A Dutch oven is a wonderfully versatile piece of cookware that can be used to cook a wide variety of dishes. It’s a firm favorite in the kitchen because it can go from stovetop to oven, and can be found in an array of colors and styles that look great on a tabletop too! But you may be wondering: “What size Dutch oven should I buy?” Let’s take a closer look.
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How Do I Determine What Size Dutch Oven To Buy?
Dutch ovens come in a wide range of sizes – from tiny ¼ quart Dutch ovens all the way up to a whopping 13 quarts.
The answer depends on several factors including the number of people you plan to feed, what you plan to cook in your dutch oven, and what size you can comfortably lift. That’s right! Dutch can get heavy!
As a rule of thumb, Le Creuset (a well known maker of high-end dutch ovens), recommends estimating the size you need based on 1 quart per person. So if you are cooking for 1, 1 quart would suffice for a small meal.
Obviously, if you are a family of 4, then you will need a slightly larger Dutch oven than a family of 2. Or if it’s just yourself but you like to cook large batches of soup to freeze, for instance, then you might want to size up accordingly.
Single Servings: 1 to 1.5 Quarts
If you’re cooking for one, or plan to use your dutch oven for side dishes or small desserts, 1 to 1.5 quarts would be the perfect size. A dutch oven in this range will hold about 3-4.5 cups of food or liquid and would work well for making baked eggs, french onion soup or a small shepherd’s pie.
The Best Size Dutch Oven for 2 People: 2 to 3 Quarts
It can be tricky knowing how to find the best size Dutch oven to feed 2 people, after all many of us like to make enough food for leftovers, but a 2 – 3 quart dutch oven holds 6-9 cups of food/liquid and would definitely allow you to make a meal for two. This size would hold a soufflé, make a small pot of chili, or poach a couple of chicken breasts.
4 to 4.5 Quarts – Not Too Big, and Not Too Small, for 1-3 People
If you are cooking for 1-3 people, and want to be able to cook a full meal, then we recommend opting for a Dutch oven with a capacity of around 4 to 4.5 quarts.
A 4-quart Dutch oven will hold about 12 cups of liquid/food and will give you more than enough room to play with in terms of ingredients, and will give you plenty of food to go around. If you opt for anything smaller than this, you may be struggling to fit all of your food into your new piece of cookware.
Depending on the recipe that you choose, you can even use some of the leftovers for your lunch during the week. Or you can freeze any extra to give you a quick meal to defrost in a busy week!
We find this size also works well if you want to make smaller portions because it’s not so big that smaller amounts will burn easily.
As we mentioned at the beginning, dutch ovens are heavy! And they get even heavier when they’re full of ingredients. If you’re worried about the weight of larger dutch ovens being unmanageable for you, a 4-quart oven might be the perfect compromise between weight and functionality.
However, if you have a larger family, you will need to opt for a larger Dutch oven. This is because you will have to scrimp on the servings if you were to opt for the 4-quart Dutch oven. We’d recommend choosing a Dutch oven with a capacity of between 5 to 7 quarts if you have a family of 4 or more that you need to feed.
The Average Size Dutch Oven: 5 to 7 Quarts, for 4-6 People
If you are a family of 4 or more, then a Dutch oven with a capacity of between 5 to 7 quarts will be ideal. This should also give you plenty of room for any leftovers that you can then use for lunch throughout the week. For the vast majority of people, this size Dutch oven will give you plenty of versatility for making your favorite dishes.
Le Creuset and Staub say that 5.5-quart model is their most popular seller, and Lodge recommends their 6-quart Dutch oven for families.
With a 18 to 21 cup capacity, these larger Dutch ovens can be used to cook a whole chicken, bake a loaf of sourdough, or even make Julia Child’s famous boeuf bourguignon.
Is An 8 Quart Dutch Oven Too Big?
Sometimes it can be tempting to go big rather than opt for a smaller Dutch oven that won’t be large enough to cope with all your cooking. But you may be wondering whether an 8-quart Dutch oven is too big for your needs.
If you have several family members and friends that you need to cater to, or if you like to cook for a crowd, then an 8-quart Dutch oven won’t be too big. In fact, this will give you plenty more room to accommodate all of the ingredients for your favorite dishes. This would be a great size for making stock, or roasting a small turkey.
However, if you have a smaller family, then an 8-quart Dutch oven may be on the larger side. You can of course adjust this by making plenty of food to freeze for later. It would be a great excuse to do some batch cooking and have extra meals on hand in the coming weeks!
A thing to bear in mind is that the larger the Dutch oven, the more expensive, and heavy, it will be. Anything between 7 to 9 quarts is typically considered to be on the large side.
However, Dutch ovens can have an even larger capacity than this. Some Dutch ovens will give you a whopping capacity of up to 13 quarts!
When choosing the best Dutch oven size for your needs, you will want to think about how many people you need to feed, and what you intend to use it for.
So, there you have it! The best size Dutch oven will entirely depend on how many people you need to feed at any one time. If you are a family of between 1 to 3 people, then a Dutch oven with a 3 to 4 quart capacity will be more than enough. Anything less than this, and you likely won’t be able to accommodate all of your ingredients for a whole meal.
Now all that remains is to find your ideal Dutch oven so that you can get cooking!