Lodge vs. La Creuset
I am in the market for a dutch oven, enameled, and I am leaning towards lodge because as far as I can tell the only REAL difference between them is appearance.
I am curious if anyone has any input on the subject on which would be better.
When it comes to Dutch Ovens there are two very good (excellent) choices made in France, Le Creuset and Staub. These two are very high quality and very resistant to chiping. What I was told by the manager of a gourmet cookware shop was that these two are far better than any other brand in this regard. Of the others, Lodge is the best, but still more prone to chiping than the French made ovens (Lodge enameled cast iron is made in China). As far as she was concerned, the others were little more than a waste of money, they chip easily and freequently. It's not uncommon to find a good deal on either Le Creuset or Satub to make the delta in cost vs. the Lodge a little less. There are those that have had good luck with other brands including Lodge, but I think the key word here is luck. Either Le Creuset or Staub is a much better bet. Now, as long as the enamel doesn't chip, I think any will perform similarly. For more information you can search the chowhound board for advantages and disadvantages and the raging debate over Le Creuset and Staub.
I've got several Le Creuset skillets (from garage sales) and a 6 quart Lodge enameled dutch oven from Amazon about 2 years ago for about $35. The enamel on the outside of the Lodge has chipped a bit, while there are no chips on the ancient LC at all. They are a bit scratched and stained, but no chips. So, for me, the LC is definitely higher quality. My Lodge still works just fine though and hard to beat the price.
LC. Tried Lodge, but like absurdnerdbird said, the enamel seems to be a bit more prone to chipping. The LC have been used and abused and are going strong.
If the price of LC is scaring you off, try giving one of their outlet stores a call. I buy all my stuff through the Foley, Alabama shop - this time of year there are great discounts (30% or so + free shipping, which is significant when you're buying cast iron). LC's "seconds" are, at least to me, indistinguishable from the "first" quality, and soooooooo much cheaper than buying "first".
Williams-Sonoma sometimes has drastic price reductions on LC. The least popular colors, to be sure.