How we test casserole dishes

Our test includes an assessment of performance and ease of use.

20apr how we test casserole dishes hero

It’s never a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” in our test kitchen, where we boil, bake and fry to see which dishes go the distance.

How we choose what to test

We aim to test brands and models you’re likely to see when you head to the shops, plus some you might not be aware of. That’s why we’ve focused on medium-sized, enamelled cast-iron casserole dishes as they’re arguably the most versatile and popular type in the “Dutch oven” category of cookware.

Before we buy anything, we do our research – we visit stores, (both online and physical), we talk to experts and consumers and we ask manufacturers about their range of models. We want to capture new developments in the market and make sure the products we test will be available after we publish our results. We then compile a list of models and head out to purchase them, just as any consumer would.

How we test

We time how quickly a litre of water takes to boil. This does not contribute to the overall score.

We then check the dish’s “performance” with three tests (turn down, browning and baking, which are all weighted evenly). We also consider how easy each dish is to use (and clean).

Our overall score comprises:

  • performance (40%)
  • ease of use (60%)

Performance

  • Brown rice: We cook brown rice to see how well the dish handles a change from high heat to low simmer. We assess how well the rice was cooked, whether any rice stuck to the pan and if steam escaped.

  • Bolognaise sauce: We assess evenness of heating and browning and whether food sticks to the pot.

  • Baking bread: We review how well the dish can prove and bake bread. At the proving stage we check the dough’s height increase. After baking, we consider colour as well as crust and crumb texture.

Ease of use

Cast-iron dishes can be heavy, so we see how easy they are to lift and carry. They’re also not cheap, so we consider durability. In particular, we assess:

  • the handles to make sure they’re securely fastened, to check if there are sharp edges that might be uncomfortable to grip, to see whether there’s a decent gap between the handles and the lid, and to test if they’re easy to grip and carry with oven mitts
  • everyday wear and tear to see how durable the enamel coating is, especially if the lid has a set position and raised edges, which could chip the rim over time
  • if food gets stuck in crevices or on rough surfaces and how easy it is to remove, and if the dish fits easily in an average kitchen sink.

Ready to buy?

Find out how to choose the right dish with our buying guide or see our test results to see which we recommend.

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