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Help me choose a Dutch Oven

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I'm setting up a new kitchen. I have a lot of old, odd bits of cookware but I need a few things, including a toaster, immersion blender, cooking sheets, and a good cast iron dutch oven.

I often use my mother's 6.5 quart oval Le Creuset. It is about 10 years old and the enamel is fairly stained. I have an old Copco 3-quart saucepan, too. Its enamel is chipped around the rim, but it's less stained than the LeCreuset, despite being much older (I bought it at a Salvation Army 10 years ago, but it's probably from the '60s originally). I often wish I had just a bit more room in the 6.5 quart dutch oven, especially when I'm cooking soup with a pound of beans, or large pilaf dishes. I will be cooking for four people (2 of them small children right now) most nights, and 6-12 people probably about once a week.

At the moment, I would rather not spend a fortune, so I'm thinking about the Lodge 7.5 quart. I think it's the right size for me, and the lid would fit the 12" skillet nicely, but I'm concerned about the durability of its enamel. Has anyone here had a Lodge enameled Dutch oven or other Lodge enamel ware for more than a couple of years? How does it hold up?

Browsing around online, the best thing out there looks like Staub, but it's frighteningly expensive. I am also kind of looking at the Mario Batali/Copco, though I'm not crazy about the colors, and the Tramontina from Walmart, but it's a bit smaller than I'd prefer, though I'm sure I could work with it as I have with the Le Creuset.

I guess my big question is how the enamel holds up on these brands, in people's experience.

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  1. I'm sure you'll get a lot of opinions on various enameled cast iron pieces. The marketing and following of those types is pretty heavy. If your open to materials other than cast iron below a couple of options:

    The Johnson Rose 8 qt 4778
    http://www.instawares.com/brazier-8-q...

    The Vollrath Option 3810 10 qt.
    http://www.wasserstrom.com/restaurant...

    I prefer the 10 qt Vollrath 3810 size. It's ideal for a chicken and rice (arroz con pollo) recipe that's pretty common around our home and it's size 12 inches allows for more chicken pieces to be seared/browned at the same time.

    I have an 8 qt enameled cast iron (Martha Stewart) that I don't care for that much. It's heavy, does not sear evenly, takes longer to get up to temperature, and no matter what brand the exterior has a potential to chip if not taken care of.

    John

    1. The Staub is priced a bit lower than LeCreuset. Honestly, and i'm all about cheaping out whenever possible, I really think it's well worth the splurge on a Staub.

      For the rest, The Batali is decent, but chips an awful lot. Tramontina looks to hold up much better, however, i'd go for Lodge rather than a "cheap" enameled one.

      1. If staining is the only thing wrong with your LC, try something I learned on these boards recently, and let it sit overnight with bleach solution in it. For heavy bottom staining, let it sit a while with straight chlorine bleach. I think you should be able to do pretty much anything with that size Dutch oven. Unless you want to replace it for other reasons, the staining should negate the need.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mcf

          A solution of OxiClean and water should also work to reduce or remove the staining. Mix about one tablespoon of powdered OxiClean to one cup of water and let sit overnight.

          1. re: mcf

            The staining doesn't bother me too much -- it doesn't affect performance, and it's not absolutely hideous. The thing is, because I have the other pot, the old Copco, I can see that it doesn't have to be that bad.

            The other main problem with the Le Creuset is that it's not mine! It's my mother's, and lives at her house. I need my own, so while I'm at it, I want to get the best I can. I'm not replacing the LC.

            1. re: aikigypsy

              "The other main problem with the Le Creuset is that it's not mine! It's my mother's, and lives at her house. I need my own, so while I'm at it, I want to get the best I can. I'm not replacing the LC."

              Have you called a Le Creuset outlet store and presented your situation to them? I'd be surprised if you couldn't find something you really want ("I want to get the best I can") for a price that's not too much more than you might spend on another brand.

              Here's where to find them. If there's not one close to you, call any store and they'll ship free if you spend $100. http://lcstores.com/locations.asp

              Really. Try it.

          2. I often find LC for 1/2 price at TJ Maxx. I got my dutch oven there for around $100.

            1. When I was in school I worked in a couple of cookware/home furnishing stores that carried Le Creuset, so I had a lot of access to the product info. I know a lot of it is marketing info too but I think it's a really good product. Last summer I scored a small (3.5 quart)) Le Crueset dutch oven for half price ($125 CDN) at Winners due to cosmetic flaws (a couple of pinprick holes in the enamel on the outside) and I absolutely love it. The only thing that I regret is not buying a larger one (to do Bittman's no-knead bread in) but I couldn't afford it and also they are heavy as all hell, so I wouldn't have been able to carry it home on the bus with me. I know, even at half price it's expensive but I will probably never have to buy another dutch oven ever. (Except for a larger one, lol!)

              4 Replies
              1. re: jubilant cerise

                oops on the no-knead bread - it's Jim Lahey's recipe book I have; Bittman championed it! :)

                1. re: jubilant cerise

                  I just tried the No Knead Bread last night. It is easy to do. It definitely discolored the Dutch Oven in a major way, but I don't care because my enameled cast iron Dutch Oven will not be used for anything else (I have two bare cast iron Dutch Ovens which will do the cooking).

                  I just want to say that if all you want is to make the No Knead Bread, then there is no reason why you cannot get a non-Le Creuset.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Agree. I would bo with Kitchenaid 3.5qt if I want to have a one dedicated to KNB. I agree with the auther of this website. with KA, no need to worry about the knob in high heat. I occasionally see the KA DO for $29-39 at TJM, Homegoods, etc.

                    http://www.nokneadbread.org/3-notouch...

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Oh I definitely have other plans for LC than just no-knead bread! Soups, stews, jellies and jams. More to come for sure. :)

                  2. I have my moms pots made by guardian service ware, they fifty years old at least..They do not go in the dw, she bought them from a door to door salesman ...one a week.. I see them on eBay, antique malls, resale shops. I recommend .the dutch oven and the chicken fryer .They are heavy hammered aluminum. enameled pots chip and iron rusts. I cannot pick up dome of the new pots..u have to be a wrestler..buy used!

                    1. I just bought a 7 qt lodge signature series cast iron dutch oven. It arrived thursday. I looked at the enamel ones and read the customer reviews. They all complained about chipping, including lodge so I got just a plain dutch oven without enameling. I could not bring myself to spend $280 on La Creuset.

                      1. I've had the lodge enamel dutch oven (either 6 or 7.5 qt) for about a year and haven't had any problems with chipping. I've been careful with it but I've used metal utensils a few times and it's been fine.

                        Amazon periodically seems to have certain colors on sale. At $50 for the 6 qt and $80 for the 7.5 qt lodge ones, you could replace it almost 5 times before equalling the price of one Staub or Le Creuset. The Lodge colors are also attractive.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: amanfredi

                          Thank you all for your replies. I'm especially glad to hear the good reviews of the Lodge enamel.

                          I have decided that I really want a nice collection of Staub cookware... but I don't NEED it, at least not right away. I ordered the 7.5 quart Lodge enamel dutch oven, and also bought a Staub 9.5" hexagon saute pan, which was 40% off. I think it will fill a lot of functions, and I've only spent an extra $120 instead of an extra $200, and I got two pieces instead of one.

                          Now all we need is a toaster!

                          1. re: aikigypsy

                            Lodge and Staub look really awesome too, congrats! Again, if price weren't such an issue, I'd be building up my kitchen with some of these beauties too. Sigh...

                            1. re: aikigypsy

                              Staub is a very good product indeed. A store owner told me one day when we were talking about where products were made, that Staub and LC were by far the best enameled cast iron with regards to chip resistance. Of all the others she liked the Lodge, anything else, as far as she was concerned, was too chip prone to even cary in the store. Mad customers wasn't something she wanted to deal with.

                              That Staub 9.5" hexagon braiser has become my favorite cooking tool. It's great for dishes where there isn't a lot of liquid.

                              1. re: aikigypsy

                                Congrats on your decisions - cookware junkie though I may be, I like to be a good steward of my resources by doing my research before purchasing, just like you. After years of using my small black matte enamel Staub cocotte, I can truthfully say that it is the most-used pot in my kitchen, and the best-looking.

                                One decision-making guideline I like to use - especially when making big purchases where the price difference might be large between equally good choices: Does it make me smile? Sometimes it is worth it to get the pot with just the right color or whimsical handle, dark interior or light interior, the right feel to the handle(s), the shape that looks most attractive to you, or whatever that defining element may be that just makes you feel great every time you handle it.

                                And good luck with the toaster hunt. I don't need a toaster but wish I'd done a little more due diligence on the one we have now.....

                              2. re: amanfredi

                                Agree. Lodge Color enameled cast iron cookware are good stuffs at 1/4 - 1/5 of a LC price point.

                              3. I also have the Lodge, plus Member's Mark Dutch oven from Sam's Club. Both work fabulously well, although the Member's Mark stains. I've read the leach thing is not necessarily the best way to go. I am just living with the stains. While I would love a Le Creuset Dutch oven, I just can't spend over $200 right now on a pan. I do have a Le Creuset shallow oval baking dish that is just terrific. Oh well.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: cbertel

                                  What have you read about the bleach? It's the only thing that works, IME. The special Le Creuset cleaner doesn't, and is at least slightly abrasive.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    It apparently caused the enamel to chip in some cases. I've tried vinegar and water, which works a little bit. It's true that a lot of people recommend the bleach treatment. But if you do use, it's best not boil the bleach because of the fumes, etc. If you try the bleach-water-sitting- overnight treatment, let us know if works without damaging the enamel. The thing is, because of the variety of foods different people cook in their pans, it's hard to know if certain foods haven't set up the enamel to chip anyway!

                                    1. re: cbertel

                                      I haven't found any reports of chipping, but one person says it caused crazing in the enamel. I will say that mine seems duller, but I think that may have to do more with all the time and effort spent scrubbing it with the useless LC cleanser beforehand. I've used bleach twice, now, once overnight diluted in water, which helped a lot, but didn't remove all the very dark staining. Then I put full strength in for a short time on the bottom. I found vinegar, with and without baking soda pretty much useless for significant staining. If I had it to do all over again, I'd have used mild bleach solution without ever having scrubbed it with Barkeeper's Friend or LC cleanser. So mine is duller, but not chipped or crazed and I'll only use dilute bleach in the future. Some folks report having had family LC undamaged by overnight bleach solution soaks for many years, so the dilution may be the key.

                                      Bleaching works, btw. My Dutch oven was extremely stained, and now there's only slight grayness on the bottom, but it's clean looking.

                                      1. re: cbertel

                                        I leave hot water and baking soda in my cookware for a bit or overnight to remove the stubbon residue. Usually wipes away next day and if not, I scrub it out with a damp dishcloth and a bit more baking soda.

                                  2. I ended up finding a appox. 7 qt wide round Le Creuset on clearance at Marshall's for $119 just a few weeks ago. It's a pale yellow that I'm not fond of, but for $119 I don't really care. I'd check out TJ Maxx/Marshall's if you don't need the dutch oven asap. It took me about a month of stopping in 2 or 3 times a week to find the deal I found. Thankfully I pass two Marshall's and a TJ Maxx on my way to work so it wasn't really out of my way.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Rick

                                      Are you familiar with the Le Creuset Factory Stores, located in outlet malls? They have a much better selection at varying price points. I bought a 6.75 qt oval in a color I like for either $119 or $129, and found lots of things there at equally good prices, all in a color I wanted.

                                      http://lcstores.com/locations.asp

                                      1. re: Jay F

                                        The closest one to me is in Virginia about 3.5 hours away. I read on line that unless you hit their outlets during sale that their outlet prices aren't all that great?

                                        1. re: Rick

                                          Here's what you can do. Call Frank at the Los Angeles Citadel Outlets (323) 725-6336. He will tell you what's available at all the Factory Outlet Stores in the country and what it costs. They ship stuff around the country. There's no need to go to a store unless you want to. In Dec., shipping was free when you spent >$100.

                                          1. re: Jay F

                                            Thanks!

                                    2. I personally will not buy made in China enameled cast iron. So that leaves out Lodge and probably the rest of the cheaper brands. At this point I have a wide selection of Le Creuset and I'm happy with it. I'm not against Staub though.