what size Le Creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven?
February 9, 2016 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Hi, I want to buy a Le Creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven but because they are so expensive I can only buy one. I've waited a long time and finally I'm going to take the plunge and do it. I know I want the yellow color, and heaviness does not matter because I'm going to leave it on my stove top for display when I'm not using it, so I don't have to lug it in and out of my cupboard.

My question is, which size should I get? There are different sizes and I even have to pick between round and oval. I don't think I need the biggest size. I want it mainly to make soups, and other meat meals. An example would be: making corned beef with potatoes and cabbage. The corned beef in the stores are pretty big and I would want it to fit.

I cook for just the three of us. But the meals I make are pretty much from basic recipes where you have leftovers. Do you guys have any suggestions on the size I should pick for my dutch oven?


posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you are planning on keeping it on your stovetop I'd literally trace the sizes onto a piece of paper, cut them out and then put them on the burner and see how much room they take up. A round one might take up too much room and intrude on other burners. (I say this as a person who keeps a heavy stockpot on top of my stove all the time.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't have a Dutch oven but I use my slow cooker ALLLL the time. IMO one of the benefits of using it is to make a lot of food (for leftovers) all at once. It's just me and my husband but we both tend to take leftovers for lunch regularly. A 6-qt crock pot is the perfect size for us. Anything smaller seems too small. We also don't really have much freezer space, so if you can freeze the stuff you cook you might want to go for a bigger size too.
posted by Brittanie at 1:16 PM on February 9, 2016

I have a 4.5 quart one (Lodge) which is good for stews, but to do meat meals probably calls for at least a 6 quart.
posted by Riverine at 1:20 PM on February 9, 2016

It depends on whether you have a good roasting pan. I have the 7qt round, and it works well for soups and roasts. I could get by using the 5qt for soups, though I prefer having extra room in the pot to minimize splatters and mess. But the 7qt works better for roasting a chicken or a pork shoulder or any other big piece of meat. I have the 5qt on my wish list, but I'm glad I bought the 7qt first.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2016

Husband and I have a 7 1/4 quart round Le Creuset dutch oven (which isn't the largest, I think that's 9 quarts?) which is fantastic for making large batches of meals with leftovers to feed us for a week or so.
posted by dire at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I don’t have a Dutch oven. But I’d like one and I’ve thought about what I’d get: the oval 6.75 quart.

This is based on my crock pot. It’s a 6 quart, and is just about the right size for most things, but if I were doing a roast or something I might like something a bit larger. And I would not want to go smaller. Also, the 6.75 quart Dutch oven is only about an inch bigger in each dimension than the 5 quart. I like the oval shape of my crock pot much better than the round one it replaced. Obviously, it doesn’t matter for soups and stews, but any cut of meat fits better in the oval
posted by Kriesa at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2016

Best answer: I cook for just myself and the 3.5qt size makes enough of something that can last me for days. It's a good size for just me, or if I had one other person. I often find myself scaling down soup/stew recipes a bit.

For three of you I would probably at least go up to the 4.5qt size. Le Creuset's website suggests that's for 4-5 servings.

As for round vs. oval, I would say think about things you're likely to cook in it. For instance, there are recipes for cooking a whole chicken (not cut up) in a pot - I can't really get a whole chicken in my round 3.5qt pot. It might fit in an oval 3.5qt pot because of the shape difference. It would probably fit in either round or oval at 4.5qts and above. Braising whole beef brisket might work better in an oval shaped one.

For me, if I were getting second one I would probably get the 5.5qt size. I would enjoy having both sizes - particularly for soups, the bigger size would be welcome both for making bigger batches but also just for extra room for stirring without coming too close to the rim.

(Also, note that Lodge makes enameled cast iron pots now too, and many people have recommended them as comparable quality to L.C. but a fraction of the price.)
posted by dnash at 1:28 PM on February 9, 2016

The 7 and 1/4 round is what have to make about six to eight servings of something.

(I have both Lodge and Creuset enameled cast iron dutch ovens. The Lodge was much cheaper, but after a five years, the enamel is cracked at the bottom, and there's a place on the side where it's chipping off. The Creuset continues to look basically like the day that we got it.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2016

Don't get the oval unless you plan to oven-cook lots of large oval cuts of meat (my parents had a non-le-creuset pot for this purpose). I had the small oval one (clearance sale a long time ago) and it wasn't ideal for stovetop cooking because of the shape.

I have the big round one (around here, TJ Maxx gets ding and dent ones sometimes, which is where I got mine). Having used the big one, I would not want the small one as a replacement - the big one is ideal for sauteing stuff to start a recipe, for instance. I would love one of the ones with the lower sides, but they never turn up on discount.
posted by Frowner at 1:36 PM on February 9, 2016

My sweet husband gave me the 6.75 qt oval as a birthday gift last month. As others have suggested the oval shape makes it easier to braise a huge pork shoulder or similar. I typically am only cooking for two adults but I still wouldn't go much smaller in capacity.

This is my second enamel cast iron pot, but my first Le Creuset. My old (much cheaper) pot lost chunks of the enamel exterior over time, and the inside of the pot seemed to lose finish and retain odors despite careful hand washing. I'm hopeful the Le Creuset will last a lifetime. I store mine on the stovetop; it takes up quite a bit of back burner space but that doesn't pose a logistical problem most nights.
posted by little mouth at 1:36 PM on February 9, 2016

We have the 6.75 qt oval and we use it to cook pork shoulders or pot roasts for 2 (with leftovers for at least one more meal for two) all the time. It fits on the small stove but can handle a large cut of meat, and is a lot easier to clean than the 10 qt Staub Cocotte because I can actually lift it and move it around. It's a great thing to have.
posted by matildaben at 1:53 PM on February 9, 2016

I have the 5 1/2 quart round, and it is the perfect size for the soups/stews/chili I use it for. I'm usually cooking for two adults and a kid, but try to make twice as much as we need of any given thing so we have a good store of leftovers. I have a small-ish stovetop, and a larger one might overwhelm. So, seconding the suggestion to cut out a template the same diameter to get a feel for how much space it will take up, especially if you plan to essentially store it on the stovetop.
posted by msbubbaclees at 1:53 PM on February 9, 2016

I have the 16cm and 24cm ones - the 16cm is perfect for two servings and the 24cm one is perfect for 4 servings. I would go for the 24cm one if I were you (that's the 4.5qt one mentioned above). You don't want one too big because you don't want them to be too empty - if they boil dry you'll damage the enamel.

They are amazing, totally worth the money.
posted by tinkletown at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've got a few assorted sizes and shapes of Le Creuset. Frowner's right: the oval's really best for meat that you're going to cook in the oven; it doesn't fit very well over burners. The size… I rarely regret using the larger ones for things I want a lot of leftovers of.
posted by culfinglin at 2:04 PM on February 9, 2016

I'm very happy with my round 6-quart Lodge. I use it to cook for 3-4 people, and we usually have leftovers. Sounds like our menu is pretty similar to what you're making. I would strongly suggest looking at Lodge, unless your heart is absolutely set on Le Creuset. They run like $50, and I haven't seen any difference between my mother's Le Creuset and my Lodge. Admittedly, it's only been three years; maybe I'll change my tune down the road. But so far I've been very happy with it.
posted by protocoach at 2:04 PM on February 9, 2016

The Sweethome recommends a 6-quart round dutch oven. They opt for the Lodge, but really like the Le Creuset. I'd read that article to see how they decided on 6 quarts, and other factors that might prove useful in your decision making.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:12 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

We have several and we use the 5-1/2 quart round the most. I generally prefer the round ones over the oval, but it definitely depends on what you want to make.
posted by primethyme at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2016

I have the 9 qt. (12.25" diameter) round because I wanted something big enough for a specific braised leg of lamb dish that cooks in the oven. It's awesome for that and so easy to clean, though the dowside is it weighs just under a ton. I have also used it on the stove for big batches of soup, but it would be awfully big to sit out on the stove all the time. I have the cream color and it's very pretty. The largest is 13.25 qts. I can only imagine that one takes two people to lift when fully loaded!
posted by cecic at 2:16 PM on February 9, 2016

I have a small size which was perfect for a lot of things until the enamel started flaking and cracking. That makes 2 enameled pieces from them that have done that - this apparently is a widespread complaint.

I keep meaning to call and try for a replacement. Do your research. I know this is the "go to" brand, but I think the quality is not there. I will never buy another Le Creuset again.

I have nothing but love for non-enameled iron cookware, so that + a great slow cooker might be my choice.

Also! There are some GREAT electronic pressure cookers that I would buy over the cast iron + slow cooker combo if I had it all to do over again, since space is an issue for me. I can't counsel you away from enameled Le Creuset hard enough. I really think you will get more enjoyment and use out of the pressure cooker. The one thing I liked the small Dutch oven on my stovetop was for rice and legumes. For rice you had to factor in the holdover heat from the cast iron, but the lid was heavy and held in the steam. It was glorious. The pressure cooker will do this without flaking or cracking and making you hate the investment 3 years down the road, plus it does so so so much more! In a fraction of the time and with more flavor!!

I hope I have convinced you. MeMail me if you want pics as proof. I love expensive cookware and have lots of it. I also have some cheap workhorses like Lodge pans I adore. The two pieces I hate MOST because they are pretty, they are perfectly sized, AND they are now garbage because the enamel cracks and flakes are my Le Creuset small Dutch oven and the stock pot I bought to match it. So much garbage. Thanks for reminding me to either call Le Creuset or finally throw them out.

Pretty much anything you buy will be a better investment.

Oh! And I think the enameled lemon juicer thingy I just threw out (again, cracked enamel!) was also Le Creuset. That kitchen gadget was never heated, and as a gadget designed to juice acid fruits, it should have lasted longer. I think my husband bought that 3 years ago, come to think of it.

No more enameled cookware. Ever. That's my new motto.
posted by jbenben at 2:21 PM on February 9, 2016

I LOVE my 5.5 qt round Le Crueset--I regularly refer to it as my "fabulous blue pot." I store it on a back burner of the stove and it fits fine. I use it mainly for soups and stews--in fact, I just used it on Sunday to make a big batch of vegetable-cheese chowder! It's always seemed like the perfect size. I think I've had it for about 12 years and use it several times a month and it shows no sign of wearing out.
posted by bookmammal at 2:25 PM on February 9, 2016

I use a 5 1/2 quart, AKA 26 cm. I used to have a couple of 24s which were a much more manageable size. The 26 always seems a little too large. That being said, it will fit a kilo of bacon with enough potatoes and cabbage for 3 or 4 people. It will also fit 10 cans of tomatoes and the onion needed to make a big batch of ragu.

For two people it's generally oversized unless you're making extra for storing. Most of the time I only use it to half full.

I have a large oval one too, probably slightly smaller in capacity. It's really inconvenient and doesn't see as much use.
posted by nevan at 2:28 PM on February 9, 2016

Just to add some nuance to jbenben's answer, here's and old question of mine about flaking enamelware. Read "sizing" as "seasoning" in my original question (lost in translation etc.).
Le Creuset has a lifetime warranty in place since 2000; according to them, this is because they changed their manufacturing process at the time. Just for the record, I have never had one of my enamelled Dutch ovens flake (and they're some French off-brand, too, not even the Real Deal), nor any of my frying pans (le Creuzet and Cousances) apart form the one from my linked question--the one that I heated up too much. And I've used some of this stuff all the time, and heavily, since the early eighties.

Your question: I'm using my (medium-sized) oval and my round Dutch ovens both on the stovetop and inside the oven. Round for soups and stews and polenta stirring and so on, oval for pulled pork, small-to-medium birds, leggolamb and other meat-in-a-piece slow stew combos and for cooking spaghetti, or when the round one is still dirty and I'm lazy. Look for outlet stores, sometimes you can get them cheaper. If you only can afford one, round is more versatile. For your daily cookery, don't buy anything too big and back-breaking. You'll get most out of something that accommodates one chicken snugly. (For the odd a-whole-week's-worth-of-Chili or leek soup for the church choir or whatnot buy something else lightweight, cheap and BIG).
posted by Namlit at 2:53 PM on February 9, 2016

I started with a 3.5-qt round, and used the hell out of it. Before I bought it, I thought I'd probably use it more in the oven, but it turns out a solid 80% of my cooking with it is on the stove top, where the round size is much better in terms of even heat distribution. I recently bought a 5.5-qt round and am really liking that as well. I haven't run into a situation where the 5.5-qt wouldn't work just as well as the 3.5-qt, and a whole chicken (or particularly large batch of stew) fits much better in the 5.5-qt. If I could only have one, I'd definitely go with the 5.5-qt round.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:10 PM on February 9, 2016

If I were going to get one, I'd want it to be big enough so when I turn the burner on high, the flames would stay under the pot and not lick up the sides. A big one is good because you can brown more pieces of meat and vegetables, keeping a single layer and a little room in between pieces.

I definitely would NOT want to have to move it to use another largish pot. Only you know how many burners you use at a time. My stovetop is big, but the 12" sautee pan I uses pretty much guarantees I can't also use the burner closest to it at the same time.

Some recipes say to put a chicken or roast into a pot just big enough to hold them. This is usually when they want the liquid to come up to a certain level. If your pan is too big for this, you can use a larger pot and just turn the food more often.

The only recipe I have that actually calls for a steep-sided, narrow pot is one particular sauce that has to evaporate very slowly. I solve this by partially covering a big pot.

The only reason I don't buy a ten-inch round enameled pan is that I already have a 10-inch heavy-bottomed stainless pot that is almost as good. I have an oval Le Creuset and I use it, but not often.
posted by wryly at 7:30 PM on February 9, 2016

I have three. Two are Le Crueset -- the 2 quart is perfect for one person or for smaller two-person recipes, while the 3.5 quart has become the go-to for almost all main dish two-person cooking. Of the two, the 3.5 quart is the one I would keep if I could own just one because of its versatility.

I also have a larger off-brand one that was recommended as a cheaper alternative. I don't have anything bad to say about it exactly, and it has held up fine over the years, but it is clearly not as well designed as the Le Crueset pans in terms of the handles, lid, and other details. If I was doing it again, I'd save longer and buy the nicer pan, though like I said this one is working ok and certainly does not cook any differently than the expensive pans.

I haven't had any enamel issues but at this point I've gotten so much use out of all three that I wouldn't be upset about it if it did happen, either. Almost every time I use them I start on the stovetop and then move them to the oven; the only special care I take is to mostly use a wooden spoon for stirring and to handwash rather than run them through the dishwasher. I use them hard and often, and they are holding up surprisingly well.

heaviness does not matter because I'm going to leave it on my stove top for display when I'm not using it

Heaviness will still matter for lifting it in and out of the oven, and for carrying it to the sink for cleaning. If hand strength is an issue for anyone in your household, I'd make sure your preferred size will work.

I even have to pick between round and oval

The ovals are pretty, but I went with round because every recipe I make starts with stove-top steps like sauteing onions, and the round shape works well for that.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2016

Oh hey you already marked the right answer. But to re-affirm we've got the 3.5 and the 4.5 and if we only had one it would definitely be the 4.5.

Of note, however with the 4.5 the foot print is large enough that, depending on the size of your cooktop, it may limit access to some of you other burners for example a large saute and this pot won't fit vertically for us which sucks if you're simmering something on the back burner and want to use the front. Not a frequent problem but an unanticipated one. Despite that I still think the 4.5 is more all purpose.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:11 PM on February 9, 2016

We have an oval Le Creuset and larger round knock-off. Oval is nice for many cuts of meat. (Consider, e.g., the shape of a whole chicken.) The oval was put in to service most recently for corned beef on the stove top, and for pot roast in the oven before that. The larger round one get used for stews, and for no-knead bread. If forced to choose, I'd go with the oval. It has a certain stove-top gravitas that round lacks.
posted by dws at 10:24 PM on February 9, 2016

I have a 4.5 qt in which I bake bread, and it's great. It is a cheaper Lodge, but it's perfect.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:44 AM on February 10, 2016

Proud owner of an oval 6.75 qt Le Creuset. I've used it for baking bread and braising pork loins. It's the perfect size, but even for a strong gal like myself, getting it in and out of the oven is no joke.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:51 AM on February 10, 2016

I've inherited most of my gran's le Creuset and other enameled cookware, and had two pieces of my own already. So some of my pots and pans are more than 50 years old, with no damage at all. I think the youngest is ten years old.
Recently, I overheated one of them while baking bread, and it was permanently discolored, but no cracks or chips. Le Creuset said it is completely safe to use.
My gran loved the oval pots, she used them for chicken or game. I rarely use them. The one I use every day is the 20 cm/ 2.4 l round one.

Because of the bread-baking accident, I bought a cheap made in China pot for that purpose. It's only two years old and already rusting on the edges.
posted by mumimor at 5:55 AM on February 10, 2016

I have the biggest one. No regrets! And that's just for two of us. I use it for a lot of things: making jam, frying things in oil (It's deep enough that the splatter stays inside the pot), baking bread, any sort of braising, even roasting (I can fit two chickens in a single layer if I cut them up.)
posted by desuetude at 6:10 AM on February 10, 2016

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