Test-Driving Lodge Enameled Cast Iron

I have a small collection of Le Creuset cast iron: a grill pan and a round French oven that were gifted to me by Zak’s grandmother when she became too frail to lift them anymore, a tiny skillet I got free for registering for Le Creuset back when Zak and I got married (fifteen years ago or so) a large braiser and a skillet that were given to me by Karl and Tessa for my birthday last year.

And I LOVE, absolutely love these pieces and I use them all the time.

I wanted to get a few more pieces of enameled cast iron, considering my new fascination with French cookery and braising, so I looked at the oval French ovens and tried hard not to flinch at the price. I say tried–because I failed. I still flinched.

Now, I could have gone on eBay, and gotten either Staub or Le Creuset cast iron at pretty great prices, but I remembered somewhere in the back of my mind that Lodge, the makers of the old American standard cast iron skillets (both traditional and pre-seasoned, both of which are fantastic) beloved by chefs and grandmas everywhere, had taken up making enameled cast iron cookware.

Hrm.

I looked on Amazon and found that not only is Lodge making colorful enamel-coated cast iron, so were a bunch of other manufacturers, most of them in China, and many of them sold under the names of famous chefs and cooks, such as Paula Deen and Mario Batali.

Mind you, the Lodge enameled pots are made in China as well, but I read that they had the same number of layers of enamel coating, fired between each coating, as the Le Creuset models, and I read that they have been reviewed favorably by Fine Cooking Magazine.

I trust Fine Cooking, so I decided to get a smaller, round casserole dish (3 quarts) to replace the buffet casserole that I gave to Morganna when she moved out (another gift from Zak’s grandmother) and a Dutch oven that is larger than the French oven I have–it is a four quart model, and I bought Lodge’s six quart oven.

I bought them from Amazon.com with free shipping, and paid easily two hundred dollars less for the larger pot and one hundred dollars less for the smaller one than I would have paid for the French cookware.

They are very pretty, as you can see. The three quart brown one has graduated color that is absolutely lovely, and the green is very similar the old style green that you can only get in Le Creuset these days from Williams Sonoma. They look great in my kitchen, which is all greens, browns, and blacks.

They are also just as hefty as their French counterparts (actually, they are a bit heavier as the walls a tiny bit thicker)–it takes a significant strength to hoist these babies up and down, around and through. That’s fine–I have strong arms!

How do they cook?

The truth is, I can detect no difference between these pieces and the French ones. They all cook like a dream. Food sticks if anything, a bit less in the Lodge cookware, perhaps because of the thicker walls, though in truth, few foods stick to either the Le Creuset or Lodge enameled surfaces. They both heat evenly and hold heat perfectly, allowing the cook to use less energy to cook braises, stews and roasts than they would in pots made from other materials.

Alas, however, Lodge doesn’t make oval ovens that you can use to roast or braise a whole chicken, so I will have to look into other possibilities.

I am thinking Staub for my next enameled cast iron purchase, though I might try out one of the cheaper Chinese manufactured ones -if- I can stand to buy something with Paula Deen’s face on it. (That said, I’d be more likely to get one from Mario Batali, just because I like the persimmon color a lot and the folks on Chowhound seem to like them!)

Does anyone else have a favored brand of enameled cast iron cookware?

14 Comments

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  1. I agree with your choice. I was lucky to find a Lodge 5 qt. enameled covered Dutch Oven at my local Kroger – orphaned, it was on sale for $19. A good thing.

    Comment by Barry — September 3, 2009 #

  2. I am trying hard to avoid buying anything made in China, so I went on a quest for a cheaper alternative (but not made in China) to a Le Creuset a year or so ago. I ended up buying a Staub brand sold on qvc for significantly less money. Since I don’t own any other enameled cast iron cookware, I cannot compare the Staub Basix brand to real Staub or Le Creuset. However, considering how inexpensive it was, I am very happy with it – and it is made in France! If you search on qvc’s website for staub, I think a variety of options will come up.

    I swear I don’t work for qvc – this just happened to be the best solution I could come up with for my money constraints and the China-thing.

    Comment by Josie — September 3, 2009 #

  3. I purchased a Lodge 6 qt Dutch oven (Caribbean blue) from Amazon last August. I used it frequently and loved it. I don’t have any Le Creuset so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. In Feb., when I’d had it for 6 months, as I was heating it, a round piece of the enamel about 3/4″ in diameter just popped off, revealing the cast iron underneath. I emailed Lodge and they said they would have to see it before they would tell me if they would replace it (they have a limited lifetime warranty). They emailed a prepaid UPS label, and I sent it back. I didn’t hear anything for two or three weeks, so I emailed them and they told me they would be shipping a new one out the following week. So, in the end I did get a new, replacement oven, but their customer service is very slow and couldn’t definitely use some improvement. I still love my Lodge oven, though!

    Comment by Lisa — September 3, 2009 #

  4. I live not far from a Le Creuset outlet — if you live close to one, it is worth a visit.

    They sell factory seconds, and have discounts for “color of the month” and such. One day I visited they also happened to have an “outlet mall” sale going on (20%), and offered a AAA discount as well. All of these discounts “stacked” for a rather incredible price.

    I stopped in again, another time, to buy a wedding present for a young friend. I didn’t think it was appropriate to buy a factory second for a wedding present! However, I recall that I paid something around $130 for a French oven that listed close to twice that.

    Comment by Guy — September 3, 2009 #

  5. Glad to hear that they work well. I’ll have to try the Lodge or Staub in the future. My dad recently found a vintage Le Creuset fry/saute pan (angled sides, flame finish) at a thrift store for $2!! I was very jealous of the find until I received it as a birthday gift. :)

    Comment by Alison — September 3, 2009 #

  6. I have a HUGE collection of regular Lodge cast iron, all of it purchased at Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, Ohio. I love it all and use it on a daily basis. I have no enameled cast iron, but if you say it is good, I’m going to go buy some this weekend. Yeah, buddy.

    Comment by Jan — September 4, 2009 #

  7. Barbara, I have heard very good reports of the enameled cast iron pans that Ikea sells. I have no idea where they are manufactured, but they certainly are reasonable. I don’t have enough room in my kitchen for more pans so I haven’t yet personally tried them but it might be worth looking at them!

    Comment by Meg — September 4, 2009 #

  8. I have dearly wanted a Le Creuset for some time but haven’t had the money to buy one. With all these testimonials, I might just have to save up and get one.

    Comment by Christy — September 4, 2009 #

  9. I am pretty Le Creuset loyal, although I understand about the money. When we moved we accidentally left behind my most treasured piece (probably bc it got left out, unpacked, bc I use it so much), the 7 qt round and we immediately replaced it, despite the price tag. I just could not live without it.

    I own 3 pieces, a 12 inch skillet, a 5 qt oval and the 7 qt round. I love all, the 7 qt round is THE workhorse of my kitchen. I tend to wait for gift giving occasions and ask for them since they are obviously very, very pricey.

    Comment by Laura — September 8, 2009 #

  10. Le Creuset were the first pans I bought when I started setting up my apartment oh so many years ago and have added to the collection with time. I still have them. The pans with the wood handles I would never get again because they scorch so easily (have been replaced several times). I have quit buying anything made in China for my kitchen. If I were to buy larger cast iron pots I would look for vintage ones made in the USA.

    Comment by Maureen — September 8, 2009 #

  11. I don’t have any Le Creuset either, except for one of those small skillets (with a supposedly nonstick-like special enamel coating, to which I’d prefer the regular finish). I do have a Mario Batali pot. It’s quite heavy, but it’s also quite large. The enamel has chipped off the handles, but I am clumsy so I can’t blame it on the pot, necessarily.

    I haven’t ever thought, “Wow, I really wish I had the Le Creuset instead, I bet it’d be so much better.” I have always been happy with the Batali and would certainly recommend it given the good price. But I could use some other sizes of enameled cookware, so now I’m thinking I’ll add in a Lodge piece and compare!

    Comment by Laurel — September 8, 2009 #

  12. **disclaimer** I have not cooked with enameled cast iron; I have only been investigating.

    It looks like Lodge actually has 2 lines of enameled cast iron, the Color line and the L series.

    The Color line cookware is made with 2 layers of enamel.

    The L series has 4 layers. And for my $.02 the colors leave something to be desired – Liberty Blue, Patriot Red, and Green Apple (not that color has much to do w/ cookability). And the 3 quart pot is . . . an apple.

    ~~~~

    I really enjoy your writing. I found you in a search for cranberry beans several months ago. :)

    Comment by Desert Verdin — September 13, 2009 #

  13. (Sorry about the double post.)

    I just looked at the Fine Cooking link you posted.

    The Lodge pot they liked is Lodge’s L series – I can tell from the lid in the photo of the stack of pots, and from the price.

    ~~DV

    Comment by Desert Verdin — September 13, 2009 #

  14. Thanks for your comments on the comparison. My two cents is that if you’re at all a thrifter keep your eyes open at yard sales, flea markets, rummage sales and so forth. I have probably about a dozen pieces of enameled cast iron. Most of it is Le Creuset. All of it was purchased for $20 or less, most of it less. This includes a couple of grill pans, several sizes of baking dishes and several other pieces. I’m waiting and hoping to find something in a size over 3 quarts. That may have to be a regular retail purchase.

    Comment by Adrianne — September 18, 2009 #

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