Monday Funday

Dutch Ovens

By • October 29, 2012 • 52 Comments

Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: what class of Dutch oven belongs in a First Kitchen?

Dutch Ovens 1

In this modern, consumer-based world, there are a few items that simply say, “I made it.”

There are, of course, Ferraris, Rolexes. There are Birkin bags and Cartier watches, Prada shoes and Hermès scarves. 

Yeah, these things would be nice. 

But in the world of heat and fire, salt and smoke, the world of cutting boards, sharp knives, tattered cookbooks and ceramic bowls -- to me, the world that really matters -- a Le Creuset Dutch oven is that ultimate “I’ve made it.”

It’s ironic, then, that Dutch ovens -- the perfect vessels for cooking beans, stews, tough cuts of meat, things that are economical, things that last, things that every student should be making every week -- are so damn expensive. Sure, they’re durable; they can handle both the stove and the oven. Sure, they’re large; they can feed 2 for a week.  

But does a Le Creuset belong in a First Kitchen?

Yellow Le Creuset

While there may not be anything as well-respected as a Le Creuset, there are certainly other options. First, Dutch ovens can come in both raw cast iron and enameled cast iron. While I shied away from enameled cast iron in my first post -- the stuff was too expensive for a simple cast iron skillet -- here, enameled may be key. Since the seasoning of a raw cast iron pan can wear away with acidic ingredients, the range of recipes I could cook in it is limited. There goes the sauces, the stews, the juicy tomatoes, the long glugs of wine. For this investment, I want to cook anything I want -- without the fear of my day's worth of work tasting like metal. 

Blue Le Creuset

Le Creuset -- and its $299 price tag -- isn't the only option. Cook's Illustrated has high praises for the Tramontina 6.5 Quart Dutch oven, which is $72. But if I'm going to make an investment, does it make sense to go for the one I'll want, eventually, in my third and fourth and fifth kitchens?

Should I go for the Le Creuset -- even if I haven't "made it?"

Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.

Jump to Comments (52)

Tags: first kitchen, kitchen confidence, dutch oven, dutch ovens, le creuset, tramontina

Comments (52)

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over 1 year ago nivale

Emile Henry. Absolutely no question about it. You can apply direct and indirect heat. I use over Le Creuset everyday.

Dave-dontwannaleave-vt_1

over 1 year ago Davo Shoals

I found an original dutch oven set - 2qt and 8qt(from Holland) at a garage sale for $10! It's the one that's blue with flowers... Like Le Creuset, its enameled. I treasure it. If I ever get rid of it, I'll be at the Le Creuset store the next day. Truly on the short list of absolute musts for every kitchen with a cook.

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over 1 year ago Fozzable

I just got my first Le Creuset dutch oven at the age of 42 and I regret not buying it earlier. If you've got parents who can spring for it as a birthday/holiday gift, I recommend it. If you're on your own, haunt garage sales, ask friends, and look around. they're worth it. they can do anything and you will, like good furniture, have them forever. They will last longer than the latest electronic gizmo, to be sure. I got mine at the Le Creuset outlet for less than $200 after the sale.

that said, I remember being a poor college student, and I lived for many years blissfully ignorant and (mostly) successful in a basic stainless steel dutch oven which doubled as a stock pot.

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almost 2 years ago SBMCW

One can assume that for a first kitchen owner you will have (college?) friends that will be getting married. If they are good friends then you will want to get something special and long lasting perhaps even having a heirloom quality for their nuptial gift. As has been noted, Le Creuset Dutch ovens can be a bit pricey. This is how I handled this conundrum. Buy a Le Creuset set of some number of pieces and determine which pieces would make a good wedding gift(s) or as a quality house warming gift for a good friend in their first new home. Use the single item retail cost to set the value of the gift. What is left over after you break up the set you keep for your first kitchen use at a price that would be well below even the sale price. Very often Le Creuset sets are on sale via the internet (for God’s sake wait for free shipping). A side benefit would be any visit to said friends would include a meal cooked in the Le Cresuet pot hopefully. (read that as not burnt). At the end of the day what friend would ever complain about receiving a Le Creuset Dutch oven.

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almost 2 years ago maria s.

@Lukshen. Martha Stewart had a big recall on those pots. (I found this out at a Le Creuset outlet of all places.) If you bring it to Macy's they will give you your money back. As to the safety factor? I really don't know. As to the question of investing in a dutch oven. You will use it for years. I've had some of mine for 20+.

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almost 2 years ago Lukshen

I have a question. I bought a Martha Stewart dutch oven at Macy's and normally use it for baking bread. There is a 1" diameter chip in the enamel. Is it now unsafe to use for soups and stews?

Button-butteryumcopy

almost 2 years ago ButterYum

Since the base is cast iron, you should be fine. Wash and dry it immediately after use, and coat the chip with a little oil to keep it from rusting.

Moi_1

almost 2 years ago QueenSashy

Since I "made it", I have been cooking with Le Creuset and Mauviel. Before I "made it", I cooked with Lodge and $10 IKEA stainless steel. And as much as I love my red Le Creuset and my Mauviel, they did not make me a better cook. But they do make me happy. And that was worth the investment.

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almost 2 years ago Davis Bliss

As much as I would LOVE a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, it's a little rich for my budget right now. That being said, two of the first pieces I purchased for my kitchen were the Lodge cast iron 5qt Dutch Oven & 12'' Cast Iron Skillet and I am very happy with them. I have
used the dutch oven to make many soups & stocks, braise meats, bake steel cut oats just
to mention a few ways I've put it to good use. It cleans up easily, and if anything should
mar the seasoning, it's easy to re-season with vegetable oil & kosher salt. I have not
found that anything I've cooked in either to have tasted metallic, and I've even made risotto in the 12'' skillet. There is also something so BASIC & kind of earthy about cast iron that really appeals to me!

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almost 2 years ago Davis Bliss

As much as I would LOVE a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, it's a little rich for my budget right now. That being said, two of the first pieces I purchased for my kitchen were the Lodge cast iron 5qt Dutch Oven & 12'' Cast Iron Skillet and I am very happy with them. I have
used the dutch oven to make many soups & stocks, braise meats, bake steel cut oats just
to mention a few ways I've put it to good use. It cleans up easily, and if anything should
mar the seasoning, it's easy to re-season with vegetable oil & kosher salt. I have not found that anyth

Open-uri20130723-4684-1ka4o81

almost 2 years ago Davis Bliss

As much as I would LOVE a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, it's a little rich for my budget right now. That being said, two of the first pieces I purchased for my kitchen were the Lodge cast iron 5qt Dutch Oven & 12'' Cast Iron Skillet and I am very happy with them. I have used the dutch oven to make many soups, braise meats, bake steel cut oats just to mention a few ways I've put it to good use. It cleans up easily, and if anything shouls mar the seasoning, it's easy to re-season with vegetable oil & kosher salt. I have not found that anyth

Stringio

almost 2 years ago benwolkweiss

My wife got a present of a Cuisinart bright red dutch oven from my mom and its great. It was much less than a Le Creuset and when I compared it to my mom's Le Creuset, I didn't find any real difference. They were about the same weight, the Cuisinart might have even been a bit heavier. I suggest checking out a Home Goods store or TJ Maxx as they usually have really great deals on expensive kitchen items like this.

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almost 2 years ago Adam E

For me, the pleasure of cooking is as much visual as tactile, gustatory, etc. I honestly feel happy every time I see my beautiful blue Le Creuset gratin dish (a Christmas present from my mom), and there is nothing like the admiration of dinner guests when I bring it to the table bubbling with something delicious.

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almost 2 years ago Gretchen @ Backyardnotes

My vote is for a Staub. I bought one for my daughter a few years ago and she is thrilled with it. I bought a Lodge enameled Dutch oven eight years ago and the enamel began chipping off about two years ago so now it is used exclusively to bake bread. I plan on buying a Staub. If it were still available, I would also suggest a Dutch oven (with a lid that doubles as a saute pan) made by Calphalon about 25 years ago. It is still an excellent piece of kitchen equipment and well seasoned.

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almost 2 years ago kjrnyc13

If you can spend the money go with Le Creuset (but be prepared for the interior to discolor in a short amount of time). My mom has one and I've used it and it works wondefully.
However since I can't afford a Le Creuset, lol, I ended up getting two dutch ovens from World Market (a 5qt and a 6qt). For the price it was too good a deal to pass up (with coupons and one of their other sales I got both for around 25-30 bucks each). They look like Le Creuset knock-offs and they actually cook pretty damn well (I saw a slight difference between my mother's and my world market knock-offs; not enough of a difference to run out and by a Le Creuset).
When I have the budget to splurge on a Le Creuset I might but, if my "cheapy" dutch ovens continue to work as good as they have, and aren't damaged in anyway, then I may use that extra dough for some other cooking equipment. :)

Zora_margolis

almost 2 years ago zindc

Get a Le Creuset or Staub--get one on sale at an Le Creuset or Williams Sonoma Outlet store. I've been using my Le Creuset 8 qt. for 35 years, so be sure to get a color you like. The Staub is nice because the inside is black and doesn't discolor like the white interior of the Le Creuset.

Button-butteryumcopy

almost 2 years ago ButterYum

Do you find the dark interior difficult to discern the degree of fond caramelization?

Zora_margolis

almost 2 years ago zindc

No differently than in a black cast iron fry pan.

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almost 2 years ago jolene278

I have an Tramontina that I love. For me, Le Creuset seems more like a status symbol, but other people might say differently. :)

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almost 2 years ago beyondcelery

I'm in my second kitchen: the kitchen that's done with roommates and shared with my husband of 2 1/2 years. I finally purchased my first Dutch oven, an enameled Lodge, a few months ago. I love it and use it all the time. But I'm also glad I waited till now to buy one. I lost a lot of good kitchen items to clumsy roommates and people who didn't understand that different tools sometimes need to be cared for differently. My beautiful Le Creuset enameled small cast iron skillet spent those years hidden in my closet, unused, because every time I took it out, someone would carry it to the dishwasher (!). I'd say wait to buy a good Dutch oven and instead look for one you don't have to worry too much about. Keep it easily replaceable and you won't alienate friends when you rush at them waving your hands in a panic as they do ignorant things with a kitchen tool you really care about. Because what's the point of a Dutch oven if your friends are afraid to come over and eat with you?

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almost 2 years ago jojobeans

I had a similar experience and asked around to many people who loved cooking to see what they had to say. I didn't want to shell out for a Le Creuset... was lucky enough to find a Kirkland Signature (Costco brand) dutch oven for $20 on sale, regular price is $60. I don't think my food would come out any different and the cooking experience is just as pleasant!

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almost 2 years ago spiffypaws

A good quality pressure cooker will braise in less time w/ the same result. I have a Le Creuset and a Cousances (the latter was purchased at a thrift shop for $10!!!) so I have actually tested this. I've yet to see enameled cast iron in any high end professional kitchen that I've worked in or visited, yet they manage to produce excellent food.

Button-butteryumcopy

almost 2 years ago ButterYum

I have Le Creuset and Mario Batali - the Batali is just as good at a fraction of the cost.

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almost 2 years ago Starryartist

i have booth too and they both cook great