If you’re a fan of slow cooking, a decent dutch oven is a vital tool in your arsenal of kitchen equipment.
In my Martha Stewart dutch oven review, I’m going to look at the pros and cons of this popular option.
Can it really offer the performance of a Staub or Le Creuset without breaking the bank?
(Want to learn more about cookware? Take a look through my archive for more guides and reviews.)
If you’ve not got time to read the whole review, what’s the quick verdict?
“The Martha Stewart dutch oven provides excellent cooking performance on a par with more expensive brands. The trade-off is that it’s unlikely to last as long, and so there’s a trade-off between affordability and durability. If you use it weekly, say, then I don’t think that’s a huge problem. Otherwise consider the Staub or Le Creuset options I’ve included towards the bottom of this review!”
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What To Look For In Dutch Ovens
Before moving onto the meat of my Martha Stewart Dutch Oven review, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the key features you should look for in any dutch oven.
Whether you choose the Martha Stewart or a competitor, these are the qualities that really matter with this kind of cookware.
Size & Volume
What size dutch oven should you buy?
Every decent dutch oven brand offers a multitude of sizes to choose from.
If you’re not sure of the right size for your own kitchen, plan for around one quart capacity per person. A family of four, then, would need a 4 quart pot.
I’d recommend going slightly over the number you arrive at, so you have extra capacity for entertaining guests.
A Tight Lid
Unless you want to spend a huge amount of time basting your food, look for a dutch oven that has a tight-fitting lid.
This will keep the moisture where you want it ie in the dutch oven and around the food.
The lid should also have a heat resistant knob, so it can withstand the temperature of your oven.
Solid & Sturdy Handles
These things get extremely hot, and so most dutch ovens feature sturdy, durable handles.
I like a dutch oven to have generous, rounded handles as this gives plenty of room for a secure grip when I’m wearing oven mitts.
A cast iron dutch oven is by far the most common type. It’s durable enough to take a huge amount of heat punishment, but be aware that these thing are heavy.
Should you buy an enamel layered dutch oven though?
So-called “raw cast iron” has no protective layering. It tends to be cheaper as a result, but will require seasoning to maintain its natural non-stick surface.
(Bare cast iron is often supplied pre-seasoned, but you can’t rely on this initial surface treatment forever.)
Many dutch ovens now feature an enamel layer on top of the cast iron. This protects the surface and makes clean-up much easier. You’ll typically pay a premium for this extra convenience, however.
About The Martha Stewart Dutch Oven
The Martha Stewart dutch oven is designed to offer the same cooking performance as higher-end products, but at a more affordable price point.
It’s solidly constructed, features well rounded handles, and has a lid design which redistributes moisture around the interior.
An light colored enamel layer makes checking on the food progress nice and easy, and it’s oven safe too.
Who’s It For?
If you’d like to buy a dutch oven made by the likes of Staub or Le Creuset but don’t have the budget, the Martha Stewart dutch oven is a worthy alternative.
It offers similar cooking performance, but typically sells for considerably less than either of those two leading brands.
Who’s It NOT For?
If you want the famous durability of a Staub or Le Creuset, it’s a different story unfortunately.
Don’t expect the Martha Stewart to last nearly as long, with the enamel layering proving particularly fragile.
- An affordable dutch oven that nevertheless provides similar cooking performance to the more expensive brands.
- A smart design that will brighten up any kitchen thanks to a number of color options.
- Thick, heavy construction provides even heat distribution and great heat retention.
- Moisture is redistributed via lid condensation rings to keep your food nice and juicy.
- Although not dishwasher safe, the enamel layering makes clean up easier.
- Enameled cookware quickly dulls in the dishwasher, and so manual cleaning is highly recommended.
- A heavy piece of cookware compared to the competition – even without any food in it. The 7 quart version weighs in at more than 14 lbs before you add a thing.
- Not as durable as the more expensive options. The enamel layer in particular is prone to chipping over time.
About The Martha Stewart Dutch Oven
In the rest of my Martha Stewart dutch oven review, I’m going to look at how this particular piece of cookware stacks up against those key features.
I’ve also included some alternatives to explore, so you have all the options you need for choosing the best dutch oven for your own home.
Colors & Design
As a standard round dutch oven, there’s not a lot to say about the basic design of the Martha Stewart. It looks very much as you’d expect, albeit with notably straight sides.
There are a few different color options to choose from, but don’t expect as many as you’ll find in the Le Creuset range.
Overall I think it’s an attractive, professional-looking cookware item that will smarten up any kitchen.
Because of its heavy, thick construction the Martha Stewart dutch oven performs impressively well against the more premium brands.
Heat distribution is even, and the thickness helps preserve the heat too. That means you won’t have to worry about dinner going cold while it’s sitting on the table ready for serving.
It’s also compatible with induction stovetops, and can withstand 500F of oven heat.
You won’t be able to put it under a braiser as these typically hit around 600F and even higher. For the average home kitchen though you can consider this entirely oven safe.
Thick & Sturdy Construction
The overall construction of the Martha Stewart dutch oven is thick and sturdy – just what you want and need in a pot of this type.
The general consensus from owners is that it provides surprisingly good performance for the investment involved.
That unusually thick construction comes with one – potential – drawback.
The Martha Stewart dutch oven is noticeably heavier than other comparable brands – around a third more than Le Creuset, as a useful comparison.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing to see in a dutch oven though. The extra heft in the build provides very even heat distribution, and great heat retention too.
As always it’s a balancing act between weight and performance. If you’re comfortable carrying a heavy dish, you’ll appreciate the benefits more.
Cleaning & Care
It’s important to note that enameled cast iron does not play nicely with dishwashers.
It will dull over time, and you risk scratching the surface given all the utensils and other items most of us have rattling around inside.
Although the Martha Stewart dutch oven is often sold as dishwasher safe, I really think you should commit to washing it by hand.
The good news is that the enamel layering makes clean up a little easier. As long as you don’t mind making extra time for washing up, you shouldn’t find it too tough a task.
Large & Solid Handles
The handles on the Martha Stewart dutch oven are decently-sized for comfortable carrying.
Even unfilled though this is quite a heavy piece of cookware, and so it might not be suitable if you have any kind of strength problems in your hands.
Those handles are also heat resistant, but if you do want to make use of oven mitts you’ll have enough space to hold it securely.
The lid on the Martha Stewart dutch oven features a heat resistant knob. You won’t have to worry about burned fingers when you lift the lid to check on progress, and it’s safe to go in the oven as well.
Like the classic Staub dutch oven, the Martha Stewart also features a collection of condensation rings on the underside of the lid.
These gather the moisture that’s naturally released during cooking, and then shower it back over the food as it cooks.
It’s a sort of “self-basting” effect that ensures your food doesn’t lose its juiciness. This is particularly handy when you’re working on long cooking jobs, and don’t want to have to constantly re-baste the contents.
Enameled Cast Iron Interior
The Martha Stewart dutch oven makes use of a smooth, light-colored enamel layer.
Unlike raw cast iron, this means you don’t have to worry about the material reacting badly with acidic foods in particular.
It also means you don’t have to go to the effort of seasoning and re-seasoning your cast iron cookware over time.
One final advantage is that this light coloring makes it easier to see at a glance how close to done your food is. It’s handy in particular when you want to brown meat before transferring it to the oven.
You don’t have a huge range of sizes to play with here, but the Martha Stewart dutch oven is commonly available in 4 and 7 quart sizes. Not all models are available at all times though, so you might need to compromise.
I wrote at the start of this review about choosing the right size for your own kitchen – don’t forget to leave a little extra room for those tasty leftovers!
By their nature, dutch ovens take quite a lot of punishment in the kitchen, and so they need to be able to withstand the test of time.
Unfortunately, this is one area where the Martha Stewart dutch oven has attracted some controversy.
Look around online and you’ll find mixed opinions about the longevity of the enamel layering in particular.
Some owners have had years of good use out of this cookware, while others have reported problems with chipped enamel after a short amount of time.
If you want a dutch oven that’s going to last a lifetime, you’d be better off looking at the Staub or Le Creuset pieces I’ve included as alternatives.
The thing is, this is an item of cookware that performs about as well as the premium brands, but at a significantly lower price.
If budget is a more pressing concern right now, you might be happy to enjoy high-end performance for a shorter period of time.
Really, this is one of those balancing acts that you need to weight up against your own circumstances.
Just don’t expect to be handing this one down to the grandchildren…
Alternatives To The Martha Stewart Dutch Oven
Two names dominate in the world of Dutch ovens and provide the gold standard: Staub and Le Creuset. If you want a direct comparison of these two brands, head over to that comparison article.
They both provide outstanding performance, and they’re similarly priced They both also demand a relatively hefty investment.
Here’s what you should know about each one.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Alongside making high quality cookware, Le Creuset’s big claim to fame is the bold and broad range of colors it offers.
Many of you will opt for that classic “volcano orange” style, but if you want to brighten up your kitchen you certainly aren’t short of options here.
- Enameled cast iron delivers superior heat distribution and retention
- Ready to use, requires no seasoning
- Easy-to-clean and durable enamel resists dulling, staining, chipping and cracking
Something I noted in my Staub vs Le Creuset comparison is the difference the white enameled layering of the Le Creuset makes.
It’s much easier to see the progress of your cooking at a glance with this kind of surface, although wear and tear shows up much more easily.
Staub Dutch Oven
Although there’s still a generous selection of colors to choose from, there aren’t quite as many as there are in the Le Creuset product line.
They do tend to be supported for longer though, whereas Le Creuset likes to shake things up a little more and burn through its inventory. That might be a problem if you’re slowly but surely building out a collection of Le Creuset cookware.
- Made in France
- Heavy weight tight fitting lid retains moisture spikes on the lid create a rain forest effect evenly...
- Oven safe up to 900F/482C without lid Lids are oven safe up to 500F/260C
One other significant advantage of Staub is the tightness of the lids and a clever little design touch on the underside of the lid.
Like the Martha Stewart piece, moisture is captured, and then showered back over the food for that self-basting effect. That’s very helpful if you want to set things up and then move onto another part of your meal.
You’ll often find Staub cookware on sale a little more frequently than Le Creuset. It’s worth checking the latest prices to see how things currently stand.
All in all I think the Martha Stewart dutch oven represents good value. Just don’t expect it to last anything like as long as a Staub or a Le Creuset.
Based on the opinions of people who have owned this cookware for a long period of time, it’s a bit of a dice roll on how long you’ll get out of the enameled cast iron in use.
Click here to browse the Martha Stewart dutch oven collection, and see how its owners have been getting on with it.