A few years ago, I wrote about one of my favorite tools in the kitchen: my Martha Stewart 5.5-quart enameled dutch oven. Some thought I was drawing a comparison between this $60 pot and the $275 version from Le Creuset and, not surprisingly, found the Martha Stewart version lacking. I found it kind of funny, because it seemed to me there was an elephant in the room, the one that often lurks around conversations about cooking equipment: Sometimes people can't afford the best, so they buy the best they can afford. And there's nothing wrong with that.
It's not very cool to talk about not having money, but back in 2008 when I bought my dutch oven, I was on a tight budget. Spending almost $300 on a piece of kitchen equipment was only slightly more realistic than a trip to the moon. There were no wedding registries in my immediate future, or great-aunts wanting to bequeath me their Le Creuset collection, or extravagant gift-giving friends. There was just me, my modest budget, and my desire to make no-knead bread.
So when Macy's had one of their frequent sales on the Martha Stewart line of enameled cookware, I took the plunge and bought the robin's egg blue version. Since then, I have used it on a weekly basis, making countless soups, stews, braises and the occasional loaf of no-knead bread. It has taken some hits — there are quite a few chips around the rim and on the handles — but the interior is still scratch-free. Though it probably won't last a lifetime, I don't regret the purchase of this pot or the five years of great meals it has brought me.
I figure I will upgrade to a Le Creuset or Staub at some point, now that money isn't as tight, but there is no rush. For now, my cheap, second-tier, not-as-good-as-Le-Creuset dutch oven is treating me just fine.
Do you have any favorite kitchen tools that are decidedly not top of the line?
(Image: Anjali Prasertong)