Dutch Oven Vs Cocotte – What’s The Difference?

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You’re probably familiar with the Dutch oven, which is a style of pot that is incredibly versatile and can be used for everything from braising to baking to frying.

This cooking pot is heavy-walled, often made of enameled cast iron, and has handles and a lid for easy use in the kitchen. 

It can move from stovetop to oven with ease, making it a great addition to any kitchen. But maybe you’ve heard of another dish called a cocotte and you might be wondering if you need one of those as well!

So, what’s the difference between a Dutch oven and a cocotte? There isn’t one! Cocotte is just the French word for the traditional enameled cast iron cooking pot that often comes with a lid. Historically, Dutch ovens were made of seasoned cast iron, but modern versions are often enameled.

Read on to discover more about the history of the cocotte (or Dutch oven) and how you can use this versatile cooking vessel for all your kitchen needs. 

What Are Cocottes? 

Cocotte is the French term for the heavy-duty cooking pot with handles and a lid commonly referred to as a Dutch oven.

The first recorded use of this style of pot was in the Netherlands about 1760 and they remain a popular cooking pot to this day. 

Originally these Dutch ovens were forged from cast iron and were used over open flames or wood stoves to cook braised meats, stews, soups, and all manner of delicious dishes.

The lid helped to keep heat and moisture trapped inside the pot so the food stayed moist and evenly cooked.

The heavy weight of the cast iron helps to retain heat and provides an incredible cooking experience. These pots can really do it all when it comes to kitchen power.

Try using your cocotte in any of the following ways for incredible results: 

  • You can use it for braising tough cuts of meat like brisket, pork shoulder, stew beef, and many more. 
  • You can saute vegetables with ease and even heat. 
  • You can fill your cocotte/Dutch oven with oil and fry up your favorite foods. 
  • You can use it to make amazing loaves of bread or other delicious treats. 
  • You can use it to make hearty soups, rich stews, or delicate broths. 
  • You can use it to boil water for pasta, rice, beans, or other grains and legumes.

There is almost no limit to what a cocotte/Dutch oven can do in terms of cooking and baking, which makes it an incredible investment piece for your pantry.

Now that these pots are enameled they are much easier to clean and food is much less likely to stick or burn to the bottom. 

When we think of a Dutch oven or a cocotte today, what often comes to mind are the brightly colored enamel varieties made popular by the brand Le Creuset.

These enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens are made to last a lifetime (or even longer)! They are not only functional but also incredibly beautiful.

What Are Dutch Ovens? 

A Dutch oven or French oven or cocotte is a thick-walled cooking pot with handles that come with a tight-fitting lid.

They are often made from cast iron and covered in enamel, though you can find them made from other materials such as stoneware, cast aluminum, or ceramic

While the traditional Dutch oven was made of seasoned cast iron, the ones you are most likely to find at the store are made of cast iron coated in enamel. These pots are much easier to use and keep clean, and they can last a lifetime or more. 

These cooking vessels are popular because they can be used on both the stovetop and in the oven, which makes them useful for tons of different recipes and cooking styles.

I love using mine to get a great sear on my meat or caramelize my veggies before popping them in the oven to roast

It’s not uncommon for a high-quality Dutch oven to be passed down through the generations.

In fact, my sister still uses my grandmother’s entire Le Creuset Dutch oven and cookware set, which is well over 50 years old and in perfect condition. 

According to modern-day experts in Dutch ovens and cast iron cookware, Le Creuset, cocotte, Dutch oven, and French oven can be used interchangeably, especially here in the States.

Their pots are absolutely beautiful and functional, making them a piece of art you can eat from.

How Do Dutch Ovens And Cocottes Work? 

The crucial part of the cocotte/Dutch oven is the heavy, tight-fitting lid and cast iron interior that traps heat and evenly distributes it throughout the dish.

These two components make these pots so easy to use and mean that once everything is inside, you, the cook, have a lot less work to do. 

When you place something inside your Dutch oven/cocotte and place it in the oven, the cast iron easily retains heat and transfers it to whatever you’re cooking, like a brisket, from all directions.

Since it is able to hold onto heat efficiently, you need less energy to slow-cook foods in the oven.

The addition of the lid also acts as a self-basting measure. It traps the moisture and liquids inside the pot and recirculates them back into the food that you’re cooking.

That means that your final product is going to be tender and moist, instead of dried out and tough, which can happen with other slow cooking methods. 

Another great benefit of a Dutch oven/cocotte is that the cast iron can be placed on the stovetop and heated to a high temperature.

That means that you can sear your cuts of meat, your veggies, and anything else right in the pot, before transferring it to the oven. 

This one-pot process makes a lot less mess in the kitchen and allows you to retain all the delicious bits you get from browning your food, called “fond” in the culinary world.

These darkened, caramelized bits add a layer of flavor to your dish that you just can’t replicate with anything else. 

To get all the goodness from your fond, make sure you deglaze your Dutch oven with broth or wine before you move the contents to the oven.

What Can You Cook In A Dutch Oven Or A Cocotte?

So, now that you know how the Dutch oven/cocotte works by retaining heat and evenly transferring it to whatever it is you’re cooking, you might be wondering what you can make with this life-changing kitchen vessel!

I’m going to outline a few things you can do with it below, but don’t be limited by this list. If you have your own recipe, then chances are you can use your Dutch oven to prepare it. 

Cooking Braised Meats In A Dutch Oven Or Cocotte

One of the areas where the Dutch oven really shines is in preparing tough cuts of meat that need low and slow cooking, often called braising.

These cuts of meat are often full of fat, sinews, and connective tissue that requires time to break down.

But when you put the time and effort in the results are worth it ten times over. These cuts of meat are the ones that become fall off the bone tender.

They become so soft you can use a spoon to “cut” them and the fat and connective tissue provide a decadent flavor and texture. 

To get the best results, I recommend searing your cut of meat in your Dutch oven on the stovetop first.

Then deglaze the pan with a little wine or broth, before adding any herbs, spices, salt, pepper, or other seasonings. You’ll then want to cover your pot with the lid and cook it low and slow. 

I recommend cooking your cut of meat at 350°F for 1 hour and then reducing the heat to 300°F for the remaining cook time.

The time can vary depending on how big the cut of meat is and how tough it is. It can range from about 3-12 hours total

Some of my favorite cuts of meat to braise in my Dutch oven include:

  • Ribs: pork, beef, or lamb. Baby back, short, or spare ribs are all delicious options. They will typically take about 3 hours total in your Dutch oven. 
  • Brisket: This cut of meat is my all-time favorite. It comes from the breast of a cow or veal and requires a lot of time to cook, but the results are so worth it. Make sure you cut against the grain and don’t pull it apart like pork. 
  • Pork Shoulder: If you’re a fan of pulled pork, cooking this cut of meat in your Dutch oven will change your life forever. Please don’t make pulled pork from the tenderloin. It will be dry and tough since there is little to no fat in this cut of meat. 
  • Lamb Shanks: Another delicious cut of meat that requires some extra time, love, and heat to become fall off the bone tender. 
  • Oxtail: I love oxtail since it is cooked right on the bone there is a ton of collagen, which makes the juices and sauce super luscious and delicious. If you’ve never tried an oxtail, give this cut a chance to wow you. 
  • Beef Chuck: This classic pot roast cut is amazingly delicious when caramelized then slow-cooked in a Dutch oven. Don’t rush the process or you’ll end up with a tough and chewy mess. 

Making A Soup Or A Stew In A Dutch Oven Or A Cocotte

Another one of my favorite uses for my Dutch oven/cocotte is to make hearty and delicious soups, stews, and broths.

I love it because the cast iron allows me to get the pot smoking-hot so that I can caramelize my onions and garlic, bloom my spices, or sear my meat for an extra layer of flavor. 

Whenever you’re making a soup or a stew, you don’t want to miss the step where you caramelize the aromatics veggies like garlic, onions, celery, and carrots.

If you’re using spices, like curry powder, you also want to make sure you bloom them in oil to release their vibrant flavor. 

Once you’ve caramelized your mirepoix (the fancy French term for sauteed vegetables used as a base flavor), make sure you deglaze your Dutch oven with some broth or wine.

Give the bottom a little scrape, then add the rest of your liquids and ingredients. 

Cover your soup with your lid and let it simmer away on the stove. Since the lid helps to trap heat and moisture for even cooking, you will spend a lot less time making rich-tasting soups and stews. 

Baking Bread In A Dutch Oven Or A Cocotte

Another popular use for a Dutch oven is as a vessel to bake break with a deliciously crispy crust. The key to this process is making sure you preheat your Dutch oven before transferring the dough to it. 

Many recipes will suggest you heat your Dutch oven at 400-450°F for about 45 minutes to an hour prior to adding your bread dough. Once you add the dough, you will bake it for 45 minutes.

To get your crispy crust, make sure you remove the lid for the last 15 minutes of baking.

How Long Does It Take To Cook In A Dutch Oven Or A Cocotte?

So how long does it take to cook food in a Dutch oven/cocotte? The answer really depends on what you’re cooking.

If you are baking something like bread it can be ready in as little as 45 minutes (make sure you preheat the pan before adding the dough! 

To fry something in your Dutch oven can take a matter of minutes, while making something like a soup or a stew could require an hour or more, depending on if you included any tough cuts of meat.

Generally, the longer you let a soup or stew simmer, the richer and deeper the flavor. 

Finally, if you’re planning on slow-roasting a cut of meat, then it can take anywhere from 3-12 hours, depending on the size and toughness of the cut you’re cooking.

The bottom line is that there is no hard and fast cooking time in a Dutch oven. It all depends on what you’re making.

With that being said, because it retains heat really well, Dutch ovens can cook these dishes faster than other methods such as a slow cooker, a roasting pan, or a regular saucepan. 

Dutch ovens are also a lot more hands-off and you can use one pot for a variety of cooking techniques, moving straight from stovetop to oven with ease, which makes the whole process more enjoyable. 

Up Next: Can You Boil Water In Cast Iron?

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