Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wendy's Toolbox: Cast Iron and Enamel Dutch Oven

This week's essential kitchen tool is the cast iron and enamel Dutch oven. A Dutch oven is a versatile cooking pot that every cook should have in their arsenal. They have a myriad of uses in the kitchen...I use mine at least once a week. They're excellent for making soups, stews, and gumbos. They also make even the toughest cuts of meat cook up tender and juicy in the oven!

Why specifically an enamel-over-cast iron Dutch oven? Cast iron evenly distributes and retains heat, so your food cooks very evenly. The enamel coating is nearly non-stick, so all you have to do is spray it with a bit of non-stick spray. That saves tons of fat and calories. The enamel also makes clean up a breeze!

My Dutch oven of choice is my true-blue Le Creuset 5.5-quart that I received for a wedding present in 2003. Le Creuset products are made in France and can be purchased at most major retailers, including Williams-Sonoma. A 5.5-quart oven like the one pictured above costs approximately $235. Yes, that's a bit steep...but I consider my Le Creuset pieces an investment. They're extremely well made, and they're durable. They're designed to last a lifetime.  If you have a Le Creuset outlet near you (there's one at the outlets in San Marcos), you can sometimes find excellent sales on Dutch ovens of all sizes.

Dutch ovens don't have to be expensive, though. I saw this 5-quart enamel-over-cast iron Tramontina Dutch oven at Walmart for less than $50 the other day:
Lodge also manufactures a non-enamel cast iron Dutch oven that ranges in price from $40-90, depending on the size you buy. Whatever your budget, if you don't own a Dutch oven...go out and BUY ONE soon!! You'll wonder how you ever lived without one in your kitchen. If you already own a Dutch oven, let me know what you use it most for.

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