Dutch Oven Gift - Should I keep it or exchange for a larger size?
December 27, 2017 2:42 AM   Subscribe

I was gifted a 4 quart Dutch Oven for Christmas. Is this size adequate or would upgrading to a 5.5 quart be a better choice for longevity and cooking diversity?

To begin, I am in therapy to work on this exact issue but still struggle with triggering events (such as this one).

I have significant anxiety around money and objects, and have struggled immensely over the years to make purchases that are both budget sensible and yet good quality for the cost. Or to make necessary purchases at all. I do a lot more research than necessary when making a purchase to find the "most bang for my buck" and to minimize the amount of things I own (I'd rather own something that can multitask than several different objects). This anxiety usually goes into non-realistic, over-the-top territory and I find myself obsessing about it for months without making a purchase. My anxiety about money is also unreasonable since I am make a decent livable wage and my budget does allow purchases that are more expensive than I allow.

Example:
(A) Couch purchase took me more than six months... and included an empty living room for six months and six months of obsessive research and store visits.

So, my scenerio...

This gift is lovely and wonderful and I was really excited/touched by my mom's generousity because I've been wanting a Dutch Oven. But, unfortunately, it has thrown me into a anxiety cycle because (a) my excessive research was that a 5 - 6 quart Dutch Oven was the recommended "workhorse" of the kitchen and my plan was to wait for an appropriately priced Clearance or Home Goods one.. or purchase a budget Lodge recommended by several sources, (b) it doesn't fit into that plan and I'm afraid it will be useless but having two Dutch Ovens is not acceptable because that is too many things, (c) money (my mom spent about $100 on this item because it was on sale; upgraded to a 5.5 quart of the same brand would be a hundred + more), and (d) is the size of the 4 qt better for my 8-inch apartment electric stove burner? does an inch larger or smaller even make a difference?

My needs: I live alone. I usually cook for myself or for myself and my partner. On a rare occasion, I'll cook for a work potluck. I like leftovers and will cook favorite dishes in bulk for future meals (mainly work meals). I rarely cook meat and, when I do, it is never a whole chicken or large cut of roast. I like to experiment with different recipes, etc. At the end of the day, I'm a novice cook who wants to be a better cook.

It's an overall silly, first world problem, but I'm obsessing and would like a neutral party's opinion. Thank you for your time and advice.
posted by Thirty7Degrees to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Four quarts is a good size IMO, and I do a lot of family cooking. It's big enough to make a dish for a party, but not so big that smaller amounts get lost. It's still big enough to accommodate a chicken or pot roast, which is really the only reason to go up a size unless you're regularly feeding 8+ people. Stick with this one, is my advice.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:52 AM on December 27, 2017 [12 favorites]


This is a lovely gift that your mom splurged on, she will notice if she sees you cooking with a different one. Use it, enjoy it, honour her wishes by assuming that she got you the one she thought would be best for you. Who cares what the "experts" think is the best - your mom knows you better than they do! It's not going to be useless, by any means!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:57 AM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Why not try this one out? If you find it's too small, you can donate or resell or later and replace it with the larger model one you have a direct experience of how you use it and what your needs are? However it comes out, the experience might also help you worry less about smaller purchases like this (harder to do with something couch-sized, but most purchases are more on this scale than that.)
posted by spindrifter at 3:03 AM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


I bet a 5-6 qt dutch oven was recommended because of the assumption it would be used to feed a family of four or even more.

If it's just you and your partner, four quarts is a good size. You can always upgrade later once you get a better handle on what size works for you personally.

Enjoy your gift!
posted by Tamanna at 3:23 AM on December 27, 2017 [15 favorites]


Aargh, i do this too. And of course you know this isn't really about the Dutch Oven (of which the size you received is definitely the right one for your family?) Research is just overthinking and questioning your own judgment -- and overthinking is the way to madness When these thoughts come up, just notice them -- "ah, overthinking, thanks brain!" and move on.
posted by caoimhe at 3:37 AM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


If you live alone, the 4 quart model is preferable.
posted by neroli at 3:48 AM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


4 qt is the perfect size for me. I can make a pot of chili or curry and have a lot of leftovers. The larger dutch ovens are nice, but they're so heavy it's a real pain for me to lug them to and from the cabinet to the stove. I dislike washing the larger dutch ovens for the same reason.
posted by Stonkle at 3:55 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


4 quarts is the perfect size, trust your mom. 5.5 is good for when you're almost always cooking for a family of four or more with at least a couple very hungry growing people. It gets incredibly heavy if you fill it up all the way, takes absolutely forever to evenly heat up, and might even get in the way of other burners on your stove. It's also harder to store in cabinets. 4 quarts, on the other hand, is great for 2 adults + lots of leftovers, a whole chicken cut up into parts, slowly braising large vegetables (try braising a whole cauliflower, it's wonderfully tender and buttery), and can be lifted by the short and less beefy more safely.

I have a lot of compassion for your situation - my best friend has a lot of the same problems are you describe (he's in therapy too) and I love giving gifts. So it's been a regular sticking point that I can't get anything "useful" for him unless he's already researched it for months and months. It's a whole ~thing~. In the past few years he's gotten a whole lot better about it, so take heart in knowing that there's a way past these barriers, you just have to work out your path.

Perhaps put a little of that anxiety and research experience into finding a great place to donate home goods. Women's shelters are often in need, or local community centers that do things like cooking classes or cultural events. Maybe there's a local group that helps at-risk families to prevent homelessness? Anyway, having a set thing you know will be "okay" according to your own rules for getting unwanted objects out of your house might go a ways towards lifting off some of the anxiety about accepting those objects in the first place.
posted by Mizu at 3:56 AM on December 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


I own both a 4 qt. and a ~5.5 qt. Dutch oven. I’m my experience, the 4 qt. one is the one I use much more, even when cooking for my family of 4. The 5.5 qt. one is too big for a lot of recipes and I mostly use it for occatiomal “big batch of soup” type recipes. If I were to only have one, it would be the 4 qt. Given your additional constraints (smaller stove, mostly cooking for 1-2 people), I’d definitely stick with the 4 qt.
posted by Betelgeuse at 4:16 AM on December 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


Congratulations with your new tool, I think you will enjoy using it for a multitude of purposes, from stews and soups to roasts and breads. After I started using enameled cast iron, I am now thinking to reduce my other cookware considerably, because the cast iron is so versatile and I have several non-stick pots and pan I literally haven't used for years.

Being a hoarder, I own several Dutch ovens, and the 4 qt ones are the ones I use the most. They are the best for one- or two-person households, and even during Christmas, when we had family staying , I still used the 4 qt one for making the gravy, while the bigger Dutch ovens stayed in the cupboard.

I think your mother has thought this through, and understood your needs well.
posted by mumimor at 4:45 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am you! (I once spent most of a year trying to find the perfect kitchen table. My therapist taught me, after much time, to say two magical phrases: "good enough" and "fuck it." I'm much better at overcoming the paralysis these days though I still research like a librarian.) I live alone but enjoy cooking for friends. I have two dutch ovens, a 2qt round and 8qt oval. The 2qt gets a fair amount of use, and although I'd like a slightly larger one (like 24cm/4.5qt) it gets a lot of love. The 8qt one was one of those "oh god, what have I done" moments when I saw the box, it's really quite heavy and it gets relatively little use except for poultry-roasting or stock-reducing times (it is AMAZING for stock reducing). I would stick with the 4qt, you will be able to get a lot of enjoyable cooking done with it. I think you've hit the size sweet spot there. The 4qt should let you hit the "dinner + delicious leftovers, but not leftovers until you're sick of them" target, whereas my 2qt lets me pretty much make dinner and the 8qt would cross over into "I am never eating this again" leftovers quantities.
posted by sldownard at 4:55 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


Your anxiety about having things just right is no fun at all, but you don't need to apologize. It's okay to be a thoughtful consumer. I'm a super-cautious spender and it has helped me be financially stable.

I'm on team this is a good size and the bigger one would be too big. It will hold an ordinary roasting chicken and will make a nice sized pot roast. It will hold a brisket of beef, and a slowly-cooked brisket is a work of art. Think about the last couple weeks of meals you made; I'll bet nearly all of them that would be made in a Dutch oven would fit nicely in this one. And I trust your Mom's sense on this, as she has cooked for years.
posted by theora55 at 5:16 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think the 5-6 quart size is better for families. Most of the research you've been reading will most likely be assuming you are a mother of a nuclear family with 2.5 kids or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:29 AM on December 27, 2017


I apologize if I'm approaching this from the wrong angle, but one of my adult children has similar issues with purchases and anxiety and after some serious family therapy, I will give you the answer that I have since learned to give him:

I REFUSE TO ANSWER THIS BECAUSE THIS IS THE ANXIETY TALKING.

I am not a heartless beast. Instead, I have learned that every time my kid felt the need to crowdsource something, that was anxiety looking for affirmation. Essentially, needing to get multiple opinions tells the anxiety, "Yes, you actually should ask about and otherwise stress out over this because THIS IS A PROBLEM and rather disastrous things will happen if you don't do the exact right thing and you cannot handle this alone."

So essentially, I am telling your anxiety to STFU by refusing to respond to it. I am not going to give you any type of response other than this.

I suggest you step away from this question and tell your anxiety to be quiet, that you will do this on your own and no matter what, you will be fine because the anxiety is just a feeling. It's not a fact. Will there be discomfort by choosing this path? Maybe. Will this discomfort eventually dissipate?

It most certainly will and some day you will look at your mom's awesome present and be thankful that it served to not only cook tasty deliciousness but also helped you overcome a tough moment.

Not today, anxiety; not today.

You can do this.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:32 AM on December 27, 2017 [32 favorites]


I just measured the liquid capacity of the largest cast iron piece I own, a Dutch oven I found rusting away out the back of the chook shed when we first moved in here. It is now the pot I reach for when I want to cook something big for our family of four. It holds about 3.7 litres, which is four of your feeble US quarts. Works fine on our rubbish old electric stove's 190mm (7.5") front hotplate. Would work even better on your 8" plate.

Your mother's judgement strikes me as excellent.

This gift is lovely and wonderful

Yes, it is.

it has thrown me into a anxiety cycle because (a) my excessive research was that a 5 - 6 quart Dutch Oven was the recommended "workhorse" of the kitchen and my plan was to wait for an appropriately priced Clearance or Home Goods one.. or purchase a budget Lodge recommended by several sources, (b) it doesn't fit into that plan and I'm afraid it will be useless but having two Dutch Ovens is not acceptable because that is too many things, (c) money (my mom spent about $100 on this item because it was on sale; upgraded to a 5.5 quart of the same brand would be a hundred + more), and (d) is the size of the 4 qt better for my 8-inch apartment electric stove burner? does an inch larger or smaller even make a difference?

Those things might well be worth thinking over if you were a person considering how best to obtain a Dutch oven. But you are no longer a person considering how best to obtain a Dutch oven. You are now a person who has a Dutch oven.
posted by flabdablet at 5:45 AM on December 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


I have a 6-qt Dutch oven, and it is almost always bigger than I need (sometimes quite inconveniently so). I think you will find a 4 qt one to be really useful.
posted by slidell at 5:53 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


5-6 qts is really too big in my opinion, to the point of being really inconvenient--unless you are regularly cooking for a large group of people. If I were you I'd be relieved to have received a 4 qt Dutch oven!
posted by Polychrome at 5:59 AM on December 27, 2017


I have a 7qt Dutch oven and it's too big for most everything I make (2 adults, occasional cooking for a group). I think I would have been just as or more happy with a 4qt and a decent roasting pan. I don't use it as much as I would a smaller one (particularly for things like deep frying where I'd need to use cups and cups of oil to make it deep enough for the food to be submerged - this is one that consistently bums me out).

Keep the one your mom gave you - if you still find yourself wanting a larger one, you can sell or donate this one and get the bigger one. That's a problem that's completely solvable if it ends up happening. It's also totally fine to have a big Dutch oven and a small one - they have different uses and so aren't really the same tool - kind of like how a 6" skillet and 12" skillet are both skillets but no one would think you're weird or indulgent for having both.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:05 AM on December 27, 2017


Echoing all those who say your existing Dutch oven is just right. I have both A 6-qt and a 4-qt (wedding presents) and I hardly ever use the 6. It’s heavy, unwieldy, and just plain too big for most recipes. I only use it when making chili for a party or something like that. The one you have is the perfect size.
posted by Miko at 6:15 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I do a lot more research than necessary when making a purchase to find the "most bang for my buck"

Getting any bang at all for zero bucks is infinite bang per buck. That consideration alone sweeps all others away completely unless the thing in question proves to be an ongoing source of irritation, which I can pretty much guarantee you that a four quart Dutch oven never will.

and to minimize the amount of things I own

melissasaurus has it:

It's also totally fine to have a big Dutch oven and a small one - they have different uses and so aren't really the same tool

Not only that, but the small one will happily nest inside the big one in your drawer or on your shelf, so if it's a desire to avoid clutter that drives your object minimalism you can put that worry to rest.
posted by flabdablet at 6:16 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Thank you for your responses about both the dutch oven itself and about the anxiety/overthinking that led me to post this question in the first place. I will be keeping, cooking with, and enjoying this gift.. and also not thinking any more of quart sizes. As one you stated, "Not today anxiety not today." Roasting a head of cauliflower sounds like the perfect way to christen it; thanks for that idea as well!
posted by Thirty7Degrees at 6:19 AM on December 27, 2017 [11 favorites]


Let me head off another worry then, which is about keeping the thing free of stains. Don't bother. Just clean off whatever will come off and leave the stains be.

We naked-cast-iron types call translucent brown burnt oil stains "seasoning" and we cultivate them deliberately because as they build up over time they protect our pots from corrosion and make the insides essentially non-stick.

I'm guessing from the price you mentioned for your oven that it's an enamelled type. You will find endless online opinion telling you that there is no need to season enamelled cast iron, and this is true: unlike naked iron, enamelled iron does not rely on seasoning for protection against corrosion. But there's also no need to avoid letting enamelled cast iron season itself into the same kind of non-stick goodness.

A stained enamel pot says to your every visitor: "I am a cookery tool, not an art piece. My patina is evidence that my owner is using me, and the more of it I have, the more delicious will be the food I make for you."
posted by flabdablet at 6:50 AM on December 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


Ohhhh I bet your mom gave you the Staub 4 qt that was on sale for $99 over Christmas, am I right? I'm a multiple Dutch-oven owning person but I use my 4.5 qt Le Creuset for I'd say fully 50% of my cooking. And it could totally be 2 cups smaller and be fine, so yeah, keep that 4 qt and enjoy!
posted by HotToddy at 7:14 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Have you heard of satisficers versus maximizers before? If not read this: https://www.psychologistworld.com/cognitive/maximizers-satisficers-decision-making

I've just measured what I always considered to be my big Dutch oven and found out it's only 3 quarts! But I've never found it to be too small at all for my two person, leftover-loving household. So 4 quarts sounds like luxury to me and anything bigger would be way too big. Enjoy!
posted by hazyjane at 7:58 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


A British pint is 20 fluid ounces but a US pint is only 16. A quart is two pints everywhere. So 3 British quarts = 120 fluid ounces = 3¾ US quarts.
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


This question made me run to check my Dutch over since I had no idea how much it holds. Turns out it's 3.5 quarts and it's been *great* for cooking for my husband and I. Has fulfilled all Dutch oven-y needs and is already really heavy enough for my weakling arms

I heartily recommend the 90 minute no soak beans recipe is you are too lazy to soak, like me.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:21 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have a 5 qt and wish it was smaller every time I drag it out.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:12 AM on December 27, 2017


4 quarts will suit you fine for most things! And if you love it and decide you want a larger one later on (I use my 6 quart enamel for pork shoulder, whole chickens, or for when I'm having a ton of people over), the Lodge is a great budget option that often goes on deep sale in mid-late December. (No kidding, I picked up two of them for Christmas gifts when my local Fred Meyer marked them down to 25 bucks!)
posted by lovecrafty at 11:47 AM on December 27, 2017


I am excited for you getting to cook with your new dutch oven. If you haven't had one before, you are going to have a great time. They are seriously awesome and four quarts is plenty big enough.
posted by mumblelard at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2017


I live alone and have a 6qt and often wish it was smaller! I love it but it's heavy and recipes that fill it are so much food it's a little excessive even with freezing leftovers.
posted by augustimagination at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2017


We have a 4-qt dutch oven and find that it is plenty versatile. We often use it to make pot roast, chili, and other soups and stews. Filled to capacity, we have enough food to feed 6 people (or to put away several servings of leftovers for the two of us).
posted by nordic_hammer at 7:48 AM on December 29, 2017


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