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Dutch ovens: enameled cast iron vs stainless steel

I'm a mom of two little ones just starting to work on my domestic abilities (I was an engineer and private pilot in my past life) and I want to be able to fill my babies with hearty meat dishes when they older and ravenous so I decided on purchasing a Dutch oven. But I am trying to weigh pros and cons between a Le Creuset 7.25qt round French oven and an All-Clad d5 brushed stainless 5.5qt Dutch oven. I don't have any experience with Dutch ovens-- only crockpot experience, let alone enameled iron vs SS ones. Would love to hear thoughts from all the good cooks on this site. Thanks in advance!

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  1. My first thought is that if you go the enameled cast iron route, you don't need something as big as 7+ quarts, certainly not to start with; 4-5 quarts is much more useful and (equally if not more important) manageable to move from stove to oven and back, and to wash. It's still going to come in at around ten pounds.

    I have no experience with Dutch ovens made of stainless-ply; it's hard for me to imagine that they're as even-heating as enameled cast iron in an oven, but they do have the advantage of being able to be washed in the dishwasher, of being lighter weight, and of not being susceptible to chipping if banged around. You are the best judge of how important those features are. (My Copco Dutch oven is unchipped after 40 years of frequent use, but it wouldn't have lasted a year that way in the households of friends who move more briskly in the kitchen than I do.)

    My second thought is that spending the kind of money stores want for Le Creuset is unnecessary. If budget is at all a concern, consider used enameled cast iron of good quality: LC, Copco, Descoware. It abounds on online sites.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ellabee

      Wow, it's only been a day after posting my question and I'm really blown away by all of this support; this is fantastic.

      About the sizes, I happened to stop by the Le Creuset outlet near my home and told the rep that I wanted to accommodate 4-6 people (me, my hubby, my two kids about 10 years from now, and possible guests or leftovers) with the Dutch/French oven and she highly recommended the 7.25qt over the 5.5qt round. This is the only reason I had 7.25qt in mind. I'm not inflexible with considering a 5.5qt at all if it meets me usage needs. And, with the stainless, I wanted to match my other pots and the 5.5qt AC d5 is the only size available in that line. Your point about manageability from stove to oven and back and washing is something I am definitely interested in. I tend to handwash everything right now, unless we have a party. So, the washing differences between the two ovens aren't too important for me. And thanks for the budget tips, it's good to know.

      1. re: ellabee

        Love the Descoware- I've scooped up 4 pieces on EBay for very fair prices. I also enjoy the fact that they are Belgium-made & a little worn (meaning used & enjoyed).

        1. re: bevwinchester

          Thank you for sharing. I'll have to look into Descoware.

      2. Aside from the size difference, I think you will find the stainless steel cladded (All Clad) Dutch Oven to be just as good as the Le Cresuset Dutch Oven. The Le Cresuset Dutch Oven is more traditional, but it only has a few advantages over the stainless steel counterpart.

        Both cookware will be fairly nonreactive toward food, but the enameled surface will be even more nonreactive than stainless steel.

        In term of stovetop cookware, the stainless steel cladded cookware will response faster and will have a even heating surface (due to the aluminum inner layers). The stainless steel surface also can take a lot more physical abuses than the enameled surface. It is much easier to chip an enameled surface than to rip out the stainless steel layer. As such, you can freely use any metal utensils in the stainless steel cladded Dutch Oven. Finally, it is also much easier to clean the stainless steel surface to a shiny sliver color than to restore the enameled surface to its original white color.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Yes, I've had to replace an enameled cast iron Dutch oven because I damaged it. The SS is almost indestructible.

          1. re: drongo

            Thanks for sharing. I've read some people saying their pot chipped even though they didn't burn the pot; that does concern me.

          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I enjoy this idea of taking physical abuse. I'm really looking for a workhorse when it comes to a big pot and I don't want to find that I end up with a chip even if it is replaced with a complimentary lifetime guarantee. As far as appearances, I'm not concerned with the pot looking brand-spanking new, as long as it can be cleaned using what I consider the normal washing routine -- dish liquid, baking soda, hot water. I want to buy it and forget it so I really appreciate this attention to various considerations. +1 for SS.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Agree on all points, CK. I have LC 5.5 Dutch oven and while it's a work horse, it's hard to heft around while loaded with food. It doesn't clean up as well as s/s does.

              I have the AC large braiser, and it does a great job for long slow cooking in the oven. I would think the AC D/o would fare just as well, be lighter in weight and easier to clean.

              If I could have a do-over, I would purchase the AC 5.5 D/o. I just wish they made a few different sizes.

              1. re: breadchick

                Nice to hear your experiences and preferences. Thanks. Another +1 for SS.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                "Finally, it is also much easier to clean the stainless steel surface to a shiny sliver color than to restore the enameled surface to its original white color."

                So true. My Lodge Dutch oven is stained pretty badly from the last stew I made in it. I worked on it pretty hard, but it's not coming out.

                1. re: Kontxesi

                  Bare CI can be cleaned by putting it your oven on self clean cycle. I do this once per year with mine and then simple re-season them,

                  1. re: law_doc89

                    It's a Lodge enameled, actually. I didn't mention that, did I....

                    I do have a bare CI skillet and wok, though. I put them through that treatment occasionally.

              3. Also, a well seasoned black cast iron dutch oven is fine to use if you don't store acid foods in it. It also allows a higher temperature for browning,enameled should never be on a burner above medium heat. Much less expensive. We have both kinds,prefer the plain Lodge cast iron for browning.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Raffles

                  Is tomato sauce considered an acidic food? Also, the idea of seasoning a cast iron is daunting to me, primarily due to the time commitment and the frequent monitoring of when the pan would need to be re-seasoned; perhaps a misconception on my part? I've only just started reading about "how to season a pan".I also worry (maybe illogically) about rust. Does your Lodge cast iron take some considerable care outside of washing?

                  1. re: motled

                    Tomato sauce is acidic, yes. So making tomato-based sauces and simmering them in a bare CI dutch oven is a bad idea. Even boiling water in bare CI can remove the seasoning on a new pan.

                    I know some consider CI to be the epitome of cookware, but as far as I'm concerned, it is not the ideal material for dutch ovens. SS or enameled CI would be better choices simply because of versatility and ease of maintenance. Anything you can cook in a bare CI dutch oven, you can cook in a enameled CI or SS dutch oven, but not everything you can cook in the latter two can be cooked in a bare CI one.

                    And for the record I love bare CI. I own many pieces of it, including a dutch oven, which I only use to cook bread.

                    CI is not really a pain to maintain when we're talking about bakeware and things such as skillets/griddles, but when it comes to saucepans, soup pots, etc... I'm not so sure because of the problems with sauces and acidic ingredients. Tomato-based stews? Forget it. Wine-based sauces? Best not to.

                    I don't know about you, but I do a lot of French and Italian cooking which involve much wine and tomato, therefore bare CI is the last thing I'd choose. On the other hand, if you don't do a lot of cooking involving tomato or wine or vinegar etc... then a bare CI oven would potentially be fine for you.

                    1. re: Sirrith

                      Thanks for helping me understand the various limitations or personalities of CI vs SS and enameled CI.

                      Tomato-based stews and wine-based sauces are a must for my 'Dutch oven' so that certainly helps me rule out bare cast iron. Forward progress, whew!

                      1. re: motled

                        Note that I'm not saying that a tiny bit of wine/tomato will strip the seasoning immediately, but if you are making tomato based dishes that are going to stay for, say, an hour or so in the pot, you will definitely notice problems.

                2. I have cast iron (both au naturel and enameled) Dutch ovens and an All Clad SS Dutch oven. I use the cast iron more often, but I think that's just a matter of habit. And my 3-qt cast iron Dutch oven fits in my Breville countertop oven, which is convenient.

                  I don't think even heating is a big deal once the Dutch oven is in the oven -- but may be important if you're using it on the stove top before or after the oven. Ck's post points to this.

                  One point to perhaps consider is that the cast iron is quite a bit heavier than the SS for the same capacity (at least for the ones that I have). I have a big dent in the floor from my largest heavy cast iron Dutch oven (clever & evil cat pushed it off the table).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: drongo

                    <And my 3-qt cast iron Dutch oven fits in my Breville countertop oven, >

                    Really? I don't realize how small the 3-qt is.

                    1. re: drongo

                      I also have a clever cat. I'll have to keep an eye on him to make sure he's not evil as we have wood floors that dent easily. Another +1 for SS.

                    2. I have 2 cast iron Dutch ovens made by Cousances and purchased over 30 years ago. Cousances was sucked up by Le Creuset sometime in the early 80's, I believe. Anyway, the larger one is plain cast iron and the other (actually called a Doefeu) is enameled. While both are still performing well, the large one looks much better. The enamel on the smaller one has discolored. I guess my point is, if I were you, I'd get a plain un-enameled cast iron one in whatever size you prefer. Le Creuset or possibly one by Lodge. Smaller investment and see how you like cooking with it. You can always go "fancy" later. jmho

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: grampart

                        Our un-enameled cast iron pot is a Griswold we got used on eBay. We have a few of the LC enameled and Lodge enameled. The LC are overpriced . The Lodge was inexpensive (think China) but is holding up well. The Griswold is 65 years old and like new.

                          1. re: Raffles

                            Based on the reports of chipping of Lodge compared to LC, I highly doubt LC is that overpriced. Cooking performance may be similar, but come back in 10-20 years and then see how well the Lodge has fared compared to the LC. I think that is the main reason to spend more on the top brands for ECI: longevity.

                          2. re: grampart

                            Based on your and Raffles feedback, it sounds like plain un-enameled cast iron is great. My concerns would be knowing what not to cook in it, care, and rust. I'm not concerned about discoloration, unless it affects performance. Thanks for sharing your Dutch oven experiences. Do you know how many quarts your two Dutch ovens are?

                            1. re: motled

                              7.5 and 5.5. The Lodge ones are pre-seasoned if that is a concern. In truth, I never worry about the acidic factor.

                              Check this one
                              http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-L10DOL3-P...

                              1. re: grampart

                                Thanks for sharing. So when you say you're not concerned about the acidic factor, are you making tomato-based stews and wine-based sauces with regards to Sirrith's advice on bare cast iron?

                                1. re: motled

                                  I am and have been for many years. I may have iron rich blood, but can't say there's ever been a problem.

                                    1. re: grampart

                                      I knew that but hadn't ever seen an article on it! Thanks !

                                      1. re: grampart

                                        Great information. Thank you for sharing the wealth!

                                    2. re: motled

                                      It is easy to keep the CI seasoned, just wipe it down with oil after cleaning.Heat for a minute on burner,done.
                                      Just don't store acid foods in it.

                                      1. re: Raffles

                                        Okay, I think I'm understanding the routine for regular use with a CI. Not so bad. Thanks for sharing!

                              2. Hi, motled:

                                Gosh, each construction has relative advantages and disadvantages.

                                Clad will be more even-heating on the stovetop than CI. Depending on your hobs, this may or may not be an issue for you. Neither will be particularly good at heating up the sides.

                                Both will cook well--and evenly--in the oven.

                                CI, by virtue of its thickness, will tend to *hold* onto heat a little better than the d5. Applications where this could be advantageous include searing meat before progressing in the same pot with a 1-pot meal and keeping a dish warmer longer if used as a serving piece.

                                The d5 is dish-washable, whereas the LC should be hand washed. The LC lining will eventually discolor some (takes a long time), whereas the d5 will always scour back to near-new.

                                As you know, the sizes are different, too. If you were cooking for two bottomless teenagers, of if you entertained much, the 7.25 LC would make more sense. Why not the 5.5 LC?

                                Aloha,
                                Kaleo

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  Aloha Kaleo,

                                  Since the rep at the LC outlet recommended a 7.25qt round French oven for making spare ribs for 4-6 adults, I just ran with it. And, I didn't have a choice when it came to the AC d5 brushed SS Dutch oven; it only comes in the5.5qt. I am definitely open to a 5.5 LC if it is recommended for 4-6 adults.

                                  As for hand washing, at this time, unless we have a party, I hand wash everything, especially pots and pans. Call it pride of ownership or whatever you'd like but, I'm one of those people who find it therapeutic.

                                  Yes, the "searing meat before progressing in the same pot with a 1-pot meal".. yes! This is why I want a dutch oven.

                                  I'm definitely open to the 5.5qt LC. I just want to make sure I can accommodate the bottomless teenagers as well as some in-laws that come to visit for the holidays.

                                  BTW, your feedback on some of the other discussions is a major reason that I joined chow and posted my question!

                                  Aloha

                                  1. re: motled

                                    Hi, motled:

                                    You're very welcome. There is a lot of collective wisdom here, and I look forward to learning some things from you, too.

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                    1. re: motled

                                      With the "searing first part" I'm assuming you sear, pour off the fat, keep the fond, add Mirepoix, cook a while, deglaze, etc.. This process is more efficient (IMO) with Stainless materials. My experience using both is that ECI has some non stick properties where the fond does not stick as well as SS and thus mixes with the fat. James Peterson describes something similar in his book Sauces.

                                      Paraphrasing James Peterson "To build a sauce, the juices from the meats and fish do not adhere to the enamel cast iron well making the separation of the juices from the fat before deglazing difficult."

                                      I've had both but prefer SS for the positive qualities mentioned elsewhere on this thread.

                                      1. re: bbqJohn

                                        Hi, John:

                                        You are absolutely right about SS being superior to ECI for forming fond, and about chef Peterson's opinions concerning fat and jus. Elsewhere in "Sauces", he describes ECI as having the unfortunate trait of the fat running through the jus.

                                        However, my point upthread had to do with something else, i.e., the aspect of superior stored heat in cast iron pans of typical thickness. Unless and until someone makes and offers extremely thick clad dutch ovens (think at least as thick a DO version of a Demeyere Proline 5* skillet), CI will hold an advantage when it comes to meting out heat at the flop, especially when the pan is loaded to capacity.

                                        Aloha,
                                        Kaleo

                                        1. re: bbqJohn

                                          I certainly love efficiency and ease of deglazing! Thanks for your reference and +1 for SS.

                                    2. I too wondered about the size-differences mention by several posters. I have the 5.5 LC and think a 7.25 would be too heavy--for me-- for daily cooking (the 5.5. is right on the edge, weight-wise, for me, but perhaps I am a wimp :) )

                                      I'd actually would want the~ larger~ vessel to be SS. I think the AC 8 qt. stockpot would make a nice kitchen addition to the 5.5 LC for those times when I wanted to make a big batch of soup or for boiling pasta.

                                      Oh, and thinking like a girl...don't forget that LC is available in all those fun colors.
                                      Enjoy whichever you choose and have fun in the kitchen!

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: pedalfaster

                                        Ah, yes, if there was a larger SS, I would probably have put that up for consideration. But, the AC d5 brushed dutch oven only comes in a 5.5qt. Is it just as feasible to use a stockpot for dutch oven purposes? I'm assuming the material is not as thick, therefore, not as ideal for dutch oven recipes, such as a family-sized vat of short ribs?

                                        Fun point about the colors. I personally lean towards the brushed SS. It goes well with our kitchen.

                                        1. re: pedalfaster

                                          I'm kinda wondering why most posters are only mentioning the All Clad brand for SS stock pots. They are damned expensive & there are many reasonably priced lines that serve beautifully. For ex., I purchased some Sitram , Fissler & Demeyere pans recently- the Demeyere being a huge splurge. While being beautiful - I do not like them- go figure??
                                          Sorry- I did forget that the OP mentioned the AC as her choice, so that would be totally relevant here.

                                          1. re: bevwinchester

                                            <I'm kinda wondering why most posters are only mentioning the All Clad brand for SS stock pots. >

                                            Mostly because the original poster started the question with two choices, so we are sticking to the question.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              Yes, you are correct & if you read my whole note; I did qualify that-

                                              1. re: bevwinchester

                                                <if you read my whole note; I did qualify that->

                                                :) Thanks. I must have replied rather quickly.

                                                It is always a debate between directly answering the OP's questions vs providing better alternatives to the OP's questions.

                                                Not long ago, someone new to baking asked for recommendation for a good bread machine. A bunch of people (including me) immediately replied about using a Dutch Oven for no-knead bread -- basically providing what we perceived to be a better alternative to a bread machine. Then another poster basically wrote that we didn't directly answer the original question. I usually try to stick to the original question if I can.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Oh that's unfortunate but makes sense. I always am open to hearing a better answer, even if it's to a better question! :)

                                            2. re: bevwinchester

                                              Yeah, it's not the best reason that I posed the AC d5 brushed 5.5qt Dutch oven: merely because my existing SS pots are AC d5 brushed and I figured I'd start there. Per Amp1's post however, I have ruled it out since I do want a larger base for searing larger volumes of meat. To your point though, I don't want to just spend money for the sake of spending money. So I'd love to hear what your preference and recommendations are. And BTW what don't you like about the Demeyere; I've had my eye on them.

                                          2. I personally prefer ECI over SS. I just like cooking with it more, and enjoying it is all part of the experience.

                                            And I'd stay away from the 7.25qt. That thing is a beast. 5.5qt would be enough even for a family of 4 or 5.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Sirrith

                                              +3 for 5.5qt. I do want to enjoy the experience!

                                            2. You may be better at organization, endurance, and patience than I was, but back when I had a young family, I found that lots of times the "wash by hand" items did not get done until the end of the day. Standing at the sink at midnight finally drove me to the decision that I had to be able to put more things in the dishwasher. I bet if you get the cast iron, you will still want the stainless, just because it's easier, and if you get the stainless, you might want the cast iron later, when you need more capacity. But for a mother of small children, I would go for convenience right now. Just my humble opinion.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: texanfrench

                                                When I wash dishes, it's my "Calgon, take me away" time. LOL At this time, I do wash everything by hand, particularly my pots, pans and bakeware. But, you're right, I do appreciate an easier piece of cookware. Who doesn't like convenience?! +1 SS.

                                                1. re: motled

                                                  Same here. I've never put cookware or bakeware in the dishwasher. I pour another glass of wine and enjoy the process.

                                              2. I don't think there's anything wrong with a steel dutch oven per se, but that particular pot from All Clad does nothing for me. Their dutch oven has a rounded bottom, with a relatively small surface area. The lack of room on the bottom means less area to sear meats or sauté ingredients.

                                                I wouldn't pay too much attention to what companies call their pots. Dutch ovens seem to be popular right now, and pretty much every manufacturer seems to have a pot they call a "dutch oven," which wasn't the case even a few years ago. Back then, they may have named the same pot a casserole or a chili pot, or something else picked by the marketing department.

                                                If you're interested in an All Clad pan, I'd look at their 6 quart braiser. It's not quite as tall as the other pan, and it's from their SS line, but it gives you a 12.5" diameter across the bottom.

                                                http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: Amp1

                                                  12.5 " diameter can be a good thing, but it can be a bad thing. Most stoves are not large enough to accommodate the large base, which means the base won't have a even temperature surface just something to consider.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Yes, we have a 12" nonstick skillet and it's not easy to ensure the base is evenly heated. Great point.

                                                    1. re: motled

                                                      Your situation of the 12" skillet has nothing on this. :)

                                                      Your 12" skillet has a 12" diameter on the top, but its base is probably 10". Now, just imagine you actually have a 12" base cookware.

                                                      It is not undoable, but you need to that this information into your consideration.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Come now.. I wouldn't say "nothing". Since the 12" skillet has a smaller base, patchy heating on a smaller base can guarantee patchy heating on a larger 12" base, right? And, yes, certainly, info added. Lol thanks!

                                                        1. re: motled

                                                          <Since the 12" skillet has a smaller base, patchy heating on a smaller base can guarantee patchy heating on a larger 12" base, right?>

                                                          A good assumption, and most likely true. (there are always exceptions).

                                                          Stainless steel cladded (e.g. All Clad) cookware has several advantages over enameled cast iron (e.g. Le Creuset). Some of the advantages are minor.

                                                          For example, the stainless steel cladded cookware is likely to heat up a bit more evenly and response to the stove temperature faster. For slow cooking, it may not be a very big deal to have an even heating surface as long as you are attentive, and quick heating response is also a minor advantage in hours-long cooking.

                                                          What I think really will come into play is that a stainless steel cladded cookware will be easier to care for. Enameled cast iron cookware like Le Creuset is prone to chipping. Yes, Le Creuset is known to be a bit better than its competitors, but only a bit. Just ask everyone this question: What will happen if I drop the cookware 1 foot off a hard floor? I can tell you that your Le Creuset will undoubtedly chip for sure, while your stainless steel cookware will survive just fine.

                                                          In term of stainless steel cladded cookware, you don't need to buy All Clad. There are many brands out there. Some more expensive, some less expensive.

                                                          If you want something more expensive, a Demeyere 5 quart stock pot will work:

                                                          http://www.amazon.com/Demeyere-Atlant...

                                                          If you want something less expensive, then breadchick's suggestion for the Vollrath is good restaurant brand:

                                                          http://www.webstaurantstore.com/vollr...

                                                          The Calphalon, Cuisinart,.....etc all make good cookware at a lower price point.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            Thank you for the good advice and recommendations!

                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Also, if one does want to go for the larger diameter, I think the price tag for that AC braiser is pretty steep compared to this version from webstaurantstore:

                                                      http://www.webstaurantstore.com/vollr...

                                                      Also tri-ply but a little more reasonable in price. I think this could handle a lot of food for family and friends.

                                                      1. re: breadchick

                                                        Thanks for sharing. I love good deals. I already have an AC LTD braiser but I enjoy helping my parents with cookware so this helps!

                                                        1. re: motled

                                                          Check to see if there's a LC outlet near you, if you love good deals. I picked up a 3.5 qt braiser this past weekend for about $160.

                                                          1. re: Susangria

                                                            Yes there is. I am eyeing the second choix items already! Congrats and thank you :)

                                                    3. re: Amp1

                                                      You just negated all the pluses for SS posted til now! "Their dutch oven has a rounded bottom, with a relatively small surface area." That rules the AC d5 dutch oven out for me completely. Your experience and attention to detail just saved me $360! My main vision is to make a hearty short rib dnner for 6 adults (me, my hubby, our two future teenagers, and a couple guests, for example) so being able to sear a large quantity of meats is a requirement.

                                                      I do happen to have an All-Clad LTD 10" braiser from about 5 years ago or so. I think the pot needs to be much taller than a braiser though for the dishes I want to make. I was considering the All-Clad d5 brushed SS dutch oven to match my AC d5 brushed SS 4qt soup pot and 3qt pot. I really don't care about looks but, it was easy to just start there. If anyone has a SS dutch oven they recommend, I'm open.

                                                      I'm curious, do you make short ribs (ideally for 6) and if so, what do you like to cook them in?

                                                      1. re: Amp1

                                                        Oh, and thanks for the feedback!

                                                      2. Call me crazy, but I like enameled cast iron. I like the way food cooks in it, I like the way the food tastes made in it. I think I can tell the difference between pot roast cooked in an enameled cocotte vs a SS pot. Maybe it's just my imagination, maybe a new butcher, maybe there's a difference, who knows.

                                                        We have 3 Staub enameled cast iron cocottes (French ovens) a small one (2.75 qt) a medium (5.5 qt) and a large one (9 qt). By far the least used is the 2.75 qt. The most often used is the 5.5 qt, but it is followed closely by the 9 qt. I like to make double amounts of stews and soups, so the 9 qt gets it's fair share of use, it's heavy, but managable. My point here is that if you have your mind set on LC, don't fret the 7.25 qt round, it's not that big or that heavy, the Staub is actually heavier in the same size (7 qt).

                                                        Le Creuset and Staub are both made in France and both expensive, but well worth the investment. They do not chip as readily as the inexpensive stuff made in the Pacific Rim. Enameled cast iron is more prone to damage, but can handle acidic (tomatos for example) foods better than bare cast iron. A bare cast iron frying pan is great, but the Dutch Oven depends on what you plan to cook in it. As for SS the All-Clad d5 is I'm sure a wonderful piece of cookware, but for the foods we prepare in this type of vessel, I personally prefer the enameled cast iron. I really like the way it holds the heat, this will be particularly beneficial when those babies grow up and are coming home from some sports practice or piano lessons at different times.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: mikie

                                                          I believe you. If Sirrith can enjoy the experience of cooking in an enameled cast iron, then you can enjoy the food that comes from it more. Ah, my first +1 for a 7.25qt. I appreciate the feedback. I'm not one to collect these pots so, at this time, I'm looking for one pot. If the 7.25qt is manageable, I'm likely to go with it. How many adults do you feed with your 5.5qt? Do you ever make short ribs in it?

                                                          BTW, thank you for the great example (re: "babies grow up and are coming home.. at different times"). I didn't think I cared about the heat retention until you gave that example! The food must be warm for my babies! +1 ECI.

                                                          1. re: motled

                                                            One can make a 5 lb pot roast with all the trimmings in a 5.5 qt oven. It's a very good size for just about everything until you start to double the recipe. Large batches of gumbo, or shrimp creole tend to push the limits and we step up to the larger pot, actually a 7 qt or so would probably do nicely for these large batches. Our 9 qt is a bit big, but it was mostly full with my double batch of Italian Weding soup.

                                                          2. Hi! I have 2 very busy little ones and I cook all meals from scratch. I own many le creuset, staub and all clad " Dutch ovens". I have an addiction and I also have display areas:). In my opinion, enameled cast iron is invaluable when you want to start a meal and then be able to be distracted while it cooks in oven or on stovetop. Even though I Have a large pro range with simmer burners I find the all clad to scorch easier and not simmer as easily as a heavy le creuset or staub. ECI seems to be more forgiving if you get distracted while cooking. The ECI is then wonderful for placing in fridge with food still in it and reheating the next day. The lids o f ECI are heavy and heat retaining as well. I do think that makes a difference. Look at Williams Sonoma stores as they are clearing out staub in emerald green. I got two pieces at 60% off. Or if you live near an outlet that is an excellent deal also. Good luck!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: RNcooks

                                                              Congratulations on your addiction and display areas. Since I am addicted to making sure I get the ideal "dutch oven" for my needs, I certainly appreciate your feedback. I haven't cooked in a dutch oven before but, I know it needs more attention than a crockpot. So, I'm predicting that distractions will happen, particularly as my two little ones get older. I like the points I can consider about the lid construction and reheating notes.
                                                              +1 for ECI.
                                                              I do live near an LC outlet! Thanks!

                                                            2. In a sense, a dutch oven is a sauce pan with 2 loop handles, an oven proof lid. It also tends to be a bit shallower than a sauce pan.

                                                              Either material works. Enameled cast iron has a certain cachet, but I doubt if it performs any different. As an engineer you much know that cast iron does not conduct heat very well, though it does have a good heat capacity (as much due to the mass). The enamel does not improve that conductivity. The stainless steel probably has highly conductive layers. So when browning meat on the stove top, I expect the All-clad to perform better.

                                                              In the oven, the pans should perform about the same. The heat is coming from the hot air surrounding them.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                Yes, it's like it's a choice between the heat responsiveness (for searing/browning) of SS and the heat retention of ECI. But, there is more than conductivity of the materials. Per, Amp1, the AC d5 dutch oven has a smaller base which limits the volume of meats I can sear and that basically ruled out the AC d5 for me. Also, per Sirrith, mikie, and RNcooks, there is an enjoyable experience that comes with cooking in the ECI, which I appreciate, as an engineer, of course. However, if you have experience with an SS dutch oven you recommend, particularly for short ribs, I'd love to hear it.

                                                                1. re: motled

                                                                  All my cast iron are bare. The largest is a 'chicken fryer', roughly 3 qt.

                                                                  I have several enameled steel (not cast irion) pots. They've done their job well for braising.

                                                                  I have a Chantal 3qt stainless steel 'dutch oven', which works fine, though it is essentially the same as my 3qt sauce pan (except for handles). It is disk bottom, and works nicely on my induction burner.

                                                                  Today I'm cooking beef shank, Indian style (nijari). I'm doing that in the stainless steel pressure cooker. 1 hr at pressure, plus another open.

                                                                  I also have a 10" cast aluminum dutch oven. It's a real dutch oven with rimmed lid that can take coals (and trivet to set it over coals).

                                                                  To round out the 'dutch oven' menagerie, I have several earthenware pots, a Chinese 'sand pot' and a Spanish casuela (10" with lid). I use those on a butane burner. Once hot, they cook with the barest of flame.

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    My brain just exploded with all the Dutch oven varieties. Thanks for sharing.

                                                                    1. re: motled

                                                                      Don't worry about the name. First, decides the volume you need. Then, look at the size of your stove, and try to get a pot which matches the size.

                                                                      Start with the most general and most basic questions and work your way up Kind of like buying anything. Buying car? What type of vehicle? A coup? A seda? A SUV? How many people you want to fit in the car? What horsepower? etc....etc.

                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                        For me, the first basic question was "what am I looking to do with this cookware?" And the answer is to cook up a hearty spare rib dinner for 6 people. This lended to the volume which seems to land somewhere between 5.5 and 7.25 quarts. I think both pots match my stove? Just guessing here because I mean, is there a stove that doesn't match the pot?

                                                                        Interesting example questions because I have bought all my cars within two days, short and sweet. This is different; I think because there is a vast complex world to cooking with which I am unfamiliar. Good advice and reminder to focus on my needs and not get overwhelmed by the wonderfully fancy collections you guys have. Thanks!

                                                                      2. re: motled

                                                                        At the end of the day, the advantages are marginal. A goo d cook can do a gourmet meal on a camp fire with an aluminum pot.

                                                                        Find what you like.

                                                                        I am still not sure what you want to cook.

                                                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                                                          Short ribs for 6 adults. Does that help you give me a recommendation? Cuz I'm not cooking this meal on a campfire. ;)

                                                                          1. re: motled

                                                                            For slow cooking, in oven or stove top, heavy CI is the way to go. For quick shifts of heat such as saute, go SS, etc. All depends on wha t you want to do. For ribs, heavy CI, enameled, makes most sense. Curve ball - sous vide - for a totally different kind of rib.

                                                                            I have made cassoulet in an old Revere NS SS that was just fine. I have made it in a Le Creuset cassoulet, and it was just fine. I had fun with both.

                                                                            Go with what you want to do, and what is also fun.

                                                                            Somewhere here is an older thread I started on gadgets. It is lots of fun to have lots of different, specialized gadgets. In the end, technique trumps all.

                                                                            Check out what most restaurants use, it is usually pretty cheap stuff. See Nisbets on line catalogue for example.

                                                                            1. re: law_doc89

                                                                              Thanks for your feedback, including the curve ball sous vide! I'll check out your gadget thread some time; I do love gadgets. I'm eager to look into Nisbets as well.

                                                                2. Hi! I have 2 very busy little ones and I cook all meals from scratch. I own many le creuset, staub and all clad " Dutch ovens". I have an addiction and I also have display areas:). In my opinion, enameled cast iron is invaluable when you want to start a meal and then be able to be distracted while it cooks in oven or on stovetop. Even thought. Have a large pro range with simmer burners I find the all clad to scorch easier and not simmer as easily as a heavy le creuset or staub. ECI seems to be more forgiving if you get distracted while cooking. The ECI is then wonderful for placing in fridge with food still in it and reheating the next day. The lids o f ECI are heavy and heat retaining as well. I do think that makes a difference. Look at Williams Sonoma stores as they are clearing out staub in emerald green. I got two pieces at 60% off. Or if you live near an outlet that is an excellent deal also. Good luck!

                                                                  1. Depends what you want to do. Hands down, LC is better than stainless for dutch oven (or pottery).

                                                                    LC is cast iron and distributes heat, compensates for hot spots in oven.

                                                                    20 Replies
                                                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                                                      AC stainless steel does not distribute heat?

                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                        SS doesn't distribute nor hold EVENLY, cast iron does.

                                                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                                                          Ugh.

                                                                          I don't want to get into it here, but suffice it to say that of all the metals commonly used for cookware, cast iron distributes heat the LEAST. It is in fact the MOST LIKELY to develop hot spots while cooking, and to have UNEVEN heat across the pan.

                                                                          Because most cast iron pans are massive (heavy) in comparison to pans made of other metals, it does RETAIN heat well.

                                                                          If memory serves, copper distributes heat the most evenly, and other materials are in between these two extremes.

                                                                          1. re: alarash

                                                                            Again, look at what OP wants to do. For slow cooking in oven with some searing, CI is superior is distribution and retention for even heating. Think why they mix aluminum in some form with so many SS, For quick saute, SS much better. Best of all, is solid gold, but not practical. Ultimate differences are marginal

                                                                            1. re: law_doc89

                                                                              I'm wondering why you would write that CI is better at heat distribution than SS? This myth (CI heats evenly) has been debunked many times over.

                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                Kenji had a nice piece on this some years ago: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/06/ho...

                                                                                (As you say, the purported even heating has been covered many times... but it's a myth that won't die.)

                                                                                1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                  You're correct naturally, but cooking has so many subtelties that creep in and mask or change what we believe either from experience or science. In this case for example, we "know" that SS clad has better heat distrubution than CI based on thermal conductivity values for the two materials. We also "know" that CI has better heat retention due in part to greater thermal mass. So, now put a 5 lb. chuck roast in your preheated pan to brown it. Which one is going to brown it more evenly, the one with the better distribution or the one that holds the heat better? The fact that a 5 lb. roast is going to suck a lot of heat out of a clad SS pot, may change the way one perceives the evenness of the temperature. Were as with a heavy CI pot, although the heat may not be as even, the thermal mass masks the unevenness and browns the roast more consistently. All I'm really saying here is that there is more than one factor involved in the cooking process. Yes, if you took a thermogram of an empty pot sitting on identical hobs, the clad SS would have less variation as compared to the CI, but who cooks with an empty pot? Once food starts going into the pot, the dynamics may change in such a way that it appears the CI is performing better. Just a little food for thought.

                                                                                  I make French onion suop in my Staub, there are a lot of onions that need to be browned, but the onions don't suck out a lot of heat, so during this process, I know there are hot spots, although my duel flame burners tend to even it out fairly well. But it doesn't really matter as I need to keep the onions moving so they are all exposed to the heat. The process is much different when I throw in that 5 lb. roast to brown it. There I need the thermal mass to get the best browning as every time a fresh surface hits the pot, it sucks out heat and eventually it sucks out enough heat that the pot isn't really hot enough to get good browning until it heats back up. Am I way off base here?

                                                                                  1. re: mikie

                                                                                    Searing in ECI is not the best. You need some separation of components so you also can deglaze, etc. The real issue is the problems of slow cooking which is why the hot spot issue is irrelevant. What actually "holds" the heat evenly acros your food insode the oven. It is about denaturing proteins usually which is why sous vide was invented. Most people use too much heat and create their own problems. You can use SS and get good results too, but in an oven, you will get better results, and speaking of thermal mass, you are on target. Cooking is partially art, not science, so that the pointless demonstrations that are referenced are irrelevant to actual cooking. I started a different threat about a 1.25 LC sauce-pot I just purchased and am using for a variety of ways now that performs better than any other I have used for non-deglazed sauces and soups. Why? Partially because of the distribution of the heat through the entire mass within the pot, and the lack of loss of heat through the sides and lid.

                                                                                    Think about taking a bath is a cast iron tub versus a copper or steel tub. Once the CI is heated, it holds the heat longer so you get slower dissipation of heat.

                                                                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                      Then you should move on to stone dolsots...

                                                                                      1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                        I'm not quite sure what 'holds the heat longer' means. Is that a function of conductivity, specific heat capacity and/or mass? I suspect you mean thermal mass (mass * heat capacity), possibly modified by conductivity (lower conductivity means heat moves in/out and through the material slower).

                                                                                        We all know copper and aluminum conduct heat better than iron and steel. We are less familiar with heat capacity. I just looked that up - in jl/g/K
                                                                                        aluminum - 0.9
                                                                                        copper - 0.38
                                                                                        glass - 0.84 (enamel is glass)
                                                                                        iron - 0.45
                                                                                        chromium about the same as iron, so stainless steel will be about the same
                                                                                        water - 4.0
                                                                                        meat - 3.5
                                                                                        earthenware - probably around glass/granite/silica, eg. 0.7

                                                                                        The thermal mass of a CI pot (enameled or not) is high simply because it is heavy, not because the specific heat capacity of the material is exceptional.

                                                                                        But thermal mass of the pot is only one factor. Water has an even higher heat capacity. Plus it can evaporated (cooling what is left behind) or condense.

                                                                                  2. re: law_doc89

                                                                                    Hi, law_doc:

                                                                                    I beg to differ. For slow cooking in the oven, all materials will be equal in terms of "distribution and retention". There will be a small difference in *responsiveness* is all, but there are many variables besides material at work.

                                                                                    Gold is a fine conductor, but it lags far behind both copper and silver in both conductivity and specific heat.

                                                                                    In terms of holding heat, when you adjust for weight, copper stores heat just as well as CI. One reason why people claim CI holds heat the best is that they've never cooked in copperware that is as thick as their CI.

                                                                                    It's *out* of the oven that the differences in materials become more pronounced, and CI starts to suck hurricane-force wind. Its only relative virtue when it comes to holding heat outside is its crappy conductivity--it basically acts as an insulator, keeping food warmer longer (i.e., *cooking* it longer). Stainless would be worse if anyone made straight-gauge SS pans, but clad mixes a good conductor, usually aluminum, with a bad one, and the result is almost always that the clad is more responsive.

                                                                                    Aloha,
                                                                                    Kaleo

                                                                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                      I've enjoyed watching this particular thread. Feeling pretty empowered with great information. Thank you all for sharing.

                                                                                      1. re: motled

                                                                                        It's all about experience and preference. I repeat, the differences are all ultimately marginal. What matters ultimately is whether you like the results and enjoy using the product. Cooking is only partially science.

                                                                                        I suggest you track down (I cannot find it) the experiment using gold cookware and getting Julia Child to use it and comment on it, I was partially tongue in cheek as cooking is intuitive too.

                                                                                        A good cook adapts to his materials. I grew up in a house with resistance coils and also a coal stove, then on to halogen, later gas. All different and all quite usable. BTW, I thought we are talking about a dutch oven to go into the oven, not cook ribs on the stove top, and for in the oven, it is really the best, IME, along with pottery.

                                                                                        Which is why I repeat for the OP: get what you find you like and what is fun for you.

                                                                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                          I did before. No problems in comprehension here. Just not gullible enough to swallow what you wrote.

                                                                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                            I wasn't going to reply but.. OH SNAP! :D

                                                                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                              It is a poor workman who blames his tools. Pretty funny to see how people will cleave to a favorite.

                                                                                              Buy what you like and are most comfortable with but understand a lot of advise is about favorites and not really about understanding technique and proper use of items.

                                                                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                <It is a poor workman who blames his tools>

                                                                                                To the contrary, we're merely advising the OP why we think (and the science supports us) that SS is a better tool for the OP's job.

                                                                                                1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                  And it's a poor watchmaker who swings a 2-pound hammer...

                                                                                  3. Motled,

                                                                                    Forgive me for overstepping the boundaries of your question, but I do so only because the opportunity exists here to spare you of a modestly painful learning experience many of us have made.

                                                                                    Consider the following Bourgeat copper 5.75 quart dutch oven:

                                                                                    http://www.cooksdirect.com/product/ma...

                                                                                    The price tag of $393.10 is higher than most people expect to pay for a cooking vessel. Don't be intimidated by the cost.

                                                                                    It sounds like you're interested in a pan that will last for a decade or longer, can withstand abuse, and will perform well.

                                                                                    Both enameled cast iron (ECI) and stainless steel (SS) will be durable and withstand significant abuse, though SS is even more durable. The Matfer Borgeat 5.75 qt will be essentially as durable as SS, as it is lined with SS. Some people have experience delamination of the SS lining of similar copperware, but this is exceedingly rare and in my view would be equally likely as delamination of cladded SS.

                                                                                    The advantage you'll get of the copper is the heat distribution up the sides of the pan, such that the inside of the pan will be much more uniformly heated while on a hob compared to the others. All of them will heat evenly in an oven, but putting a dutch oven in an oven is not that common for most home cooks, though it is obviously acceptable. In a copper vessel, though, you'll get similiar results on the stove top as putting the other pans in the oven.

                                                                                    I started off investing a couple thousand dollars at a le creuset outlet, thinking I'd never buy cookware again. The more I cooked, the more I realized the advantages of copper, and eventually I wanted the extra performance, mainly in the form of temperature control. Now my LC cast iron is mostly boxed up, except for a couple items I keep out for mainly sentimental reasons.

                                                                                    If you're curious to learn about ECI cooking performance first hand, you can always get a Kirkland Signature ECI dutch oven (made in France last I checked) for ~$50 or less.

                                                                                    Maybe your sentimental pans will be copper if you get it from the get-go, instead of converting later in life like some of us.

                                                                                    alarash

                                                                                    p.s. if you're not bothered by 'pre-owned' items, the pot above is for sale on a very popular auction site with a lid, along with a 3.75 qt sauce pan with lid. Both items look unused. The seller wants $525 for the lidded dutch oven and lidded sauce pan. No, in I'm not in any way connected to the seller.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: alarash

                                                                                      I don't know whether to thank you or curse you for giving me more homework. :) So I guess it's like a band-aid; I'm going through the painful learning experience via online discussion as opposed to years of experience.. So I thank you. I have zero cooking experience with copper. I don't even know where to start to get a grasp on the benefits of copper but I certainly appreciate you speaking up and getting it on my radar. Thanks for the bargains info as well.

                                                                                    2. The first cooking vessel I ever bought was a small black iron Dutch oven from a hardware store just before a GF and I took a trip up the coast, camping out and cooking on fires. Brand-new pot's first meal was an Armenian lamb and celery stew. Since then it's made gallons of chili and spaghetti sauce; that's been 43 years, and I've not overdosed on iron yet.

                                                                                      I have a number of enameled iron pieces, only one bought new (Chinese, from Cost Plus, $18). The others are unbranded Belgian pieces gotten from yard or estate sales and flea markets, none over $20. I think you're supposed to not sear meat in these (none of mine came with instructions!) because it discolors the white inner lining, though I detect no loss of cooking ability or real harm to anything but the appearance. I use the heck out of these, rather less so since Mrs. O went veggie, but these are what most oven braises get made in. I also have a much larger Dutch boy in Magnalite, which I couldn't resist ($10!!) but haven't used yet.

                                                                                      The only stainless pan is a sort of handled wok thing by All-Clad, a gift from Mrs. O early in our story, about 30 years ago. I've never had a stove or cooktop that got hot enough to let meat not stick to it, but I do use it for stir-fries and making reduced-cream sauces. I have stainless pots, but no interest at all in a stainless Dutch oven.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                        Thanks for sharing your Dutch oven stories and experiences. An enjoyable read!

                                                                                      2. I have both and if I had to buy only one again, i would pick the Le Creuset. It heats evenly, even on stoves with hot spots. It has a wide-flat bottom that allows for searing meats without steaming them, giving a great fond that results in much more flavor. The interior enamel is durable. It's a light sand color that allows you to easily determine the level of browning. It's true the Le Creuset is heavier, but if you're chasing after kids, it's nothing you can't handle. Cleaning isn't horrible because you can easily fill it with warm, soapy water and let it soak a bit. My kids are off to college now, but nothing gets them more excited than to walk into the kitchen and see that le creuset pot on the stove.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: Susangria

                                                                                          That's such a sweet image; perhaps my future. Thanks for sharing your good experiences with the LC!

                                                                                        2. I fall squarely into the SS camp for this item. I used to own the complete LC line (game show!) but switched to SS many years ago (after a short Scanpan flirtation) and have never looked back. When my son was a toddler and constantly underfoot, I learned that kids (and Irish setters) have no place in a kitchen when CI pots are in use. We had several near-disasters. And even LC chips unless you're careful.

                                                                                          FWIW, I'm a recent Vollrath convert, having just given all my clad stuff to my son and replacing it with lighter and induction friendly Vollrath Optio. This is the least expensive cookware I've ever owned, by a wide margin, but the quality is very good and performance is outstanding. I would imagine the higher end Tribute clad stuff would perform as good or better.

                                                                                          1. Chemicalkinetics and the crew have already given you a pretty solid breakdown of the science behind it all, so I'm just going to say this:

                                                                                            I own a 5-quart Wolfgang Puck SS Dutch oven that I purchased, and a 6-quart Lodge ECI one that I received as a gift shortly after. The SS one only gets used for pasta and stock these days. I'm always more content to use the cast iron.

                                                                                            Also, if you decide on SS and want to be able to put it in the dishwasher, make sure it doesn't have any aluminum parts! On mine, bolts (or whatever you call them) on the inside that hold the handles on are Al, and I didn't realize it until it had been through the dishwasher a few times....

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                              <On mine, bolts (or whatever you call them) on the inside that hold the handles on are Al, and I didn't realize it until it had been through the dishwasher a few times....>

                                                                                              Funny you should mention that. I discovered that my Calphalon pans had SS caps on Al posts. the caps were on the interior of the pan, the exposed Al posts on the exterior. But not on all of their pans. Short-walled pans use SS posts.

                                                                                              I later discovered through research that almost all of the well-known lines use SS posts on all their cookware.

                                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                Caps, there you go. The caps on mine are aluminum. I'm not surprised, as this isn't exactly quality cookware, but I didn't realize it until I noticed they were badly pitted.

                                                                                                EDIT: The posts might be too, actually. Not sure.

                                                                                                1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                  Good to know! Thanks for the warning. LOL re: your edit!

                                                                                            2. For a stainless steel dutch oven, I'd prefer one with a nice thick disk base over one that is fully clad. This Fissler 7-quart "stew pot" looks great to me.

                                                                                              http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000...

                                                                                              The wide and flat base contains a fully encapsulated 6-mm-thick aluminum disk sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. The top is designed to drip condensation back onto the food. No rivets, pouring rim, oven and dishwasher safe, induction ready. Made in Germany.

                                                                                              I have the same pot in two smaller sizes, and I can assure you that Fissler cookware is heavy, built like a tank, and very well designed.

                                                                                               
                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: tanuki soup

                                                                                                Thanks for sharing. Another factor that I can look into some time. Just curious, what do you make most often in your Fissler dutch ovens?

                                                                                              2. As you read through the responses I think you will see that everyone has their favorate cookware. Most have used multiple types or styles of cookeare for the same task and have decided on their preference. You have a great cross sectiion of people here, some young, some older, some home cooks, some pros, so you are receiving opinions from all aspects and stages in life. It's all good, relevent information, but ultamately the decision is totally up to you.

                                                                                                With multiple people having success with both types of cookware, I think you should have determined by now that either one will work just fine to prepare a wonderful meal for your family. You should also be comfortable at this point with the size of 5.5 to 7.25 qt to be able to cover your needs.

                                                                                                For me the next step would be to go out shopping and hold the cookware you have in mind, then decide which YOU like the best and want to spend the next few decades of your life with, knowing full well that either will perform just fine.

                                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: mikie

                                                                                                  I completely agree with you. Feeling pretty empowered with great information. I feel a decision coming on... probably this weekend. Thank you for the well-framed observation and advice.

                                                                                                  1. re: mikie

                                                                                                    Hi mikie,

                                                                                                    Thank you for your levelheaded words of wisdom. I agree with what you have said, and appreciate the humble tone of your comments.

                                                                                                    Like our friend Kaleo often reminds us, "we are all beginners."

                                                                                                    I agree that most everyone has owned and used SS, ECI, Aluminum, and bare cast iron.

                                                                                                    I do wonder, however, how many of us have owned heavy gauge (>2.5 mm) copper cookware, and ultimately decided on using something else due to *performance* (cost and maintenance related reasons don't count).

                                                                                                    1. re: alarash

                                                                                                      I have a 3qt copper sauce pan, 2 mm thick on the rim, 3 1/2 lbs. While I don't regret buying it, it does not get a lot of use. I use it for things like polenta. It's not the size and shape where the conductivity of copper would stand out (e.g. too deep for most sauces). Plus I can only use it on my electric coil stove - it doesn't work on the more responsive induction hotplate.

                                                                                                      1. re: alarash

                                                                                                        I've never used copper cookware, I've admired it, I've handeled it, I've given it serious thought, but never bought any of it. My fear of copper is that it would drive me nuts. I'm not the only cook in our house, however, I'm the obsessive cook. It would drive me insane to have a $300 copper pot and know that someone was treating it like is was a $1.98 disposable pie tin.

                                                                                                        I'm sure that for some vessels and some cooking tasks copper is superior by a measurable margin. I'm not sure how to measure that margin, but the physics and testamony of many, certianly lead me to believe that the difference exists. With that said, and I'm not a skilled or knowledgable enough cook to state with any certianty, there may be tasks where the traits of copper are less desireable, I'm not sure what those might be, but I'll guess there must be some out there. I certianly doubt many have given up on copper cookware because of "performance".

                                                                                                        There's something to be said for having the right tool for the job at hand.

                                                                                                        1. re: mikie

                                                                                                          Copper is the ultimate tease. You get remarkable responsiveness with some (there are varying thickness) but it cools quickly and is hell to keep clean. I gave mine away several years ago.

                                                                                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                            Yes, thermal conductivity is a two way street, and that's why I say, there is likely some cooking task where that's not a desireable trait (the quick to cool part). However, there are many times that you want a two way street, you want to get up to temperature really quickly and then you want things to cool off just as fast so they don't over cook. No doubt, for the obsessive compulsive among us, keeping copper looking nice would be a negative, but that wasn't how the origonal question was posed. Did you give yours away because of the cleaning or because it didn't perform well at a number of tasks.

                                                                                                            1. re: mikie

                                                                                                              Hi, mikie: "...thermal conductivity is a two way street..."

                                                                                                              In terms of your simile, I would put it this way: excellent thermal conductivity is a freeway with 5 express lanes in one direction, and one running in the opposite. In other words, there are many applications where conductivity is beneficial in terms of responsiveness, and only a few where it is not. The only question is whether the margin of betterment is worth the money or downtick in convenience.

                                                                                                              But there are other freeways in this "city", as well. In terms of evenness, it's also about 5:1. In terms of specific heat and heat capacity, about even if we are talking thick copper or very thick aluminum. By weight, aluminum is FAR better at holding heat than CI; the problem is that there are few aluminum pans >6mm in thickness, and copper pans >3mm.

                                                                                                              Only where your destination is a place where you *want* a poor conductor for its insulation properties (cast iron is sometimes used architecturally and industrially for insulation), or where the *surface treatment* would fail under very high heat, would there be disadvantages to high conductivity materials of reasonable thickness.

                                                                                                              Aloha,
                                                                                                              Kaleo

                                                                                                            2. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                              If copper cools quickly, where does that heat go? 3 options come to mind:

                                                                                                              - what it is sitting on (burner, stove top etc). Does setting it on a hot pad help?

                                                                                                              - to the air. Is this really faster with copper than with other materials?

                                                                                                              - to the contents. That should be a desirable thing, right?

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                Look behind your ear.

                                                                                                                Thanks for the skirlie.

                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                  As someone suggested I reread the slkinsey article on eGullet and I can answer your question. Yes, maybe, yes, yes, not necessairly. Yes it has to cool faster if it heats faster, the laws of thermal conductivity go both ways. Maybe setting on a hot pad would hlep insulate if from say a large cold granite counter top, but the heat is still going to leave more quickly than other metals. Yes it will go into the air, and yes it's faster with copper than other materials, again thermal conductivity is thermal conductivity. Not necessairly a good thing to have it go into the contents, depending on what you're cooking (assuming you are talking about when you are finished), it's a good thing when you are cooking, that's the point, move the heat to the food.

                                                                                                                  Now after rereading the article I still have a number of questions on examples and quasi experiments that were referenced. Although he qualified the need for equal thickness of copper and cast iron, something I haven't really seen, I still don't understand how an oven preheated copper pan can cook a piece of meat more throughly than a cast iron pan heated in the same oven. He referenced the thermal conductivity, but at some point I would think the thermal conductivity of the meat would control the reaction, and not the pan. Still learning I guess.

                                                                                                                  1. re: mikie

                                                                                                                    Thermal conductivity applies specifically to heat movement within the material. Modeling and describing what happens at the surface, at the point of contact with another material is trickier.

                                                                                                                    Maybe it would help to do a though experiment. Put a copper bar with a uniform temperature in contact with an iron bar of a different temperature. How does the temperature change over time in the two bars? What if there's an insulating layer between the two?

                                                                                                        2. If I were starting out, and had nothing in cast iron, I would buy the 5 quart Lodge Pre -Seasoned AND the 6 quart Lodge Enameled, both are available for less than $100. online with shipping included.
                                                                                                          Those two pots would cover a lot of bases!

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Raffles

                                                                                                            Thanks for your advice. Another Lodge fan. Great to know your faves.

                                                                                                            1. re: motled

                                                                                                              An FYI about Lodge enamel: it is made in China. Lower quality, lower durability (just look at the reviews on the internet and compare the number of complaints about chipping), uncertainty about contents of the enamel (lead, cadmium). Now this last point is probably not something to be too worried about, but is worth bearing in mind: France applies the (very) stringent EU standards for cookware safety, China does not, or even if it does, they may be disregarded depending on which factory Lodge decides to use for its products there and how careful Lodge itself is about inspecting the products that come out of there.

                                                                                                              1. re: Sirrith

                                                                                                                In fact, not all cast iron is made the same way, nor with the same quality ore.

                                                                                                          2. I recently purchased the Alll-Clad SS 5.5qt Dutch oven. I love it. AC had promo pricing on it too; it may still be available. I wouldn't bother with the D5.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: Shazam

                                                                                                              Yes, this is great advice. I'll have to check it out for the SS route. Thanks and thanks for the promo pricing info!

                                                                                                            2. America's Test Kitchen did a review on Dutch Ovens awhile back. They placed the All Clad 8 qt stock pot as their number 1 choice, followed by the 7.25 Le Creuset.

                                                                                                              I have a 6 qt. AC stock pot, (lower sides, wide round shape) and I don't think I can tell the difference in food cooked in that or the enameled cast iron. Because it's durable I use it when we travel. At home, I use the ECI just because I enjoy the more homey feel of it and it keeps the food warmer, longer after cooking. It is extremely heavy filled and I can see a day when it will be retired and I'll happily use the stock pot for it's lighter weight. I do disagree with a previous poster about clad in the oven. I would think you would want a fully clad pot as opposed to a disc bottomed. Due to the on/off heat cycles in an oven, the clad would hold the temperature better throughout, no?

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Cam14

                                                                                                                I appreciate your post because frankly, it makes me feel like I posed a valid question with my proposed choices and honestly, I wasn't that confident with what I was asking.. I thought I'd just start with a base point and jump off. But, feeling validated is one thing and learning all this fantastic information is another. I'm quite thankful for your (and everyone's really) candor with regards to your knowledge, wisdom and advice.

                                                                                                                As an aside, I'm going to stop replying to each post.. I'm not even sure if anyone's benefiting from it anyway.. LOL. I'm happy to let you folks know what I choose if I come to a decision and anyone's interested. Thanks and I'll definitely continue to read and enjoy any continued posts!

                                                                                                                1. re: motled

                                                                                                                  No, it's nice to see how you respond to the posts.

                                                                                                              2. I have both. It's nice to have both but if I had to choose only one I'd pick the enameled cast iron. I like to use the All Clad on the stove top only, if I'm going to put something in the oven, I prefer my Le Creuset. I like the All Clad because it's lighter weight and therefore easier to handle and wash. I disagree with those that say 7.25 qt is too large. That's probably the smallest size I'd pick if I were to buy only one dutch oven (I have 4).

                                                                                                                Maybe do a compromise, buy a Lodge enameled dutch oven AND the All Clad? That way you get the best of both worlds without have to buy two high end pieces. If you like to cook, I guarantee you'll find yourself using both of them.

                                                                                                                1. The logic is that if one puts flour in a twelve inch pan that is placed on a 3 inch burner, one will get slightly more scorching that what one sees in a SS pan. This is the equivalent of using various pans as a hammer and comparing use for hanging pictures.

                                                                                                                  Do you people actually cook? There are various constructions for pot and pans that yield marginal differences in actual cooking. ALL OF THEM HAVE DEGREES OF UNEVEN HEAT DISTRIBUTION. Why? Because beyond the theoretical, there are various imperfections in actual construction of pans. In actual cooking, there is a world of difference. Slow cooking in CI, which retains heat, and keeps temps even, is superior except for pottery. But that is also a matter of technique, patience, lower temps etc etc etc

                                                                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                    <This is the equivalent of using various pans as a hammer and comparing use for hanging pictures.>

                                                                                                                    Not quiet. A pan is not tended to be used as a hammer. The flour is simply a vision indication of the temperature distribution across a pan. It reflects the temperature, much like MRI scan is to reflect the image inside a body.

                                                                                                                    The cast iron pan looks like this:

                                                                                                                    http://www.cookingissues.com/wp-conte...

                                                                                                                    The stainless steel cladded (with aluminum) pan looks like this:

                                                                                                                    http://www.cookingissues.com/wp-conte...

                                                                                                                    <Do you people actually cook?>

                                                                                                                    Yes, I do.

                                                                                                                    < In actual cooking, there is a world of difference. Slow cooking in CI, which retains heat, and keeps temps even, is superior except for pottery. >

                                                                                                                    I am probably one of the strongest advocators here for cast iron and carbon steel cookware. These cookware can handle extreme high heat, physically durable, easily release food -- being fairly nonstick.

                                                                                                                    Being fairly nonstick is actually very important, because it allows food to freely move around, which prevents scorning in real life cooking. For example, a stainless steel fry pan may be more even heating than a cast iron skillet, but if an egg sticks to the stainless steel pan, then it will burn, whereas an egg on the cast iron skillet won't. This is one of the reasons why you don't see a lot of food get burned in a nonstick pan -- because people can easily move and flip the food around.

                                                                                                                    Yet, it is incorrect to say a cast iron skillet is more evenly heating than an aluminum pan or a stainless steel cladded pan. There is no evidence for it.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                      The OP is talking about a dutch oven presumably place in an oven, not saute.

                                                                                                                      1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                        Yes, but if you were to look at the temperature pattern on the bottom of a cast iron Dutch Oven, it will be the same as that of a cast iron skillet as well.

                                                                                                                        Are you suggesting that a cast iron skillet is unevenly heated, but a cast iron Dutch Oven is evenly heated, are you?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                          OP is talking about in the oven.

                                                                                                                          And, repeat, all differences are marginal.

                                                                                                                          How does the final product come out and does the difference matter to the final product? Ever roast a chicken in a Romertopf? A turkey? A pig?

                                                                                                                          Thereare audiophiles who can tell you all the specs of asspeaker, but haven't a clue how to pick a speaker to fit a certain kind of room, nor fit the speaker to kind of music. So?

                                                                                                                          Best way to choose what you like is to cook a duck breast in each of bare CI, SS, Copper ECI, Aluminum; then decide which you like.

                                                                                                                          BTW, there are also variations among burners.

                                                                                                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                            Hi, law_doc: " OP is talking about in the oven."

                                                                                                                            The OP wrote *nothing* to suggest the question was limited to using a dutch oven *in* an oven. In fact s/he confirmed s/he wanted to use the vessel both on the stovetop *and* in the oven in order to prepare 1-pot meals.

                                                                                                                            Aloha,
                                                                                                                            Kaleo

                                                                                                                            1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                              <OP is talking about in the oven.>

                                                                                                                              Oh. I didn't get that. If so, then the difference is small.

                                                                                                                              <BTW, there are also variations among burners.>

                                                                                                                              I agree.

                                                                                                                              Nevertheless, my problem is that many say that "a cast iron cookware is BETTER even heating than other cookware" . That is not true.

                                                                                                                              In the best case scenarios (like inside a very even heating electric oven), then there is no difference. In the worst case scenarios (like a blow torch), then the cast iron cookware is not as even heating as aluminum or copper cookware. In no situation that a cast iron cookware is more even heating than its common competitors. Yes, it is more even heating than glass, but glass is very uncommon these days.

                                                                                                                              I agree with you that these differences may not matter at all, which is why I said I have been a strong advocators for cast iron cookware. However, it is one thing to say that "the small difference in heating is marginal" (which I agree), and it is a very different thing to say "cast iron cookware is better at even heating"

                                                                                                                              It is one thing to say having blood pressure of 130/90 is very similar to blood pressure of 125/85. It is another thing to say that 130/90 is BETTER than 125/85.

                                                                                                                          2. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                            Also, in the oven, the vessels are rendered equal.

                                                                                                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                              Somewhat. Then, from what you say, the entire discussion is pointless.

                                                                                                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                                Not pointless, because OP was asking about the differences, if any, in CI and SS dutch ovens.

                                                                                                                                1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                  I certianly don't pretend to know the answers and until I buy a thermal immaging camera, I'll never really know the answer, but I can tell you what I observe. My wife made pot roast in a SS clad pot for 40 years before we bought the Staub ECI. It's always been good, she has always browned it on the stove top and then put it in the oven. She uses the ECI now exclusively for this task. She still has the SS pot if she thought it performed better. Neither of us see a problem browning a 5 lb roast evenly in the ECI and it seems to work better, less sticking, than the SS did. I atribute this to the thermal mass of the very thick and very heavy Staub cocotte vs the relatively low thermal mass of the old SS pot she was using.

                                                                                                                                  I understand the burnt flour test, but I don't think that is the same as tossing in a 5 lb chunk of meat. I've never had the need to cook a thin layer of flour. I've never seen a thermal immage of a pot with a fresh 5 lb roast in it. Born in MO I guess. I understand thermal conductivity, work with it all the time, I also know that's not the only factor involved in even heating and I know that when you are pulling heat out, like when you intorduce a cold 5 lb roast, thermal mass is extremely important (at least in the type of work that I do, which has nothing to do directly with a 5 lb roast). And this can in many cases trump thermal conductivity. I understand that heat capacity of Cu is almost as good as Iron, but you don't find copper cookware nearly as thick as ECI, especially Staub, so there is more thermal mass in the ECI.

                                                                                                                                  I honestly think we all try to simplify things to better understand them and some things are too complex to effectively be simplified. As I stated above, you can cook a roast in either SS or ECI, if you have a good butcher that you bribe with chocolates and you have a modicum of cooking skill, you are going to have a good meal. Doesn't matter all that much what you cook it in.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mikie

                                                                                                                                    mikie,

                                                                                                                                    You mentioned that ECI is less sticky than SS. IME, it's that ability to form such great fond I count on. It adds so much flavor.

                                                                                                                                    Still, you're so right that it's not hard to make an excellent pot roast in both SS and ECI. In summer, I also sear a roast and cook it in my slow cooker and it comes out delicious, but I admit I work harder on the gravy to build it's depth.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                      Hi DuffyH,

                                                                                                                                      It's funny sometimes, we tend to talk in absolutes, myself included, but there are so many subtelties in cooking that it's a bit absurd to think we all cook the same, on the same equipment, with the same equipment, or even the same recipe for the same dish. You mentioned gravy, I'm Italian, gravy is red ;) I didn't grow up with gravy and roast, it was always Au Jus. My point, if you don't make gravy, some of your requirements for performance may be different than if you do make gravy.

                                                                                                                                      This whole thread has gotten a little heated, punn intended. There are a lot of good points, but the fact remains, Tiger Woods could kick my fanny at a game of golf if all he had was a stick with a crook in it and I had the best set of golf clubs made. Have a great day!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: mikie

                                                                                                                                        Or as they used to say about the greatest pool player that ever lived, "give Willie Mosconi a broomstick with a good tip and he'll not only make some remarkable shots, he'll sweep the joint out after he totally kicks your ass".

                                                                                                                                        As so often the case, this thread has become much ado about very little. jmho

                                                                                                                                        1. re: mikie

                                                                                                                                          Pun in the oven, all a matter of what you are trying to do and, as said numerous times, what you like.

                                                                                                                        2. McGee on braising - keep lid a jar to control temperature
                                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668059

                                                                                                                          Old school braising with top heat (via Modernist Cuisine) (and tight cover)
                                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/805158

                                                                                                                          And how do restaurants braise? What I've seen on DDD are hotel pans covered with foil.

                                                                                                                          1. I mentioned upthread that one of my "Dutch ovens" was actually a Doufeu. Enamel on cast iron made by Cousances and designed for braising. The lid is concave (for ice cubes) with a dimpled underside that evenly distributes the condensation. It does produce a wonderful pot roast.
                                                                                                                            ttp://www.thekitchn.com/word-of-mouth-doufe...

                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                              On the other hand tagine has a conical lid that directs the condensate to the rim. When used stove top (traditionally a gentle charcoal fire) the lid remains cool, promoting condensation.

                                                                                                                            2. I don't have an LC for direct comparison, but I purchased an AC 8-quart stock pot uber cheap, and use it for soups, applesauce making, etc. Cooks Illustrated ranks it as the best lighter-weight choice in dutch ovens.

                                                                                                                              AC has recently introduced a new "D7" dutch oven, apparently designed to compete directly with the LC. I still lust after an LC, but my stock pot meets all my needs so beautifully that I can't justify the purchase.