If you’ve just purchased a new ceramic dutch oven, good choice! These hefty pieces of cookware are a fantastic addition to any kitchen. They’re sturdy, long-wearing, and can be used on the stove and in the oven.
See also: Best Dutch Oven Reviews
Most high-quality dutch ovens are made from a cast iron base with a ceramic coating. They have thick bottoms and sides, with heavy, tight lids. Perfect for slow-cooking a rich beef casserole or stew in the oven, on a Winter’s day.
However, you may be a bit lost when it comes to the best practices when using a ceramic dutch oven. You’re in luck, as we’ve put together a guide to help you get the best out of your new (or possibly old) cookware addition.
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Be generous with oils and fats
When cooking with your ceramic dutch oven, you need to add enough fat to begin with, to avoid the dreaded “ingredient stick”. dutch ovens have very thick bottoms which hold a lot of heat, thus the risk of burning or sticking
They are also not non-stick, despite their glossy appearance. This means you need a generous drizzle of oil or a knob of butter, or both before you add your veggies or meats.
Utilize the stove top
While one of the most charming things about cooking with a dutch oven is that it can while away in the oven, don’t skip the stovetop step.
All meat-based stews and casseroles require a good blast of initial heat without liquid. This allows the meat to develop a light crust, which intensifies flavor and improves texture.
You can also use this step to add a bit of thickener to stews and casseroles. Simply toss your raw meat in flour before adding it to your oil-drizzled dutch oven over a medium stovetop heat.
Lastly, you can use your dutch oven on the stovetop for simple tasks such as boiling pasta water, sauteing veggies for stir-fries or sides, and whipping up a quick simmer sauce.
Don’t forget the oven
One of the best ways to utilize the great benefits of a dutch oven is to pop it into the oven. The all-around heat from the oven and the even heat distribution of the Dutch oven ensures a consistent result for each dish.
After you’ve used the stovetop to brown meat, reduce the liquid, burn off alcohol, or soften onions, place the dish into the oven (with the lid on) to cook slowly and evenly, allowing flavors to enrichen.
Don’t overdo the heat
Speaking of ovens, it’s important to understand the heat requirements of a ceramic dutch oven. They are so thick and insulated, they hold heat better than any other. This means that if you blast them on a high heat, you run the risk of burnt food stuck on the bottom.
The best way to go about it is to follow a low-medium heat rule for both stovetop and oven use. This will ensure an even cooking process with sufficient heat, but without drying or burning the food.
Keep an eye on the liquid levels
When you’re cooking dishes such as braised meat and stews in the oven, you run the risk of allowing it to dry out. Ensure there’s enough liquid added to the dish before you pop it into the oven. It doesn’t need to be a big sloshy mess, but there needs to be enough liquid surrounding the meat and veggies so they don’t become dehydrated by the heat.
Keep checking the dish throughout the cook time and give it a good stir. The bottom of a dutch oven is super heavy and holds heat like a champion, so ensure your stew isn’t sticking to it. Add a dash or water or stock if you feel the dish is drying out.
What to make in your ceramic dutch oven
- Soups on the stovetop: cook the ingredients at a low heat over a couple of hours before blitzing
- Casseroles: brown the meat and soften the onions on the stovetop before adding liquids and cooking in the oven for a few hours until tender
- Use it as you would any saucepan to simmer sauces, boil pasta water, and saute veggies on the stovetop
- Chili: let the spices and meat mingle by cooking on a low-medium heat in the oven, after softening and browning the veggies and meat on the stovetop
- Bread: I have cooked beautiful loaves of bread in my dutch oven. The heavy base gives a well-cooked bread bottom. The lid locks in steam, creating an amazing chewy crust and soft crumb inside
If you burn the bottom of your ceramic dutch oven, don’t worry. Even though it may look like the food is caked on for good, you can remove it. You can leave it to soak with detergent and water to soften the burnt food, then remove it with a scrubbing brush.
If the burnt food is really thick and tough, baking soda is your friend, especially when it’s mixed into a thick paste with water. Spread the paste onto the bottom of the dutch oven and leave for up to an hour. Gently scrape the muck off the pan with a non-metal utensil then wash as usual.
If you’re thinking of getting yourself a ceramic dutch oven, I say go for it. A high-quality model will serve you forever and will be in constant use due to its versatility and user-friendliness. Once you’ve got it, just remember to keep the heat between low and medium, use enough fat to keep things free and moving, and add enough liquid when utilizing the oven.
And if all goes to custard and you burn the bottom? No worries. Get out that baking soda and get soaking!