This article is part of our series Battle of the Brands, in which we compare category-leading products to their counterparts to determine which are actually worth your money.
Le Creuset has long been lauded for its iconic enameled cast-iron cookware, and the French company’s Dutch oven has become an heirloom-worthy kitchen staple across the world. Sure, it can braise, boil and simmer pretty much anything to perfection. But is its several-hundred-dollar price tag actually worth it? How much are you giving up if you saved yourself a couple of hundred dollars and picked up the much cheaper — but still respected — Lodge Dutch oven?
During our extensive testing of Dutch ovens, we found one glaring truth: The pans all performed similarly when it came to cooking. The details that make a big difference in everyday use — the handles, lids, weight and heat distribution — are actually what separates good from great.
And, evaluating those minute details, the Lodge Dutch oven stood toe to toe with the famed Le Creuset.
Lodge’s enameled cast-iron Dutch oven outperforms expensive competitors. Large handles and a spatula-friendly shape make it a breeze to move from oven to stovetop, and the finish cleans up easily. Even after years of regular use, its performance has not faltered.
Le Creuset’s iconic colorful Dutch oven has been a go-to for serious cooks for nearly a century. While it’s much more expensive than most of the models we tested, its perfect heat distribution, easy handling, high performance and durability make it an heirloom piece you’ll hand down to your children.
As far as performance, there wasn’t a huge difference in results among the different Dutch ovens we tested. All made light, fluffy rice with no burning, although the grains stuck to the sides of most pans.
But the Lodge’s 6-quart size was just right for all sorts of tasks — boiling water for pasta or corn on the cob, whipping up slow-cooked braises and stews, even throwing a simple no-knead bread into the oven for a fresh, hot and crispy loaf at dinnertime.
When we tested how quickly each pan could bring water to a rolling boil, the Lodge wasn’t as swift as Le Creuset — with the latter boiling water much faster than any model we’ve tested. The Lodge did deliver a tender braised pork shoulder, slow-cooked for more than three hours. And our no-knead boule bread loaf came out crispy and golden with just a bit more color on the bottom than the Le Creuset.
Overall, though, while all the recipes we made turned out well, Le Creuset’s results were always just a little bit superior. For example, all the pans produced fluffy, light rice, but while the others left at least some of the grains sticking to the pan and had variances in heat distribution when we tested different areas of the Dutch oven with an infrared thermometer, Le Creuset left nary a trace of rice behind and displayed perfect heat distribution.
When it came to cleaning up after each round of testing, the Lodge looked good as new after a little soaking in sudsy water, with no visible staining, chips or cracks. (It’s dishwasher-safe, but we chose to hand-wash all models.) We’ve owned a Lodge for three years now, and can report it does not show its age even after near weekly use.
The Le Creuset, even after cooking red sauce and a multi-hour slow-cook braise, cleaned up looking good as new. Of course, any enameled pan can chip or flake, but we’ve owned a similar Le Creuset model for 15 years that has yet to do so. And a lifetime warranty can be put to use in case of any damage.
Build and design
The Le Creuset displays excellent heat retention and distribution, and locks in moisture, thanks to its tight-fitting lid. It definitely has a slight edge over the Lodge, thanks to its wide and roomy handles as well as the comfort of the lid’s knob, which is large enough and placed high enough that it was hard to grasp the lid while wearing oven mitts. Its weight, at 11.5 pounds, was third lightest, which makes a noticeable difference when hoisting a heavy — and steaming hot — roast out of the oven.
Lodge’s enameled Dutch oven, too, boasts large handles and a lid with an amply sized metal knob, both features that make using a heavy pan easier — especially while wearing oven mitts or handling with a kitchen towel, which is necessary because these pans get hot, handles and all.
True, the Le Creuset earned top marks for comfort, but at less than a fifth the cost of that high-end model, the Lodge was a close second. The Lodge was easy enough to maneuver, even more so than most lighter models. And its slightly sloped sides allowed a spatula to scrape up everything along the edges.
The impressiveness of the classic Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven is undeniable. But it’s more for the serious cook who’s looking to hand cookware down to their kids. For a fraction of the price, the Lodge will not disappoint — its quality and form-focused build, alongside its top-tier performance, will elevate any home chef’s kitchen for years to come.