My microwave has always been my best friend in the kitchen, but our relationship ended abruptly when I purchased my first Dutch oven. What is a Dutch oven? Contrary to what you might think, a Dutch oven is surprisingly not an oven. It's actually a heavy, lidded pot that can be used for anything from reheating soups to deep-frying desserts to baking bread. It's super handy to have one of these as a young adult with little time to spend at the stove cooking.

Mars Hovasse

Dutch ovens are usually made out of stainless steel or cast iron, so you can use it on the stove or in the oven, making it one of the most versatile pots you can purchase. The thick bottom of the Dutch oven retains heat and prevents random parts of your dish from burning, and the heavy lid traps steam and keeps meats moist. Though a little pricey, Dutch ovens are worth the investment since they'll last for years if you take care of them properly.

#SpoonTip: Dutch ovens vary in price, but Lodge is known for quality kitchenware at a more affordable price. Their Dutch ovens range from $70-150, depending on the size you get. Brands like Le Creuset and Staub are much more expensive ($100+).

What to Make With a Dutch Oven

chicken, meat, pepper, bird
Hannah Linn

It's actually easier to talk about what you can't make with a Dutch oven, because there are so many recipes you can make with one. You can use it as a fryer by filling it with oil, stick it in the oven and make a roast, and you can even make soups, breads, and casseroles in it.

A Dutch oven is particularly good for roasting a whole chicken because of its ability to cook with steam. The heaviness of the lid keeps moisture from escaping and seals all the flavor in the pot while the chicken cooks. The thick bottom ensures there are no hot spots, meaning your chicken shouldn't burn. Since there are so many different sizes of Dutch ovens, you can easily find one that fits a whole chicken and allows for an even cook throughout. Test your skills with this lemon, garlic, and rosemary whole roasted chicken.

You can also use a Dutch oven to make a big batch of your favorite soup. The build of the pot ensures that all of the flavor is kept tight inside and makes for an aromatic soup every time. The size of the Dutch oven allows you to cook everything in the same pot at once, making sure to use every last bit of flavor in each ingredient. This coconut curry chicken soup is a good recipe to practice with.

Finally, homemade bread can be tough to master, but the Dutch oven makes it simple. The steam formed by the pot makes for the perfect environment to cook bread in, and forms a crispy, crunchy crust with ease. The shape of the pot also molds the bread into the perfect form, and the even heat distribution and steam bake will ensure a moist loaf every time. As a bonus, most bread recipes that bake in a Dutch oven don't require kneading since the steam in the oven helps the dough rise. If you're interested in making your own bread, I recommend using this no-knead bread recipe.

How to Take Care of a Dutch Oven

It's surprisingly simple to take care of a Dutch oven. For a cast iron Dutch oven, use a damp sponge to scrub off any residue, then dry it over low heat on the stove. Preserve the cast iron by applying a thin layer of vegetable oil with a paper towel. If you need to scrub off food, make sure not to use a steel sponge, or else you might scratch the pot. For more detailed information on how to care for cast iron, check out this guide to maintaining a Dutch oven.

Enameled Dutch ovens are a little easier to care for, as you can wash them in the sink like you would your other dishes. Start by scraping out any leftover food, then wash with hot water and dry. Treat it well, and a Dutch oven can last a lifetime!

#SpoonTip: Most enameled Dutch ovens are dishwasher safe, but it's recommended that you still wash them by hand to prevent scratches. 

As a young college student, it's almost impossible to make the time to stand by a pot for more than a few minutes to make myself a meal. The Dutch oven has honestly changed my entire kitchen regime. Throw in a few ingredients, turn the heat on low, go finish up some homework, and a few hours later, the perfect stew is waiting for me. If you're ready to break up with your microwave, invest in a Dutch oven asap.