Useful Kitchen Gear: The Dutch or French Oven
21 Sep 2014

Useful Kitchen Gear: The Dutch or French Oven

21 Sep 2014

For a long time when I was cooking, I keep coming across recipes that call for the use of a Dutch Oven.  Not knowing any better, I thought using any other pot will get the job done equally well.  While I was not wrong about other pots being able to get the job done, boy was I wrong about them doing equally well.

Dutch ovens are great for one-pot meals, with good heat distribution to ensure our food cooks evenly, and good heat retention to ensure our food stays warm long after it is removed from heat.  From my personal experience making rice dishes like jambalaya and nasi Arab is way better using the oven, as the amount of crust at the bottom of the pot is very minimal compared to using a normal pot or even a rice cooker.  I dare say a Dutch oven is comparable of a periuk tembaga my home state of Terengganu is quite famous for.  Wonder how rendang would turn out in a Dutch oven. Lol.

Now I’m totally not an expert in this, but from what I read, a French oven or a cocotte is everything a Dutch oven is, but because it has an enamel finish, it does not require any “seasoning” or maintenance like Dutch ovens do.  Being the lazy bum that I am, yes if I were to ever acquire a “Dutch oven,” it’d definitely be a cocotte, and this will be the item I will be talking about from this point onward.

The thing about Dutch or French ovens, they’re not exactly cheap.  A 26 cm (5.6-litre) round La Creuset cocotte would easily cost over RM 2000, and that’s only considered a medium sized one, if I’m not mistaken.  I either had to wait for a massive sale to happen, which I just didn’t have the time nor the patience to stake out for, or just pay whatever price tag whenever I found the time to go to the store and get one.  (Note: At the point of writing this I discovered that Robinson’s @ The Gardens has a huge selection of La Creuset French ovens, and sales may give discounts up to 70% off, so yeah, I did ‘Like’ their Facebook page for my future reference/indulgence.)

Then, during my short stint with McKinsey in mid 2013, my friend/McK team mate Cornelius, who lives in Sydney, offered to pick one up for me from Peters of Kensington, an Australian online store with really, really good prices.  He was also the one who taught me more about Dutch/French ovens, and recommended that I buy one by Staub.  Staub is known for their signature self-basting spikes; tiny bumps on the inside of the lid which continuously bastes our food while it cooks.  And – get this – their matte black version (which I would of course find super gorgeous and sleek) costs more than their coloured enamel versions.  Those bastards.

Anyway, Corn gave me more awesome tips when selecting the right cocotte:

  1. If you were going to buy just one, get the oval one, because the shape would better fit a whole chicken or beef roast.  You will also be able to fit a longer oval one in your oven, since it can be placed diagonally.
  2. That being said, measure your oven to make sure it is big enough to fit your cocotte.  Some recipes will call for it to be placed not only on the stove, but also in the oven.
  3. Make sure to also test your fridge to see if the shelves can fit and support the weight of your cocotte.  It would be useful to be able to take it from the oven to the table to the fridge and back into the oven!

All things considered, I finally decided on the 33 cm/6.7-litre, black oval cocottewhich costed “only” AUD 340 (~RM 1000).  Yes it is a lot of money to put into – I’ll say it – a darn pot, but I knew I was going to be quite a serious cook and this thing will probably last me a lifetime, so for that price I think it is a very good deal.

Apparently my Staub went through quite an interesting journey before finally arriving at my doorstep.  At the time, Corn had projects spanning all across Southeast Asia, from Manila to Jakarta to Hanoi.  And he is Singaporean so he stopped by Singapore quite often throughout this time.  After picking up the Staub from the store – mind you this was after our TNB engagement ended and Corn no longer had work in KL – he had no idea how his schedule would look like before he would have time to stop by KL.  So the poor guy lugged that 8 kg hunk of cast iron all across Southeast Asia, and in Manila he once actually had to bribe the airport security to let him carry it on board, because they were afraid that the lid might be used “as a weapon” (I was like, WTF.  “When Captain America throws his mighty shieeeeld…”)

But finally it arrived, and it is an absolute beauty.  Quite a few recipes featured in my blog were made in this…so worth it.

2013-11-05 08.15.23

Thanks Corn, you’re the best! Luv yah!

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