The term Dutch oven is as unknown to many as is a double boiler. A Dutch oven, however, is not a mysterious object; rather, it is quite a simple means of cooking delicious food. Cooks employ Dutch ovens when they want to cook foods over a long period of time yet retain a lot of moisture. Two such methods include braising and stewing.
Dutch ovens are wide, flat-bottom dishes with high sides, tight fitting lids, and one small handle on each side of the dish. They can be found in both round and oval shapes. The oval can be good for cooking meats that are long and skinny, like pork tenderloin. The high sides and snug lid trap in steam, creating a moist cooking environment. This construction sounds very similar to that of a stock pot (which makes sense due to the desired element of moisture in each one) but Dutch ovens are typically made of cast iron, whereas stockpots are typically made of aluminium, stainless steel, and copper.
Cast iron is a common choice for Dutch ovens because it retains and distributes heat well. Dutch oven cooking methods, like braising meats and stewing vegetables, typically require long periods of time over low heat, and cast iron is perfect for this. Dutch ovens are typically rather large, and when made of cast iron, are quite heavy.
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