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Want Le Creuset, have no $$, alternatives???

Hi all-

I am just starting out with my second, more grown up place (I couldn't afford a nice place right out of college) Now I am investing in long term homeware like silverware and pots and pans. I had no idea how expensive it all is!!!

I would like to get a big Le Creusat oval dutch oven bc you can use it for stove top skilleting word?) and cooking roasts etc... in the oven- plus, I can get it in blue to match my kitchen!!

Anyway, I will probably end up getting the le creusat but the ones I want are all $280 and over, for ONE pot.

Does anyone have advice about alternative brands, or do you think I should just save up bc it's worth it?

Thank you!

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  1. I would save up, but also look at discount stores, and try to check out a LC outlet. I'd buy a round one before I bought an oval one - I think you'll get more even heat on the stove top w/ the round one.

    1. I got about 1/2 my LC at T J Maxx. The other half at LC outlets. Never paid full price.

      1 Reply
      1. I recently bought my second Mario Batali -- a risotto/saucier. I've had the dutch oven for almost a year now. It was much less $$ than the Le Creusat. The quality looks very good and I've been very happy with both my pots. I don't know what sizes are available but it may be worth checking out.

        I used my AMEX points to get Fortunoff gift cards to pay each time -- so there was no money out of pocket...

        4 Replies
        1. re: kavikat

          The Mario Batali pots are actually made by Le Creuset. Same stuff, just different branding. I actually prefer my Batali dutch oven because it has the little "nipples" in the lid that condensation drips back from.

          Does that make sense?

          1. re: tzurriz

            How do you know it is made by LC? I did some research when I was in the market for a dutch oven and to me it seems that the Mario Batali products are made by Copco. Just wondering what your source was.

            Thanks!

            1. re: scorpioscuba

              I don't remember, I think it was in the packaging that came with the pot.

            2. re: tzurriz

              No, they're made by Copco. This is on the box.

          2. I have bought Le Creuset on EBay for significant savings.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Megiac

              I bought a 5 qt. round one from Ebay as well for a lot off the original price.

              And definitely save up -- they are worth it. Or wait until Christmas/Hanukkah -- only a few months away and someone is bound to ask you what you want!

              1. re: valerie

                Good Call! : )

                Thank you everyone for the great advice!! I appreciate it

            2. I have 2 Mario Batali cast iron/enameled pots -- a dutch oven and a saucier. I've been very happy with both. They are less $ than the LC. I picked both of them up at Fortunoff.

              I used AMEX points to purchase Fortunoff gift cards to pay for them -- hence no money out of pocket...

              1. 6 quarts, $50: http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Enamel-Qu...

                It's Lodge, not Le Creuset, and it's blue but not the same blue. It's also about 1/4 the price.

                P.S. I second MMRuth's suggestion about round rather than oval. The way cast iron distributes heat it probably won't make much difference in the way things cook, but it might protect your arm from getting roasted by the burner.

                1 Reply
                1. re: misterbrucie

                  Thanks for the tip. I received the 6 quart pot and am waiting for the 11 inch pan. The color is beautiful, but I noticed "made in china". That gives me pause. Will just have to wait and see.

                2. they sell a knockoff of LC at Ikea...

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: skicrew

                    The cast iron products that are sold at Ikea are not enameled on the interior though.

                    1. re: rxenergie

                      Actually, they are enameled on the interior. It's just a black matte enamel that looks like it isn't enameled at first glance.

                      http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/pro...

                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        Hmm... when I was at Ikea Tempe, I resisted buying the Senior casserole because I thought that it was cast iron. Will definately have to take a second look!

                        1. re: rxenergie

                          I have the fondue pot at home; it is indeed enameled on the inside. There's no way that much melted cheese would have slid out that easily the first time using it if it wasn't enameled.

                            1. re: rxenergie

                              I'm just trying to figure out how they manage to flat-pack a cast-iron pot. Is the alan wrench enameled, too? :-)

                  2. I picked up the Chefmate at Target a few weeks ago. I think it was $40 and fared well in Cooks Illustrated's comparison a while back. So far it's been great for no-knead bread and braised short ribs. Haven't used it for anything else.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Chowtimore

                      I also purchased the ChefMate from Target about 16 months ago. I've cooked everything from stocks to soups to risotto to roasts in it and it has performed wonderfully. Not having any previous experience with cast iron made me wary of spending that much cash on a LC, so the ChefMate was a decent compromise.

                      These days, I have a larger selection of iron cookware and wouldn't be so hesitant to spend the cash. My best advice would be to save for what you really want and need. If you buy what you need and intend to use, it's worth the investment to do it right the first time. I seem to temper my decisions based on need and value. That 7qt dutch oven may be pretty but at $300 I ask myself how often I would need it and wheteher that frequency would warrant the expense.

                      Just my opinion, I could be wrong. :-)

                      1. re: Plat du jour

                        the price difference between these products...isn't it because of where they are made? LC pots are usually made in France thus the higher prices? Are Mario Batali pots made in France too? I bought a LC butter dish for $20 then realized it was made in China.

                        1. re: Monica

                          The Mario pans are made in China. I bought my mom one for christmas and it's been a great pot. I have several pieces of LC and it compares very favorably.

                          I also have a piece made in China that I picked up cheap at Tuesday Morning a couple years ago. I think the "brand name" is Well Equiped Kitchen. It's a big oval and i don't use it too often but again when it does it compares very favorably with the LC pieces I have. The only thign I don't know since I don't use it much and keep it in a back closet is if it chips easily.

                      2. re: Chowtimore

                        I bought the ChefMate at Target several months ago and I'm knocked out by the quality and versatility. I had the LC and it was heavier, much more expensive and the enamel eventually developed a lot of cracks.

                        1. re: EastBayMike

                          If your LC has cracks, you can return the pot to the manufacturer and they'll send you a new one. That's what you're paying for--the unconditional lifetime guarantee!

                      3. If you have your heart set on LC, nothing else is going to make you happy. I happen to have a big oval LC dutch oven, in blue, that I got from a Le Creuset outlet, in the markdown section in the back of the store; it has some kind of cosmetic defect that I didn't even notice until the salesperson pointed it out, but it was less than half price, just over 100 for the 13-quart or whatever ridiculous size it is, if I recall correctly. I love it, by the way... but there's no way I'd be getting it if it hadn't been marked way down. So my advice would be to look for a LC outlet store.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bat Guano

                          They have Le Creuset at Home Goods and sometimes T.J. Maxx. Inspect it carefully since these are sometimes seconds and as posters have said, not made in France. I'd buy LC over Lodge, just a personal preference.

                        2. I've been quite pleased with the Batali enamelled dutch oven I purchased on Amazon.com. It was well under $100 for a 5-1/2 quart size ($80? maybe even $70?), shipping was free, and no sales tax.

                          1. I saw some Le Creuset at a store called Tuesday Morning, which is kind of a discount housewares store. They had only baking dishes, no dutch ovens, but they were seriously discounted. Under $50 as I recall.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: stuartontour

                              Chasseur (also made in France) and Staub are suppposedly similar quality. Staub has a dark interior with the little "nipples" for condensation on the lid. You can see these in use on Robin Miller's show on weekend mornings on FN. But I agree, you will never be satisfied until you get your first LC. Don't buy a monster to start -- get a 4 to 6 quart round Dutch oven. Ovals are interesting but don't fit as well over most burners. I have a five quart model that is big enough for soups, stews, meatballs or meat sauce, osso bucco, paella etc. for up to five or six people. That would be the most versatile shape and size, since you aren't cooking for a crowd if you are a college student. I don't think I would have the strength to lift the 13 quart model if it was full. And don't get stuck on everything "matching". It is fun to have different colors and that flexibility will help you take advantage of those good deals at TJ Maxx and the outlets. I have looked at Mario's -- I like it, but I don't need anything so I haven't tried it.

                              1. re: stuartontour

                                You do have to be careful at discount stores when buying Le Creuset. Tuesday Morning advertised Le Creuset and when I went to take a look, it was enamel on steel, not cast iron. The difference is huge and so is the price. If I were to buy LC at a discount I would do it at the LC outlet store. You can buy pieces with very minor scuffs for about half (or more) of the retail price. The cosmetic scuffs in no way affect the performance of the piece.

                                1. re: scorpioscuba

                                  I've bought most of my LC at an outlet and have done really well. None of that matches but that's OK. Works out well when someone is helping me in the kitchen - "hand me the yellow pot" works really well rather than having to guess which one is two quarts if they're not proficient at eyeballing pot sizes.

                                  Most of what I've bought at the LC outlets were seconds...but if you check carefully you can do really well. Usually it's something very small that makes it a second.

                                  I was in a Tuesday Morning here in AZ on Monday and they did have some LC cast iron - in PINK! I'd never seen pink before. They had the 3.5 qt buffet and the 5.5 round in pink. the rest of what they had was stoneware.

                                  1. re: ziggylu

                                    You will mostly find the enamel-on-steel and stoneware pieces at Tuesday Morning, but sometimes they do indeed have cast iron. I believe my wife got my skillet from Tuesday Morning.

                                    I have also found cheap(er) prices on the clearance table at Williams Sonoma and also Amazon.com often has things on sale so you can just keep an eye on there or use a service that watches for price drops. Got my Soup Pot for $100 from Amazon.

                                    1. re: ziggylu

                                      Ditto on the LC Outlet stores. I got a great deal on a green enamel set several years ago. A largish casserole/dutch oven, 2 sauce pans (1 qt and 2 qt) with lids that are also frying pans; and a medium size frying pan - the whole set was $200.

                                      I don't know if one can find out which deals there are at which outlet store without driving to them - sometimes a long way out of the way up here in No. Cal.

                                      Oops, see the next post for good advice about the outlets.

                                2. Find the closest outlet for LC & get on their mailing list. They have monthly specials & if you talk to the employees they clue you in to the best deals in the store.

                                  Tuesday Morning does get it on occasion, but that's the sort of place you really have to shop frequently 'cos its hit or miss.

                                  Estate auctions are popular in my area & I have seen some at those once in a while.

                                  Put word out to your family that it is on your wish list, maybe they'' chip in & surprise you!

                                  Enjoy the search, it's half the fun of it.

                                  1. Check your nearest outlet mall for a LC outlet. If you sign up to receive info from them, you'll get coupons you can use at your next visit. Drops the price pretty dramatically from brand new. Just be vigilant about what you are buying. I tried lids on several oval dutch ovens in the outlet store before I found one that fit well.

                                    1. If you want LC because it's LC, then I'd say check out the outlet or Ebay. If you want just a good looking blue enamel cast iron dutch oven, then you have plenty of options.

                                      As mentioned above, the Chefmate at Target has been highly recommended and is only $40 (I think). Of course, it's not blue.

                                      Tuesday Morning, TJ Maxx, Ross and Marshall's often have name brand pieces (LC, Staub) on huge discounts. Again, size and color vary often.

                                      I bought an Innova dutch oven from Home Goods and it works extremely well. Enameled cast iron (not steel), it came in red or blue, and my kitchen doesn't really care that it's not a name brand. It cost me $30 and it's a 5-qt oval. If all you want is a good performing dutch oven, you can definitely find one without spending $100 or more.

                                      It's kind of like buying a really cool random purse vs. holding out for the Coach or D&B. Do you want a good purse or do you want a noticeable brand name?

                                      http://threedogkitchen.com

                                      1. I have a knock-off from Khols, cost 39.99 works great!!

                                        1. You know, I love my Le Creuset dutch oven, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I didn't pay for it- I asked for it for Christmas several years ago, and my very kind aunt bought it for me... So I will never tell anyone that it is not worth it, bc they are truly wonderful products. However, if I were pressed to buy a dutch oven (in blue), and spend less $, I would try an Emile Henry. Beautiful classic blue color, also from France, and roughly the same style/sizes.

                                          1. Another thing to ask yourself is how long do you want/expect your purchase to last. If you tire of things easily, don't spend the money on the good stuff. But if you appreciate quality and plan to hang onto these items, you might consider looking at them as investments as opposed to just kitchenware.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: foodstorm

                                              Maybe not "investments" (I doubt you'll ever be able to resell them at a profit), but definitely "heirlooms." I have this vision in my mind of cooking for/with my kids/grandkids and later passing them on to them when I am either dead or at least no longer strong enough to lift the darn things.

                                            2. Walmart is carrying 3, 5 & 8 QT enamel cast iron dutch ovens (I believe Lodge?) I've seen blue, red and brown. Prices range from $30 to $70. I purchased a 3 QT and I am very hapy with it. Also Target carries a Dutch Oven made by Chefmate $40, that was rated best buy by Cooks Illustrated. I also have that one. I also have the blue LC you want. I am equaly impressed by all of them.

                                              1. try goodwill stores (charity shops).

                                                glad I no longer have Le Crueset, they are toooooooo darned heavy.

                                                1. A cheaper alternative is the enameled cast iron sold at WalMart...the brand name is Tramontina, it's made in China. A 3-qt pot sells for ~$35.

                                                  1. keep an i in thrift stores and garage sales. i just bought a set containing a dutch oven, 2 sauce pans (1 qt and 2 qt) with lids that are also frying pans; and a medium size frying pan in light blue for $35 at a thrift store in San Angelo TX. Weekend before i bought a 1 qt sauce pan and lid and a 1 qt sauce pan w/frying pan lid (double boiler i think they are called) in black for $8.
                                                    Our LC set is not one color and we are happy with that and it beats paying full price (which we have from time to time).
                                                    just keep your options open when it comes to color. and like others have said , find a LC outlet and start telling loved ones now about what you want for Christmas.

                                                    1. It's what you cook, not what you cook it in.

                                                      Get a cheap 8qt stock pot and a medium-sized roasting pan
                                                      and you're ready for anything.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                        In principle, I agree w/you. In practice, not so much. I made gumbo Friday afternoon in a 7-quart LC...made the roux, browned the chix, etc. all in the same pot, with no need for a stop-n-wash. You damn sure can't do that in a cheap 8-quart stockpot. Heavy enameled cast iron excels at certain tasks. I resisted the cult of LC for years, then bought a piece on super sale and now I'm a convert.

                                                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                          yes lc for gumbo-- or don't even try it. or slow braises. or caramel. or potroasts. or all kinds of other things i could mention that i'd never do in a cheap thin-bottomed stock pot.

                                                      2. i just picked up the 6.75 qt oval Le Creuset pot this weekend at Marshall's for $129.00. They had the 9 qt round for $39.00 (which is a steal) but i couldn't afford both. I'm looking for the 5.5 qt round next. I wanted a large oval for pot roasts and lamb shanks for example.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: sprmario

                                                          I'm heading to my Marshall's this afternoon to see if I can score one, too.

                                                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                            Yes, Marshall's sounds great!

                                                            Thank you all for the suggestions- I think that (if I don't find one second hand or on sale at marshalls) I will buy a Mario Batalli one and get the real deal next year- I am moving tomorrow and have spent a ton of money renovating : (

                                                        2. Around Christmas time the LC sets go on sale at Williams and Sonoma. Thats what I got last year think it was about 500 for 6 pieces. A long term saving plan might be needed but I love them.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: jroxybabe19

                                                            It's worth keeping an eye on Amazon as well. Every once in a while they have deals like this long-expired one: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/284122

                                                          2. In addition to the other good suggestions (look everywhere, find deals!) check www.caplanduval.com . I ordered an LC pot as a gift and had it shipped - they have good sales and the price was the best I could find at the time. TJ Maxx also frequently has LC.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: janeh

                                                              i have bought a number of LC pieces from caplan-duval and have been very happy with the prices - and shipping is free to the states.

                                                              i have also bought LC at yard sales and flea markets for $1.00 - $10.00 - great deal! if you're a scavenger as i am, it's fun hunting them down!

                                                              ebay has been good to me as well.

                                                              1. re: janeh

                                                                I bought my first piece from Caplan Duval. The price was good.

                                                                1. re: janeh

                                                                  I fourth Caplan Duval. I purchased a 6.5 oval oval for under $130 from them, plus, as someone has already pointed out, free shipping.

                                                                2. Staub sells a line on QVC which is considerably less expensive than their normal offerings. I have the dutch oven and a few of the other pieces and they have worked quite well.

                                                                  1. I scrounged two hand-me-down LCs from my sister. Both have cracked wooden handles but every time I reach into my pot drawer I grab the LCs which makes my visitors laugh when they see their poor condition. I will be adding more quality cast iron to my kitchen soon. I am an "older Bachelor" who has become addicted to the fun of cooking and would recommend you get the best equipment you can afford. It really makes a difference for the long term if you enjoy cooking. PS: Check out Cooks Illustrated (.com) for great unbiased reviews of all sorts of kitchen equipment.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Cally Kid

                                                                      You could most likely send those pots with the broken handles and have them replaced. I have had great experiences with LCs customer service. They really do enforce that "lifetime guarantee".

                                                                      1. re: grevengrevs

                                                                        It is easy to replace those handles. The phenolic ones cost $5 or less, and many kitchen shops stock them. Also easily available online, too.

                                                                      2. re: Cally Kid

                                                                        My Mommy's top handle (some kind of plastic) fell off as well. I will def. tell her about the lifetime garuntee!

                                                                      3. Saw some at Tuesday Morning the other day. Was in a caffeine slump so don't remember details, but price seemed good. One piece had a large aestetic flaw, the others looked good.

                                                                        1. Has anyone tried the new Dutch oven from Target? It looks simliar to the Chefmate and was wondering who had experience with it. I'm in the market for my first Dutch oven, and was deciding between this and the Batali. Here's the link: http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/...

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: tomoe

                                                                            Staub is the next best thing to LC.

                                                                            I love mine, cooktop, oven, refrig. And the price is great!

                                                                            1. re: tomoe

                                                                              My mom bought me the largest batali, and while I have only had it for a few weeks, I am VERY pleased with it- it seems the same as the LC she has and was much less expensive, although I suppose nothing is better than LC....

                                                                            2. http://smartbargains.com has a great cookware / bakeware assortment. I've found Le Crueset, Lodge, Calphalon, etc, all at discounted prices. You should surf the site and see what you find.