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Shopping for a dutch oven...

I am SO amazed by the amount of knowledge and expertise on this board! Thanks for sharing, everybody!

So...after reading so many wonderful things about ECI, I'm now in shopping mode...or at least, I will be when I recover from sticker-shock. I can't read through these posts without hearing about Le Creuset and Staub so I know they are wonderful! However, Bank of America says "No way, domestic diva...". So much for my champagne wishes and caviar dreams!

Are there any cheaper versions that are worth the money or should I just start rolling my pennies and hold out for the good stuff? I know the cost depends on size too...since this is my first one, I'd love to know what's "average" for a whole chicken or a good size roast for a family of 4.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. Get the "good stuff"...you won't regret it. Here's how: Call LC & ask to be put on their customer list. You will receive notices of their sales which are excellent...& buying their "seconds" is an even better deal. (usually you can hardly see the imperfection--I don't even know which of mine are "firsts" & which "seconds" any more--that's how minimal the difference usually is)

    1. America's Test Kitchen ranked Tramontino's enamel cast iron dutch oven as a good alternative to Le Creuset. I bought mine at Walmart for about $30. You can also get a Lodge naked cast iron for about the same price. I own both. They both do the job quite adequately. If you're unfamiliar with the care and cleaning of naked cast iron, buy the Tramontino.

      5 quart is probably a good size for most things.

      1. My two cents:

        Le cruset, overpriced. People buy it for the name. Lodge is great, but iron is very heavy. Real heavy if you are thinking about a 12" pot. I purchased a 12" aluminum dutch oven by GSI outdoors a few years ago (hardware store) that is great. I use it when camping, and it's great. It's also great for the kitchen, but its only disadvantage for indoors is that it has legs.

        Cast aluminum is worth considering, though due to its much lighter weight. I can't say that its thermal properties are a disadvantage.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Trnrbrnr

          Trnrbrnr,

          Lodge is great, but are you referring to the bare cast iron Dutch Oven by Lodge? Or are you referring to the enameled cast iron Dutch Oven by Lodge?

        2. I, too, have champagne tastes and barely can afford beer. Here's how I got new Le Creusets, recently (a 5 qt a few years ago, and a 7.5 quart this spring). TJ Maxx almost always gets in a goodly bunch of seconds this time of year. Haunt those...I found my smaller one, there--a lovely French blue--for only $80. Also, check the "others to sell" listings on Amazon, where private sellers compete with Amazon for pricing. For a month I lusted over a Dijon 7.5 quart round, but couldn't even afford the private Amazon seller who had a "no box; one tiny ding" brand new model. He wanted $190 for that. Well, after seeing his item sit and sit, I finally thought, "what the hell!" and wrote to him directly, making an offer of $150. He accepted, and I got my largest LC for almost half list price. :-)

          In other words, don't despair. Don't give in and buy something you don't want. Put out a "wanted" on Craig's list, get yourself Auction Sniper (an almost free sniping software that works like a charm) and put in low-ball bids all over Ebay. You may get lucky! Hit up TJ Maxx on weekdays, before the weekend hordes decimate the stock...You'll find one. It may not be the color of your dreams, but nearly all the LC colors are pretty.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Beckyleach

            Upon reflection, I probably should have said, "here's how I got new Les Creuset..." ;-)

            By the way, I do NOT think it is over-hyped or over-priced. My mother cooked in her 3 qt. LC every week or so for 30 years, and now I'm doing the same, for the past 5, and it's still in perfect condition.

          2. AChieffe,

            I don't get that Bank of America said no thing... Anyway, you can wait fo Le Creuset to go on sale like at TJ Maxx, but keep in mind that Le Creuset is not going to be cheap even on sale. The two cheap alternative to Le Creuset and Staub are Lodge Color and Tramontino. Both are enameled cast iron.

            1. I have a Mario Batali enameled cast iron skillet that appears to be pretty well made, even in comparison to my Le Creuset Dutch ovens and Lodge enameled cast iron frying pan.

              It seems you can order an MB 6-quart DO from Amazon.com for about $100. Based on the positive experience I've had with my MB skillet, I personally wouldn't hesitate to take a chance on an MB DO. Also, doesn't Amazon have a money-back guarantee?

              1. Let's back up! What do you plan to cook? How often?

                If you are looking at basic soups, chilis, casseroles, and an occasional loaf of bread, a plain cast iron dutch oven (pre-seasoned Lodge) will be fine, and can be bought at a reasonable price. You will need to keep the seasoning up, but that shouldn't be too big of a deal.

                Enamelled cast iron is the ticket if you are planning to do braises and sauces with wine, tomatoes, acidic stuff. No worries about seasoning.

                OK so you have decided on enamelled cast iron. Now really think about how often you will use it. If you are the sort that leaves the slow-cooker on the countertop, definitely save yourpennies and buy a Staub or LeCreuset oven. They will hold up and they have a great warrantee.

                But what if you are the sort that has their crock pot behind the spring-form pans? Not everyone likes hearty, slow-cooked food. Then, save your money and buy a PRC knock-off. If you find that you are wearing out your cheap oven, you can then decide how you want to replace. Hopefully, with time your situation is a little more flush.

                1. Wow...such good info! I secretly want to be Ina Garten when I grow up so I'm planning to use this for roasts and braises and sauces (you can make sauce without wine? LOL) and all kinds of things both acidic and non-acidic. That's why I was looking for enamel. Bread would be fun too since I don't really want to buy a bread machine, but can you make bread in ECI? I know you can in naked CI. Sounds like I'll have to try TJ Maxx (since you've twisted my arm! hehe) and look for Lodge and Tramontino as well.

                  How does everyone feel about size? 5 qt? 7qt? What's a good size for a decent sized whole chicken? I'd love to make some kind of yummy chicken soup.....

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: AChieffe

                    For bread (especially Jim Lahey's no-knead bread) the 5 quart is more than adequate. As a matter of fact, Lahey has begun using the 5-quart Lodge naked cast iron dutch oven for the recipe. You'll need to get an all metal pot knob for any of the enamel cast iron dutch ovens because none of them can withstand the 425-500 F temperature needed for the bread. [I bought a metal drawer pull for $1 at Sears and a screw to go with it.) The naked cast iron Lodge does is all metal so it doesn't need any retrofitting.

                    Lodge is a fantastic product and relatively inexpensive and while I do use my Tramontino enamel cast iron weekly and find it more than adequate, I also own a couple of pieces of LeCreuset. There is a discernible quality difference. LC is just better. Whether it is worth the price, I cannot say.

                    If you find LC at TJ Maxx, (Marshalls or Homegoods) and it is a piece you need and the price is right, don't hesitate.

                    Personally, I've never found LC for sale at TJMaxx but I have found other brands of enamel cast iron there.

                    If price is an issue, Lodge is excellent. I haven't tried their new enamel line, but I imagine it is worth owning.

                    BTW, Tramontino also makes an excellent tri-ply aluminum which is equivalent to All-Clad at a third of the cost.

                    1. re: AChieffe

                      I make a lot of soups, so use my 6.5 Lodge and Tramontina a lot. I would not want anything smaller for soups.

                    2. I hate to say it, but I wouldn't recommend the Mario Batali dutch oven. If you asked me a few months ago, I would have raved about it. Since then, however, it's developed fractures in the enamel on the inside cooking surface. There are also a some small pits on the inside that wasn't there a few months ago. I like to think that I know how to properly use cast iron (enameled or not) and I've never subjected it to any sort of severe thermal shock (only a little liquid for deglazing). Plus, I've only used a wooden cooking spoon and handled it with respect.

                      Here's my post about it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/638910
                      It's actually gotten a bit worse since then. Some members said that this is normal; I disagree. Quality enameled cast iron should NOT crack and pit within six months of purchase. The next step would be chipping, which I suspect will happen in another few months if I continue using it.

                      I'm going to go and bite the bullet now - sort of - and do as others have recommended: go LC or Staub, but at a store like TJ Maxx. There's no way I can afford to pay full retail for just one pot, as awesome as it may be.

                      As an alternative, I may try the Kirkland Signature dutch oven at Costco. So far, it's received great reviews and is very reasonably priced. But I'm concerned that it'll turn out the same way as my MB, so I'll be searching for an LC or Staub first.

                      A side question for other members regarding LC: Are their seconds found in stores like TJ Maxx still covered under their lifetime warranty?

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: can_i_try_some

                        I don't understand this. What do people mean by "second" in TJ Maxx stores? Do you mean second-hand? I don't think those LC Dutch Ovens in TJ Maxx are used items. Most TJ Maxx items are brand new first quality items.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          LC puts out what they call "factory seconds" that aren't used - they are still brand new - but might have had a variation in the enamel or a swirl in the color or some other kind of "disfiguration" that doesn't effect the use of the piece, but is just inconsistent with the normal product. There are a lot of people who one "seconds" but don't know why it was ever considered a "second". I think it's just LC's way of quality control - if it's not "LC perfect" then they knock it down a bit in price. Still, an awesome piece.

                            1. re: AChieffe

                              I totally agree with the "factory seconds" approach. You need to go hunting at Tuesday Morning, Marshalls etc and look for bargains. I can't tell you the number of pieces I've picked up really inexpensively by searching. My best buy is an LC 6-3/4 qt oval in red at HomeGoods (TJMaxx/Marshalls/HomeGoods are basically the same company) for $60 - an INCREDIBLE price. The "flaw" is the paint fade. There are spots in the paint. Who cares??? It performs beautifully. I also have a 2 qt round that I got for $20. There are bargains to be had; just look.

                              Costco has a 6 qt oval for $50. I bought one for my DIL for Christmas. Can't report on performance at this time. Heard good things about it though.

                              1. re: Dee S

                                Ok, that is an incredible price. $60 for a LC oven. Typically, I see price cut of about 30%, like a $300 LC Oven goes to a $200.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Yeah, TJM is the place to shop. I heart them.

                                  1. re: AChieffe

                                    I like TJ Maxx and HomeGoods alot. I used to go to Ross, but Ross displays the products in a mess, and the wait line for cashier is just crazy at times. AChieffe, I won't wait for a $60 LC Dutch Oven to buy. I think, realistically, you are going to going to see a LC Dutch Oven less than $150 in TJ Maxx.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I got mine at TJM and Marshalls. The Ross here doesn't get them, and it's the same here too, it always looks like a tornado has been through there and they don't care.

                                      I picked mine up at the following prices at TJM/Marshalls:

                                      3.5qt braiser = $129
                                      3.5qt oven = $99
                                      5.5qt oven = $139

                                      When visiting family, I pop in around them too just to see.. prices have been the same.
                                      Hope that helps!

                                      If you got one at $60 for LC, you got a prize!! :)

                                      Recently they've been getting in the larger wolfgang puck ovals for about $60ish. No LC ovals though, darn it!

                                      1. re: grnidkjun

                                        Yeah, I was going to say that. The Ross I visit always looks like it was hit by a tornado. You are also correct. I have never seen Ross carries high-end products like Le Creuset or even the higher end Calphalon.

                                        If you got your 5.5 quart Dutch Oven (market at ~$200) for $139, then that sounds more like how I remember it.

                                        Oh yes, I like the Marshall next to my place too.

                          1. re: can_i_try_some

                            Awesome question about the warranty! I knew the TJ Maxx sold seconds but I didn't even think about the warranty. Thanks for asking here - I'd love to know that too!

                            1. re: can_i_try_some

                              Thanks for the heads-up, CITS. Bummer to hear about the poor durability of MB enameled cast iron. Based on your experience, I'll try to treat my MB skillet even *more* gently from now on and just see how it goes. Guess you get what you pay for.

                              1. re: tanuki soup

                                It was a great piece before it started to crack. But dutch ovens aren't supposed to be babied. I mean, these things are supposed to last decades, even with daily use. Luckily, I was able to return it to Costco today - I love their warranty service!

                                Maybe mine came from a bad batch. I recall having to sort through the pallet of MB dutch ovens to find one with where the enamel wasn't flawed. I probably should have taken that as a sign.

                                However, don't worry too much. If your dutch oven hasn't shown any signs of cracking, then yours may have been made better. I've read dozens of positive reviews of the MB oven, which is why I purchased it in the first place. Hope you continue to have better luck.

                              2. re: can_i_try_some

                                The other side of the coin...
                                I bought the Mario Batali 6qt Italian Essentials Pot (that's what he calls the DO) last year around this time from Amazon for just under $90.00 with free shipping. We use it practically every night and still looks new. I Love it... it's bright red. In fact, I love it so much that last month I bought the 4qt from Chef's Resource (again with free shipping) in the same color. In each pot we use either a silicone spatular or wooden spoon.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Lucky you :) Looks like you got one of the good ones. Like I said above, I've read dozens of good testimonials about this DO.

                                  I really wanted mine to hold up as well. After all the reviews I read, I had high hopes for my Mario Batali DO. And I felt so clever too, thinking I had scored a great bargain (it was only $54.99 CAD!!!) for a quality product.

                                  I purchased mine at Costco, so I'm wondering whether the stock they had was produced specifically for them - they certainly have the buying power to warrant their own production lot. It was made in China, so it's not a huge surprise to find inconsistencies in quality.

                                  Just an FYI to my fellow Canadian CH'ers: If you can't make it down to the US, I've seen Le Creuset factory-seconds at Winners (Canadian version of Marshall's/TJ Maxx). I can't recall the prices, but they were certainly much lower than retail. I've also seen the Mario Batali DO there for $60, but Caveat Emptor (see above).

                                  1. re: can_i_try_some

                                    Hi there! Read your post re the DO from Costco. How do you like it? I recd one as a gift (Kirkland) brand; can't find any info anywhere on it. Does it work okay? Do you have to season it? I'm almost afraid to use it until I learn something about it. It came with absolutely NO paperwork.

                                    THANKS FOR YOUR HELP.

                                    1. re: ZLB

                                      I have been looking for a dutch oven and a friend's wife recommended I check out the one at Costco (she loves hers). I had been checking every other week for several months and they just started stocking them at my local costco. I picked one up today. But they aren't made in China. These are made in France. The "made in France" label is prominent on the packaging and the description says that they are handcrafted in France from individual forms. The item itself is also labeled as "made in France". Looks great and is heavy/substantial. It is enameled cast iron, 6.5 qt, $69. Hope it works and lasts as good as it looks.

                                      1. re: dachshund

                                        So far so good. I've used it to make braised beef short ribs and a pot roast. Both turned out very nicely. The oven has been performing consistently so timing each dish has been working out well.

                              3. I absolutely love my LC pieces, and wouldn't trade them for any other brand. Their lifetime guarantee is real and honored, and their customer service is extraordinary. About a year or so ago they replaced my 35+ year-old French oven with a brand new one at absolutely no cost to me (except for the cost of shipping the old one back to them).

                                FWIW, I just got a notice in the mail advertising 35% off purchases over $100 at the LC outlet stores. The sale runs from November 26 through January 1, 2010. And there's free shipping on orders of $100 or more.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  Has ANYBODY ever found a Le Creuset outlet store with ONLINE shopping? I'm hundreds and hundreds of miles from actual stores. Sure would love to "shop" via the internet.

                                  1. re: Beckyleach

                                    I don't think the individual outlet stores have their own websites. If there's a particular piece you want, you might try calling one of the outlets to see if they have what you want at the discounted price. Of course, if it's a factory second, you might want to see it before you buy it, but a helpful sales person might be able to describe the irregularity

                                    1. re: Beckyleach

                                      You don't need the internet to "shop" LC. All you need to do is know which items & colors you want & then phone one of the outlets. I live in NYC but have purchased from outlets in Maine, Florida & Alabama all by phone. Their sales are excellent, usually I believe with free shipping if you buy $100 worth. The SAs are knowledgeable & if you're interested in seconds, they will look for those with the least visible imperfections.

                                      By phoning the outlets during their sales, you will know you are getting genuine LC & not be concerned about the quality of the various knock-off available. The other plus is that once you've purchased from them, you will be on their mailing list & get notices about future sales & promotions.

                                      1. re: fauchon

                                        Great advice! Now if only I can find one that'll ship cross-border to Canada. Customs fees might make it tricky for me though.

                                    2. re: CindyJ

                                      There seem to be a number of places where discounted LC can be purchased. As others note, Marshalls and TJ Maxx frequently have pieces, plus there are the outlet stores. My question is how come there is so little top-of-the-line Staub to be found at a discount? Is Staub's quality control so excellent that there are very few seconds? Or is it just that a lot more LC is sold in the US than Staub?

                                    3. You might consider something from Staub's lower-priced lines, which are a bit less gorgeous than the high-priced stuff but perfectly fine to use--and made in France, not China. QVC. com carries Staub Basix, Basix II, and Elite, all priced under $80 for 5- or 6-quart sizes; and Bed Bath & Beyond carries the Fontignac line, about $100 for a 5-quart round casserole, $140 for a 6.5-quart round, and $160 for an 8-quart oval (but coupons are accepted). And as others have suggested, keep checking TJ Maxx, Marshall's, and/or HomeGoods. I saw the Staub Basix 6-quart oval casserole at TJ Maxx the other day for $50, in brown or lavender.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Miss Priss

                                        Lavender...that would be cool. I hope I can get out to check this Friday - it'll be my birthday! :-)

                                        1. re: AChieffe

                                          I wish I could come across an oval at the TJM or Marshalls here.. I keep looking.. but have found the 5.5qt round, 3.5qt round and the 3.5qt braiser.
                                          Not at the amazing $60 price point some have found but still about 100 bucks less than retail.

                                          1. re: AChieffe

                                            Yes, the lavender really is a nice (and unusual) color. If you want a preview, you can see it on QVC.com. Good luck, and happy birthday!

                                        2. I have a Lodge and a Tramontino dutch oven, and love them both. I paid less then $50 each. Walmart and Amazon.

                                          1. Does anyone know anything about the Emeri enamaled cast iron dutch oven? Box says it is made by All Clad, but made in China. All Bed, Bath, and Beyond had was a cark cobalt blue. Nice looking pot. Dimpled lid inside. Lid fit snugly. Thanks for any information on this.

                                            1. Don't laugh!
                                              I recently purchased a Martha Stewart Dutch Oven at MAcy's. I was there today and they were on sale. I have used mine for a variety of dishes from 40 clove chicken, mac n cheese and even apple crisp.

                                              1. I have the 5.5 Qt Martha Stewart Collection "chili pot" from macy's. well worth the $45 I paid for it

                                                I did just see at Bed Bath and Beyond Fontignac, part of Staub, owned by Zwilleg (hnkles)

                                                http://www.staub-fontignac.com

                                                Made in France and $100 for the 5 qt round (less your 20% off coupon

                                                )

                                                One thing I noticed ab0out the Fontignac is the the underside of the lid, around the edges where it seals to the pot is enameled, neither the LC nor my MS is like that. Don't know if it is good or bad

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Jack_

                                                  I think different people will have different opinions re the enameling of the rims or lack thereof, Jack. My husband hates the scraping noise my LCs make when I put on/remove the lids. He wishes they were enameled. I, on the other hand, am glad they're not, because I'm a little bit clumsy and there about the edges is exactly where I would accidentally knock or hit the pots and chip the enamel, were it there. To each his own, right?

                                                  1. re: Normandie

                                                    Yes, I just wonder if one seels (sorry I said seals before) better than the other. The enameling was only on the lid, not the pot

                                                    Anyway $99 - 20% is a good price for a French made 5 qt pot

                                                2. I just got back from a visit to the Le Creuset outlet store. I had seen on the Le Creuset web site that the outlet stores had a promotion on Azure blue enameled cast iron at 30% off during January. I had decided on a 3.5 braiser/casserole.

                                                  When I got to the store the first clerk I talked to said that they were already sold out of most of the Azure pieces (not surprising since it is getting towards the end of the month). My BF and I looked around the shop and at what was available in other colors. There didn't seem to be much difference in price or any great deals on seconds. All the 3.5 braisers were $170.00, still a little cheaper than on-line prices.

                                                  My BF suggested that we ask if they knew when the next promotion would be and what items would be on sale, so I asked a different clerk. She pulled a coupon out of her apron pocket that offered 40% any one piece (month of January only) and said this would be the best promotion of the year.

                                                  I was kind of stunned, I don't know if this 40% coupon is in-store only, or maybe something offered to the mailing list. I think the clerk offered it because she overheard our conversation and it looked like we would be leaving the store without buying anything (smart selling!).

                                                  I am now the happy owner of the 3.5 braiser in cobalt and it only cost $102.00 after the discount.

                                                  So if you have access to an outlet store (or Signature store) and have been waiting to get a piece, I would contact them before the end of the month and ask about the 40% off.

                                                  1 Reply