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Dutch Ovens

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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.

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Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Tips & Techniques, Kitchen Confidence, First Kitchen