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Dutch Ovens

I just posted something about slow cooking but after reading other posts its sounds like a Dutch Oven might be a better way to go. There is a big difference in price between 5 quart dutch ovens. I see that Lodge and Staub are both recommended but the price difference is pretty significant. There are also some in the middle, Calphalon for example. Thoughts?

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  1. Dutch oven can be used for slow cooking of course, in an oven or stovetop - I use mine for braising, but I wouldn't consider them in the same vein as a slow cooker - for 2 reasons - safety (you can leave a slow cooker on and go away) and browning - you can brown/sear stuff in a Dutch oven then transfer to low heat for slow cooking.

    There are big differences in price - and while Staub/LC are great pieces - investment/long term pieces, it seems the reviewers find less expensive versions perfectly useable. Make sure the enamel is in good shape, it seems heavy enough, and that the lid has a nice firm seal. There are probably reviews on the site. Also, think about your size - 5qt is nice, 7-8 is better for larger groups... depends on how you cook.

    I assume you aren't talking about the bare cast iron Lodge stuff - like the oven I use with hot coals at a campsite. You are comparing enameled versions, correct?

    1. Just for starters, I am assuming we are talking about a cast iron oven coated with enamel.

      Staub and LeCreuset are very expensive. They are made in France by people who take summer off to lay out on the beach. They have bulletproof lifetime warrantees. The finish consists of multiple enamel coatings. They will probably survive you.

      Everything else (Cuisinart, Lodge, Tramotina, Martha Stewart, etc.) is a fraction of the price. It is almost always made in China by people who take summer off to work their farms. The warrantees are all over the map: some good, some not so much. The enamel finish is two maybe three layers thick (Lodge Signature is an exception here, but you will pay for it!) How long it lasts will depend on how much you use it.

      No doubt, the French stuff is gorgeous. Just look at the colors. That said, you would have to wear out the Chinese stuff three or four times (or more) to cover the cost of the French stuff. If money is not an issue, buy the Staub or LC. You really won't be sorry. If money IS an issue, then the lower cost Chinese products will be just fine for now. There is no shame in slumming at Marshall's and TJ MAxx.

      I think I would still get an electric slow-cooker first, since you can run it all day while you are away. I would never let a dutch oven go all day on the stovetop or in the oven unsupervised.

      5 Replies
      1. re: MikeB3542

        I agree with everything Mike said except... "get an electric slow-cooker first." I think you should learn the dutch oven cooking process (braising) before you use things like an crock pot. I find a dutch oven FAR more versatile than a crock pot/slow cooker any day.

        Anyway, another discount store to check out is Tuesday Morning.

        1. re: HaagenDazs

          Agreed. Both with skipping the slow cooker (aren't they kind of expensive?) and about Tuesday Morning, where you can get Le Creuset for less than 50% of the usual retail.

          1. re: tommy

            The slow cookers aren't too pricey. I bought my slow cooker for under $25. I'm sticking to my opinion though. ;-)

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              I got an All-clad for xmas and sent it back. No one could give me a compelling reason to keep it, and It was quite pricey.

              Even at 25 bucks I bet you get your money's worth more from the use of that dutch oven than you do from that slow cooker!

              1. re: tommy

                I posted this at 3:30 pm this afternoon in another thread:

                "The differences in price can equate to size (larger ones cost more) and some brand names. For instance All-Clad makes one that's something like $200 (just a guess). That's completely unnecessary and they are clearly charging more because the outside is fancy brushed steel but with the oh-so-important All-Clad branding on the front. Shop at Walmart or Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond (use that 20% coupon) and look to spend anywhere from $20 for a cheaper, smaller one to around $50 or $60 for a larger one with a few more functions."

      2. I have both LC and Lodge dutch ovens. I like them both, and think they both perform about the same. If I could get a good deal on the LC, it would be my first choice - it just seems like it's a bit more substantial. LC dutch ovens have a certain cachet, at least in my neighborhood. And Mike is right, it will probably outlast me. But the Lodge is really great, for the price, and I'm not 'afraid' for my husband to use it, like I am with the LC. I don't think he could hurt either one of them, but I don't want to find out, either.

        4 Replies
        1. re: jeanmarieok

          Lawl, I'm scared of Donna using my LC stuff too. I tried reading her the usage instructions on tuesday night, but we were at a bar, and she wasn't interested.

          1. re: Soop

            I think LC can withstand more than people think it can. I've had mine for probably 15 years now, and my husband does use it on occasion, and I use it often, and it has held up well. I use it on high heat when needed, but try to use wood utensils rather than metal ones.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Ah, that's great news. I posted a thread (frying with olive oil) in which I questioned whether I could use the pan as I would normally cook.

              If it works like that, then I'm happy :)

              1. re: Soop

                It's great to use for frying, because of the depth - a lot less splatter. I learned that tip from another poster, beetlebug, who says that her (Asian) mother uses one instead of a wok. I also make risotto in mine.

        2. Slow cookers and dutch ovens do some of the same things, I guess, but they really aren't the same. You would/could start a slow cooker before you left for work in the morning, and all would be okay, but you (or at least I) wouldn't leave my LC in the oven all day with nobody home. So I would think it depends on what your needs are.

          That being said, if my house were on fire, I would get my children out first, and then I would go back for my LC's...I love them that much! They are worth every penny. Of course, a deal is a deal, and if you can find them for a good price, even better. I bought one of mine on Ebay (it was brand new).

          I have contemplated a slow cooker and even eyed the All-Clad one at Williams-Sonoma, but just decided that I have no need (even for a cheapie one at Target).

          1. I've owned some Le Creuset and non-Le Creuset Dutch ovens and while the "nons" are capable, they do not survive the wear and tear, washing, and overall performance of my French Le Creuset's.

            If price is an issue, try finding one at a store like Homegoods, TJ Max, Marshalls, or Tuesday Morning. Also, Le Creuset has factory outlets that contain good deals along with seconds and discontinued colors.