Le Creuset has set the standard for cast iron enamel cookware since its founding in 1925. If you're thinking about preparing an authentic cassoulet or setting your coq au vin to a slow, sauce-enrichening simmer, you're naturally envisioning your culinary masterpiece cooking in a Le Creuset Dutch oven (also known as French oven), the quintessential pot that braises, stews, roasts, and fries. Here's the only problem: the covet-worthy Le Creuset premium French cookware is expensive. Very expensive. For a 7.25-quart classic round Dutch oven in a gorgeous shade of red, you can expect to pay about $385, and you'll want one of the larger sizes because you can cook everything from potato soup to roast chicken in it. Fortunately, there is a decent alternative, a very decent alternative in the Lodge Dutch oven, a product you can actually purchase online or from your local Cracker Barrel Restaurant for a serious cost savings.
Why Is Le Creuset So Pricey?
Le Creuset cookware is incredibly well-made. There's no denying that its manufacturing process, which include some hand-finishing techniques, produces reliable, outstanding enamel-coated cast iron pots. The company charges a premium price for its premium product. Also, Le Creuset is famous for its warranty. The company offers a lifetime warranty for its Dutch ovens. It's technically a limited warranty, which means the product must be defective when you send it in and not damaged because you got flustered with your rolls burning in the oven and accidently used a metal spoon to stir your bolognese. Even so, much of the company's success is owed to its excellent customer service. In short, Le Creuset does its utmost to stand by its replacement policy. Yet, not every cook feels obligated to channel their inner Julia Child or wants to pay such a hefty sum if there are decent alternatives available.
Lodge, a brand used and sold by Cracker Barrel restaurants, has a reputation for its cast iron skillets and other pans, including Dutch ovens. However, it also sells cast iron pans with that easy-to-care-for enamel coating that cooks love. There's no need to season the pan. You simply use it over and over again to create chili, beef stew, and mouthwatering Chicken Vesuvio. For a 7.5-quart round Dutch oven, also in a bright shade of red, you will pay roughly $150. That's a substantial reduction from the Le Creuset equivalent. And this cook, having used smaller Le Creuset French ovens, can't complain about the quality or functionality of the Lodge version. In short, it's a great.
Lodge Dutch Oven Warranty
The Lodge Dutch oven also comes with a lifetime limited warranty like the Le Creuset pot. According to the company, the warranty, "covers normal household use, but does not include damage from use in commercial establishments, abuse, neglect, abnormal wear, overheating, or any use not consistent with the directions included with the cookware." After sending your Dutch oven to the company, it will decide whether your pot merits repair or replacement. As with any enamel-coated pot or pan, it's important to use silicon utensils and adhere to the manufacturer's instructions.
Cooking in Your Lodge Dutch Oven
The Lodge Dutch oven does an excellent job mimicking what the Le Creuset Dutch oven can do. It's oven safe to 500-degrees F. It can be used on all cooking surfaces - even induction heat. It lends itself to nearly any cooking technique. You can even use it to marinate chops and steaks or refrigerate with your leftover Hungarian goulash or Tex-Mex Chili. The beauty of the enamel-coated Dutch oven is that it goes from stovetop to oven like a dream. You can brown your chicken thighs on the stove and then roast them in the oven without the need to change pans. The cast iron allows for even heating but the enamel makes cleaning and caring for your pot immensely easy.
Cook Anything in Your Dutch Oven
A regular cast iron pot, also made by Lodge and popularly sold at Cracker Barrel, isn't quite so versatile - although, many a cook will disagree. The problem cooking something like chili or a tomato-based pasta sauce in a cast iron Dutch oven is that the iron and acidity of the tomato don't always play nicely together, and taste can be affected. The pot has to be very well seasoned if you're going to successfully use it to simmer your taco meat, for instance. The enamel-coated Dutch oven, however, can accommodate any ingredients you like.
Le Creuset Dutch ovens are dreamy to own, but if you want to stick to your budget and find a happy alternative, consider the Lodge. It is heavier than its Le Creuset counterpart - that's the downside of rolling with a Lodge. However, if you don't mind the extra weight, you aren't likely to notice much difference in the quality of your dishes. The Le Creuset also feature wider handles that make it easier to lift with thick oven mitts. However, when it comes to taste, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a cacciatore cooked in a Le Creuset Dutch oven or a Lodge Dutch oven. So, never fear that your taste buds are going to feel neglected if you opt for the considerably less-expensive Lodge. Lodge is a major brand with a faithful following. It doesn't have Le Creuset's pedigree, but if all you care about is perfect risotto, you should feel great about purchasing your new Lodge Dutch oven. But again - opt for the larger (7-quart or above) size, or you'll regret it!
You can compare prices on Le Creuset and Lodge Dutch ovens below.Le Creuset Dutch Oven Lodge Dutch Oven