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Help me choose a Dutch Oven

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. :)