I have three dutch ovens that I use frequently. I purchased a large one at Costco (Kirkland) about a year ago and it is working great.
Personally, I don't think Le Creuset is worth the $$. Luckily, Lodge also has a line of enameled cast iron dutch ovens,. The 7.5 qt costs about $65 which is such a bargain compared to the $290 Le Creuset 7.5 qt. And Lodge is a highly regarded manufacturer who has been making cast iron products since 1896.
As an added endorsement for Halfpint's Lodge Dutch Oven, I found one at Bass Pro Shops of all unlikely places.I have used it weekly for several years to make soups , bake no-knead bread, and many other stews . Bass Pro Shops homeware shop carries several sizes of enameled cookware from Lodge.
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
Staub is another good French brand. But I've become a convert to Emile-Henry "Flame". This is earthenware but it can still be used on the stove top or in the oven. Once you've cooked with earthenware you will never want to go back to enameled cast iron. Not only does it breathe but it seasons over time.
The Martha Stewart line of enameled cast iron at Macy's are decent products. You might want to look into it.
I've had my Lodge dutch oven for awhile now and it has been amazing. To me, there are reasons to upgrade (one day I will own a Staub... swoon...) for the following reasons:
Lid and Pot are machined vs. just cast, meaning a better seal between the two. Right now my Lodge rocks slightly, but hasn't had a major negative impact on my cooking.
The enamel coating, while no chips or anything, is noticeably uneven. Again, I don't see this as a huge issue, just a slightly non-uniform cooking surface.
Another reason to NOT get Le Creuset is that usually their handle/knob thingy for the lib=d are plastic and not completely oven safe. It's even more $$ for a metal lid handle/knob, which you need if you want the stove top to oven versatility! If you're going to spend the money, Staub is the way to go!
As an FYI Le Creuset has just upgraded their line with knobs that are oven safe to 500F. Of course they introduce new colors every season ...
I'm curious about this question too! I've always wanted one to cook chicken with lemon and olives. But would that cut through the seasoning on the Lodge (we are talking about un-enamelled for Lodge, right?--have never seen Lodge in an enameled version).
It could, but it takes time, so you can cook acidic food in your cast iron, but don't use the cast iron pan to store acidic foods. Just wash your pan, dry it immediately with a towel, and apply a very thin coat of grease (shortening, oil, etc). If the worse happens and the seasoning is gone, just re-season your pan. That's the beauty of cast iron.
Creamtea -- Lodge Website (and an Amazon search) shows a line of enameled cast iron cookware. <a href="http://www.lodgemfg.com/enamel_dutch_oven.asp" target="_blank">http://www.lodgemfg.com/enamel_dutch_oven.asp</a>
I second the Lodge recommendation. I dream of owning a Staub one day, but as a southern girl, I'm a huge fan of Lodge products--reasonably priced and reliable. It's not quite a Dutch oven, but I have a combo cooker (bottom is like a Dutch oven, the lid can serve as a frying pan) that I use all the time--for everything from baking sourdough bread to making ratatouille.
I agree with those who recommend Lodge. I love their cast iron products and use them regularly in my kitchen as well as camping. The Dutch oven is totally reliable and food cooks consistently.
I have both a Le Creuset and Lodge and find the Le Creuset easier to clean. I have not cooked in the pot at 500 degrees but have also not had an issue with the handle.
I agree with pianogirl that Le Creuset is easier to clean than Lodge, and problem with the knobs in the oven. I've also had the Martha Stewart dutch oven--it was fine, but seemed heavier. I love my great aunt's old cast iron skillet, but use the Le Cresuset dutch ovens constantly. Also have the brasier which is a great size. Watch for sales and deals online.
I got the Le Creuset at their outlet, and since I didn't care about color at all, I was able to save a bundle. It was my first Dutch Oven and I love it. Can't speak for the Lodge or other brands.
Sur La Table frequently runs sales specifically on Le Creuset, last seasons colors. I have a bunch of mismatched pieces but who cares?
I love my Le Creuset pans! That being said, I also have some of the other available styles and love them, too. Le Creuset does have outlet stores where you pick up some great pans at a good price, Wrentham MA comes to mind.
I also adore my grandmother's simple cast iron pans and Dutch ovens. They are the best pans for many things... You can find them in thrift shops and yard sales. You may need to season the pans again, but that is not too difficult.
I got a good deal on Tramontina though the rims of the pot are not enamel (not a big deal) the cost was right. Do be aware that Le Creuset has or is doing away with all their original line of Cast Iron Enamel. As I've never used them, I don't know what this means other than you may find a good deal on them.
The other option I thought about were the 45 dollar ones from Lodge that you can find at Target. I believe they are single coating and also the rims may not be enameled.
thanks davidpdx for the Lodge link.
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