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