Splurge or Save: Should You Buy Le Creuset’s $420 Dutch Oven or Lodge’s $80 Alternative?
When cooking at home, nailing the recipe is only part of what goes into achieving a desirable outcome. The truth is, even if you use all the right ingredients and carefully follow the correct steps, the resulting dish could still be a total bust if you don’t have the proper cookware. You don’t need us to tell you that cinnamon rolls call for a stoneware baker or that sautéed veggies are best cooked in a stainless-steel frying pan. But you might need us to tell you when it’s worth shelling out the big bucks on a pricey investment piece and when it’s better to opt for a budget-friendly alternative.
Enter our new series, Splurge or Save, in which we compare two editor-tested (and loved!) products that serve the same purpose but retail for different prices. These are both picks that many of The Kitchn editors own and recommend, but we’ll still honestly compare and contrast the features of each one so you can decide which of the two best suits your needs and budget. For our very first installment, we’re starting with a big category: Dutch ovens. Specifically, Le Creuset’s 5.5-quart round Dutch oven ($420) and Lodge’s 6-quart Dutch oven ($80).
Le Creuset vs. Lodge
If there’s one brand name that’s synonymous with high-end cookware, it’s Le Creuset, and it goes without saying that the Dutch oven is their most iconic piece. You’ve no doubt seen the pricey pot in the kitchens of your favorite influencers and celebrity chefs. Much of its appeal is rooted in its instant recognizability, but beyond that, is Le Creuset’s 5.5-quart Dutch oven really worth the $420? It’s a great question, especially when you consider that Lodge, another editor-loved brand, sells a similar cast-iron pot for just $80. Luckily, our editors have tested both, so keep reading to learn how each one performed.
Overview of Le Creuset’s 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven
If you’re a cookware enthusiast, there’s probably not much we can say about Le Creuset’s ever-popular Dutch oven that you don’t already know. But because you’re likely debating whether or not to splurge on one, we’ll give you the lowdown. This versatile piece comes in a round shape and a variety of sizes, the 5.5-quart model being especially sought-after. This size allows to you prepare up to six servings of food, making the pot ideal for both two-person meals and family-sized dinners. In other words, it’s neither too large nor too small for most kitchens. But where the Dutch oven really shines is its material. Enameled cast iron is a brand signature, and for good reason. In addition to conducting and retaining heat like a dream, it also requires no seasoning, and it’s super durable. As a result, you’ll find Le Creuset Dutch ovens to be resistant to chipping, staining, and cracking.
Although you might associate Dutch ovens with certain meals, like stews or roasts, the cast iron is actually effective for cooking a much wider variety of eats, as contributor Abigail noted in her review of the pot. “I learned how to make some of my favorite Filipino dishes, like pancit, chicken adobo, and sinigang,” she wrote. “The consistent heat of the enameled cast iron was ideal for pancit, a stir-fried noodle dish that required sautéing vegetables, and the excellent heat-retentive properties of the Le Creuset were ideal for simmering chicken adobo and sinigang.” Abigail went on to add that she’s also used her Dutch oven to make pancakes, chicken tikka masala, pasta, and other oven and stovetop dishes.
It’s also no coincidence that Le Creuset’s Dutch oven won the “Best Overall” category on our best list, with former Kitchn editor Riddley praising its light interior, which makes it easy to monitor browning, and ease of use. “Its downsides?” she wrote. “It’s heavy, weighing in at about 11 pounds, and expensive. However, if it’s in your budget, this is a gorgeous Dutch oven that cooks beautifully and is built to last.”
This kitchen luxury is, indeed, stunning: The 5.5-quart size is available in a range of bold colors, any of which will make a statement on your stove and tabletop. Regardless of any complaints users might have, owning a Le Creuset Dutch oven will always remain a flex. So, if you have a big budget and the desire to give your kitchen a bougie upgrade, we say go for it.
Overview of Lodge’s 6-Quart Dutch Oven
Much of Le Creuset’s appeal comes from the fact that its pieces are hand-crafted by French artisans, but it’s not the only heritage brand around when it comes to Dutch ovens, or enameled cast iron in general. Lodge has been making cast-iron grill pans, skillets, and other cookware right here in the U.S. since 1896, and its durable kitchen essentials promise to last as long as the company’s legacy. (Be sure to check out the USA Enamel collection for an extra dose of patriotism.) Our editors highly recommend Lodge products, though our favorite place to shop the brand’s widely loved Dutch oven is Amazon. There, you’ll find a 6-quart model that’s comparable to Le Creuset’s 5.5-quart pot for nearly one-fifth of the price. Although on Amazon it says this piece was made in China, the Dutch oven still boasts the same heirloom-quality materials and features that made the American brand so popular to begin with.
Right away, you’ll notice that the Lodge Dutch oven is available in a wide array of vibrant colors, all of which still retain the light-colored interior that’s reminiscent of its French counterpart. You might even be tempted to leave yours on your stove instead of storing it inside a cabinet — it’s that pretty. Of course, the pot also boasts an enameled cast iron construction that allows for even heating, as well as high walls that make it useful for braising, deep frying, and making soups. Now that he’s owned his Lodge Dutch oven for three years, senior commerce editor Ian can attest that it’s also just as versatile as its more expensive equivalent.
“I’ve made soups, stews, bread, cakes (not very good ones, but still), and more braised dishes than I can count,” he wrote in his review. “I’ve also used it to deep fry wings, make stock, and much more.” He also noted that the pot is easy to clean, even if you happen to leave leftovers inside for more than a week (though we wouldn’t recommend doing that). Even burnt pieces of food lift off with minimal scraping!
As with any hefty piece of cookware, there are things to take note of before pulling the trigger on your Dutch oven purchase. Cast iron is heavy, and the Lodge pot weighs just over 14 lbs (compared to 11.4 lbs for the 5.5-quart Le Creuset model). And even though this piece was made to resist chipping and cracking, it’s normal for it to acquire some blemishes with regular use. “While the outside of mine looks as good as the day I got it, there’s been some staining along the inside rim and on the bottom, but a) things like Bar Keeper’s Friend should get the stains out, b) it doesn’t impact cooking, and c) I’ve never actually tried to get the stains out, so it might just be user error,” Ian wrote.
All of this being said, he still maintains that the Lodge Dutch oven is a must-have for all home chefs: “If I were stuck on a desert island with one piece of cookware for the rest of my life, it would be this $80 kitchen workhorse.”
The truth is, you can’t go wrong no matter which Dutch oven you opt for. If you have the cash to spend on Le Creuset’s, you can rest assured that it’ll perform splendidly and last for generations without sustaining serious wear and tear. That being said, Lodge’s Dutch oven will probably do the same, but for a much lower cost — and although it might not be as recognizable, it’s still just as beautiful as its more expensive counterpart. If you’re on a tight budget, the Lodge will also hold you over until you are ready to splurge, though we have a feeling that once you own it, you won’t feel the need to upgrade.
Buy: 5.5-Quart Round Dutch Oven, $420
Buy: Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, $79.90