If you're out choosing a Dutch oven for the first time, I strongly suggest you do yourself a favor, and select a good quality, well made Dutch oven. Here are some other tips:
Choosing a Dutch oven - which is best for you?
For Dutch oven cooking, there are two main Dutch oven types - cast iron and aluminum. So, the first question you would normally ask yourself is ñ should I buy a cast-iron oven or an aluminum one?
Truth is, aluminum ovens are easier to use ñ they are considerably lighter, you don't have to cure them, and they are easy to clean and care for. They do not rust, and therefore can be washed as you would any regular cookware.
Cast-iron Dutch ovens, on the other hand, are extremely susceptible to rust, and require special care (The results, though, are well worth this extra effort, in my opinion).
Aluminum ovens do not distribute heat in the same even manner as cast-iron ovens do, and heat up and cool down much quicker than cast-iron ovens. This means it is more difficult to keep them at an even temperature, especially if it is a windy day.
Cast-iron Dutch ovens heat up slower, but cool down slower as well, keeping the food warm for a longer period. It is also easier to keep their temperature constant. And finally, aluminum ovens are unable to produce the delicious, smoky flavors of cast-iron ovens.
Personally, I follow the lead of most Dutch oven experts, and always use cast-iron ovens for my outdoor cooking.
Always buy a Dutch oven with legs (some come with flat bottoms). Ensure that the legs are thick and sturdy, and long enough to allow the air below to flow around the coals.
Ensure the oven walls are sturdy and of equal thickness all around.
The bail (the wire handle) should be of sturdy wire and securely attached to the oven itself, preferably to molded hooks on the side. Ensure it is strong enough to lift the oven when it is full. (This will be the case in all good quality Dutch ovens). Ideally, it should be able to stand at a 90∞ angle to the lid, to ensure it does not get too hot.
Ensure the oven lid fits tightly to the base. The tight fit ensures that the steam generated inside the oven does not escape, and prevents ash from the coals placed on top from spoiling the food. The lid handle should have a hollow center which allows it to be lifted by the lid lifter. Some oven lids have a solid handle, which makes them difficult to handle when the oven is hot, and should therefore be avoided.
Another purchase consideration is the oven size. Dutch ovens come in many sizes, but if you're new to Dutch oven cooking, I recommend you start off with the very versatile 12" cast-iron oven. It has a 6 quart capacity and weighs in at about 20 pounds, making it a very versatile all-round oven, ideal for roasts, poultry, fish, stews, potatoes, beans, rolls, breads, and desserts.
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Now that you've read all the tips and techniques, it's time for you to try your hand at preparing some dutch oven recipes.