French Oven vs. Dutch Oven: What’s the Difference?

Sirwan Ajman
Sirwan Ajman

Sirwan Ajman

Sirwan writes cooking guides and product reviews for The Skillful Cook. In his writing, he draws from his experience running a health-conscious café.

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French Oven vs Dutch Oven

If you’re ever confused with different types of cookware out there, you’re not alone. Just take a look at a random cookware company’s webpage, and you’ll be confused with different terms for cookware and materials they’re made from.

One of these confusing duos is the French oven vs. the Dutch oven. Are they different? Or, are these names just cultural terms or marketing tricks?

What’s a Dutch Oven?

The Dutch oven was likely invented in the 18th century, but the origin of the name is not settled. One theory is that the Dutch learned how to pour melted metals into molds to make sturdy cooking vessels. Another is that Dutch traders, prolific at the time, spread the pots around the world.

Whatever its origin, a Dutch oven is a pot with a tight-fitting lid that makes it a great choice for low-and-slow cooking. It’s a versatile pot that you can use for just about any cooking method, from braising and baking to boiling and simmering. 

The traditional Dutch oven is made of raw cast iron, but modern ones are available in other materials, such as stainless steel, nonstick, and ceramic. 

Cast iron Dutch ovens are heavy and compatible with every stovetop. Plus, they are long-lasting, with the ability to become an heirloom and last for generations. 

What’s a French Oven?

So, if a Dutch oven was made by the Dutch and came from the Netherlands, does the French oven originate in France? Well, not necessarily! 

A French oven is basically a Dutch oven with enamel coating. French oven history isn’t as old as the Dutch oven’s, since it was first introduced in 1925 by Le Creuset

Dutch oven introduced in 1925 by Le Creuset

The innovative company decided to take the traditional cast iron Dutch oven and give it a makeover. Using vibrant colors, Le Creuset gave Dutch ovens a new look that home chefs could proudly display in their kitchens. 

They decided to call it the French oven to distinguish it from the traditional Dutch oven. But the name didn’t catch on; many people call it the enameled cast iron Dutch oven today. 

Now, Le Creuset isn’t the only company that makes French ovens. Many other companies, including Staub, also make French ovens that are not as expensive as Le Creuset

French Oven vs. Dutch Oven

So, we could say that French and Dutch ovens are the same, but made of different coating materials. These coating materials give them unique features, making them better options for different cooking scenarios. 

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both. 

French Oven Pros

  • Nonstick. One benefit of enameled cast iron is its semi-nonstick feature. Although enamel doesn’t make it truly nonstick, it can give you an easy release with a bit of oil. Plus, it doesn’t require seasoning
  • Safe. Enamel is a coating that stands between your food and raw cast iron. It’s nonreactive and great for simmering acidic foods. 
  • Easy to clean. The semi-nonstick coating means you don’t need much elbow grease to clean it. You can scrub stains away using a soft sponge. 
  • Beautiful appearance. Most French ovens have vibrant colors that make them visually appealing. This means you can show them off on your countertop instead of tucking them away in the cabinet. 

French Oven Cons

  • High maintenance. Although the enamel coating makes French ovens easy to clean, they need special care. For example, you shouldn’t use metal utensils and need to dry them immediately after washing them. 
  • Can develop stains. The enamel coating is virtually nonstick. But it can develop stuck-on stains that may be difficult to clean. Steel wool will scratch the enamel instantly. 
  • Not dishwasher safe. French ovens have a hard enamel coating. But strong dishwashing detergents can be harsh on it. So, it’s better to hand-wash them. 
Staub French oven

Features the same excellent cooking characteristics as the Cocotte. This French oven retains heat beautifully, so your food stays hot. Perfect for dishes that need frequent stirring, its shape lets you reach every corner easily.


Check Today's Price Staub Dutch Oven Review

Dutch Oven Pros

  • Various materials. Dutch ovens can be made of different materials, including raw cast iron, stainless steel, and nonstick aluminum. Each material gives the Dutch oven different qualities, but the most common material is cast iron. 
  • Less expensive. Regardless of the material, Dutch ovens generally cost less than French ovens, which have a costly manufacturing process. Of course, prices vary across brands. 
  • Versatile. If your Dutch oven is made of cast iron, there’s nothing you can’t cook in it. Unlike a French oven, it’s perfect for high-heat cooking. 

Dutch Oven Cons

  • Need Seasoning. A cast iron Dutch oven isn’t truly nonstick. It requires several layers of seasoning.  
  • Can be reactive. Raw cast iron reacts to acidic foods, especially if simmered for a long time. While it may not be a major health concern, the leached iron can give your food a metallic flavor. 
  • Is prone to rusting. Raw cast iron can rust quickly if not well-seasoned. So, you should avoid soaking it in water and dry it after each use. French ovens don’t have this problem thanks to the enamel coating. 
Great Budget Choice (80/100)
Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

The “Essential Enamel” Lodge Dutch oven is affordable and a great introduction to cooking in enameled cast iron. It releases more steam when cooking and takes a bit longer to heat up, but it retains heat almost as well as higher-end models.

Check Today's Price Full Review

Conclusion

Dutch ovens and French ovens are very similar. Both are large and deep pots made of cast iron. The only difference is that Dutch ovens come in raw cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic, or nonstick materials. But French ovens are just cast iron vessels with enameled exteriors and interiors. 

Do you have a French oven? Is it different from a regular Dutch oven regarding versatility and maintenance? Please share your thoughts below. 

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Sirwan Ajman
About The Author
Sirwan is a food writer and a proud owner of a health-conscious café. He enjoys experimenting with new flavors. Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines hold a special place in his heart.

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