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There was a moment I knew.
I knew my Dutch oven was as necessary in my life as my collection of seasonally-appropriate bathrobes.
The moment was when I started using it to make weeknight pasta. It’s when I realized that the heavy, cast iron beast pot with scratched enamel coating wasn’t just for special long-cooking meats and other weekend projects—it was for Tuesdays!
I keep my blue Lodge Dutch oven (a housewarming gift from mother-out-of-law, Cathy, thanks Cathy!), in this hideous wooden cabinet next to the kitchen that my cohabitator will NOT let me set on fire. The cabinent looks like something Paul Revere would have put in his driveway with a sign that said “FREE! PLEASE, JUST TAKE IT.” Every day I think about how it would flicker, burning into ashes, but for now, it holds a lot of gin and the Dutch oven. So it remains.
Anywayyyyy, enough about that stupid, stupid cabinet. I’m here to try to impress upon you just how much you need a Dutch oven, and that—equally important—you need to store it in easy-reaching-and-using distance from your stovetop. Let’s see what I can do.
You will use it when you make pasta. We all (now) know that the key to glossy, better-than-restaurant pasta is adding starchy-salty pasta water to your sauce, and then cooking your noodles right in there so they soak up all that sweet, sweet ambrosia. I used to try to do that in a regular old frying pan, and the pasta would always go everywhere, which is where the Dutch oven comes in—it’s the only vessel in my kitchen that will easily fit a pound of pasta plus whatever you’re doctoring it up with. Sizzle a bunch of garlic in plenty of olive oil, throw some cooked pasta in there along with pasta water and a good knob of butter, stir it all around enthusiastically, and you’ll be sold on this whole Dutch oven thing after one bite.
You will use it to make tender, gently-simmered meaty things. Like this kimchi bacon chicken braise, a personal favorite of mine. Or this rich pomegranate lamb shank stunner. A Dutch oven is perfect for braises because of how heavy it is, which helps it retain and distribute heat evenly—ideal for searing meat at high heat and maintaining low-and-slow temperatures for a long time. You’ll wonder how you ever got through these miserable winter months without one.
On a related note: You will use it to brown meat before you put that meat into the Instant Pot. These are the facts of life. Better browning equals better flavor, and you’re already cutting out so much time using the Instant Pot, so take the time to get some color on your meat in a Dutch oven, which will do it more effectively and efficiently than pretty much any other pan in your kitchen. Doctor’s orders.
You will use it to make soups. It’s huge, it makes a lot of soup. Who ever makes a small amount of soup?? Soup is about accidentally making enough soup to feed a soccer team, remembering you aren’t on a soccer team and don’t know anyone who is, and then freezing it for later. Goooooooooooooooal!
You will use it to bake bread. One day, anyway. It’s on your list. And the Dutch oven will get preheated in a crazy-hot oven and act like a mini pizza oven, allowing you to produce a puffy, crackly-crusted loaf of Your Own Bread, dammit!
Maybe the best part? You will cook things in it and then serve those things in it, straight from the oven to the table, because it’s pretty. Classically pretty, like puffy sleeves and brooches. Why get a separate platter dirty? Are you obsessed with doing dishes or something? I may—OR MAY NOT—own a very specific pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven that I use approximately once a year, but for the entire months of October and November it decorates my mantle and doesn’t rot into mush like real (inconveniently living) gourds. Put a kitten in it! Make a photoshoot of it.
Could you drop dime on one of those fancy ones made by a company with a sexy-sounding French name? Suuuuuuure. But do you need to? Absolutely not. My trusty Lodge works just as well, and cost a third as much. And if you need more convincing that you should just click the link below and change your whole cooking life forever, well, then I don’t think I can help you.