Shopping for the best aluminum Dutch oven? You should read this!
For those residing in colder regions or that undergo harsh winters, one knows that it can be both comforting and cost efficient to make large stews and soups. Slow cooking is very convenient, allowing large quantities of food to simmer on the stove-top or in the oven for several hours. Throw in some inexpensive cuts of meat and a few complementary ingredients into a large aluminum dutch oven and you’ve got yourself a very fulfilling meal!
The main benefit of having an aluminum Dutch oven is that it is much lighter than cast iron (about 30% less). Aluminum is a great heat conductor which explains its wide use in commercial equipment. It heats up and cools down quickly. This can be of a disadvantage when cooking outdoors as it will loose its heat very fast. Aluminum is also prone to uneven hot spots but is much more forgiving when it comes to maintenance and is easier to clean.
I’ve compiled a list of some of the best aluminum dutch ovens I’ve used in the past and hope this will help when making a selection.
A great nonstick cookware designed with two different surfaces for various types of cooking. The Calphalon Unison Aluminum Dutch Oven has a nonstick surfaces allow for precise cooking with its smooth surface, making it an essential tool for omelettes and sauces. It has a capacity of 5 quarts and features a tempered-glass domed lid so that you can keep an eye on the food while its cooking. The domed feature allows for continuous basting of your dish. It also has stainless steel handles keep cool and are easy to grab on to when pulling the aluminum pot out of the oven or off of the stove-top.
The Nordic Ware aluminum dutch oven has a capacity of 6.5 quart and was mostly made for sauces, soups, stews and braising. It is made of pressure cast aluminum which allows for outstanding heat conductivity and retention properties. From what I’ve been taught, cast aluminum is considered as a chef’s first choice due to it’s even temperatures and durability. Cast aluminum weighs half of what a cast iron dutch oven usually weighs and its enamel finish provides a nonstick surface, also making it easy to clean.
The Calphalon Contemporary Dutch oven has a capacity of 8 1/2 quart and consists of a heavy-gauge aluminum allowing for even heat distribution and ruggedness which is 100% dishwasher safe. The interior lining is made up of three nonstick layers of coating. It also features brushed stainless steel handles that remain exceptionally cool when placed on a stove-top. It should be noted that although oven save, the handles will will cool down. Calphalon also provides a lifetime warranty on this product.
If you fancy something lighter weight that is easy to move around the kitchen, this 5 1/2-quart pot might just be the one for you. It’s cast aluminium design allows for fast and even heating and it’s non-porous ceramic surface on the interior makes it easy to clean. It also features ergonomic handles that are quite easy to grasp as well as a tempered-glass lid with stainless steel edges, ideal for oven use. Taking on a “French oven styling”, it is an elegant addition to any kitchen.
Cuisinart’s 4-quart GreenGourmet is made up of a hard-anodized aluminum shell with a ceramic nonstick baking surface. It features handles that are made from recycled stainless steel. The main idea behind the GreenGourmet line is that everything from materials used to packaging by ecological. There has certainly been a lot more awareness around the dangers of chemicals and plastics being used in cookware throughout the last few years. The Cuisinart is a great alternative and provides one of the best nonstick surfaces that I have tested to date. It size is also perfect for making artisan bread or for smaller soups and stews.
What to choose?
The vast majority of aluminum dutch ovens provide a nonstick baking surface and usually have similar features. In my opinion, it really boils down to build quality. Cast aluminum being one of the stronger and more durable options, widely used in restaurant kitchens. On the other hand, hard anodized aluminum seems common material found in household kitchens. Since they usually consists of a multi-layer nonstick surface, they are much easier to clean and maintain. Although pricey, for those that are willing to take time in maintaining their cookware, I strongly suggest anything made from cast aluminum as it will end up lasting you a lifetime and will yield better results due to its heating properties in comparison to regular aluminum.