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Nov 8, 2008 12:10 PM

Chantal dutch oven - cracking enamel - alternative bakeware for no knead bread?

I picked up a very low cost Chantal dutch oven at Marshall's, marked down for some exterior chips and dings. It's cast iron with an enamel coating. I've been using it regularly to bake no knead bread.

The pot sits in a 450 degree oven for more than hour (including the time before I drop the dough in). I now notice some cracking below the surface of the enamel along the interior base. I thought these pots could handle the high heat. I guess not.

Buying a Le Creuset replacement is not an option. Even on sale, they're out of my budget. And the Chantal find was a fluke, as I have not seen other cast iron products at the store lately.

So the question is, what are some low cost alternative bakeware for my bread?

- handles 450 degrees
- deep in depth (ideally around 8 quart size)
- has a cover that also can withstand the heat
- has handles


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  1. buy an inexpensive Lodge cast iron dutch oven (only Lodge - made in USA with no lead) from a sporting goods store (like Sportsman Warehouse or such) Much cheaper than Le Creuset or Chantal. You can buy them pre-seasoned so you don't even have to mess with that. I use mine for no knead bread exclusively and use my Le Creuset for what it was designed for - glorious stews!

    2 Replies
    1. re: ronniebell

      FYI, not sure if this is Lodge in the USA or not walmart carry's them. I heard the USA no lead brand but not sure. 39.99 for the 7 qt and many other great prices. If you are concerned re lead, personally I am not, they are great, but I have also seen many great finds at restaurant wharehouses on the web.

      1. re: ronniebell

        I second this. After ONE time of putting my Le Creuset through the No Knead oven trauma, I came to my senses and switched to regular cast iron. If you look around Ebay or thrift shops, you might be able to find an older, vintage dutch oven (a #8 should be perfect) for the same price as a Lodge, and you'll have a smoother surface and it may already be well-seasoned.

      2. Is it cracking or crazing? Two different things. If you're only going to use it for NNTK bread, I'd say save your money and use that pot exclusively for bread. There's nothing wrong with using an enameled pot with a crazed interior. It's safe -- it's just iron below. (If the enamel is coming off in chunks, then that's a problem -- you don't want someone biting into a piece of enamel!)

        If you absolutely must have a new pot, then look at the enameled cast iron pots at Target -- got my NNTK bread pot there (because I didn't want to use my Le Creuset for that) and it only cost $40 out the door...

        I replaced the plastic knob with a stainless steel cabinet knob from Home Depot. Been through nearly 100 NNTK loaves now. The interior is holding up just fine, but the exterior is showing the effects of all that high-temp baking.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Joe Blowe

          For no-knead bread, a 5-qt Lodge Dutch oven is the ticket. Got one at Target for $30 -- I got the pre-seasoned model with the oversized handles and no bail. No worries ever about high temps. A plain cast iron DO will work for most of the things you can do in enamelled stuff, just have to take it easy with acidic foods. (Stews:yes; chili:yes; fruit cobblers:yes; spaghetti sauce: no; coq au vin: no).

          1. re: MikeB3542

            If someone has excellent storage capabilities in their kitchen, I'm all for having pots and pans for a specific purpose (e.g. a plain cast iron pot for bread).

            But if one has a smaller kitchen with limited storage (like me), I think it's wise to buy cookware that offers the most versatile cooking options. An enameled dutch oven will be able to do bread, plus all those things you can't do in non-enamel cast iron cookware. My $40 Target pot is only 10 bucks more than a Lodge non-enamel pot, but arguably offers much more bang-for-the-buck.

            1. re: MikeB3542

              My Dad just picked up a 5 at Target. He loves it.

          2. Any enameled pot will do this, including Le Creuset.

            Tossing cold dough into a 450 degree pot is a lot of temperature shock on the enamel.

            Grab a cheap tri-ply 8 qt stock pot at Marshalls.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ThreeGigs

              "Tossing cold dough into a 450 degree pot is a lot of temperature shock on the enamel."

              In theory, yes, I agree with you.

              In practice, after doing the same to my enameled cast iron pot nearly 100 times, I'd say don't worry about it. I've seen no evidence to date that the interior enamel is stressed at all.

              1. re: Joe Blowe

                I agree that having both enamelled and non-enamelled dutch ovens is a strain if space and resources are limited (which is the case for most of us!). My personal preference is to go non-enamelled for now, and get a LC or Staub when I have the dollars and space.

                In my opinion, cheap enamelled cast iron seems like an iffy proposition: I won't deny that you have gotten lots of good use from yours, but I have heard too many horror stories from folks who have had chipping, crazing, cracking and rusting after only a couple of uses.

                In the meantime, I have a Lodge DO that can do most of the things I am looking to do, and won't give me a lick of trouble. From popping up a batch of corn (by the way, an excellent way to build up seasoning a piece that normally is not used for frying), to baking a loaf of bread, to cooking up a batch of chili, it is very versatile.

                1. re: Joe Blowe

                  I bake my no knead bread in an inexpensive enameled cast iron dutch oven. The pot is fine but I'm worried about the lid. - It's the lid that's crazing/cracking not the pot.....weird.

                  1. re: rtms

                    Is any one using Corningware in the French White with the glass lids to bake this? Does that stuff explode like Pyrex?

                    1. re: blondelle

                      I would never put glass bakeware in an oven that hot.

                      I have done no-knead bread in a ceramic casserole (not Corningware) and the glaze did craze. It is most apparent on the inside where oils penetrated the cracks and stained the ceramic. It actually did a supurb job of baking the bread.

                      Best bet for no knead bread is a plain cast iron Dutch oven. No plastic handles to melt, no finishes to craze. Pretty sure you can get a 5-qt Lodge at Target for $30 (I prefer the model with the loop handles, no bail). They are pre-seasoned, so you can use right away (unlike pre-seasoned skillets, which need a little work).

                      1. re: blondelle

                        Mine I got when first married almost 30 years. Still in great shape. I cook anything in it.

                2. Update and more thoughts...

                  It is crazing, not cracking. Nothing is chipping off. The appearance of cracks lies below the surface. Is this a precursor to actual cracking? I do not know. My concern is unknown health effects from actual chipping. I’m fairly certain this Chantal product was made in China, which calls into question if there’s lead paint in use.

                  As I do live in small apartment, kitchen storage space is limited. I actually store my dutch oven in the oven, along with various baking sheets and dishes. Every time I want to use the oven, I have to unload all the bakeware to the dining table. Welcome to life in New York City.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: dine_in

                    "I’m fairly certain this Chantal product was made in China, which calls into question if there’s lead paint in use."

                    It's enamel, not paint: .

                    As I pointed out, crazing is OK. If you don't see it coming off in bits or chunks, what's the problem? It's just iron underneath. There's no lead in cast iron. If you're that concerned about lead content in the enamel, you can buy a lead-test swab kit online to put your mind at ease.

                    And, BTW, I lived in NYC (Queens and Manhattan) for seven years. I know what it's like to live with a kitchen the size of my current coat closet. Seriously. Keep a lean and mean collection of cookware, and you'll maintain your sanity!

                    1. re: Joe Blowe

                      'pparantly there is an issue with Chinese factiories melting down scrap, I.E. from engine blocks. This way, lead gets in.

                      1. re: Soop

                        Scrap iron is scrap iron -- you get it where you can. Do you think the French are making their cast iron pots from virgin ore?

                        Sounds like another urban myth to me. I realize Chinese manufacturing practices are a bit suspect of late, but I would need proof (and some science to back up the claim that lead could make it through the smelting process) to believe it...

                  2. I used my 20 year old Le Creuset a couple of times for no knead bread and the only effect I noted was that pre-existing splatters of food on the enamel get permanently baked on, and the interior white enamel in particular darkens. The company recommended soaking in hot water and Tide, and my mom recommended rubbing with soda and rinsing with vinegar, both of which helped. I'm going to get a cast iron dutch oven for bread as others have suggested, and keep my precious Le Creuset for soups and stews.