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Why is it Called a Dutch Oven?

Cooking in the woods using a Dutch Oven.

When I first hear the question, why is it called a Dutch oven, I instinctively return to my high school days. Because that’s when I learned all the best fart jokes! However, this is not the point of today’s lesson on kitchen equipment. A Dutch oven is actually just as entertaining as a fart joke and far more valuable if you love to cook at home.

But in reality, you can take your Dutch oven with you and cook at campfires and on propane stove surfaces. This is the one pot that will go anywhere you want to cook, and do it well. 

Related: Why is it Called an Oven?What is Broil in an Oven?What is the Drawer Under the Oven for? | Convection vs Conventional Oven | Oven vs Air Fryer | Oven vs Slow Cooker | Oven vs Grill

How to Describe a Dutch Oven to a Kitchen Newbie

A Dutch oven coated with orange enamel.

If you walk into my kitchen and I yell, “Grab the Dutch oven! Fast at it!” That means you need to know what a Dutch oven is. The best short answer–it will be a large pot that holds at least two quarts of food and has a lid. A Dutch oven is heavy because it is almost always made out of cast iron or enamel, instead of lighter weight stainless steel or aluminum.

The Kitchn explains more in depth that “the Dutch…developed a technique for casting metals in molds made of sand. Traditionally, clay molds were used, but this 17th century innovation allowed smoother finishes and lent itself well to the production of iron cookware, like the type of kettle used at the time to cook over an open flame.”

Mueller DuraCast 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven Pot with Lid, Heavy-Duty Casserole Dish, Braiser Pan, Stainless Steel Knob, for Braising, Stews, Roasting, Baking, Safe across All Cooktops, Red

Where did the name Dutch oven originate? “It is called a Dutch oven after an English industrialist discovered a pot in The Netherlands made for cooking which was cast from sand molds. The English industrialist Abraham Darby named it the Dutch oven as a homage to the Dutch,” according to Oven Spot.

Ways to Use a Dutch Oven Properly for Best Results

“[A Dutch oven is] actually a heavy, lidded pot that can be used for anything from reheating soups to deep-frying desserts to baking bread,” said Spoon University author. A lot of home bakers use a Dutch oven for artisanal no-knead breads

A bread baked in a Dutch oven and a piece of cloth.

and homemade dinner rolls. 

Homemade dinner rolls baked in a Dutch oven.

You can also cook an entire meal, including meat and vegetables, in a Dutch oven. 

Shepherd's pie baked in a Dutch oven.

A shepherd pie from England or the similarly made cottage pie from Ireland uses a Dutch oven. Here you have minced meat with chopped vegetables. This mixture is spread on the bottom of the Dutch oven and covered in a bread dough that puffs up, or a creamy mashed potato sprinkled with cheddar cheese.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Dutch Oven…and Season it Well

Not all Dutch ovens are cast iron, but if you have recently purchased a new or gently used cast iron Dutch oven, it is important to care for the vessel properly. A seasoned cast iron Dutch oven will outlast your lifetime with ease. This will save you money and become a treasured family heirloom. 

Even if you purchase a pre-treated and already seasoned cast iron Dutch oven, such as those by Lodge, you will still need to re-season it in the future. This is especially the case if you wash or scrub your Dutch oven with hot, soapy water. That will remove the protective coating that helps minimize burning and sticking of food. 

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Dutch Oven With Loop Handles and Cast Iron Cover, 7 Quart, Black

To clean a cast iron Dutch oven, use a mildly abrasive cleaning towel without steel wool. Avoid soap if there is not stuck-on food, and gently rinse away food or grease with warm water. Allow to dry without using a towel as it will stick to any grease on the food.

To season a cast iron Dutch oven, rub the entire surface with cooking oil. Work with a mild flavored oil, such as grapeseed oil, for the best results. Use high quality cooking oil to ensure maximum flavor when cooking in the Dutch oven. After all, everything you put on the Dutch oven’s surface will end up in the food you cook in the pot.

Why do they call Dutch oven?

The Dutch oven was named the same word as the term used to describe people living in Holland or The Netherlands. The reason why the Dutch oven is called the same name as this is due to the heritage of where the appliance originated. Since the Dutch formulated a way to make this type of pot, the Dutch oven is named to respect this point of origin.

There is also a connection to the Quakers, who are connected to the Pennsylvania Dutch who live in the US. An English brassworks business owner named Abraham Darby invented the Dutch oven in the 1700s. He used Dutch brass to make a Dutch oven but it was too expensive, so he worked out a formulation for a cast iron Dutch oven.

According to The Vintage Gentleman, though, Darby invented the British version of a Dutch oven centuries after the Dutch already used the vessel. 

A painting with a woman pouring milk on a Dutch oven.

Evidence of this is shown in Dutch works of art, including The Milkmaid by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer, painted circa 1657 to 1661. Here the Dutch oven is used by a truly Dutch milkmaid who pours milk into the Dutch oven to bake bread pudding. This is not the first use or representation of the Dutch using a Dutch oven–by centuries. 

What do the Dutch call a Dutch oven?

In The Netherlands, the Dutch people do not call the Dutch oven a “Dutch oven.” Mainly this is because they speak Dutch and not English. According to Bush Cooking, “A ‘Dutch oven’ is called a braadpan in the Netherlands, which roughly translates as a frying or roasting pan.

The modern Dutch design that is currently being used has been transformed into an enameled steel pan, mainly used for frying meats.” Dutch ovens may also be referred to as a sudderpan in The Netherlands. So the answer to this question is either a braadpan or a sudderpan. 

Why is Le Creuset called a Dutch oven?

Le Creuset is a brand in France that sells the most expensive Dutch oven. Considering the Dutch oven is European, it is not traveling far to France for such upgrades. However, the Le Creuset brand has been making the Dutch oven since the 1700s, and as long as the British–but not as long as the actual Dutch. 

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Round Dutch Oven, 5.5 qt., Marseille

Why the Le Creuset version of the Dutch oven is often called the same name is due to the popularity of this pot. The popularity is mainly due to the high price tag. This brand and style of Dutch oven by Le Creuset is generally sought out by newlyweds and professional chefs.

That is the shopping demographic of adults who are able to afford a $399 pot, when there are plenty of Dutch ovens that are only $30 retail. I personally think it’s genius to include high-priced items on a wedding gift registry, when you would never buy for yourself with your own hard-earned money. 

Why are there 3 legs below the Dutch oven?

If you see a three-legged Dutch oven, this is also a true Dutch oven-style cooking pot. The only difference happens to be the three nubs that extend like feet about two inches from the base of the pot. This specialized type of Dutch oven is also called a chuckwagon Dutch oven.

In a chuckwagon Dutch oven, a lidded kettle is used to cover the pot. A metal arching handle or half-moon shaped handles on either side of the Dutch oven pot serves to hang the pot from a tripod over a fire pit.

The chuckwagon Dutch oven, as you can imagine, was developed by chuckwagon riders. American settlers had this style of cooking equipment packed in their minimal provisions beneath cloth-covered caravans throughout the Great Plains when traveling West. In order to best suit a roaring campfire, the chuckwagon Dutch oven has three small legs beneath it in a tripod arrangement. 

A Dutch oven with a tripod on the outdoor cooking.

These allowed the Dutch oven to sit in the fire without having direct contact with the heat as would be the case with a traditional Dutch oven. This prevents burning and scorching of food due to extreme hot spots in a campfire. You can also sit the pot down on a surface with minimal contact with the heated bottom when using a three-legged Dutch oven.

The chuckwagon style of Dutch oven for campground enthusiasts also features a cast iron body. 

This weighs a lot but maximizes the metal vessel and its ability to heat food and maintain a temperature over a long period. The minimal care and maintenance involved with using cast iron for cooking pots also relieved chuckwagon riders and cowboys and their cooks from worrying about breaking a pot or having it crack when getting hot.

Of course, you could crack a cast iron Dutch oven if it was made poorly or was well aged and had been sanded to remove rust. 

This, however, is not an issue if you take care of your Dutch oven by seasoning it often with animal grease or vegetable oil. In this instance, you can protect against rust on the cast iron, and remove any fear that your pot will break on you when camping. This is, of course, why cowboys and chuckwagon teams depended on the cast iron Dutch oven to cook so much of their food in bulk.