Many of us own a Dutch oven, or think we do – what the heck is a French oven?
Let’s find out.
Dutch ovens have been around since the 1700s. They’re heavy cast iron (or aluminum) pots used for slow cooking, with thick walls that allow heat to permeate the food from all sides, which is why they’re considered ovens.
Because Dutch ovens were initially designed to cook over a fire, they used to have legs and a larger handle; modern versions have small handles on each side, and no legs.
Cast iron pots typically need to be seasoned and treated with oil before use; over time, the pot becomes nonstick.
And here is the big difference: French ovens have an enamel coating that makes the pot nonstick off the bat, and does not require the seasoning and oiling.
French companies who created these Dutch ovens with enameled coating called them “French ovens,” to distinguish between the two types of cookware. However, at least with Le Creuset, at some point they switched back to the term “Dutch oven” to simply avoid confusion.
For this reason, the term “French oven” is seldom used. In fact, some of us may own French ovens thinking they’re Dutch ovens. (Which, well, they are. A French oven is a type of Dutch oven.)
I always love it when I come across folks doing their own experiments with cooking, especially when researching my Difference Betweens, and I was able to find someone (from Salem, Massachusetts, no less, where I recently enjoyed Halloween festivities) who performed just such an experiment with her Dutch oven and French oven.