If you’re like me, there are some pieces of cookware you use on an almost daily basis. In those cases, you want something that can stand up to heavy use. This is especially true with Dutch ovens. When it comes to this kitchen staple, you only want the best.
The question is:
Which one is the best Dutch oven?
Let’s take a look at the products and alternatives I’ve included in this article:
- Le Creuset – Top Pick
- Cuisinart – Affordable Quality
- Staub – Alternative Top Pick (Le Creuset Alternative)
- Lodge – Super Affordable Budget Choice
- All -Clad Copper Core – Something different
Let the battle begin.
At a Glance: Cuisinart vs Le Creuset
Cuisinart offers a high-quality Dutch oven at an affordable price. If you are on a budget, it’s a great choice.
On the other hand, Le Creuset is really the premier manufacturer of Dutch ovens. If you want the best quality, most durable, and nicest looking Dutch oven the Le Creuset is the choice.
Read on for more details, and also for some interesting alternatives.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Who Could Use a Dutch Oven?
Dutch ovens have thick walls and tight-fitting lids, making them great for braising, slow roasting, stewing, and baking. Bread, roast chicken, beef stew, mashed potatoes, and pasta are all dishes that shine with proper cooking in a Dutch oven.
Who could use a Dutch oven?
A better question would be, who wouldn’t use one?
But like all cookware, not all Dutch ovens are created equally. There are some things you want to consider when purchasing one of these heavy-duty pots.
Enameled Cast Iron
Dutch ovens come are typically made of cast iron. Cast iron dutch ovens are great because they’re durable and can handle a variety of dishes.
But here’s the rub:
Cast iron ovens require seasoning to get that natural nonstick coating, and they aren’t the best for cooking acidic foods or boiling water. Beyond that, a cast iron pot is not dishwasher safe. Well, not unless you like the taste of rust in your food. (No, thank you!)
So what’s the solution?
Enter enameled cast iron.
An enameled Dutch oven is really just a type of Dutch oven that has a porcelain enamel coating over the cast iron. For this article, when I use the term, “Dutch oven,” I’m referring to an enameled oven. But why does the porcelain enamel finish even matter?
These enameled Dutch ovens require no seasoning (Do I hear you cheering, or is that just me?). They still distribute and retain heat just as well as plain cast iron. Yet the enamel coating means you can cook acidic foods without a metallic taste or breaking down the seasoning.
Basically, enameled ovens give you all the benefits of cast iron products without the hassle of having to season and care for uncoated cast iron.
Also, they’re pretty.
Enameled ovens come in a variety of beautiful color choices, (unlike regular cast iron).
Size & Shape
You can find a variety of sizes out there, but most people can easily feed a family of 4 using a 5-Quart (4.7 liter) to 7-Quart (6.6 liter) pot.
And few things make home cooks happier than making a delicious meal using just one pot.
Smaller Dutch ovens are available, but they are obviously more limited in their servings. Larger capacity Dutch ovens are great for large crowds, but they are hefty. They also come with a heftier price tag.
In addition to round Dutch ovens, you can also purchase an oval Dutch oven. I personally prefer the round shape to maximize the cooking surface area, but it depends on how you plan to use your Dutch oven. People who frequently roast whole birds might prefer oval ones to accommodate their shape.
Regardless of what dishes frequent your dinner table, there is a Dutch oven geared toward your cooking habits.
Interior Enamel Color
This is something that might seem insignificant, but the color on the interior of the Dutch oven can actually make a difference in cooking.
Why do I say this? Just imagine:
You have a beautiful cut of meat to braise. You want to make sure it’s nice and browned before turning down the heat to a simmer. When you look inside the Dutch oven, you can’t see if the meat is browned or not. The color of the interior is too close to that of the meat.
And I don’t know about you, but I do not want a lot of guesswork when it comes to cooking meat.
When using thermometers and checking to see if food has browned, you want a lighter color inside your Dutch oven to provide contrast and make it easier to see all that wonderful food cooking.
Cleaning and Care
A Dutch oven is an investment, regardless of which one you choose.
The last thing anyone wants is to spend their hard-earned money on a new piece of cookware only to have it ruined. That is why cleaning and care are important.
Are you tempted to crank up the stove to high heat because you’re in a rush? Trust me, I’ve been there.
Resist the urge and slowly heat your Dutch oven to avoid cracks or chips in the enamel.
If hand washing pots and pans is on your “to-don’t” list, make sure to choose one that is labeled as dishwasher safe. You also want to avoid contact with metal in the dishwasher.
Lastly, if you want to avoid chipping and scratching on the enamel interior, only use wooden or heat resistant silicone cooking utensils.
When you think of Dutch ovens, the brand that likely comes to mind is Le Creuset. Le Creuset has been making high quality cookware since 1925. They also offer a limited lifetime warranty on their enameled cast iron cookware.
Le Creuset makes its signature enameled cast iron cookware in France. You can choose from a variety of attractive colors. Whether your kitchen sports deep blues, rich purples, bright reds, or cool neutrals, there is a coordinating Le Creuset Dutch oven.
The Le Creuset Signature Enameled line comes in an array of sizes. If you routinely cook for large crowds, you may want to opt for the 9-Quart (8.5 liter) oven.
Another popular choice is Le Creuset’s 5.5-Quart (5.2 liter) round Dutch oven. For those that want a smaller pot, Le Creuset offers a 3.5-Quart (3.3 liter) round Dutch oven.
If you prefer a wider, more shallow Dutch oven, Le Creuset has this 6.75-Quart ( 6.3 liter) pot. This option is great for those who like to bake a lot of bread. A shallow oven makes it easier to monitor and lift out freshly baked loaves.
Lastly, if you fancy an oval Dutch, there is this 5.5-Quart (5.2 liter) oval Dutch oven. The oval shape is ideal for whole chickens, oblong roasts, duck, etc.
For me, I like Le Creuset’s 7.25-Quart (6.8 liter) Dutch oven for its ability to handle larger items while still being light enough to carry. Cast iron cookware can make for some heavy lifting, after all!
One of my favorite features? The Le Creuset Dutch oven is easy to clean. Many customers gush over how easy it is to clean the Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron.
What’s more, this Le Creuset piece is dishwasher safe. It is important to note, however, that the dishwasher could dull the enamel.
That dulling won’t affect the oven’s performance, but you want to keep that in mind. If you’re going to spend the money on Le Creuset, you want to keep the finish looking pristine and polished.
- Superb heat retention
- Durable enamel coating
- Looped, large handles
- Oven safe for temps up to 500°F (260°C)
- Easy to clean & dishwasher safe
- Variety of exterior colors
- Heavy to lift
- Slow to heat
To find out more about Le Creuset, including other cookware like skillets and casserole dishes, check out my Le Creuset Reviews Guide.
The other contender in our Dutch oven battles is the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven. Like the Le Creuset oven, the Cuisinart enameled cast iron is one of the best kitchen performers.
In fact, many customers highlight the test kitchen results in their reviews. They also rave about the even heat distribution, which is great, because who wants beef stew that only has part of the beef thoroughly cooked?
That’s a hard pass.
The Cuisinart Chef’s Classic comes in the classic Cardinal Red and a Provençal Blue. While the 7-quart (6.6 liter) oven is a popular size, you can also find a 5-quart (4.7 liter) and a 3-quart (2.8 liter) dutch oven, all made from the same Cuisinart enameled cast iron.
Cuisinart has a lot of features, as this video from the manufacturer explains:
- More affordable vs Le Creuset
- Oven safe for temps up to 500°F (260°C)
- Even heat distribution
- Tight-fitting lid
- Easy to clean & dishwasher safe
- Some customers complain of enamel chipping easily
- Only 2 color choices (red/blue)
- Smaller handles than Le Creuset
Cuisinart Enameled Cast Iron vs. Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron: What’s the Difference?
We have looked at each product individually, but now it’s time for these two Dutch ovens to go head-to-head. It’s Cuisinart Chef’s Classic vs. Le Creuset Signature.
Ready to see these two duke it out in an epic Dutch oven duel? Let’s dive in.
You know those china cabinets with beautiful delicate dishes that no one actually uses?
Yeah, we don’t want that with cookware. When it comes down to it, you want a product that does its job and cooks healthy, tasty meals.
Both Le Creuset’s and Cuisinart’s ovens performed well in the test kitchen. Customers love how they cook evenly and retain heat. Both pots can handle high oven temps and are safe for induction cooktops.
When it comes to cooking performance, I did not find a large difference in the Cuisinart vs. Le Creuset. If your one and only consideration is how they perform in the kitchen, you can’t go wrong with either of these pots.
Category winner: Draw
Enameled Cast Iron
In addition to high-performing cookware, I also want a pot that is beautiful and easy to use.
The Le Creuset and Cuisinart ovens are made from enameled cast iron, so they are heavy. The Cuisinart is slightly heavier, but the difference is not significant.
Both the Le Creuset and Cuisinart Dutch ovens have a light-colored interior enamel, which is great for browning meat and serving dishes.
The durability of the enamel is where you see the difference. The Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron is made to last.
By contrast, many customers complained about chipping on the Cuisinart, even after just a few uses. The enamel for Cuisinart is made in China, which may be a consideration for some buyers.
While chipped enamel on the lid or rim of the pot won’t affect the cooking ability, it does diminish the beautiful appearance. And while Le Creuset and Cuisinart both offer a Limited Lifetime Warranty, they do not claim to cover damage from normal wear and tear.
If you want an enameled cast iron that will hold up with heavy use and resist chipping, Le Creuset might be a safer choice.
Category Winner: Le Creuset
Handles and Lids
The handles on the Le Creuset and the Cuisinart are looped, which gives a better grip when carrying your Dutch oven.
Considering how hefty these cast iron Dutch ovens are, that grip is important.
Le Creuset’s handles are slightly larger than the Cuisinart, which gives them the edge in my view.
As far as the lids, both have tight-fitting lids, a must-have for fluffy rice and tender beef. Without a tight lid, moisture escapes and takes dishes from, “Wow!” to, “Meh.”
The knob on the lid of the Le Creuset is stainless steel, but there are versions with a black composite knob. Both are supposed to be oven safe for temps up to 500°F (260°C). If you want to err the safe side then opt for the stainless steel knob.
The Cuisinart metal knob is coated in the same red color as the rest of the exterior. It can also handle oven temps up to 500°F (260°C).
While I like both pots in terms of their handles and lids, the clumsy kid inside of me likes the slightly larger handles of the Le Creuset Dutch oven.
Category Winner: Le Creuset
Cleaning and Care
You know that nice skillet you have sitting in the back of your cabinet? The one you never cook with because it’s a pain to clean? I have one of those, too.
If you’re going to invest in a nice Dutch oven, you definitely don’t want to waste your money by having it sit in your cabinet because it’s too difficult to clean.
The Le Creuset and Cuisinart enameled cast iron are both easier to clean than traditional cast iron. They are both safe for the dishwasher, although you should ensure that the cookware does not come into contact with metal during the wash cycle. We don’t want to ruin that pretty enamel.
Many customer reviews emphasize how easy it is to clean these ovens. Of course, to protect the enameled cast iron, use heat resistant silicone or wooden cooking utensils.
Category winner: Draw
Did I mention I like pretty cookware? There’s just something about shiny enameled cast iron that makes a kitchen feel inviting. Not to mention the delicious smells that accompany them.
Le Creuset and Cuisinart offer attractive colors for their Dutch ovens. The Cuisinart enameled cast iron comes in a Cardinal Red and a Provençal blue. However, Le Creuset’s signature enameled cast iron comes in a wide variety of color choices.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to my eye Cuisinart looks a bit plain. Functional, but dull.
Le Creuset simply has a more attractive look.
Category winner: Le Creuset
So far we have had several categories with Le Creuset coming out ahead or with a negligible difference. Prices can vary, but this category is where Cuisinart tends to come out better.
While many customers claim that Le Creuset is worth every penny, the likelihood is you’ll be spending a lot more of those pennies on a Le Creuset than on Cuisinart enameled cast iron. For many, cost is a major consideration.
But the essential question is, does the price difference outweigh the difference in quality? That answer will vary from person to person. Regardless, when it comes to cost, the Cuisinart enameled cast iron dutch oven is more affordable vs. Le Creuset.
Category winner: Cuisinart
What Are the Alternatives?
Need an option lighter on your wallet?
The Lodge brand is known for its cast iron skillets and US-made products. The Lodge Dutch oven offers the benefits of an enameled cast iron dutch oven at a significantly lower price.
Like Cuisinart and Le Creuset, Lodge’s enameled cast iron has solid heat distribution and retention. However, many customer reviews complain of chipped or bubbled enamel.
Furthermore, even though the company is based in the USA, the enameled Dutch oven is made in China. The product does undergo quality control, but the price differences come with a difference in quality of the enameled cast iron.
The Lodge also has a rounded bottom, which cuts into the cooking surface area. I prefer the flat bottoms of the Cuisinart and Le Creuset to the rounded one of the Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
- Significantly more affordable than Le Creuset & Cuisinart
- High quality cast iron
- Made in China
- Customer reviews complain of damaged & fragile enamel
- Rounded bottom
While Staub uses the term, “cocotte,” this pot is really a Dutch oven. Staub is known for their high quality cookware. Like Le Creuset, Staub Dutch ovens are made in France.
This Staub 7-Quart round cocotte will perform as well as the ones above. Purchasing a Staub means purchasing a premium Dutch oven…. at a premium price.
While this is a first-rate Dutch oven, I cannot say the overall quality of Staub vs. Le Creuset justifies the substantial price tag. Also, I prefer the sand-colored interior of Cuisinart and Le Creuset over the dark interior of this Staub cocotte.
I’ve already review Staub vs Le Creuset specifically. My conclusion: Staub is normally more affordable than Le Creuset but still expensive. It’s worth paying a bit extra for Le Creuset for that extra quality.
- Made in France
- High-quality cast iron
- Variety of attractive colors
- Dark interior enamel
- Doesn’t reach the quality of Le Creuset
Staub is part of Zwilling group and it could be worth buying directly from the manufacturer. You can find the same 7 quart cocotte there. It’s worth checking the price–if you can get Staub for significantly less than Le Creuset it could be worthwhile.
The only non cast-iron option on the list, is the All-Clad 5.5-Quart (5.2 liter) Dutch oven. It is made with a 5-Ply construction consisting of a copper core, aluminum, surrounded by stainless steel. This construction makes it more like a stockpot in some ways, but All-Clad labels it as a Dutch oven.
These materials are good conductors, meaning the pot will heat up quickly. This is also a lightweight pot compared with a traditional cast iron dutch oven. However, you are likely to pay a higher price for these features than when purchasing a Le Creuset or Cuisinart.
Another consideration is that if the pot ever pits, that would expose the aluminum to food. That’s a big no-no for food safety. That’s unlikely to happen though, as All Clad has a strong reputation as a quality brand.
I’m not so keen on this pot which I feel is neither fish nor fowl. If you want a stockpot, you could get a much more affordable one. On the other hand it doesn’t deliver the same performance as a Dutch oven.
It’s an interesting novelty, and I’m sure there’s a use for it, but perhaps not in my kitchen!
- Heats up quickly and evenly
- Lighter than cast iron
- Safe for oven and all cooktops
- Made in USA
- Tends to be more expensive vs. Le Creuset
- Not as easy to clean, hand washing recommended
- Reports of loose fitting lids
Cuisinart vs. Le Creuset: Which One Comes Out on Top?
In terms of craftsmanship, durability, and quality, Le Creuset is consistently at the top. If you want the gold standard of Dutch ovens, I would go with the Le Creuset Signature Enameled Dutch Oven.
If, on the other hand, you want a high-quality dutch oven at an affordable price point, the Cuisinart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven would make a good choice.