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A cast iron Dutch oven is one of the most essential and versatile pieces of cookware you can own. Similar to its enameled Dutch oven cousins, these large pots are heavy with thick, high walls and a tight-fitting lid that can simmer big batches of turkey chili and pot roast, sear and brown meat to perfection, and more. But unlike ones with a shiny enamel coating, pure cast iron ovens have better heat retention, and typically come pre-seasoned, meaning they’ve been treated with cooking oil for a non-stick finish, too.

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When we chatted with five pros and home cooks about their favorite cast iron Dutch ovens, they all mentioned the same one: the Lodge 5-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven. There are several sizes, but the 5-quart size is the Goldilocks of Dutch ovens—not too big for cornbread stuffing on Thanksgiving, not too small to roast an entire chicken on weeknights, just right for every dish.

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“Lodge just knows its stuff when it comes to cast iron, and the Dutch ovens are no exception,” said Jenny Park, recipe developer and co-author of the Spoon Fork Bacon cooking blog. “I love the even heat retention and the way it locks moisture in when covered.” Park added that she and co-author Teri Lyn Fisher love to braise lamb shanks in their Lodge. “They come out super moist, tender, and packed with so much flavor,” she said.

Founder and author of cooking blog Midwest Foodie Kylie Lato takes it even further and uses her Lodge for all kinds of baking, too. “Whether I'm braising beef or baking my favorite sourdough, a cast iron Dutch oven is perfect because of its versatility. You don't have to spend a ton to get a high-quality cast iron Dutch oven either.”

Since the Lodge cast iron oven comes pre-seasoned, you can use it right out of the box whether it’s on your stovetop, in your oven, over a grill, or even over a campfire. In fact, the material can withstand the powerful heat of an open flame and is the perfect camping companion, said Chris Emery, editor and publisher of outdoor adventure companies OutdoorSoCal and Ordealist. “I've owned this cast iron Dutch oven for years and love to camp with it,” he said. “My family and I often camp from our overlanding-outfitted Jeep, so we have ample room to carry a Dutch oven. It can be used as a frying pan, a pot, and an oven, and lets you cook over a campfire in ways that you can't with other pots and pans. I expect my Lodge Dutch oven to outlive me.”

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Fellow outdoorsman, executive chef, and owner of The Market Place Restaurant and Lounge in Asheville, North Carolina, also loves the brand’s Appalachian roots and the fact that this Dutch oven is from a “Smoky Mountain-made American brand.” He said that while Lodge isn’t indestructible (nothing ever is), it’s tough enough to outlast generations and can take a lot of usage. “My grandmother had a Lodge oven that she'd fry bacon in, and she'd use that same pot to cook her biscuits, so her biscuits carried on that smoky flavor,” he said. “I love it too, being an outdoorsman camping and backpacking. It's great because you can take it along with you and cook right on the fire. Like, literally take the pan and put it on the coals, just like people did hundreds of years ago."

Speaking to the longevity of cast iron Dutch ovens, Eva Clarke, founder of the wellness blog Health Studio said that she grew up with a Lodge Dutch oven and continues to use the same pot to this very day. The easy cleanup comes in especially handy after making meals for her young kids, noting this tip she learned from her parents and grandparents: “When the oven gets some build up on it, all you have to do is place it on an outdoor grill, burn off the residue, and it’ll provide a clean coating.” You can also just wipe it out with a cloth or sponge or, if needed, boil water in the pot until the stuck-on bits loosen up and rinse out easily. Whatever you do, just don’t use soap! Once the oven is cleaned and dried, dab a bit of cooking oil to keep the cookware non-stick.

Durable, versatile, easy to clean, and easy on the wallet? No wonder everyone—literally everyone—loves the humble Lodge cast iron Dutch oven so much.

Are you Team Cast Iron Dutch oven or Team Enamel Dutch oven? Let us know below! This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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