Dutch ovens and stockpots are large, versatile pots capable of handling large quantities of food.
Though the cooking styles are similar, there are differences in their construction, design, and ease of use.
Some pertinent questions to ask when deciding which pot is best for your needs are:
What is the maximum temperature each pot can handle?
Which pot is transferable from the oven to the stove?
Which pot is easier to handle when transferring liquids?
In this article, we will explore the differences between dutch ovens and stockpots and explain what each is designed to do.
What is a Dutch Oven?
A dutch oven is a large cast iron pot that can cook large quantities of food at a single time.
Dutch ovens are primarily used for roasting, braising, soups, or baking bread.
They are extremely versatile and can be used in the oven, on a stovetop, or over an open fire.
These workhorses can last generations if they are seasoned and maintained correctly.
While the technology is admittedly simple, the dutch oven’s thick walls allow it to reach temperatures other pots cannot (upwards of 800°F).
This makes it an extremely versatile tool to have in the kitchen.
They can cook virtually anything, and the porous material adds flavor to the food being cooked inside them.
We’ll let you be the judge.
What is a Stock Pot?
Stock pots are large pots, generally stainless steel, used to cook large amounts of liquid, like stock and soup.
These tall pots have narrow sides to ensure that large amounts of liquid evaporate slower, which is necessary when cooking broths and stocks.
Some stocks simmer for eight hours, and a quality stock pot makes the difference between a well-seasoned base and a charred mess.
What are the Main Differences?
- Cast Iron
- Comes in 5-7 quarts
- Heavy due to thick sides
- Has a swinging handle that requires a hot mitt to hold the bottom while contents are poured from it.
- Stainless steel with an aluminum core
- Comes in 8, 12, or 16-quart sizes
- Lighter in weight due to thinner sides
- Has two handles, one on each side, which makes it easier to pour due to its lighter size
What is a Dutch Oven Designed to Cook?
Dutch ovens are primarily used for wet cooking methods like stews and soups, but can also be used for baking bread and braising.
They are transferable from stove tops to ovens, so they can also sauté vegetables before cooking roasts.
Dutch ovens, like all cast irons, retain heat well, making them ideal for baking bread.
These versatile pots can cook anything, but they shine when cooking stews.
Stews are best when cooked for an extended period, and the thickness of the dutch oven’s walls ensures a prolonged heating period with even cooking times.
For an excellent review of what dutch ovens can do, check out the article What Are Dutch Ovens Good For?
What is a Stock Pot Designed to Cook?
Stock pots are designed to cook stocks and large quantities of moist foods like soups.
Stock pots are tall enough to hold large quantities and allow the moisture in the pot to dissipate slowly, making stock pots ideal for long cooking times.
The thin walls ensure quick heat-up time and even cooking.
The shape of a stock pot is as important as the shape of a champagne flute or wine glass. The shape and size determine the outcome of the prepared dish, from the taste to the aroma and texture.
What Are the Downsides of a Dutch Oven?
Although dutch ovens, like all cast iron cookware, are highly dependable, there can be some downsides.
Most of the downsides come from poor maintenance, but some downsides can be due to the material the pots are made of.
Cast iron is a heavy material that allows for even heating and longer cooking times.
However, these pots are cumbersome and can be challenging to pour liquids because of their weight.
Another downside to cast iron is chipping in the enamel, which causes uneven cooking and rusting.
Rusting is caused by unseasoned cookware, a simple process that can become tedious for the busy home cook.
Acidic food should not be cooked in cast iron because the acid reacts with the metal, which causes scorching, uneven temperatures, and potential rusting.
This can be mitigated with proper maintenance, but some view the maintenance as a downside.
What are the Downsides to a Stock Pot?
Stainless steel stock pots are generally durable, lightweight, and easy to use and clean.
However, they are also known to cook food unevenly because of the thin walls.
Unlike cast iron, thin stainless steel walls will eventually thin even more due to the heat or, even worse, warp. Once this happens, food will cook unevenly or even possibly scorch.
The biggest downside to a stock pot is the cost of a quality product that will provide years of service. Spending a little more will ensure longevity, and will pay-off in the long run.
Can I Use a Dutch Oven as a Stock Pot?
A dutch oven can be used as a substitute for a stock pot if less liquid is used.
Dutch ovens are great for roasting and braising, but stainless steel might be the best option for making stock.
As mentioned above, acidic stocks are not recommended for cast iron due to the reaction between the acid and metal. Stock pots are better for this.
Quality Stock Pots and Dutch Ovens
There are plenty of options for purchasing quality stock pots and dutch ovens. Below, we list the top choices.
#1 All-Clad tri-ply 8-quart stock pot
All-Clad cookware is the highest quality stainless steel cookware available. This stock pot has an aluminum core that is surrounded by layers of stainless steel, which ensures even temperatures and longevity of the stock pot.
#2 Cuisinart Chef’s 8-quart stock pot
The Cuisinart is aesthetically pleasing and has excellent usability features, including “Cool Grip” handles. This is a budget-friendly option that still performs well in terms of heat retention and even heating.
#3 Tramontina Covered 12-quart stock pot
A 12-quart stock pot is sufficient for most home cooking situations, and the Tramontina delivers well in all aspects, from price to aesthetics and cookability. The tri-clad design allows for even heat distribution without scorching.
#1 Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron
Le Creuset tops almost every list as the best dutch oven for a good reason. These enameled pots have superb heating ability, are durably made, and have the most beautiful color options to match every kitchen.
#2 Lodge Dutch Oven
Lodge has been producing benchmark cast iron since 1896, and their dutch ovens are top of the line. Lodge is the obvious choice for a quality dutch oven for those who prefer something other than enameled cast iron.
#3 Victoria Dutch Oven
The Victoria comes pre-seasoned with non-GMO seasoning that is also Kosher. This 4-quart option includes a lid with a self-basting feature, and the size makes it easy to use.
Dutch ovens and stock pots are similar in the volume of food they can cook, but there are some palpable differences, such as size, material, and ease of use.
While there are staunch proponents of both, it is wise to have a quality dutch oven and a stock pot available in the kitchen.
Like all cast iron cookware, Dutch ovens are preferred for their seasoning properties and even heat distribution, while stainless steel stockpots are renowned for their heat retention and ease of use.
When it comes to long-term cooking times, both make good options.