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September 23, 2010

Tools of the soup maker's trade: Dutch ovens

Red Dutch oven

Every week, I make soup in this five-quart round Dutch oven that I found on super-sale last year at TJ Maxx, a discount clothing store that often has the most amazing deals on overstock or slightly hurt cookware. Made by Cuisinart, this beauty sold for less than half the price of the big-name enameled cast iron pots, and the slight ding in the finish on one handle brought the price down even more. The inside was in perfect condition, and, well, it's red.

A Dutch oven is a heavy, thick-walled pot, usually made of cast iron, with a tight-fitting lid. Designed originally for campfire cooking, it retains heat and moisture for low-and-slow cooking. The enameled cast iron pots made by Le Creuset and Staub are extremely expensive, but other brands, like Cuisinart and Mario Batali, are more affordable ($100 or so for a pot that will last a lifetime). If you're looking for one pot in an all-purpose size, consider a five-quart round or oval.

I don't use this pot to make stock; it's not large enough for a big batch, and I prefer my slow cooker for smaller batches so I don't have to tend the pot. For soup, though, this Dutch oven is perfect, as it will produce recipes for 4-8 servings.

And -- I might be wrong about this, but I don't think so -- my soup pot holds a little bit of the goodness of every soup I've ever made in it, bringing additional good soup karma to everything cooked in the pot.

Do you have a favorite soup pot?


Posted by: kirsten | September 23, 2010 at 11:00 AM

my 6 qt Lodge Dutch oven DIED last week (when I was attempting to make corn cob honey with leftover corn cobs and missed the whole 'lower heat and simmer' bit) and I am in the market for another Dutch oven. Timely post!

Posted by: Melynda | September 23, 2010 at 11:37 AM

I must start out with a larger pan than any recipe calls for, for some reason my soups get "big" as they cook. Must be the extras I add, more veggies or some barley where none was listed, and probably a little care too!

Posted by: Alanna | September 23, 2010 at 12:04 PM

Love it! I have two Dutch ovens, one that was my mother's that I will never part with, another one by Berndes that's non-stick and frankly, my primary cooking pot because it's just the right size and goes in the dishwasher and and and and ...

That said, it's not RED and red is glorious!

Posted by: Teresa | September 23, 2010 at 04:16 PM

My favorite soup pot is a medium size black Le Creuset with the tan enamel finish inside. It was a "return" when I worked at a gourmet store and I got it for a steal! It's just the right size to make most soup recipes for just me and extra to freeze. I have to watch my mom around that pot...I think she covets it.

Posted by: Mary | September 24, 2010 at 08:19 AM

My husband and I love soup but for some reason I don't have a pot I love for the making of it. Your red pot has inspired me, and since we have a TJ Maxx nearby (and a Marshalls and Ross) I will be on the look-out for a beauty such as yours. Surely it will enhance our soup experience!

Posted by: Lydia | September 24, 2010 at 08:45 AM

Kirsten, I've never used Lodge enameled cast iron, but I do know that some pots are made with more layers of enamel than others. Let us know what you decide to buy.

Melynda, I love the notion of soups "getting big" -- it happens to me sometimes, too. It's the "might as wells"!

Alanna, you're so lucky to have a Dutch oven that comes to you with family history. I do remember all the red in the photos you shared on Other People's Pantries; my little Dutch oven would fit right in!

Teresa, who wouldn't covet a black Le Creuset Dutch oven??? You'd have to hide it from me, too!

Mary, I find the best things at TJ Maxx. It's really unpredictable, though. Some days they have great pots, other days they have none. As it gets closer to the December holidays, keep checking back with your local store. Sometimes they are completely stocked up. Last year I went on the right day, but couldn't make up my mind. When I went back two days later, everything was sold!

Posted by: Heidi | September 25, 2010 at 12:28 PM

Mine is a beige Le Creuset that was probably never meant for the American market. Le Creuset comes into this country through their warehouse in the low country of South Carolina. Over the years, I've found a wide variety of Le Creuset oddities there for incredible prices. There was the year everyone I knew got a small strange-color-of-yellow Le Creuset skillet because a whole pile of them were $8 a piece. Haven't had such good luck there in recent years. Afraid they improved their distribution system so strange things don't make it to Yemassee, SC, anymore. Sigh. Still good seconds collection there sometimes ...

Posted by: Jess | April 7, 2013 at 10:29 PM

love this! awesome. just trying my first shot at soup cooking in a dutch oven.

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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