Ahhh, Le Creuset. Most coveted, touted, and blingy of kitchen bling. So sexy with the deep, gorgeous colors. So exciting with the bewildering and seemingly endless array of shapes and purposes. And such a safe buy, given the nearly unanimous thumbs up for Le Creuset products across time, geography, and mindset. But, for all the glorious awesome that is Le Creuset, there is one gigantic NON — the price.
Which is why I do not have a single piece of it.
I’ve put my kitchen together bit by bit, piece by piece over the course of 20 years. I started with the cast iron skillets that belonged to my Nannie and cheap things I picked things up at garage sales, Salvation Army, and via dumpster diving. For years I’ve kept a master list of (A) things that I need and (B) things that I want.
And except for a Robot-Coupe, a vintage french stove, and a new fridge, I’ve pretty much gotten just about everything in A covered. I’ve slowly upgraded my econo set of Wusthoff cheap-ass plastic handled knives to Wusthoff Classics. I have an amazing old Waring clover-leaf blender that was refurbed by a dude I hooked up with via Ebay. Same dude refurbed my awesome KA Pro.
So yeah, I covet, but I’m also frugal and patient.
I used to think that I “needed” several key Le Creuset items – specifically a 6 qt dutch oven, two loaf pans, a 2 qt casserole, and a tagine. I moved these items to the “want” side as, save for the tagine, I had perfectly serviceable albeit non-ceramic versions of most of these. And then finally I decided that I needed to upgrade to a ceramic over cast iron dutch oven. Not to mention, I desperately needed a covered casserole that could go from range to oven. But there was no way in hell I could afford the Le Creuset. So I did a little research.
Turns out the perfect solution is right here, practically in my own back yard. Lodge, a Tennessee business, has been making all things cast iron for over 100 years. So, after sifting through hundreds of reviews and reading about processing and temperatures, I bought the Lodge 6 qt dutch oven in cafe and the covered casserole in caribbean.
I’ve been using both for a couple of years now. I have used the dutch oven to make everything from chile, roast chicken, and braised meats to jams, caramels, and bread pudding. The casserole is hands-down my most treasured piece of cookware and is second overall only to the KA mixer. I use it so often and for so many different things that it pretty much resides on my range top.
In my opinion, the Lodge wares are comparable in every way to LC, but are nowhere near as pricey – usually ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 what a similar LC product might cost. Temp tolerances are roughly the same — the one exception being the knob handles on some of the lids. And while Lodge may not have quite the sexy rainbow of finishes that LC offers, they are catching up, with four deep, jewel-tone colors that have an almost “burst” (think guitar finishes) look to them.
Cleaning is easy, just use a soft sponge and soapy water and hand-dry immediately. If stains linger (and they will, especially if you are a sauce freak like me), just use a little baking soda and scrub GENTLY with a sponge. And yes, the more you use them, the more likely they are to chip. It’s cast iron, people. They are heavy. Don’t swing them around. I also suggest buying appropriate utensils — I especially like the silicone-dipped whisk from Chef’n.
And before you start wondering if I am on the payroll of Lodge, Chef’n, the Ebay dude or indeed, ANY company I discuss here, please know that I don’t make ANY money off of this. Or anything I do, for that matter. I don’t have ads, I don’t get samples, and I don’t get paid to shill. I’m not ruling it out as a career option or anything, I just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page. In this specific instance, I wanted to praise Lodge because they are a great company with a great product, and I really want people to know that Le Creuset is not the be all end all to ceramic goods.
I’m going to get off the interwebs now and make some shortbread bars with caramel and dark chocolate, partially because I have a bunch of chocolate bits to use up, but mostly because holy hell doesn’t that sound good?