Q: I’m looking for something super useful in the kitchen as an investment toward better cooking in the new year. Any suggestions?
A: There are plenty of cooking essentials we recommend, but every kitchen deserves a good Dutch oven. Even better, you can break it in with a good-luck soup to ring in 2012 (since greens, like kale, are traditionally eaten around New Year’s for future prosperity—and instant deliciousness).
Despite its misleading name, a Dutch oven is a large, squat pot sometimes referred to as a French oven, casserole, or stockpot. We use this pot to make soups, stews, and braises.
We like a Dutch oven that is roughly twice as wide as it is tall, with a minimum capacity of 6 quarts, though 7 quarts is even better. The bottom should be thick—so that it maintains moderate heat and prevents food from scorching—and the lid should fit tightly to prevent excess moisture loss.
Our test kitchen would be lost without our favorite, the Le Creuset French Oven, which is incredibly sturdy and heavy, and can be used for a number of cooking tasks. We also liked the All-Clad Stainless 8-Quart Stockpot, which is called a stockpot by its manufacturer. It’s not as heavy as the Le Creuset and is a good choice if you prefer a lighter pot. Our best buy is the Tramontina 6.5-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven, which performed nearly as well as the more expensive models.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year.