple of lunches or eat once and fill up the freezer. I'd definitely recommend the 5.
posted by machine at 5:09 PM on November 16, 2012


I have a 7 quart Le Creuset. It's wonderful, but it's too large for two people who don't want a huge quantity of leftovers.

As such, I'm guessing that smaller 4.5qt oven is probably a better fit for your needs.
posted by grudgebgon at 5:10 PM on November 16, 2012


My dutch oven is a 4-quart, and only occasionally do I wish it were a bit bigger. This is my primary cooking vessel for everything from hunks of meat, to pasta sauce, to soups and stews, so no, I wouldn't worry about the 4.5 being too small to cook in. Soup is really the only thing that fills it to capacity, and it sounds like you've got alternative cookware for that anyway.
posted by gueneverey at 5:36 PM on November 16, 2012


I have a 4.5 quart le Creuset and it makes a perfect, beautifully round and full no-knead bread. I cook mostly for just me and my husband and it's the perfect size to make most stew and roast recipes. It usually ends up holding about two meals worth for both of us, so we have a non-overwhelming amount of leftovers. The only reason I wish I had a larger one is because it's too small to hold a whole chicken.

I definitely recommend you look for one at TJ Maxx or Marshall's. I bought mine at TJ Maxx almost ten years ago and it's still going strong. It was only $60 instead of $200+! It has a tiny flaw in the enamel under the lid, but that's the only problem.
posted by apricot at 5:43 PM on November 16, 2012


My no-knead baking dulled the sheen on the enamel of my Le Creuset, so I ended up buying a cheapo Ikea pot for bread. Just as a data point to consider.
posted by misterbrandt at 6:39 PM on November 16, 2012


I have trouble with the enamel on the bottom of my lodge enameled Dutch oven getting...no longer slick. It's actually really hard to cook in now. And I think the knob is not oven-safe to the no-knead baking temp.

I use a non-enameled, seasoned, cast iron Dutch oven (also from Lodge) for my no-knead bread (probably 4.5 qt) and it works beautifully.
posted by leahwrenn at 6:46 PM on November 16, 2012


If your Le Creuset or other enameled cast iron pot has a "plastic" knob, you'll need to replace it with one of these metal ones when baking the no-knead bread at high temperatures.

We have the 5-1/2 quart (#29) Le Creuset dutch oven and use it for everything, including bread.
posted by Joleta at 7:36 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those Le Creuset suckers are HEAVY. Sometimes I use the smallest one I have even though the bigger one might be better for what I'm cooking, just because of the weight. What I'm saying is, don't buy a larger one thinking that it'll have more utility for those occasional times you want to make a ton of stuff, because the additional weight renders it a lot less useful. Get the smallest one that will meet your typical needs.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:36 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My no-knead baking dulled the sheen on the enamel of my Le Creuset, so I ended up buying a cheapo Ikea pot for bread. Just as a data point to consider.
posted by misterbrandt at 6:39 PM on November 16 [+] [!]


Me too! I also use the Ikea pot whenever I need to broil something (ie for a giant french onion soup). That way I don't ruin my expensive Le Crueset pots.
posted by helmutdog at 12:41 AM on November 17, 2012


If your Le Creuset or other enameled cast iron pot has a "plastic" knob, you'll need to replace it with one of these metal ones when baking the no-knead bread at high temperatures.

FWIW, I just remove the plastic knob entirely when making no-knead. It's still possible to remove the lid by grasping its sides with hot pads.
posted by apricot at 6:12 AM on November 17, 2012


I have the Lodge 6qt. Dutch Oven. Love it. I wouldn't get something bigger than that, definitely.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:26 AM on November 17, 2012


I have a 3 qt and a 6.5 quart Dutch oven. One in the middle, say a 4.5 would be much better for my two person household.

The 3 quart is small for most of the things you use a dutch oven for, and the 6.5 quart is a bit large.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:23 PM on November 17, 2012


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