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Finally springing for a cast iron Dutch oven. What to get?

  • t

I know this has been discussed a lot here, but I can't find anything recent. I'm finally springing for a cast iron Dutch Oven. What should I get (brand, size, shape, anything else...) Very important: where can I get the best deal? Quality matters. I want this to last for life. Price is also important.

I mostly cook for one and like to do the cooking on weekends and prepare dishes to refrigerate or freeze and eat later in the week, month, or year.

Thank you for your advice.

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  1. When I started cooking for myself, my braising pan was a 1 1/2 qt pyrex baking dish with lid - and an 8" cast iron skillet that matched the pyrex lid. Later I got a cast iron 'chicken fryer', a deep 10" skillet with lid, about 4 qts. Now for 2 people I mostly use 3 qt dutch ovens. One is a 10" hard anodized aluminum one that can also be used with coals ('camp oven'), the other a stainless steel Chantal (from TJMaxx) that I can use on my induction burner. I don't see why any of those should not last me lifetime (provided I don't drop the glass lids).

    1. I would get an oval 7 - 8 quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.If you get a Le Creuset, it will cost you approximately $200. If you get one of the secondary brands, it will cost approximately $50. I have both and frankly I can't justify the expense of a Le Creuset. Other chow hounders will certainly disagree. Walmart and Target sell Tramontina.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Hank Hanover

        I don't see any 7 quart enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens from Le Creuset for under about $275. I'm looking on the Le Creuset website and on amazon.com. Where can I get one for the $200?

        1. re: taos

          Sorry. Even more reason why I can't cost justify a Le Creuset.

          As far as shape, I like my oval but I primarily use it in the oven. I use the oven for heat and temperature control. The times I have used it on the stovetop it hasn't given me any problems like hot spots but I could see why a round one would work better on the stovetop. An oval works better for a pot roast in my opinion.

          I originally suggested a 7-8 quart. A 6.5 to 8 quart would be fine too. Even smaller if you are only cooking for two.

          1. re: taos

            I have neve spent $200 for a single LC. Recommend to go to LC outlet store or check out WS outlet. Also, one day home sale at bloomies offer good deals. I got my 6.75 qt WIDE round for $139 at outlet very recently (discontinued color) . Another large one, 6.75 qt oval, i spent just $110, but it is quite a while ago (discontinued color) . So, there are places you can get a good value in terms of LC and there are almost always people posting good deals here.

            America's test kitchen recommends 7.25 qt round LC and I agree it is the most versatile shape for all-round purpose ( especially if you do braising a big chunk of meat) but size and shape are personal choices based on # of family members/guest etc, or what you cook. Also, the size of stove top of your range matters. therefore, others says the round shape is a safe play or for all-round cooking purpose, I would say.

            1. re: hobbybaker

              I'm not sure that Cooks Illustrated recommends the LC without reservation - I do know their BEST BUY distinction went to the 6.5 qt. Tramontina, sold at Walmart for under $50. This forest green Dutch oven is what you'll see them using on both the ATK and CC shows. I bought one several years ago ($40 at the time) after reading their Almost No-Knead Bread 2.0 article. My other ones are a 4qt enameled Martha Stewart and an antique black one. All work fine. By the way, I am cooking for one, as well. You'll still need at least a 4qt to have enough room and thermal mass for braising meats successfully. I've been cooking for 40 years.

              Cookware obsessives can get really carried away with accumulating various sizes and colors of cooking equipment - fine if you are into collecting, but irrelevant if your main interest is in the cooking rather than the looking. I bought the Martha, on sale, because I learned that raw cast iron is undesirable when cooking acidic foods, although I had been doing so, without dissatisfaction, for decades. I could have done without it. The only reason for the Tramontina was that a larger one is needed for making bread. If I could only have one, it would be the Tramontina. Treat it with care and it won't chip. Even if it does, it's still usable.

              1. re: greygarious

                I have 5 pices of LC but they are not simply just for collection. They are constantly used because I use some of them not for braising. I use the smallest 2.0qt for grains/rice, which cooks better than the same size stainless sauce pans because of the heavy lid. I use 3.5qt for curries, soups, Mac & cheese etc as I am usually cooking only for two. 6.75 qt are simply too big for the purpose although they are perfect for the meat I use for braising . ( I decide which of 6.75 qt I use depending on the shape of the meat. ) I know I won't be happy with the 5qt size because it is either too small or too large for my pusposes. But, it is me. Others surely have different opinions.

                All of my DO has different colors because I bought all of them at sale - discontinued colors at outlet stores or one-day home sale at Bloomies. I don't pay MSRP $200 just because the color is new! I wish I could but I would rather buy the discontinued color and use the difference to upgrade my knives, for example...
                My DOs are all LC as Staub was kind of not accessible and more expensive. It was hard to find STAUB locally and I usually don't want to buy DOs from online retailers. I am an old-type to see the pot in person, lift it, and make sure the inside enamel is fine.

            2. re: taos

              Second Le Creuset dutch oven. Go to a Le Creuset outlet if you live near one. It can go in the dishwasher, under the broiler. Not sure about the grill and definitely NOT the microwave . . . You can even have it re-enameled if you ever need to. Not sure what size I have (26 or 28 on the bottom). It's round. Size is perfect for 1-2, cooking ahead and freezing.

            3. re: Hank Hanover

              I have four enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens and the oval one is the one I use the least often. It's only about 6 quarts, not 7 or 8, but the size isn't the problem. The shape is. When on the stovetop, the heat is concentrated on the the center of the pot so meat doesn't brown evenly and requires far more attention from me than the round pots. I'll use it for something like a pork loin or perhaps a leg of lamb, but that's about it. I use the round Dutch ovens a few times a month; it's not unusual for me to go more than a year without reaching for the oval one.

              1. re: JoanN

                I have four round ones, 3.5 qt, 4.5 qt, 5.5qt, and 7.25 qt. I use the 5.5 most often. I agree with Joan N on the oval configuration. I use my 6.75 oval basically for braising a whole chicken.

                I have an extra, brand-new 5.5 qt round in Indigo. See my profile to get in touch.

              2. re: Hank Hanover

                I think some will disagree with you, while many here have agree with your view in previous posts.

                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  At Bed, Bath and Beyond you can get Fontignac (i think it is around that size), which is also made in France for $100. Use your 20% off coupon, which they always have and it is a better deal, obviously. I've had one for almost a year now, and i use it 3-4 times per week, with no problems.
                  More info
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/742822

                  Not the same brand, but I saw a 6.5 quart round one for 69.95 today at the Costco. It was Kirkland brand, but made in France. It had an aluminum knob on the lid. Anybody used these before? Only one color that i saw, sort of orange.
                  Also, Tuesday morning sometimes has deals on LC.(they look to be discontinued colors)

                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    Hi TroyTempest, I bought one in January 2011. I've used it to make pot roast and short ribs. The oven has been performing great so far. Nice even heat and consistent performance so timing the done-ness of the food has worked out very nicely. I'll say so far so good. It's easy to clean and has a good heft to it.

                2. Get a Lodge or one of the Cabela's offerings.
                  They will last several lifetimes.

                  When you get a chance, check out the antique
                  stores in your area for Griswold or Wagner.

                  I think I have six and always go to the no-name
                  I picked up at an antique show for 20 bucks.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Johnny West

                    Thanks. I should have mentioned in my first post that I'm looking for enameled cast iron. I have nothing against bare cast iron for some uses. But for this use, I want enameled because it will be easier to maintain (I have and use a bare iron skillet and know what it takes to maintain). I am willing to pay the difference in price.

                    1. re: taos

                      Yes, you should have specified enameled cast iron, may be even expensive enameled. There are many, many threads about the major brands.

                      1. re: paulj

                        I'm sorry. By the time I realized my omission, it was too late to edit the post. I hope you will forgive me, eventually, someday.

                  2. The first thing you need to ask yourself is what are you going to be braising: Whole chickens? Chicken pieces? Rolled steak? If you cook things with height to them, you will need a traditional dutch oven, as opposed to a wide round or braiser. That will also determine the shape: If you cook chicken pieces, a round is good. If you braise a rolled steak, an oval is better. The second thing you will need to ask yourself is, how big of a steak or whatever will you be cooking? Since you cook in bulk you will probably want to buy a larger size, but remember, those suckers are heavy. I can't lift more than a 6.75 qt.

                    Staub and LC are the two most expensive brands. They are made in France and come with lifetime warranties. Martha Stewart, Lodge, etc. are all cheaper, made in China, and I don't think the company will send you a brand new oven 20 years from now if you crack the lid. Browsing amazon will give you the best idea of the price ranges and sizes.

                    My MO is to shop the best stores and buy where the deals are. To wit: my dutch oven is Le Creuset, but I got it at the 50% off section of the clearance rack at Tuesday Morning. Price: $40.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: E_M

                      Lodge Cast Iron is not made in China... their family owned company is in South Pittsburg, Tennessee & their web site is www.lodgemgf.com. Visit their web site to see all they have to offer, including enameled cast iron. I am 56 & have my grandmother's Lodge collection. I used it everyday when my sons were growing up & I was cooking for a 4 man household. I love it & added to the collection with the enameled dutch ovens & rounds. Now, my sons fuss about who is getting what in my will... LOL.

                      1. re: Buttons522

                        Their enameled cast iron IS made in China but the bare cast iron is made in the USA. I emailed the company a year or so ago and that is what they told me.

                        1. re: Buttons522

                          Lodge enameled ones are definitely made in China. This information is on their website. They are good. If we are talking about decent quality enameled Dutch Ovens which are NOT Le Cresuet and Staub, then Lodge Color and Tramontina and Chefmate are the three names which come up the most.

                      2. I think you will find something around 5qt to be a very usefull size. That's our most used enameled dutch oven. You can fit a chicken, 5 lb roast, a gallon of soup, etc in this size pot. We have found that one dutch oven can do a lot of different cooking tasks that may have been done in a number of different pots and pans. If you want something to last, go with LC or Staub, both made in France and the best quality of the lot. To the best of my knowledge all the others are made in China and according to a sotre owner are too easily chipped to even bother to carry in the store. If you don't mind chipped edges you can save a bundle on the China stuff vs the French brands.