At Borough Kitchen, we test *a lot* of products before selecting what goes on our shelves. Then, we categorise them in two categories: best of the best and best of value. Here, we've detailed what makes a superior cast iron cocotte, and the differences between Staub (best of the best) and Invicta (best of value).
First things first: what is a cocotte? Also known as a Dutch oven or casserole, a cocotte is a pot with a lid, designed for slow cooking food on the hob or in the oven. It is ideal for making stews, biriyanis, pasta sauces, anything you want to cook in a pot and move freely from hob to oven to table.
What makes a cast iron cocotte, like a Staub or an Invicta, stand out is its ability to take on super high temperatures, which results in something called the Maillard reaction—the fancy, scientific way of saying 'gorgeous browning'. Cast iron also retains that heat very well, so your food cooks evenly and thoroughly, making it perfect for roasting meat and baking crusty loaves of bread. Best of all, cast iron is notoriously durable, made to outlast decades of heavy use.
Staub and Invicta cocottes are made in France from high-quality cast iron, and more things they have in common include:
User-Friendly Enamel Coating
Cast iron, in its raw form, is prone to rust. That's why you should not use washing-up liquid to clean it, and it's best to avoid cooking tomatoes and other acidic foods until the pot has developed a strong a layer of seasoning (or 'patina') that forms a natural barrier between your food and the cast iron. This takes time, use, and some effort.
In Staub and Invicta cocottes, enamel acts as that barrier between the cast iron and your food, so there's no need to cultivate that layer of seasoning. You can use washing-up liquid to scrub these cocottes clean and cook tomato soup or any type of fruit compote in them without any anxiety. In other words, Staub and Invicta cocottes let you reap the benefits of cast iron—like the ability to get extremely hot, retain that heat beautifully, and keep your food warm, long after you bring it to the table—but say adieu to the fuss.
Black Enamel > White Enamel
You'll come across cast iron cocottes with an inner lining of either white enamel or black enamel, and we are firmly on team black enamel. A slightly porous texture makes black enamel much, much easier to clean up. Black enamel is also better at holding higher temperatures, which means your food browns *and* retains heat better—and that's really the point of cast iron! Lastly, you cannot see stains on black enamel, making your pots look good as new even when they are not.
Staub and Invicta cocottes have a secret weapon: their lids. Look under them and you’ll see little bumps that work to trap steam and create a little rainstorm inside the pot. This is a self-basting mechanism that lets your food retain moisture and maximises flavour.
Staub and Invicta cocottes are lifetime products (with 30-year warranties to match), guaranteed to withstand decades of use and play a leading role in your family recipes.
Best of the Best: Staub
If you're looking for the absolute best cast iron cocotte in the world, go for a Staub. A favourite of chefs and home cooks around the world, Staub cocottes come in a wide range of colours and shapes—and while we don’t like to harp on about aesthetics, there’s no denying they are gorgeous, even (especially) in simple, brass-topped matt black.
1. Highest-Quality Enamel
Staub cocottes have three layers of top-quality enamel, which is sprayed on rather than painted; this makes the enamel bond to the cast iron so it's, well, ironclad. The three coats also make a Staub exceptionally durable, able to be passed down generations.
2. Thicker Cast Iron
Staub cocottes contain more cast iron than Invicta cocottes. Because they have more mass for heat to pass through, these pots get hotter. In cook speak, that translates to better browning, faster reducing, and a more constant temperature when frying.
3. Better Basting
Both Staub and Invicta cocottes have bumps under their lids that allow for self-basting, but the bumps under the Staub lid are more pronounced. This means food cooked in a Staub retains maximum moisture, thanks to that flavour rainfall.
4. Slightly More Durable
All of the above makes Staub cocottes slightly more durable than an Invicta. They'll both last decades, but Staub cocottes have a track record of being passed down generations—just ask anyone you know from France. There's something undeniably special about a Staub you've used to cook hundreds of meals—that’s why Copywriter Nikkitha lugged hers along in a carry-on when she moved to London!
Best of Value: Invicta
There’s no going wrong with this simple and classic cocotte, which gets the job done and does it well. One inner layer of enamel makes an Invicta cocotte lighter than a Staub—which is great if you're looking for a less weighty pan—but not as good at distributing or retaining heat, or lasting quite as long. (Decades, still, but not *as* long as a Staub.) Less cast iron and smaller bumps in the lid mean its performance is not as stellar as a Staub’s, but it's still excellent. We carry Invicta cocottes in a limited range (one colour, three sizes).
Simply put: It’s the best cocotte you can find at such an approachable price point.
A Highly Opinionated Size Guide
Our favourite size is a 28cm round cocotte, which makes about eight servings of food with the added value of being able to fit a whole chicken, a large loaf of sourdough, and a dinner party's worth of biriyani. This size is available in both Staub and Invicta.
A 24cm round cocotte is the smallest we’d recommend. It makes enough food to serve four and bakes a small loaf of bread. If you live alone or in a small household, it's a great option, but do consider something larger—just in case your household expands, you have friends over for dinner, or want to make enough Bolognese to keep leftovers in your freezer that will see you through times when your fridge is empty. This size is available in both Staub and Invicta.
Other Sizes to Consider
- 20cm = Great for individual or two-person portions of moules-frites, fondues, and rice. Available in Staub only.
- 22cm = A bit larger than the 20cm with similar functions. Available in Invicta and Staub.
- 24cm = See above.
- 26cm = Makes about 6 servings, but you may as well size up just in case you need to! Available in Staub.
- 28cm = See above.
- 30cm and 34cm = Makes 10 and 12 servings, respectively. Great for big households and bon vivants! Available in Staub only.
Staub also has oval cocottes, which we love for roasting legs of lamb, making long loaves of bread, and anything a round cocotte can do, but oval-er!
Shop all cocottes, Dutch ovens and casseroles here.