A couple years ago, I was looking for a good-quality Dutch oven, but I couldn't afford Le Creuset. Martha Stewart's line of enameled cast iron pots were on sale, so I bought the 5.5-quart chili pot in robin's egg blue and I have never looked back.
You probably already know how indispensable a good Dutch oven can be. With it, I bake no-knead bread, make braised dishes that start off on the stove and finish in the oven, and cook perfect beans from scratch. The lid's knob is oven safe to 450 degrees, so there is no problem using it for bread-baking.
I was worried about the quality of the enamel on this fairly inexpensive pot, but with careful handling and only non-metal utensils, the interior has remained scratch-free. There are a couple chips around the outer rim and handle, but since these areas don't touch the cooking food, I don't mind.
Best of all, this line of pots is frequently on sale, so you can buy the 5.5-quart for around $60 and the 7-quart for about $80. They also come with a limited lifetime warranty, should your pot develop any interior enamel damage.
I'm sure there will be some Le Creuset in my cupboards someday, but until then my big blue Martha Stewart pot will remain within easy reach.
• Find it: Martha Stewart Enameled Cast Iron Collection at Macy's
Do you have a favorite affordable Dutch oven?