Ask a chef what their most prized piece of cookware is, and there’s a decent chance they’ll point to their Dutch oven. A high-end model, like a Le Creuset, is a serious investment, but for the money you get a wonderfully versatile pot that you'll use for all sorts of things—cooking rice, frying chicken, baking bread, you name it.
A Dutch oven’s true calling, though, is making stews, braises, and other one-pot dinners, so it's an essential piece of equipment for easy, hearty, comforting meals on chilly winter nights. The combination of their deep shape, ample size, and the heat-retaining powers of cast iron makes Dutch ovens the best tools for browning meats and vegetables, then slowly cooking them to perfect tenderness. To help you appreciate your Dutch oven as much as any chef, we’ve rounded up 16 of our favorite Dutch oven dinners, from chicken cacciatore and Portuguese caldo verde to Guinness stew and oven-cooked pulled pork.
This one-pot chicken curry is perfect for the capsaicin-averse—unlike a fiery red or green curry, massaman is flavored primarily with warm spices, like star anise and cinnamon. The dish gets an unusual spin with the addition of Belgian-style wheat beer, which is a decidedly nontraditional ingredient but has citrusy, bitter notes that work beautifully here.
The term chicken cacciatore always refers to a braised chicken dish, but that's about all you can count on—the details vary widely from recipe to recipe. This classic Italian-American chicken cacciatore is flavored with a bright, fruity combination of red bell pepper, onion, and tomato; for another take on this versatile dish, try out our mushroom-studded version, too.
Coq au vin traditionally requires hours of stewing to tenderize the tough meat of a rooster, but that doesn’t make sense for a modern cook—your local butcher probably doesn't carry roosters, which means you'll most likely be using a roasting hen that will dry out with an overly long cooking time. That's why this recipe hinges on a relatively quick braise with red wine, mushrooms, bacon lardons, and onions, producing a dish that tastes
like even better than if it cooked all day.
This rustic, comforting dish is made by braising veal shanks in a hearty wine- and vegetable-based sauce until they're fork-tender. A bright mixture of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic tops it off, keeping the dish from feeling too heavy. Serve the veal however you’d like, but a bed of saffron-scented risotto alla milanese is traditional.
I’m always looking for recipes that will provide me with plenty of leftovers, so this is a personal favorite—these braised short ribs will last a pair of eaters over a couple of days. Flavored with a balanced sweet-spicy mixture of soy, orange, Chinese five-spice powder, honey, and ginger, among other ingredients, they're great served over polenta or buttery mashed potatoes for dinner, then shredded up for tacos the next day.
It may be impossible to make true barbecue without a smoker, but you can still make indoor pulled pork that's pretty darn delicious. How? By slowly cooking a pork butt in a Dutch oven and mixing in homemade barbecue sauce. A little bit of liquid smoke, from a quality brand like Wright's, adds some smoky flavor to heighten the resemblance to the real thing.
Most ropa vieja recipes call for simmering the beef in one pot and making a sauce of onions, peppers, and tomatoes in another. Here, we cook the beef and the sauce all in the same Dutch oven, a one-pot method that both saves time and makes the dish extra flavorful. Searing the beef before its long simmer is another helpful step for adding layers of flavor.
Despite its dark color, Guinness has a mild flavor that tends to get lost when you cook it into a stew. To ensure you can actually taste the roasted-coffee and chocolate notes of a pint of Guinness, we fortify this recipe with brewed coffee and bittersweet chocolate. Using two sets of aromatic vegetables—one long-cooked to infuse the stew over time, the other just lightly sautéed before going into the pot for the last 45 minutes—provides the best balance of good flavor and texture.
If you've never sampled Ghanaian food before, this simple chicken stew, made rich and creamy with a base of peanut butter and spicy with Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, is a great introduction to the cuisine. Chicken legs make a more tender and flavorful alternative to white meat, while smoke-dried fish (if you can find it) adds an extra savory, fishy undercurrent. For a more adventurous version of the dish, swap out the chicken for goat meat and honeycomb tripe.
Making this New Orleans staple is remarkably easy, requiring nothing more than beans, vegetables, cured pork and sausage, and patience. Using a variety of pork products, including andouille sausage, smoked ham hock, and pickled pork shoulder, will give the beans the most depth of flavor, though a splash of apple cider vinegar can furnish some of the brightness of pickled pork if you can't find the latter. Despite popular myth, it's a good idea to salt the soaking water for your dried beans, as it helps to tenderize them.
Traditional pozole verde is a multi-day, multi-pot endeavor, but this recipe gets you most of the way there with a single Dutch oven and a little more than an hour of cooking. To streamline the process, we toast the pumpkin seeds in the Dutch oven, then cook the chicken and vegetables in the same pot and add canned hominy rather than starting with dry.
Not to be confused with long, rectangular Atlantic razor clams, Pacific razor clams are beefy bivalves with a clean flavor and subtle sweetness. If you’re lucky enough to have access to them, try putting them to use in a warming clam chowder, flavored with leeks, thyme, and dry vermouth. The most important part of the recipe is not overcooking the delicate clam meat, which is why we turn off the stove and let residual heat poach it for just a minute before serving.
The Portuguese soup caldo verde is hearty and comforting, but takes just half an hour to make, so it's a perfect dish for lazy rainy days. We make it with shredded kale and a mixture of russet potatoes, which break down during cooking and help to thicken the soup, and Yukon Golds, which stay in intact chunks for textural contrast. Our recipe calls for adding cooked pork sausage, like linguiça, but you can leave it out to keep the dish vegetarian.
This vegan one-pot soup is packed with contrasting flavors and textures: sweet, tender squash; nutty, crunchy pepitas; bright cilantro; hearty quinoa; spicy curry powder; and more. You may not need an entire bunch of kale for the soup, so turn any extra into a simple salad to serve on the side.
Sorry, Texans: We think you can actually make an awesome pot of chili with lots of beans and zero meat. (Which isn't to say we don't like meaty chili, too.) We make this richly flavored vegan version using a variety of dried chilies and chipotles in adobo, which combine to give it all the punch you’d expect. A little soy sauce and Marmite boosts the umami, and a shot of booze—vodka or bourbon—helps bring out alcohol-soluble flavors.
Thickened with beans and bread, ribollita is a hearty Italian vegetable stew that's ripe for improvisation. This recipe calls for onions, leeks, carrots, squash, turnips, and celery, but you can and should mix that up depending on what looks good at the market. The texture of the dish can be varied, too—you can leave it thinner and brothy, thicken it into a porridge, or even sauté it into a savory pancake.
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