The Dutch cast iron oven is one of the most versatile and useful kitchen appliances you can get your hands on. While they are often used for stews and soups, Dutch ovens are often used for a variety of purposes. But if you have an enamelled Dutch oven, you may be surprised to find that this is not a Dutch oven at all. This is because enamelled Dutch ovens are actually known as French ovens. You might think that one is enamelled cast iron and the other a raw cast iron pot can not make that much of a difference. Despite their similarities, however, there are few differences between French oven vs Dutch oven use and functionality, where each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Is a French oven the same as a Dutch oven?
As mentioned above, French ovens and Dutch ovens are very similar in appearance. However, a Dutch kiln will typically have a bare cast iron surface, while French kilns will have a porcelain enamel coating.
What is a Dutch oven?
Dutch ovens are essentially pots with high straight walls, a flat bottom and a tight-fitting lid. Traditionally, they were also made of cast iron. Despite this, in modern times, while Dutch cast iron furnaces are still regularly seen, stainless steel and aluminum are also available.
When using a Dutch cast iron oven, it must be seasoned before use. If you do, a non-toxic nonstick surface will appear, preventing food from sticking or burning on the pan.
The origin of Dutch ovens
Dutch kilns, as the name suggests, were originally made using a Dutch technique for casting metal into molds. However, this was actually something developed by the Englishman Abraham Darby in the seventeenth century.
Darby used sand molds instead of the traditional clay to shape the Dutch cast iron kiln. From here, the design was branded as the Dutch oven, and the idea began to spread across Europe.
Dutch oven use?
The Dutch oven is an incredibly versatile and useful pot to have, whether it is used in the kitchen or outdoors. One of the reasons for the continued popularity of the Dutch oven is that they can be used on a table top, in the oven or on an open fire and work just fine.
In fact, it is often the fact that they can be transferred directly from the disk to the oven that contributes to this popularity. This makes them ideal for making dishes such as beef bourguignon together with other stews and stews.
In addition, the Dutch oven is often used for a variety of other cooking methods. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Preparation of soups and broth
- One-pot fade
- Cooking over a campfire or hot coals
- Baking bread
What is a French oven?
Technically, the enamelled coating is the only difference between a Dutch oven and a French oven. Both types are even typically also cast iron pots. As such, you may wonder why they are called French ovens if the difference is so small.
The origin of French ovens
French ovens are a much newer invention compared to the Dutch oven. They arose when French companies such as Le Creuset made enamelled cast iron kitchen utensils. These were then branded as French ovens, and their popularity exploded globally.
But in America in particular, the term Dutch oven was so ubiquitous that no one ended up calling them French ovens. As a result, French ovens in many regions of the world will be labeled as Dutch ovens.
Do you use a French oven?
The design of French ovens is almost identical to the Dutch oven, even down to tight-fitting lids. As a result, they can often be used interchangeably with French ovens that are perfectly oven safe and usable on a stove.
However, due to the enamel coating, they are unsuitable for use over open fires, making them unsuitable for outdoor cooking.
In addition, they can not withstand the same extremely high temperatures as the Dutch oven. Despite what you might think, it is uncommon for this to be a problem for most people, as Le Creuset pots, for example, can easily be used even for something like deep frying.
The advantage of the enamelled surface, however, is that you do not have to go through the seasoning process. While the loss of flavor provided by bare cast iron will be a blow to some, most people are probably not too bored. Skipping the spice process saves time and simplifies the methods used to cook.
Dutch oven vs French oven – pros and cons
|Dutch oven||french oven|
|Can be used over open fire or coal||Cannot be used over open flames or coal|
|Does not have an enamel finish||Hair and enamel finish|
|Must be seasoned before cooking||Does not need seasoning before cooking|
|Usable indoors or outdoors||Indoor use only|
|Dishwasher safe||Something dishwasher safe|
|Can withstand extreme heat||Extreme heat should be avoided|
|Easily available for purchase||Can be hard to find|
French oven vs Dutch oven – how do they differ
Although we have found that the French oven and the Dutch oven are quite similar, it is also important to recognize their differences. The biggest difference is the ceramic coating that French ovens have. However, the inclusion of this coating dramatically changes how you use it compared to a Dutch oven.
Care and maintenance
As mentioned before, when cooking with just cast iron pots like a Dutch oven, it is important to create a spicy layer before cooking in it. This provides a thin layer of natural nonstick coating that builds up over time and will actually greatly enhance the taste of food cooked in the pan.
This is not necessary with the enamelled cast iron surface on a French oven, as the enamel provides a built-in nonstick surface. The disadvantage, however, is that the French oven is not as durable and as such is not nearly as heat-resistant as a Dutch oven.
When cooking, you also need to be far more gentle with French ovens than you would be with Dutch ones. This is because the bare cast iron in a Dutch kiln will not tend to get the same shard that an enamel surface would suffer if struck.
Both a Dutch oven and a French oven can be used for the same cooking techniques. Both types have a tight lid and can be used to bake bread along with braising, making soups and broth, one-pot dishes, roasts and deep fryers.
How you use these versatile pots, however, can vary greatly. Cooking time in both can be identical, but French ovens can not handle high heat as it is likely to crack the enamel. For this reason, French ovens are also ill-suited for outdoor cooking such as on open fires or hot coals. Meanwhile, the durable Dutch cast iron stove is ideal for such a task and is incredibly resistant to heat.
Both types of pots are actually quite durable. However, the French oven is ultimately not comparable to a Dutch oven in this respect.
The reason for this is that the pure cast iron pot frame in a Dutch oven makes it incredibly strong and therefore incredibly durable. Meanwhile, the enamel surface of the French oven makes it potentially vulnerable to shards and cracks.
As a result, many chefs tend to prefer French ovens because they can be more raw with them compared to French ovens.
There is not much difference between a Dutch and a French oven of similar size. Although a French oven will typically be a little less bulky, the size, shape and dimensions of the pots in question often make more of a difference.
Aesthetically, the French oven is the clear winner. Thanks to the ceramic coating, they often come in a variety of colors, making them ideal for both cooking in and using to present your dish at the dinner table. In addition, many French ovens can come in different shapes
Dutch ovens on the other hand are often less aesthetically pleasing because they only come in standard uncoloured cast iron. But like French ovens, Dutch ovens can come in a variety of forms.
The spicy layer on the surface of a Dutch oven is something you want to promote over time, for this reason they should not be cleaned with anything abrasive. As such, metal scrubbers should not be used and they do not dishwasher safe. Doing one of these can scrape away the natural nonstick layer and potentially cause rust. Instead, let them soak in mild dish soap and wipe the dirt off with a paper towel.
The same goes for French ovens. Although the enamel provides a non-stick coating, which means it does not need seasoning, this coating can be eroded by abrasive cleaners. Technically, they are considered dishwasher safe. However, many manufacturers recommend gentle hand washing instead.
Final thoughts on French ovens vs Dutch ovens
Out of the two options, Dutch ovens tend to be the more versatile and resistant of the two choices. This can be seen with how they can handle extreme heat along with being perfectly suited for outdoor use. But for the sake of convenience and the preparation of most home recipes, the French oven is by far the best option. This is because it does not require spices, is dishwasher safe and can be used in the same way that a Dutch oven can be.
With that in mind, what’s best for you is likely to come down to a few factors. If you plan to cook outside and want the extra flavor of cast iron, you will want a Dutch oven. But if you want a practical and versatile homemade pot that is aesthetically pleasing, then the French oven is what you want.
FAQ about French ovens and Dutch ovens
What is a French oven good for?
French ovens are incredibly versatile pots that can be used for all sorts of indoor cooking techniques. Some examples include baking bread along with braising, making soups and broth, one-pot dishes, roasts and deep fryers.
Why are French Dutch ovens so expensive?
The reason for the expense is that standard Dutch ovens are made of expensive cast iron, which gives them their strength and durability. The French variety retains this, but also adds an enamel coating and is sold less commonly. As a result, this scarcity causes the price to rise.