When we call for a “Dutch oven” in our recipes (see, for example, the recipe Pot-Roasted Pork Loin Stuffed with Prunes & Dried Apricots), what we’re asking you to use is a large, heavy-gauge pot that’s wider than it is deep and has a tight-fitting lid. This type of pot can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven. It’s especially useful for braising and stewing, which usually begin with browning on the stove before going into the oven, where the tight-fitting lid helps seal in steam to create a self-basting atmosphere. Typically, a second stint on the stovetop follows the oven period to reduce the cooking liquid to a saucy consistency.
Most high-quality cookware manufacturers offer good Dutch ovens, which may also be called “flameproof casseroles.” In the test kitchen, we’re especially fond of our collection of Le Creuset casseroles, which are cast iron with an enamel coating. The cast iron gives you great heat retention, while the coating makes the pan nonreactive and easier to care for. Le Creuset casseroles (which, just to confuse matters, may also be called “French ovens”) come in both round and oval shapes in several capacities and exterior colors. The Le Creuset enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens are widely avaliable in cookware stores. Or try A Cook’s Wares www.cookswares.com, where the Dutch ovens range from $70 to $270.