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Sep 16, 2008 03:09 PM

Cast Iron Dutch Ovens - which brand best?

I am looking to purchase a non-enameled cast iron dutch oven in about the 7 quart range. Does anyone have any input/preferences? It seems that most people prefer the Lodge dutch oven but I thought I would run in by chowhound first.

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  1. Why would you prefer a non-enameled oven? The enameled ovens are much easier to clean, there is less sticking, etc. Sure the LeCreuset and Staub pots are very pricey, but there are many good and less expensive brands now available...and you can often find even the LeCreuset pots on sale. I have two LeC's and wouldn't trade them for anything.

    17 Replies
    1. re: josephnl

      The pure cast iron dutch ovens have thicker walls, are less brittle, and have better thermal characteristics than enameled cast iron. They will survive a fall to concrete when a Staub won't (personal experience.)
      After extensive seasoning, they are more non-stick.
      Considering the price difference, it is a no brainer.
      I would look for a used one, Max. The old brands like Griswold and McClary are very well made, often with nipples on the lid for self basting. They are smoothly finished rather than sand blasted like the Lodge or Asian models currently offered.

      1. re: jayt90

        Second on Lodge. Why would you get a non-enameled Lodge? Well, there's the obvious: a 7-quart Lodge Logic costs less than $40 on Amazon, as opposed to $260 for an equivalent-sized Le Creuset -- dunno about you, but I could sure use that extra $220 for other things right about now!

        I have used both plain and enameled cast iron in the past, and I don't have a single piece of enameled cast iron anymore, while I have a kitchen full of Lodge. I would argue the exact opposite as josephnl in terms of ease of cleaning and lack of sticking, and keeping it seasoned is nowhere near as hard as some would lead you to believe.

        As for the matter of finish that jayt90 brings up, the best way to get a smooth finish on a cast iron dutch oven is simply to use it: I have Lodge Logic pieces that are just a few years old that are all but indistinguishable from pieces we have that are decades old.

        As for the reactivity myth: well, yes, if you want to make Grandma's special family recipe of tomatoes and lemons boiled in red wine, cast iron is not the way to go. If you're making things that people would actually eat that have acidic ingredients in them, a few tomatoes or a little lemon juice or some wine will not ruin both the pot and the food, as some naysayers would have one believe.

        So basically, go for the Lodge and use it.

        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

          I picked up a 6 qt. Lodge enameled oven from their colors line for $34.99 at Amazon. If you look, and are patient you can find similar deals. The quality is wonderful, and Good Housekeeping said it's comparable to Le Creuset which I have a lot of too. It's not that much more than the raw iron. No seasoning needed, no off tastes from the acid reacting with certain foods, no discolored sauces, no oiling, seasoning, problems with rust, no cleaning problems (everything soaks off), no ick factor from not being able to clean it with soap, and food residue left on it, no storing an oily oven. No worrying about the seasoning coming off and what you can, and can not cook in it. No worries about storing cooked food in it.

          Yes, when LC was the only game in town, and enameled ovens were $$$$ only, Lodge was a great alternate choice, but for about the same money, I don't see a reason anymore to use raw cast iron. For a skillet, maybe yes, but for a dutch oven--only stubbornness and tradition keeps people using them.

          1. re: blondelle

            I repeat, I have used enameled cast iron dutch ovens before, and I assure you, it was not stubbornness and tradition that made me revert back to non-enameled.

            Enameled dutch ovens fall far short in one key area: the sear. If I'm braising something, I'm searing it first. I have seared in both kinds of dutch ovens, and there is no contest whatsoever: plain cast iron sears far better than enameled, and the better the sear, the better the dish. Since I use my dutch ovens primarily for braising, plain cast iron is better for my purposes than enameled. It has nothing to do with stubbornness and tradition, it has to do with better results.

            By the way: total myth that plain cast iron can't be cleaned with soap.

            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              I have some non-enameled old cast iron that has been in storage. I'm ready to clean it and start using it. How do you clean your cast iron?

              1. re: southerngal

                Depends on the shape it's in. If it's seriously rusted, you'll need to break out the steel wool and the naval jelly. If it's just dirty, a Brillo pad will do the job. If it's, like, encrusted, what my dad used to do when I was a kid is go out and build a roaring hot fire on the barbecue and stick the pan into it to literally burn off all the old seasoning and start over.

                Regardless, after it's cleaned, it just needs to be re-seasoned. There are plenty of threads about how to season cast iron, and everyone has personal preferences, but what I do is wipe every square centimeter of the pan with a neutral vegetable oil (canola or soybean or corn or whatever) and then stick the pan -- upside down, with a baking pan or some foil on the rack underneath to catch any drips -- in a 350 oven for an hour. When the hour is done, I turn off the oven and leave the pan in there until it's completely cool.

              2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                I agree about not washing the cast iron in soap. If needed, I use soap. As did my grandmothers. Not only that, I sometimes use a stainless steel wool pad, and always use metal utensils. I find the risk of melting non metal onto my pan too high. Besides, I think the occasional scrubbing helps to smooth out the the metal. The seasoned coating on the cast iron is a continous process. So a little scrubbing, scrapping and soap, and acids in food, will just be replaced when the pan is used with some kind of fat. Or if you rarely cook with fat, smear some fat on the clean warm pan and pop it in a hot oven for a while.
                I will tell you that my enameld dutch oven is only going to be used for tomato based soups and sauces and when cooking dried beans. All my meat, green leafy's, green beans and eggs will always be cooked in my plain cast iron cookware. I just prefer it. It is inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to fix if and when you mess up the coating. (But my LC french oven is a beauty. More like artwork.:o) I love it)

            2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              All great infomation on this thread. Very helpful.

              I'm looking at the raw CI 7 quart Lodge Dutch Oven and wanted to know what are your thoughts on whether I should get the model with the spiral bail or not? Unfortunately, the model with the bail is not pre-seasoned, but I will do the extra work if the bail ends up being useful. I most likely will not be lugging this on camping trips. Only using in the kitchen or on a grill. Any info appreciated...

              1. re: MaxCaviar

                I've had them with and without the bail, and I've found it makes no difference in everyday use. If you'd prefer the pre-seasoned model, you shouldn't consider the lack of bail a dealbreaker.

                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  I think the non bail, pre-seasoned model is almost $30 more, so that's the deciding factor if they truly work about the same. Thank you!

                  1. re: MaxCaviar

                    It's nowhere near $30 worth of labor to season a dutch oven. I'd say go for the less expensive option.

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      To be precise, it's $24.52 less (Amazon). Still not gonna throw my $$$ away though.

                      1. re: MaxCaviar

                        The bail is useful if you need to suspend the D.O. over a fire, or coals.

                        1. re: MaxCaviar

                          wow, i was wrong, the one with the bail ALSO is pre-seasoned. so now i'm really not getting why the price is so much lower.

                          1. re: MaxCaviar

                            Maybe because almost nobody lugs cast iron pots on camping trips or cooks meals in the fireplace. Or maybe the model with handles is more difficult to cast.

                            I saw the price difference, bought the one with the bail, and removed the bail, which has sat undisturbed in a drawer for 3 years now. The tabs where the bail attaches make adequate handles.

                    2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      My CI dutch oven has the bail. Sometimes it just seems to get in the way, but other times I am thankful it is there. It makes it easy to lift and carry with one hand. Should I decide to get a larger CI dutch oven, I will probably get the one with the bail again. I like having options.:o)

                  2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    I have to agree with Barmy and jayy90. I have both bare cast iron and enameled cast iron Dutch Ovens. I don't use the enameled cast iron Dutch Oven because I find it to be more difficult to maintain and you have to tip-toe about caring. Don't believe me? Just a search here on "Enameled Cast Iron Chipping" or "Enameled Cast Iron Stain". Meanwhile, you won't find these questions about the bare cast iron cookware.

              2. I got one from a company called Sante Cookware. I haved loved it! They make both enamel coated and non-enamel coated. I have the 8 Qt Dutch oven, but I know they make a 6 Qt as well. It comes pre-seasoned, and I haven't had any problems with it sticking.

                1. Lodge has the best quality control out of the bare cast iron manufacturers, they also have excellent customer service. I'd recommend watching amazon for deals, I can usually get most of their product line for a large discount there.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rockfish42

                    I use a Lodge Dutch Oven. No complaints. Makes the best roast beef I've ever had.

                    1. re: Firegoat

                      mmm, can you post your recipe for that?

                  2. Look for an old nickel plated Griswold or Wagner Ware on eBay. Just search for 'tite top'. Better than enameled or plain cast iron.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ThreeGigs

                      I got a nickel plated skillet a couple of years ago, and I prefer to use the on plated one. The plated one stains easily and is hard to clean compared with the plain type.

                      BTW - Lodge is the only one made in the USA.

                      1. re: al b. darned

                        Their enameled line is made in China though.

                    2. I have a 30 year old Norwegian cast iron Dutch oven that I use continually. My only complaint is the stainless steel lid is hard to clean. I have a smaller 5 qt. Wagner one, bought at a yard sale w/ a cast iron lid which I use as well. I used Le C in the 70's and don't miss it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        Have an old Griswold that is, as you say, wonderful. Also have a LC doufou, the one with the depression in top for ice cubes, true not for camping, but find recipes just to use it for braising. Never dries out, never. Pricey but wonderful. Here in Paris they are sold at flea markets for about $40, love it