One pot to rule them all.

Micah A. Leal

We all have too many dishes. Sitting on the floor of my previous kitchen, envisioning the trees slaughtered to provide the mounds of packing paper needed to box up all my dishes, I asked myself a radical question: “What do I actually need?” I’m not a father of 12 children, so four large skillets is overkill. And will I ever have five big pots of anything going on my four-burner stove? Then I eyed the tower of mixing bowls—I made a giveaway pile.

But safe in the front of the cabinet, far from any thought of abandonment, sat my bright red Dutch oven. I took a minute to look at it, imagining all my favorite meals cooked and carried inside its enameled cast-iron frame. And it hit me—this is the only pot anyone really needs.

WATCH: Chicken-and-Collards Pilau

In my Dutch oven, I sautée countless vegetables on the stove and sear everything from chicken to beef before taking it directly off the heat and throwing it in the oven to finish cooking. I use it to slow roast an abundance of tomatoes overnight to find them jammy the next day, and like most pots, my Dutch oven hosts gurgling soups and stews (or just boiling water for pasta). Oh—and then there’s bread. The heavy lid traps moisture, creating the perfect environment for a crisp crust and chewy interior for a loaf of sourdough. I let the Dutch oven preheat in my actual oven before throwing the dough into it’s enclosed space, and voilà, the versatile pot becomes a mini bread oven. All that is without mentioning the cobblers and crumbles that emerge from its depths.

So let’s say you’re moving or you just want to downsize (or your pots and pans assault you every time you open the door to the cupboard)—it’s time to declutter and get smart about the kitchen equipment that does the most for you. It’s time to invest in a Dutch oven.