The cast-iron Dutch oven is one of the most versatile and useful kitchen appliances you can get your hands on. Whilst they are often used for stews and soups Dutch ovens are often used for a variety of different purposes. However, if you have an enameled Dutch oven you may be surprised to find out that this isn’t a Dutch oven at all. This is because enameled Dutch ovens are in fact known as French ovens. You may be thinking that surely one being enameled cast iron and the other a raw cast iron pot can’t make that much difference. Despite their similarities though, there are few differences between French oven vs Dutch oven use and functionality with each having 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 oven will typically have a bare cast-iron surface whilst French ovens will have a porcelain enamel coating.

What is a Dutch Oven?

Dutch ovens are essentially pots with tall straight walls, a flat bottom and a tight-fitting lid. Traditionally they were also made from cast iron. Despite this though, in modern times whilst cast-iron Dutch ovens are still regularly seen, stainless steel and aluminium options are also available.

When using a cast-iron Dutch oven it must be seasoned before use. Doing so creates a non-toxic nonstick surface that prevents food from getting stuck or burned onto the pot.

The Origins Of Dutch Ovens 

Dutch ovens as the name suggests were originally made using a Dutch technique of moulding metal into shape. However, this was actually something developed by Englishman Abraham Darby in the seventeenth century. 

Darby used sand moulds instead of the traditional clay to shape the cast-iron Dutch oven. From here the design was labelled as the Dutch oven and the idea began to spread across Europe.

French Oven Vs Dutch Oven: Are They The Same?

Dutch Oven Uses?

The Dutch oven is an incredibly versatile and useful pot to have, whether using it in the kitchen or outdoors. One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of the Dutch oven is that they can be used on a countertop, in the oven or on an open fire and work perfectly fine. 

In fact, it is often the fact that they can be transferred straight from the counter to the oven that contributes to this popularity. This is because it makes them ideal for making dishes such as beef bourguignon along with other stews and casserole dishes.

Additionally, the Dutch oven is often used for a variety of other cooking methods. These include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Braising 
  • Making soups and broths 
  • One-pot dishes
  • Roasts
  • Cooking over a campfire or hot coals
  • Baking bread 
  • Deep fry

What is a French Oven?

Technically the enameled coating is the only difference between a Dutch oven and a French oven. Both types are even typically cast iron pots as well. As such you may be wondering why they are called French ovens if the distinction is so minor.

The Origins Of French Ovens

French ovens are a much more recent invention compared to the Dutch oven. They came about when French companies such as Le Creuset made enameled cast iron cookware. These were then branded as French ovens and their popularity exploded globally. 

However, in America in particular the term Dutch oven was so ubiquitous that no one ended up calling them French ovens. As a result, in many regions of the world, French ovens will be branded as Dutch ovens.

French Oven Vs Dutch Oven: Are They The Same?

French Oven Uses?

The design of French ovens is nearly identical to that of the Dutch oven, even down to tight-fitting lids. As a result, they can often be used interchangeably with French ovens being perfectly oven safe and usable on a stovetop. 

However, as a result of the enamel coating, they are unsuitable for use over an open flame making them unsuitable for outdoor cooking.

Additionally, they can’t withstand the same extremely high temperatures as the Dutch oven. Despite what you may think though, it is uncommon that this will be an issue for most since Le Creuset pots for example can comfortably be used even for something like deep frying.

The benefit the enameled surface provides though is that you don’t need to go through the seasoning process. Whilst the loss of flavours provided by bare cast iron will be a blow for some the majority of people aren’t likely to be too upset. Skipping the seasoning process saves time and simplifies the methods used to cook food.

Dutch Oven vs French Oven – Advantages and Disadvantages

Dutch OvenFrench Oven
Can Be Used Over An Open Flame Or CoalsCan’t Be Used Over An Open Flame Or Coals
Doesn’t Have An Enamel FinishHas An Enamel Finish
Needs Seasoning Before CookingDoesn’t Need Seasoning Before Cooking
Usable Indoors Or OutdoorsIndoor Use Only
Not Dishwasher SafeSomewhat Dishwasher Safe
Can Withstand Extreme HeatExtreme Heat Should Be Avoided
Easily Available For PurchaseCan Be Difficult To Find

French Oven vs Dutch Oven – How Do They Differ

Whilst we’ve established that the French oven and Dutch oven are quite similar, it’s also important to acknowledge their differences. The main difference is the ceramic coating that French ovens have. However, the inclusion of this coating dramatically changes how you should use it when compared to a Dutch oven.

French Oven Vs Dutch Oven: Are They The Same?

Care and Maintenance

As mentioned before when cooking with bare cast iron pots like a Dutch oven it is important to create a seasoned 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 flavour of food cooked in the pot.

This is not necessary with the enameled cast iron surface of a French oven since the enamel provides a built-in nonstick surface. However, the downside is that the French oven is not as durable and as such isn’t nearly as heat resistant as a Dutch oven.

When cooking you also need to be far gentler with French ovens than you would be with Dutch. This is because the bare cast iron of a Dutch oven won’t be prone to the same chipping that an enamel surface could suffer if bashed.

Cooking Options

Both a Dutch oven and a French oven can be used for the same cooking techniques. Both types include a tight lid and can be used to bake bread along with braising, making soups and broths, one-pot dishes, roasts and deep-frying.

However, how you use these versatile pots can differ greatly. Cooking time in both can be identical but French ovens cannot handle high heat since it will likely crack the enamel. For this reason, French ovens are also poorly suited for outdoor cooking such as on open flames or hot coals. Meanwhile, the durable cast iron Dutch oven is ideal for such a task and is incredibly resilient under heat. 

Durability

Both types of pot are really quite durable. However, the French oven can ultimately not compare with a Dutch oven in this regard. 

The reason for this is that the pure cast iron pot frame of a Dutch oven makes it incredibly strong and therefore incredibly durable. Meanwhile, the enamel surface of the French oven makes it potentially vulnerable to chipping and cracking. 

As a result, many chefs tend to prefer French ovens due to being able to be rougher with them compared to French ovens.  

Weight

There isn’t a massive difference between a Dutch and French oven of equivalent size. Although a French oven will typically be slightly less bulky, the size, shape and dimensions of the pots in question often makes more of a difference.

French Oven Vs Dutch Oven: Are They The Same?

Aesthetics

In terms of pure aesthetics, the French oven is the clear winner. Thanks to the ceramic coating they will often come in a variety of different colours making them ideal to both cook in and use to present your dish at the dinner table. Additionally, many French ovens can come in different shapes

Dutch ovens on the other hand are often less aesthetically pleasing due to coming only in the standard uncoloured cast iron only. However, like French ovens, Dutch ovens can come in a variety of shapes.

Cleaning Tips

The seasoned layer on the surface of a Dutch oven is something you want to foster over time, for this reason, they should not be cleaned with anything abrasive. As such metal scourers should not be used and they are not dishwasher safe. Doing either of these can scrape away the natural nonstick layer and potentially cause rust. Instead, you should allow them to soak in mild dish soap and wipe away the dirt with a paper towel.

The same is also true for French ovens. Whilst the enamel provides a nonstick coating meaning it doesn’t need seasoning, this coating can be eroded by abrasive cleaning supplies. 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 most versatile and resilient of the two choices. This can be seen with how they can handle extreme heat along with being perfectly suited for outdoor use. However, for convenience and cooking most home recipes, the French oven is the better option by far. This is because it doesn’t require seasoning, is somewhat dishwasher safe and can be used in all the same ways a Dutch oven can be. 

With that in mind then which is best for you will likely come down to a couple of factors. If you plan on cooking outside and want the extra flavour of cast iron, you’ll want a Dutch oven. However, should you want a convenient and versatile home cooking pot that is aesthetically pleasing, then the French oven is what you’ll 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 broths, one-pot dishes, roasts and deep-frying.

Why are French Dutch ovens so expensive?

The reason for the expense is that standard Dutch ovens are made from expensive cast iron which gives them their strength and durability. The French variety keeps this but also adds an enamel coating and is less commonly sold. As a result, this scarcity causes the price to increase.