I Tried the $120 Dutch Oven That’s Even Prettier than a Le Creuset
There’s almost nothing a cast iron Dutch oven can’t do — especially one coated in shiny enamel. Use it for simple tasks like boiling water for pasta, deep-frying, or baking bread or let its superior heat retention slowly braise your meats all day long. They can go in the oven or on the stove, work with any kind of burner (even induction burners!), are easy enough to clean with a little elbow grease, and they look pretty enough you won’t want to put them away. What’s not to love, right?
Except, of course, the giant price tag. With top-of-the-line enameled cast iron Dutch ovens costing more than $300, they’re not exactly budget-friendly. A 5.5-quart Le Creuset goes for $360 on the company’s website. While Staub, the other big Dutch oven brand, costs about $340. Sure, both are built to last and backed by lifetime warranties, but, ouch!
Enter: Milo, a newer brand that offers an elegant-looking, premium enameled cast iron pot at one-third the price. Its 5.5-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven costs $135, with free shipping no less, and still comes with a lifetime warranty just like Le Creuset and Staub.
How can Milo be so cheap, but still well-made enough to be backed by a legit warranty? The company says it’s all in the factory-direct sales model. No middlemen, no sales team, and no brick-and-mortar stores means much less overhead, and those savings get passed directly to the consumer. It’s also made in China, rather than France (like those other two brands I mentioned), but the company’s website says the following: “We carefully selected our factory after a two-year research and development process for their extremely high quality, workmanship, and great working conditions.”
Of course, I had to try this pot for myself. I’m something of an enameled cast iron aficionado, so I’ve already compared the performance of Le Creuset versus Staub versus Lodge. It was time to add Milo to the mix. It only comes in four colors: glossy eggshell white (which has a white interior like Le Creuset), matte black (which has a black interior, like Staub), emerald green (which also has a black interior), or navy blue (also a black interior). I opted for the white and got down to business.
The first thing I noticed is that Milo is pretty heavy. It weighs 12 1/2 pounds with the lid, which is about 1.25 pounds heavier than Le Creuset (11 pounds, 4 1/2 ounces) and three-quarters of a pound lighter than Staub (13 1/4 pounds). The lid is heavy, too, and it feels a little “scratchy” when you set it on the pot, since there’s rough black enamel where the two meet.
I performed a boiling water test, bringing 8 cups of water to a boil and letting it go for 10 minutes to see how much steam escaped from the lid. My Le Creuset lost almost 2 cups of water; Staub lost just 1/2 cup, thanks to its super-tight lid; and Milo lost about 1 cup. Some say it’s best to have a tight lid, so you can control the evaporation, and others say it’s better to let steam escape to concentrate the flavors. Milo conveniently splits the difference.
I found the Milo was just as good at searing meats as my Le Creuset. The meat got very browned and the heat was evenly distributed — especially the first batch. Subsequent batches had a tendency to steam instead of sear if I didn’t crank the heat way, way up, because there were meat juices that had been released when browning the first batch. But super high heat was tricky because it put those juices on the verge of burning by the time they concentrated into fond at the bottom of the pot. But even though the fond got scary dark, it didn’t burn and it easily bubbled up away from the bottom once I added liquid to deglaze it. I know from past tests that Staub’s rough black enamel is a bit better at searing, although it’s hard to tell how dark the fond is getting. Milo’s black enamel interior might work in much the same way.
The Milo did an amazing job at retaining heat, so much so that it was a bit difficult to keep my beef stew simmering low enough, which is something I’ve noticed with my Staub pots as well. Le Creuset isn’t quite as heavy, so it can adjust to temperature changes a bit quicker and keep a low simmer without too much fiddling. But when you want to cook something all day, that heat retention is a boon.
The Milo has a metal knob and can take oven heat up to 500 degrees — just like Staub and Le Creuset pots fitted with a stainless steel knob (not the black phenolic knobs, which are not as heat resistant — although you can, if you want, simply buy a stainless steel knob and swap it out with the phenolic knob).
After putting the Milo through its paces — making stews, braises, pasta sauce and soup — I have absolutely no complaints. It felt sturdy; cooked evenly; cleaned up easily; and didn’t stain, scratch, or chip (although I was careful to use wood utensils). It performed as well as my Le Creuset and Staub, with minor differences in browning and evaporation that, in the end, didn’t affect the deliciousness of my meals.
Its clean, elegant design goes with any kitchen, and although it might not come in as many colors as the big guys, I really like the simple look of this one. And getting white instead of, say, a bright yellow seems like a small sacrifice for such a well-made and well-priced pot.
Have you tried the Milo? What’d you think?