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my first oven pot

In a rare fit of spontaneity, I'm inspired by Mark Bittman's NYT Minimalist article from Wednesday to try making bread at home. Since I'm primarily a stove-top cook, I don't have an oven-proof pot that the technique calls for, and I figure this is a good excuse to buy one for this and other uses.

Bittman says to use a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic). If I were to buy one pot this size for bread-baking and other uses, what material and brand would you recommend? What are the tradeoffs among the different materials? Thanks.

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  1. I've never tried baking bread in a pot, nor have I ever been tempted. So I can't speak to that part of your query. But if you're looking to buy a piece of cookware that you can use for a lot of other things, I'd recommend Le Creuset or similar (enameled cast iron). A good 6-quart covered oval casserole is incredibly versatile and can be used in the oven or on top of the stove. I've stuck with Le Creuset mostly because they're so well made, but also because their warranty and customer service are great.

    9 Replies
    1. re: GG Mora

      Thank you. Is that the brand to look for, or are there less expensive brands that are similar that will do pretty well? Thanks.

      1. re: david kaplan

        I haven't seen anything as good as Le Creuset that costs less.

        Round makes more sense than oval to me since it distributes the heat more evenly. That appears to be what Lahey is using in the photo.

        From Bittman's instructions, it sounds like an inexpensive Pyrex pot would work as well for the bread.

        1. re: david kaplan

          Staub makes highly regarded enameled cast iron pots at around the same prices as Le Creuset. But they also have a line called Staub Basix, apparently modeled on their earlier designs, that is extremely similar in style to Le Creuset, and much, much, less expensive (it's an exclusive deal with QVC). I have one of these, and it compares favorably with my LC. The cast iron is just about as thick and heavy, the enamel is durable, it has no issues with hot spots, etc., and it has an advantage over LC in that its handle is metal, so there is no worry about oven heat. It is made in France, and has a limited lifetime warranty. I think it's a reasonable alternative. Here's their 6-quart French oven, currently $72: http://www.qvc.com/qic/qvcapp.aspx/ap...

          If you do decide to go with LC, there are many threads on this board about getting deals and discounts on it in various ways.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Thanks for the lead. Is the non-metal handle of Le Creuset pots a big issue?

            1. re: david kaplan

              You're only supposed to use it in the oven with temps up to 350F or so (I don't remember the exact limit), so if you need to bake or roast something at high heat, you have to unscrew the knob and plug up the hole with foil, as Bittman describes in his article. Not something most people have to deal with often, and not a big deal if you already own a LC pot, but if you buy a pot with an eye to trying this bread technique and end up loving it and wanting to use it often, maybe something to consider. I didn't buy the one I have because of that feature, I bought it becaue it was ~$50, and I thought, hell why not, since I couldn't afford a LC pot that size. But it's something I like, and I'm very pleased with the quality of the pot.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                I would love to know the brand name of your pot you bought for $50. I'm wanting to try Bittman's bread and want something decent for a lower price than LC. TIA

                1. re: conniemcd

                  The pot is the same Staub Basix brand sold through QVC that I discussed in my initial post above, but it is a 5-quart pot, not the 6-quart pot I gave the link to. Bittman specifies a 6- to 8-quart pot, so this might be too small for his recipe. I bought it a few years ago, so the price is now up to $59.40 (plus shipping, of course): http://www.qvc.com/qic/qvcapp.aspx/ap...

                  But the 6-quart in this line is still only $72, much less expensive than LC. And it's a good size for making big pots of soup, chili, or any long-braising dish, especially ones that go in the oven.

            2. re: Caitlin McGrath

              When i looked at these in the store the LC black on black had a metal handle

              If your in New York City Broadway Pnahandler had all the LC at 20% off in their new store on 8th St just west of Broadway

            3. re: david kaplan

              I've got the Batali 6qt Essentials Pot. I like it better than my Le Creuset because the lid has the self-basting ridges. Not an issue with baking, but I got it for $70 ($130 less than the Crueset).

              http://www.italiankitchen.com/store/s...

          2. For not a lot of money, you could use this cast iron pot. And you don't have to worry about the knobs. I used a smaller pot than this and my bread was 8" in dia. and about 4" high.

            You can probably find this at a hardware store or sporting goods/outdoor store where you don't have to pay to ship the thing.

            1. I bought a Staub enamelled cast iron cocotte at Costco (in Toronto) for way less than the equivalent Le Creuset would cost. I've been very happy with it, bright red colour and all!

              1. The December issue of Fine Cooking has a review of enameled cast iron dutch ovens. Six criteria, six picks.

                1. Actually the lids on the LC are good to 450 degrees F.

                  I believe Emile Henry (?) has a new line of ceramic dutch ovens which are less expensive than LC.

                  However, a medium sized LC is a very versatile pot for both oven and stove top and will last a lifetime.