Whether you already love to cook or if you’re new to the joys, you will eventually be faced with the decision of whether to invest in a Dutch oven, a great stock pot, or both.
This can be an especially difficult decision if you enjoy soup, roast chicken, and big batches of hearty pasta. Do you need a stock pot or a Dutch oven for all these dishes?
What’s the difference between a Dutch oven vs a stock pot? Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, a heavy, versatile metal that heats evenly and can be used to cook nearly anything. Stock pots are made of lightweight metals that are easy to maneuver and are best suited for making stocks and soups.
There are pros and cons to both pieces of cookware and, in many situations, they can be substituted for each other.
This article highlights all the critical information you need to know about the similarities and differences between Dutch ovens vs stock pots.
Dutch Oven Vs Stock Pot – The Differences
Dutch ovens and stock pots are both incredibly versatile pieces of kitchen cookware and they can be used in many of the same ways, however, there are some very basic differences between the two.
We’ll start by giving you a brief overview and then delve more deeply into what those differences mean at a practical level.
|Enameled cast iron
|Stainless steel, aluminum, or both
|Stock, broth, liquid heavy cooking
*Under very careful watch and lower temperatures, you can use a stock pot in the oven but it is not ideal.
What Is a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens are sturdy, cast iron, all-purpose cookware. Many of them are coated with enamel to make them non-stick as well.
These heavy-duty pots conduct heat evenly throughout the large space and have fitted lids to retain moisture.
They can move straight from your stovetop to a preheated oven and even be used over an open fire. The one place you can never, under any circumstances, use your Dutch oven is the microwave.
If they are enamel coated, you may be able to clean them in your dishwasher, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations, but you shouldn’t really need to.
Nothing sticks to enamel, so they wash incredibly easily. Non-coated Dutch ovens need to be cared for similarly to a cast iron skillet, with regular seasoning to protect against rust and keep a smooth, non-stick cooking surface.
Dutch ovens are very nearly indestructible and can be used to cook almost anything, even bread.
What Does a Dutch Oven Look Like?
A Dutch oven looks like a thick, heavy pot with a close-fitting lid made from matching material. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and seem almost like a cross between a casserole dish and a large stock pot.
They are usually round or oval-shaped and tall enough to hold a good amount of liquid but not as tall as a stock pot. The sides will never be longer than the base.
Most Dutch ovens will have sturdy handles on either side of the pot, which are necessary because, even when empty, these pots are very heavy.
You need reliable handles to distribute the weight of what you’re cooking and make transportation as safe as possible.
The lid is always made from the same material as the oven to ensure even cooking and heat distribution. It also allows the lid to be used in all the same places the pot can be used, from the oven to a campfire.
If the lids were glass, like is common on a casserole dish, for example, they wouldn’t be nearly as reliable.
What Is a Dutch Oven Made of?
Dutch ovens are made of cast iron. Seasoned cast iron is heavy-duty and one of the most traditional materials to use for cookware because of the durability and high-quality heat retention and distribution.
Modern Dutch ovens are often coated with an enamel finish. This is both stylish and practical. A coated Dutch oven doesn’t need to be seasoned, so maintenance is a breeze, though it’s just as hardy and reliable.
Nothing sticks to enamel, making cleanup quick and easy and often even dishwasher-friendly.
The main trade-off when choosing an enamel-coated Dutch is that you won’t be able to use it over an open fire. If you want to bring your cookware camping and then return it to your kitchen, stick with seasoned iron instead.
What Is a Stock Pot?
Stock pots are also very traditional pieces of cookware. They were originally designed to be large enough and sturdy enough to make a big batch of soup stock.
Stock pots have straight, tall sides that allow a lot of liquid and still provide ample space for you to stir your stock.
The sides will often be as long or longer than the length of the base.
Most importantly, they are designed with two handles. Getting a good grip on either side of your stock pot is much safer for transporting heavy pots full of hot liquid across your kitchen.
The wider the handles are, the better you’ll be able to quickly and easily grab ahold of them.
Keep in mind you might also be gripping them through oven mitts or other materials that require extra space to accommodate the added bulk.
Some stock pots also come with a flared lip in the rim of the pot. This is very useful when you’re pouring a heavy, full pot of broth or soup.
What Is a Stock Pot Made of?
Stock pots are designed for holding a lot of liquid, which means they need to be very durable. Liquid itself is quite heavy, though, so the best stock pots add as little to that weight as possible.
Lighter metals, such as aluminum or stainless steel, are the most common materials to use for stock pots. Stainless steel is one of the most common metals used for any cookware and stock pots are no exception.
It’s lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive. It also doesn’t react with food like some other metals, so you can be sure no nasty chemicals are leaking into your food.
Unfortunately, stainless steel isn’t the most reliable heat conducting metal. Aluminum, on the other hand, does conduct heat very well, but it’s a much softer metal, making it less sturdy and durable.
To make up for this, aluminum stock pots are often anodized. This surface treatment improves the durability and non-stick qualities of aluminum.
Stock pots can also be a hybrid between aluminum and stainless steel, bringing out the best characteristics of both metals for a very strong pot that also conducts heat well.
There are also some stock pots, both in aluminum and stainless steel, that are coated with enamel. This strengthens the pots, makes them highly non-stick, and improves heat tolerance so they can be used at higher temperatures.
Not to mention, they’re also quite stylish, and you can get them in many different colors.
Finally, stock pots also come with lids. Many lids are made of the same metal as the pot, but you can also quite often find glass lids.
Glass lids are just as effective as metal lids, but they have the added benefit of being see-through so you can see what’s cooking without having to open the lid and let all the steam out.
What Size Stock Pot Do I Need?
There are many different sizes of stock pots and choosing the size that is right for your home depends on how you plan on using it.
Many stock pots come in sets that range 6-16 qts, but it’s not impossible to find a stock pot that holds up to 30, 60 or even 100 qts if your kitchen can manage it.
The larger the stock pot, the bigger a batch of stock you’ll be able to make in one attempt, but you should always make sure that the pot you choose fits on your stovetop.
There are also a few other features that you should pay attention to, in addition to the capacity of your pot. Most stock pots are tall and narrow, designed to limit evaporation, which is important for soup and stock.
However, to generate heat throughout the entire space, you’ll also want to make sure that the base of your pot is thick enough to prevent soup from scalding when it is cooking for lengthy periods of time.
Dutch Oven Vs Stock Pot – Substitutes
Dutch ovens and stock pots are both sturdy, durable pieces of traditional cookware that may deserve a special place in your kitchen, but do you need both of them? Can you substitute one for the other?
Investing in multiple pieces of cookware isn’t always an option, whether it has to do with financial means, space limitations, or simply minimalist preferences.
There are plenty of recipes that will easily allow you to swap one cooking vessel for the other, but learning how each of them performs under pressure may help you make your purchasing decisions more accurately.
Can I use a Dutch Oven Instead of a Stock Pot?
In almost all cases, if your recipe calls for cooking the ingredients in a stock pot, you can use a Dutch oven instead.
Where a Dutch oven does not excel is in quick cooking. The thick metal takes longer to heat up initially. However, once hot, it remains at a steady, even temperature for much longer than a stock pot.
Enamel-coated Dutch ovens are more versatile in a kitchen, as they can cook anything. Seasoned cast iron is slightly more susceptible to acidic foods, such as rich tomato bases or wine sauces.
They can be used, but they may break down the seasoning more quickly if you don’t have an enameled Dutch oven, so you’ll have to give it a bit extra TLC after this type of cooking job.
It’s also important to remember that Dutch ovens are naturally heavy. You can make a large batch of soup stock in a large Dutch oven, but it will be much, much more difficult to transport and pour than if you had used a lightweight stock pot.
Can I Use a Stock Pot Instead of a Dutch Oven?
Replacing a Dutch oven with a stock pot isn’t as easy or as reliable as working in the reverse order. Dutch ovens are more versatile than stock pots in many ways.
If your recipes require you to move from the stove to the oven, or vice versa, it is not a good idea to use a stock pot instead.
Similarly, if you’re barbequing or exploring the exciting world of campfire cooking, using a Dutch oven is a much better choice than a stock pot.
If, however, your cooking will only take place on your stovetop, you may find that you can accomplish your recipe just as easily with a stock pot, sometimes even more conveniently.
If you don’t have a Dutch oven, a slow cooker or crockpot is a better alternative than a stock pot. Dutch ovens are also similar to braisers. So similar, in fact, that we wrote another article on Dutch ovens vs. braisers.
But if you insist on using a stock pot instead, in most cases, you will want to use a lower temperature. Stock pots aren’t as thick as Dutch ovens and will heat more quickly. You may also need to check on the liquid more frequently.
Now that you know you can substitute Dutch ovens and stock pots for each other in many situations, let’s take a closer look at what each piece of cookware is best used for.
Stock Pot Uses
Stock pots are best for stock, of course. They can handle high heat but, equally, keep evaporative loss to a minimum, so they’re great for quick heating and lengthy simmering as well.
Stock pots are great for the following tasks:
- Large batches of soup, broth, or stock
- Boiling large quantities of water for big pieces of meat or massive batches of pasta
- Any recipe that requires a lot of liquid to cook that may need to be drained quickly
- Large batches of sauces
- Blanching foods
Dutch Oven Uses
Dutch ovens, as we’ve covered, can be used for nearly all purposes, but their heaviness can be either a blessing or a curse. They’re excellent for even heating and cooking, but can be unwieldy.
If you have one, use a Dutch oven for:
- Anything that needs to move from the stovetop to the oven, or vice versa
- Slow-cooking, braising, and roasting
- Any dish where retaining moisture over a long period of cooking is critical
If you’re on the hunt for some great recipes to make the most of your new Dutch oven, we have another article for the best Dutch oven cookbooks waiting for you!
Can you deep-fry in a stock pot? Can you fry in a Dutch oven?
If you enjoy a deep-fried side dish on occasion but don’t want a dedicated deep-fryer taking up space in your cupboard, you can turn to either your Dutch oven or trusty stock pot for help, though with slightly mixed results.
A Dutch oven is perfect for deep frying. It has a heavy bottom that won’t get damaged from the hot oil and will maintain steady heat once it reaches the perfect temperature.
Enameled Dutch ovens will wipe clean of oil easily and seasoned pans will even get better through use. Stock pots will heat your oil more quickly, but they have a harder time maintaining temperature.
You may find that some of your food cooks too quickly and then, after reducing the heat, it cooks too slowly. The oil can also leave a ring of discoloration or buildup in your stock pot.
If you have a choice, opt for the Dutch oven every time. If all you have is a stock pot, it will work but you’ll have to be a little bit more careful and watchful.
And if deep-frying using a Dutch oven or stock pot is something you definitely want to take a crack at, why not try our recipe for deep fried avocados?