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How to buy the best casserole pot or dutch oven for your kitchen

Cast iron cookware is a handy piece of cookware to have in your kitchen

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Casserole pots or dutch ovens (or also known as cast iron cookware) are a handy piece of cookware to have on hand. They're mostly constructed of enamelled cast iron and are praised for their ability to provide excellent heat distribution and heat retention. These qualities are ideal for cooking meals that require braising or searing and then slow cooking, allowing flavour to develop over an extended period of time. 

You can spend a lot of money on one of these pieces of cookware so it's important to do your research first.

Using cast iron cookware safely

Since their purpose is to retain heat, you should be mindful that they can get pretty hot during cooking and remain hot for quite a while after cooking is complete. When handling this type of cookware, it's important to use oven mitts whether you're moving the pot by the handles or lifting the lid. 

They are also quite heavy, even more so when they're full of food. Always be sure to lift and not drag (especially on a glass cooktop), avoid using metal utensils as this may scratch the surface and be cautious when lifting and closing the lid as the enamel can chip if you're rough with it. 

How to season a dutch oven

Pay particular attention to the manufacturer's instructions in regards to care and seasoning the cookware before first use. Most manufacturers recommend simply washing the pot in warm, soapy water. Some may even recommend smearing the interior with vegetable oil. 

Over prolonged use, you may notice the shiny coating on the interior can fade and become dull. This can cause foods to stick and may require you to stir more frequently when simmering. Rust can also occur when the coating is chipped. To prevent this, season the cookware after each use with a thin coating of vegetable oil.

What else to look for

Lid Ensure the lid fits tightly to create circular heating effect, allowing moisture to return to the dish through condensation.

Handles Will help to move the pot filled with food from cooktop to oven to table for serving. However, if they're not the right size lifting the pot can become tricky. Look for larger handles that are still comfortable to hold when wearing oven mitts.

Dishwasher safe While some models say the pot can be cleaned in the dishwasher, ultimately, it's not recommended. Constant dishwashing can cause the enamelled surface to dull and lose its non-stick capability.

Oven safe Not all manufacturers specify the temperatures their cookware can withstand. Generally, casserole and Dutch ovens should be able to withstand temperatures of 200°C in the oven.

Weight These pots are heavy and can get even heavier when filled with food. Have a lift of the different pots in store to see what is right for you.

Size They come available in a range of sizes. It's important to make sure the base fits the size of your cooking zone well.

How much does a casserole or dutch oven cost?

You can spend a fortune on one of these pieces of cookware – you can pick up the Anko Cast Iron Casserole Pot from Kmart for a cheap and cheerful $29. However, you can spend as much as $720 for the Staub Black Round Cocotte 26cm/5.2L tht we tested. Shop around when buying one, discounts can be found on most of the models we've tested. To find out how these are other brands performed in our test, take a look at our test results.

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