Dutch ovens are great for frying, braising, simmering and stewing, but did you know you can use them for baking? These heavy-duty pans have tight-fitting lids that trap steam inside, resulting in tender bread and juicy chicken. The next time you’re tempted to pop a casserole into a traditional pan, try Dutch oven baking instead!
Dutch Oven Baking Basics
First thing’s first: Like other cast-iron cookware, some Dutch ovens require seasoning. This process protects the surface by bonding it with oil, making it more nonstick. It’s only necessary on uncoated cast-iron Dutch ovens, so you won’t have to worry about it if you have an enameled or ceramic Dutch oven.
You’ll also want to follow a few rules for caring for your Dutch oven. Before you pop the pan into the oven, inspect the inside for chips and cracks. Be sure to clean off any burnt-on bits inside the pan, too, as they can add an unsavory flavor to your baked goods.
Finally, check that the lid on your Dutch oven is oven-safe. Some less expensive models use plastic handles, which can melt at high oven temperatures.
Types of Dutch Oven
Traditionally, Dutch ovens are made from cast iron. This heavy-duty material is thick enough so you can place the pot directly on the fire. When it’s seasoned properly, the uncoated surface is practically nonstick, but it does require maintenance to keep it there. The only drawbacks are that cast-iron pans are heavy, and they can be a pain to clean (especially if they rust).
That’s where enameled Dutch ovens come in. These pans are still made from cast iron, but their surface is coated to make it slicker. You don’t have to worry about seasoning these pans, and they’re much easier to clean. On the flip side, that enameled surface can crack, chip or stain with improper use or care.
Finally, ceramic Dutch ovens are much lighter than their cast-iron counterparts. The surface of these pans is definitely nonstick, even without seasoning or maintenance. That also makes them easy to clean, but they’re significantly more fragile, so you’ll want to take more care when using a ceramic Dutch oven.
Can You Bake Bread in a Dutch Oven?
Some of our favorite bread recipes use a Dutch oven, especially sourdough! A Dutch oven doesn’t work well for sandwich loaves, which require a square pan to hold their shape, but they’re perfect for boule-shaped bread. You see, commercial bread ovens are steam-injected to keep the inside of the loaf nice and moist as the outside crisps up. Using a Dutch oven with the lid creates a similar amount of steam.
Make sure to preheat the oven with the empty, covered Dutch oven on the middle rack. Then, carefully remove the pan, turn the dough out into the pan and replace the lid. Sometimes, we dust the inside of the pan with rice flour to keep the dough from sticking, but it’s not strictly necessary when using an enameled pan. To get an extra crispy exterior, remove the lid for the last 10 to 15 minutes.
Can You Bake Chicken in a Dutch Oven?
You can bake all kinds of meat in a Dutch oven, from pot roast and barbecue pork to whole chicken. You have a few options when it comes to baking chicken. The easiest way to make a whole chicken is to cook it over a bed of vegetables, like onions, carrots and potatoes. The veggies keep the chicken off the bottom of the pot, allowing air to circulate around it for even cooking. Roast it in a 375°F oven, covered, for about an hour. Then, remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to let the skin crisp up.
If a whole chicken is too much, feel free to use your Dutch oven to bake chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks. Dutch oven-braised chicken breasts always turn out juicy and moist, or you could bake chicken thighs with rice for a tasty one-pot meal.
Can You Bake Potatoes in a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens are usually used for making soups, stews and braised dishes, but they also make incredible baked side dishes. Once a Dutch oven is hot, it holds its heat for a long time, so it’s the perfect environment to bake long-cooking vegetables like potatoes. Start on the stovetop by melting some butter or heating a tablespoon of oil to preheat the pot. Then, add unpeeled potatoes or sweet potatoes, pierced with a fork to keep them from exploding. Cover the Dutch oven with the lid and transfer it to a 350°F oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the potatoes are cooked through.
You can also use a Dutch oven to bake sliced or chopped potatoes. We especially like using it to make these Glazed Sweet Potatoes, or transforming thinly sliced potatoes into a cheesy, creamy scalloped potatoes side dish.
Can You Bake Pasta in a Dutch Oven?
Any baked pasta dish that can be made in a casserole pan will taste delicious in a Dutch oven. You’ll need to boil the pasta in a separate pan, but you can make the sauce for mac and cheese or baked ziti directly in the Dutch oven. Then, add your pasta, stir and toss it into the oven until the sauce is nice and bubbly and the cheese is melted.
What are you waiting for? Check out our top Dutch oven recipes.