Trust me, it’ll change the way you cook
This post originally appeared in the February 22, 2021 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.
There’s a persistent myth in American life that as you get older, the homes you occupy will get bigger, or at least more comfortable. When my daughter was born this summer, I knew we were on borrowed time in our one-bedroom apartment, and after months of searching we found a place with some major upgrades: two bedrooms and in-unit laundry. But the kitchen and living space are meaningfully smaller than our last apartment, and I’ve had to be smart about the collection of cooking tools I’ve amassed over the years — years I spent thinking that someday soon I’d be in a home with a bigger, better kitchen than any of my apartments ever had.
The problem was my round 5.5-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven: No matter how clever I got, I just couldn’t find space to store it. It was too wide for my cabinets and too heavy for the coat-closet shelves. For the first few months after we moved, it just lived on the floor under the perpetually cluttered desk/table that’s in the living room. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I moved it to the stovetop, where it would at least look nice while also taking up space. I’m not the first person to think of this, of course; scroll through enough kitchen inspo accounts on Instagram or Pinterest and you’ll see plenty of Dutch ovens on stoves as a chic accent piece. What I didn’t know then, but can now tell you definitively, is that keeping a Dutch oven on the stove has changed the way I cook, and changed it for the better.
Now that it’s always on the stove, I use it daily. It’s not just that I’m constantly reminded of its existence, which, of course, I am. The Dutch oven has the added advantage of already being set out, clean and ready to use, which is an enticing prospect compared to rummaging through the lower corner cabinet that holds every other pot I own. It took me years, but finally, I understand what a versatile tool it is, too. It comfortably fits a steamer basket, and I’m in a phase of life where I am steaming a lot of foods to make them soft enough to offer the baby. It’s way more fun to boil water in a gorgeous enameled cast-iron pot than in my Ikea stock pot, so I’ve been cooking a lot of pasta in there. It’s perfect for caramelizing onions and thus a great place to build easy pasta sauces (once you drain the pasta from it), making one-pot meals a breeze. And since it’s so much easier to clean than stainless steel, I’m starting to experiment with using it instead of my skillet for tasks like searing skin-on chicken thighs before roasting them in the oven.
Not only is it lovely to look at, moving one of my fanciest pieces of cookware to a permanent home on the stove has transformed my relationship with it. Before, I only used my Dutch oven when a recipe specifically called for it. And I often felt guilty about letting it sit fallow: It was a wedding gift from my registry, and there’s a particular shittiness to knowing someone you love spent a lot of money on a thing you said you wanted but that you’re not actually using.
But putting something fancy in arm’s reach acclimates you to it; suddenly, it’s not so Important. For me, this shift has been liberating. It’s already there, so I might as well use it to cook some zucchini spears for the baby, you know? So if you’re like me — you’re getting older but your kitchen isn’t getting any better — give this a shot with your fanciest pot. You’ve got nothing to lose but a burner and some hang-ups.