The Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round French Oven is the best-performing Dutch oven in our sources -- but it's also the most expensive. However, many users feel that this solidly built pot, which is backed by a lifetime warranty, is worth the high price tag. Its thick sides and bottom deliver even, sustained heat, and its durable enamel finish helps prevent sticking and makes cleanup easier. Owners also love the variety of "appetizing" colors it comes in.
"The benchmark" by which other Dutch ovens are measured. Reviewers at America's Test Kitchen say the Le Creuset French oven "produces a beautiful crust on meat," and it also cooks up perfect rice in tests at a foodie magazine. J. Kenji López-Alt of SeriousEats.com calls it "the benchmark for performance," saying it can "handle any heavy-duty task." Owners agree that the pot is very versatile; one review at Williams-Sonoma.com says, "Lamb stew, kalua pork, roasted chicken, clam chowder have all turned out great." Another owner says that this pot handled every stage in the complicated preparation of beef bourguignon -- rendering bacon fat, browning meat, sautéing vegetables and a final, long cooking in the oven -- and the end result was "remarkable." The pot delivers very even heat, according to owners, and it holds its heat well.
Large size means versatility. López-Alt notes that LeCreuset's Dutch oven is large enough to stew a whole chicken. Its large size does directly correspond to heft -- weighing in around 13 pounds. Fortunately, the latest model comes with large, easy-to-grip handles making it more manageable. Owners appreciate the interior enamel finish, which they say keeps food from sticking and makes cleanup "a breeze." Professional testers don't entirely agree, however; they note that after cooking a batch of rice, it took a long soaking to get the Le Creuset clean. One Amazon review also warns that it's important not to use abrasive cleansers or scrubbers, which may scratch the finish and damage its nonstick properties. Le Creuset advises against using metal utensils with this Dutch oven for the same reason.
Available in a myriad of colors. Owners love the bright colors: from the familiar red and blue to flame orange, truffle brown and the 2013 addition of Soleil. One Amazon reviewer describes the color as "appetizing." The same review notes that the enamel will gradually darken on the bottom, but this "patina" is normal and no cause for concern. Former Bon Appétit food editor, Hunter Lewis, agrees, saying that these pots "gather a certain grace as they age" and make nice serving pieces. The only drawback to this pot's design, according to reviews, is that its large size makes storage difficult.
Extremely durable. The heavy, cast-iron construction isn't vulnerable to dings and dents, and the enamel finish is described as "resilient" in a review at Williams-Sonoma.com. Lewis says that Le Creuset pots "last forever," and an Amazon.com reviewer (who has owned a smaller Le Creuset for 25 years) calls this "a pot that will be passed [on] and used for generations." The only complaint we saw about durability came from a couple of users who say that the enamel finish was damaged when they first received them. Defects like this are covered under Le Creuset's lifetime warranty.
1. America's Test Kitchen
Review Credibility: Excellent America's Test Kitchen is a partner site to Cook's Illustrated magazine. In this one-minute video, a chef at the test kitchen explains the many uses of Dutch ovens, including braising, deep-frying, boiling pasta and baking crusty bread. He names the Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round French Oven as the editors' top pick, saying it "produces a beautiful crust on meat."
Review: Why You Need a Dutch Oven, Editors of America's Test Kitchen, Jan. 23, 2012
2. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good Although it's an older report, this Cook's Illustrated test is the most thorough evaluation of Dutch ovens available. Editors compare the Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round French Oven and nine other Dutch ovens, including stainless-steel and uncoated cast-iron products. Testers use the pots to cook white rice and beef stew in the oven after browning the meat on the stovetop and to fry frozen French fries in 2 quarts of oil. Testers prefer Dutch ovens with at least an 8-inch diameter, which allows larger batches of beef chunks to be browned on the stovetop. They also prefer enameled to uncoated cast iron.
Review: Dutch Ovens, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Jan. 1, 2007
Review Credibility: Very Good J. Kenji López-Alt, the chief creative officer of SeriousEats.com, identifies the seven most important pieces of cookware to have in your kitchen. He names a Dutch oven as "the ideal vessel for slow braises and soups" and a good choice for deep-frying if you don't have a wok. He calls the Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round French Oven "the benchmark for performance and styling" in this category, saying it can "handle any heavy-duty task you throw at it with the greatest of ease."
Review: Equipment: The 7 Most Essential Pots and Pans, J. Kenji López-Alt, Jan. 4, 2011
Review Credibility: Good The Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round French Oven receives a near-perfect overall rating of 4.9 stars out of 5 from more than 40 owners at this kitchen retailer. Owners say this Dutch oven delivers quick, even heat and holds its heat well. They also say it's very durable, easy to clean and perfectly sized for a variety of uses. Reviews warn that it's very heavy, however, and its large size makes it hard to store. We also saw a couple of complaints that the pot arrived with damage to the enamel finish.
Review: Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven, Contributors to Williams-Sonoma.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Fair The latest version of the Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round French Oven has only a handful of reviews at Amazon.com, but so far, all of them give it a perfect 5-star rating. (An older version of the same product, with smaller handles and a different knob, earns 4.5 stars overall from about 50 users.) Owners describe this pot as attractive, durable and "a breeze" to clean. They also say it delivers very even heat, and they like the new, larger handles. Its only downside is the high price tag, but users say it's worth it.
Review: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 7-1/4-Quart Round French Oven, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Fair This review isn't a product test; instead, it offers general recommendations for what to look for in a Dutch oven. Author Emma Christensen says the best Dutch ovens are heavy and thick, with easy-to-grip knobs and handles. She recommends choosing a pot at least 6 quarts in size, which is good for stewing a chicken or cooking a big batch of chili. Christensen names the Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Round French Oven as her favorite high-end pick but doesn't say why.
Review: How to Choose the Best Dutch Oven: And Use It Well, Emma Christensen, Dec. 9, 2010