To find out what the best substitute to the Dutch oven is, first of all, we will need to understand what the characteristics of this cookware are. Substitutes are things that can replace another thing because their characteristics are fairly similar. On this logic, we will first introduce the basic characteristics and uses of the Dutch oven and then give you a few tips on how it can be substituted. That being said, nowadays, Dutch ovens are not an expensive investment to make, so why not check out our reviews for some of the best available on the market?
The Dutch oven is basically a large, cast iron pot with a heavy cast iron lid and a pair of handles at the side. Because of its fully metallic build, the Dutch oven can be placed into practically any source of heat, even if the heat comes from above. Campers often use these pots for their versatility and their ability to be literally buried in burning cinder and thus cook the food within. You can also use Dutch ovens at home where they are great for preparing oven cooked stews such as variations of Beef Stroganoff. As you may have noted, the pot adds a slow-cooked characteristic to the food within, allowing the flavors to really penetrate the meat and soften even the toughest chunks.
The first substitute that comes to mind is the electric slow cooker; of which many brands, shapes and sizes are available. There are numerous advantages to using a slow cooker rather than a Dutch oven. For starters, you will not need to put the slow cooker inside your actual oven, as it will usually contain the electric heating element within its base and sides. Second, the glass lid on top of the slow cooker allows you to constantly monitor the state of the food without once having to touch the pot itself. Lastly, modern slow cookers even come with timers and different heat settings that will allow you to leave them on while you are gone. Of course, fans of the Dutch oven would argue that slow cookers do not provide nearly as good a heat circulation as the original Dutch oven does, since they cannot be heated from all angles at once.
If you like the idea of a meal prepared with minimal interference to produce a dish that is both succulent and soft but you are not impressed with the amount of time you would have to wait, we recommend that you use a pressure cooker. In brief, pressure cookers generate a high-pressure environment where the boiling point of water becomes above 100 degrees Celsius, bombarding the food with an intense jet of steam to cook and tenderize rapidly. If you are interested in the pressure cooker in more detail, read our article where we explain everything you are likely to need to know about it.
The third popular substitute is a rather special one that you do not often see in the now practically fully metallic kitchen: a clay pot. Clay pots, if treated properly, are fit to go straight into your oven just like the Dutch oven would. However, there are certain particularities to clay that may prove unattractive to you as a substitute to a cast iron pot. For starters, you will need to soak the clay pot into water for at least half an hour; otherwise it will not be able to withstand the heat of the oven. However, since the micro-pores of the clay pot will retain water, the food will be, to some extent, steamed in its own juices. A great recipe that utilizes a special clay pot is the Chinese Clay Pot Chicken with Rice.
Close to clay, but not quite, the next suggestion we have for you is to use a ceramic casserole. This cookware is very good for preparing different ragouts, pies, gratins and other “casserole dishes” that are cooked in one piece. In fact, campers often use Dutch ovens in the absence of a casserole to prepare desserts such as the Upside-down Pie. You can see that in some cases the two are substitutes of each other both ways.
As the list of the substitutes grows longer, the similarity between the substitutes and the original lessens. In a last, desperate attempt to help you find something if you are still not satisfied with the list we gave you, we will suggest that you simply use a saucepan. Though you will not be able to place it in the oven unless it is fully metallic, it will suffice for most dishes if you top it with a glass lid.
As you can see, there are numerous ways in which it is possible to substitute the Dutch oven. However, please keep in mind that a substitute is never the same as the original, and this may have an impact on your cooking. At any case, we hope that this article was informative, and if you do decide to get yourself a Dutch oven after all, be sure to check out our reviews of Dutch ovens as a first point of reference.