What should you not cook in a Dutch oven?

A Dutch oven is a versatile cooking pot that can be used to prepare a wide variety of dishes. However, there are some limitations on what should and should not be cooked in a Dutch oven. Understanding what not to cook in a Dutch oven can help prevent damage to the pot and ensure your dishes turn out perfectly.

Acidic Foods

Highly acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus, and vinegar can damage the seasoning on a Dutch oven. The acid in these ingredients can react with the oil seasoning and cause it to strip off. This can expose the bare metal, leading to rusting and corrosion over time. It’s best to avoid cooking dishes like marinara sauce, lemon chicken, or vinegar-based braises in a Dutch oven.

Delicate Items

A Dutch oven retains heat very well, which is great for slow cooking tough meats and root vegetables. However, more delicate ingredients can overcook and become mushy in a Dutch oven. Foods like eggs, seafood, milk-based sauces, and quick-cooking vegetables don’t need intense, constant heat. They’re better prepared using a skillet, saucepan, or stockpot instead.

Unattended Boiling Water

While the Dutch oven excels at braising and simmering, it’s not the best choice for rapidly boiling water unattended. With its tight lid, a Dutch oven will quickly bring water to a vigorous boil. However, the volume of steam can pressurize the pot. If left alone, boiling water may boil over or even blow the lid off. It’s safer to boil pasta or blanch vegetables in a large pot you can keep an eye on.

Dry Heat Cooking

Dutch ovens are designed to cook foods with moist heat methods like braising. Dry heat techniques like roasting, broiling, grilling, and sautéing are not well-suited for a Dutch oven. There is too much distance between the heat source on the bottom and the food. This leads to uneven cooking. Stick to shallow skillets and sheet pans for getting that crispy sear and char.

Potential Chipping

The enameled cast iron surface of a Dutch oven is durable but not indestructible. High heat and rapid temperature changes can cause the enamel finish to crack or chip. Avoid cooking methods that expose the Dutch oven to very high heat or direct flame, like under a broiler or on a grill. Also, don’t put a hot Dutch oven directly into cold water or vice versa.


While Dutch ovens can be used for some baking applications, there are better-suited options. Dutch ovens often don’t get hot enough on the sides and top to properly bake quick breads and cakes. The moisture retention can also cause soft, soggy spots. For most baking, reach for a sheet pan, cake pan, loaf pan, or baking stone instead.

Large Quantities

One key strength of a Dutch oven is its ability to evenly simmer large batches of food. However, overfilling the pot defeats this purpose. Larger quantities can boil over or the bottom may scorch. Make sure not to fill a Dutch oven more than two-thirds full for stews, potatoes, pasta, etc. Cook large batches in batches or use a bigger stockpot.

Long Cook Times

Dutch ovens are commonly used for dishes requiring hours of unattended cooking, like brisket or short ribs. However, going beyond 6-8 hours is not recommended. Excessively long cook times can cause cast iron to warp or enamel finishes to crack. For dishes needing more than 8 hours of braising, it’s better to use a slow cooker or oven instead.

Empty Pots

Heating up an empty Dutch oven can overheat and damage the pot. The cast iron and enamel coating rely on the food inside to moderate the temperature. Without food, spots get excessively hot and can lead to cracking. Avoid preheating an empty Dutch oven for more than a few minutes before the food goes in.


A Dutch oven is very versatile, but not suitable for every cooking application. Highly acidic ingredients, dry heat methods, and delicate foods should be prepared using other pots and pans better suited for those tasks. Avoid overfilling, prolonged preheating, or extremely long cook times. With some basic care and common sense, your Dutch oven will provide many years of delicious stews, braises, soups and more.


What are the dos and don’ts of Dutch oven cooking?


  • Use plenty of liquid for braising and stewing.
  • Allow meat and vegetables to brown properly before adding liquid.
  • Bring liquid to a simmer slowly after adding to the pot.
  • Check dishes occasionally and add more liquid if needed.


  • Leave unattended boiling water in the pot.
  • Exceed maximum fill lines when cooking grains or beans.
  • Lift or move the Dutch oven when it’s very full.
  • Add too much liquid at once to a very hot pot.

What should I not cook in my enameled cast iron Dutch oven?

Avoid cooking these types of dishes in an enameled Dutch oven:

  • Tomato sauces and dishes with citrus or vinegar
  • Delicate seafood, eggs, and quick-cooking vegetables
  • Dry cooking methods like sautéing, grilling, or broiling
  • Potatoes and pasta without enough liquid
  • Baking cakes, cookies, or delicate pastries

Can I use a Dutch oven on the stovetop and in the oven?

Yes, a Dutch oven made from cast iron or enameled cast iron is safe for use on the stove, in the oven, on the grill, and even over a campfire. Just avoid thermal shock by preheating gradually and always use potholders when moving a hot Dutch oven.

What’s the difference between a Dutch oven and other pots?

Dutch ovens have thick, heavy-duty construction that retains heat well for long, slow cooking. The tight-fitting lid keeps in moisture, heat, and flavor. Dutch ovens excel at braising, stewing, baking, and cooking large batches. Skillets are better for sautéing while stockpots work well for boiling water or cooking pasta.

How do I clean and care for my Dutch oven?

Uncoated cast iron needs to be seasoned. Enameled and stainless steel Dutch ovens are easier to clean – just hand wash in warm, soapy water. Avoid abrasive scrubbers. Towel dry well so moisture doesn’t damage the seasoning on bare cast iron. Apply a very light coating of oil after cleaning.

5 Things You Should Never Cook in a Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens are extremely versatile, but there are some limitations. Here are 5 things to avoid cooking in a Dutch oven:

  1. Eggs or delicate seafood – A Dutch oven retains heat so well that foods like eggs and fish easily overcook.
  2. Acidic tomato sauces – High acidity can damage the seasoning on cast iron over time.
  3. Quick breads – Dutch ovens often don’t get hot enough on the sides for bread to rise properly.
  4. Deep frying – A Dutch oven shape isn’t optimal for frying and temperature regulation can be difficult.
  5. Big batches of pasta – Boil pasta in smaller amounts to prevent boil overs in the confined space.

Tips for Cooking in a Dutch Oven

Follow these tips for delicious Dutch oven dishes:

  • Brown meat, poultry, or vegetables first for deeper flavor.
  • Bring liquids to a simmer slowly to prevent cracking enamel.
  • Use enough liquid to generate steam and prevent scorching.
  • Check and stir dishes occasionally as they simmer.
  • Allow temperature changes to happen gradually.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

It’s easy to make some mistakes that can damage your Dutch oven. Avoid these common errors:

  1. Preheating an empty Dutch oven too long
  2. Adding too much liquid at once while pot is very hot
  3. Exceeding maximum fill lines for beans, grains, etc.
  4. Leaving unattended boiling water
  5. Cooking with very high direct heat like under a broiler

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I cook tomato sauce in my Dutch oven?

No, tomato sauce is too acidic for Dutch oven cooking. The acidity can damage the seasoning and enamel coating over time. Use a stockpot or saucepan for tomato-based dishes.

What about cooking pasta in a Dutch oven?

You can cook pasta in a Dutch oven but fill it only about halfway to prevent boil overs. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently. Add salt and oil to the boiling water.

Is it okay to cook milk-based dishes like mac and cheese?

No, the direct heat of the Dutch oven can cause milk-based dishes to separate or curdle. Use a double boiler instead for gently cooking delicate dairy dishes.

Can I bake bread in a Dutch oven?

Only certain bread recipes that require steam and do well in a humid environment. Quick breads need dry heat to rise properly so avoid cakes and muffins.

What about frying foods like donuts or chicken?

Dutch ovens are not well-suited for deep frying. Temperature regulation can be difficult and the shape doesn’t allow foods to fry evenly. Use a deep fryer instead.

Proper Care for Your Dutch Oven

Follow these tips to keep your Dutch oven in great shape:

  • Hand wash with warm water and mild detergent.
  • Dry immediately and thoroughly after washing.
  • Apply a very light coat of oil to bare cast iron.
  • Don’t soak cast iron for long periods.
  • Avoid abrasive scrubbers that can damage enamel.
  • Store with the lid off to prevent moisture buildup.

What to Cook in a Dutch Oven

A Dutch oven is perfect for cooking:

  • Chili, stews, and braised meats
  • Soups and stock
  • Rice and risotto
  • Beans and lentils
  • Roasts and larger cuts of meat
  • Breads that use steam like sourdough
  • Cobblers and crisps

Choose the Right Size

Dutch oven size depends on what you’ll be cooking:

  • 4-6 quarts – great for soups, stews, braising
  • 6-8 quarts – suitable for cooking 1-2 roasts or chickens
  • 8+ quarts – good for feeding a crowd, prepping big batches

Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • Line the bottom with vegetables or a steamer rack if cooking delicate fish fillets or soft fruits.
  • Use a heat diffuser if your stovetop puts out very high BTUs.
  • Choose stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or well-seasoned bare cast iron.
  • Resist lifting the lid frequently to allow heat and moisture to remain in the pot.
  • Let the Dutch oven come to temperature slowly to prevent thermal shock.

Common Dutch Oven Uses

Here are some of the most popular ways to use a Dutch oven:

  • Chili – Brown the meat then simmer for hours for delicious flavor.
  • Ragu or Bolognese – Slowly cook a meaty tomato sauce.
  • Pork Roast – Braises become fall-off-the-bone tender.
  • Whole Chicken – Cooks evenly and infuses with herbs and spices.
  • Soups and Stews – Develop deep, complex flavors.
  • Baking Bread – The lid traps steam to create a crisp crust.

Matching Cookware to Cooking Methods

Cooking Method Best Cookware
Braising Dutch oven
Steaming Stockpot with steamer basket
Pan frying Cast iron skillet or sauté pan
Simmering Saucepan or soup pot
Roasting Sheet pan or roasting pan
Baking Cake, pie, baking pans


Dutch ovens are perfect for braising, stewing, soups, roasts and other moist heat cooking methods. Avoid boiling pasta or water unattended. Don’t cook acidic or delicate dishes. With some common sense care, a Dutch oven will provide many years of delicious meals.

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