Dutch Oven vs Roasting Pan: Which One Do You REALLY Need?

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Being an amazing chef is all well and good, but if you don’t have the right kitchen utensils, you’re not going to get very far!

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That being said, you don’t need a fully equipped kitchen to cook good meals. Choosing to buy the right multi-functional cookware to suit your needs will not only allow you to cook amazing meals, but will keep your kitchen decluttered and your pockets less stressed!

Often there is confusion about which products should be used for what purpose. A lot of the time there is no need to over-complicate things by purchasing all the different tools available.

Here is a quick and easy guide to explain the difference between a dutch oven and a roasting pan, with some guidance to help you choose which will suit your needs more!

brown wooden spoon on brown wooden spoon

What is a Dutch Oven?

A Dutch oven (also known as a French oven, or cocette) is an enameled cast iron pot. It has thick tall walls which is excellent for browning and caramelization of foods. The lid is great for retaining the heat inside the pot and keeping food moist.

The cast iron makes it slow to heat up but has excellent heat retention. This, paired with the tight-fitting lid, creates an ideal temperature inside the oven, cooking your meal evenly throughout.

The lid prevents any liquid vapors from escaping and returns it to the dish, preventing the food from drying out.

The enamel coating on the cast iron allows for very easy cleaning. You can easily remove baked-on foods with a little hot water or if left to soak.

A dutch oven does not impart any flavors on the food, nor does it retain odors. The porcelain enamel coating does not stain, even after cooking tomato based dishes.

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Round Dutch Oven, 5.5 qt., Cerise
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List of Features of a Dutch Oven

  • Thick enameled cast iron walls
  • Tight fitting lid
  • Large looping handles
  • Easy to clean
  • Dishwasher safe
two dutch ovens on kitchen island

Ideal Ways to use a Dutch Oven

A Dutch oven is a very versatile cooking tool and can be used on a hob, stove, oven or induction.

Dutch ovens can be used in a variety of different ways. They are an excellent way to roast meat and vegetables and fantastic for one-pot cooking.

I really love one-pot cooking because it’s an easy way of marrying the flavors from all the foods together to create a totally delicious dish.

Cast iron dutch ovens are perfect for slow roasting too. They lock in moisture to prevent your dish from drying out to create juicy roast meats and vegetables.

What is a Dutch Oven Used For?

  • Roasting meats
  • Cooking briskets
  • One-pot meals
  • Braising
  • Simmering food on the stovetop
  • Slow cooking
  • Baking breads

What is a roasting pan?

This is a more common cookware tool. A roasting pan is usually a tray with a rack inside. The rack prevents the meat from touching the bottom of the tray. Essentially, it is a casserole dish with a tray or rack inside.

The tray is usually made from aluminium or stainless steel and is commonly coated in non-stick.

The rack prevents the food from touching the bottom of the pan and allows the juices to drip down. This can then be used to make a delicious gravy!

The rack also allows the heat to be evenly distributed to the exterior of the meat so it is cooked equally throughout.

Cuisinart 7117-16UR Chef's Classic 16-Inch Rectangular Roaster with Rack, Stainless Steel
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List of Features of a Roasting Pan

  • Stainless steel or aluminium tray
  • Looping handles
  • Metal rack, usually coated in non-stick
  • Tray for collecting meat drippings
Turkey Dinner in roasting pan

Best Uses of a Roasting Pan

Roasting pans really are ideal for, well, roasting. The raised tray allows the exterior of the food to be cooked evenly. This allows the drippings to collect underneath the food too.

I love to chop some onions and leave them under the tray so the onion flavor infuses with the drippings from the meat. This creates a truly delicious gravy sauce.

It’s important to note that the roasting pan cannot be used on the stovetop the way a dutch oven can.

If you prefer roasting your meat out of its juices, then a roasting pan may be the better option for you.

What is a roasting pan used for?

  • Roasting meals
  • One-sheet meals
sliced tomatoes and onions

Dutch Oven vs Roasting Pan: What can they be used for?

Size

A dutch oven can come in a vast range of sizes, from 2 qt. to 12 qt. The size you will choose is largely dependent on the size of your family.

It is recommended that a typical family of four can easily use a 5 to 7-quart dutch oven.

The roasting pan size you choose will also depend on the size of your family. Roasting pans usually come in small, medium, or large sizes.

Larger ones are definitely handy to have if you’re planning on cooking one sheet meals as the greater surface area will be useful for roasting veggies. Excellent for meal prepping!

Weight

The cast-iron dutch oven is usually much heavier than a roasting pan. Dutch ovens can weigh upwards of 11 lbs. This is before any food has been added, meaning its filled weight could be up to 20 lbs!

A roasting pan made from aluminum or stainless steel will be quite lightweight. Even when filled with food, roasting pans are easy to lift.

Then again, if you’re choosing a roasting pan made of glassware or cast iron this will weigh a bit more.

Shape

Dutch ovens come in a variety of different shapes, but the most common are round or oval-shaped. It’s best to decide on which shape to get depending on what purpose you’ll use the dutch oven for.

The round dutch oven has a great surface area and is useful for all purposes. The round-shaped dutch oven is excellent for soups, stews, and casseroles. The oval-shaped dutch oven is more useful if you cook a lot of whole birds.

Roasting pans are usually rectangular but can come in an oval shape too. Similarly to the dutch oven, choose the shape depending on what kind of food you make most.

Material

Dutch ovens are made from durable cast iron and coated in porcelain enamel. They have a thick wall with a tightly-fitted lid. The strong handles are durable and made of a non-conductive material.

The roasting pan is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. That being said, they can also be made from copper, cast iron, glassware, etc. They usually come with a non-stick layer.

Purpose

The uses of a dutch oven far outweigh the uses of a roasting pan. As previously listed, dutch ovens can be used for roasting meats, cooking briskets or stews, one-pot meals, braising, simmering on the stovetop, and baking bread. The dutch oven really is an all-rounded cookware.

Contrarily, the roasting pan can only really be used for roasting or one-sheet meals. It can also be used to make lasagna or a pot-pie, as the top of the food can be browned when in the oven. If your main purpose is roasting food, then the roasting pan is the product for you.

Cost

The cost of a dutch oven can vary hugely. This is definitely an investment and has a really long lifetime if looked after correctly.

The top of the range in dutch ovens is the Le Creuset Signature model, but if you’re looking for a more affordable version, the Cuisinart dutch oven is also an excellent option.

If you’re trying to decide which dutch oven is the best one for your family, I’m here to help!

roasting pan with lid

FAQs

Can a roasting pan be used as a dutch oven?

A roasting pan can double as a dutch oven for roasting meats and vegetables, or cooking lasagna or a pot pie as this will allow the top to brown in the oven.
Dutch ovens are great because they have a high moisture retention capability, which cannot be achieved by a roasting pan as it doesn’t have a lid.
Dutch ovens are usually used for slow-cooking dishes like soups and stews which can’t be made in a roasting pan.
As I have noted, a roasting pan cannot be used on a stovetop either.

Can a dutch oven be used as a roasting pan?

If you place a small rack into the dutch oven, and by leaving the lid off when putting it into the oven, your dutch oven will be able to double as a roasting pan.
It may not be as ideal to use a dutch oven to make a lasagna or pot pie but it could also be done.

Is a dutch over the same as a french oven?

Essentially, they are the same thing with a few small differences. I’ve written another blog post highlighting the differences between dutch ovens and cocettes, so check it out!

le creuset dutch oven set

The Verdict: Dutch Oven vs Roasting Pan

In the dutch oven vs roasting pan battle is difficult to compare the two products as there is a wide variety in their functionality.

If you want a cookware utensil that is multi-functional, then the dutch oven is your best bet. That being said, it will definitely cost you more than a roasting pan.

If your main purpose is roasting then the roasting pan will be ideal. As the more affordable option, your wallet will be happy too!

Both utensils are a really useful was of creating fabulous dishes but if you’re wanting to upskill your cooking, the dutch oven is the perfect stepping stone to do this.

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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