Lodge Vs. Le Creuset
I have long been a fan of cast iron cookware. I have tried just about every type of cast iron there is– from classic, vintage Griswold, to modern day Lodge, to luxury brands such as Le Creuset and Staub. I have tried ’em all, folks. And during my exhaustive (and fun!) testing, I have come up with some mighty cool stuff to tell you about which cast iron pieces I recommend, which are worth the money, and which, quite simply, are not.
And since this test is done 100% of my own volition, with my own cast iron pieces that I own and no one sent me for free, my reviews are deliciously (literally!) honest. 🙂 Today I am giving an honest, “nobody paid me to say it” review of Lodgevs. Le Creuset enameled cast iron. And if you’re on the fence as to whether you should buy a cheapie or invest in a more high end Dutch Oven, then I think you’re gonna love it. 😉
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
First, if you are new to the Cast Iron world, let me explain the 2 main types of cast iron cookware, just to make it easier.
- Regular, black/seasoned Cast Iron. This is your classic Black skillet that Grandma probably used. This is like, the classic “black” Lodge skillet. The classic, non-coated cast iron must be “seasoned” (basically not washing the skillet after cooking but just wiping it out, and allowing oil to build up and create a slick, non-stick coating over years of use). In my opinion, these types of skillets are difficult to use, especially for beginners. They can rust if left in the sink, and the seasoning process can be difficult to master. And until they are “well seasoned,” everything will stick to them. Not my cup of tea, just being honest.
- Enameled Cast Iron. Enameled Cast Iron takes the classic heating properties of cast iron, and pairs them with the quick and easy cleanup of a nonstick pan. Enameled cast pieces can be left in the sink overnight, without rusting. They do not require seasoning. They DO require low heat (but it’s ok because cast iron heats like nobody’s business. More on this in a moment), or the enamel will crack or even, if the heat is super high, pop off in pieces. Before you say “Exploding enamel! Yikes! I will never get an enameled cast iron pan!” let me just say, I suppose a plastic knife could kill you, too. But you don’t stop using them, because you possess common sense. Don’t turn your pan (any pan) to high heat. It’s bad for your cookware, and bad for your food. I am able to get a gorgeous diamond grill pattern on steaks by turning my cast iron to 3.5 on the dial. Cast iron takes time to heat up, but you never need to use more than low heat. Those who skip the directions and turn it right to 8 or 9 are the ones with exploding enamel. But not you. Because you’re being smart and reading the directions first. You’re welcome.
Enameled cast iron is my favorite, bar none. It’s gorgeous bakeware, ovenware, stovetop ware . . . you name it. And I have never had a problem with exploding or cracking enamel, and I cook with it every day in some form. Just keep your heat low, and let the iron heat up slowly. It will get there. Just like a good relationship, cooking in cast iron is a labor of love that takes a little time . . . but will be totally worth it. 😉
When I FIRST started researching enameled cast iron, I kept coming up against 2 giants in the cookware world– Le Creuset, and Lodge. Lodge is a classic, tried and true American brand. People have been cooking with Lodge cookware for generations, albeit “usually” the black, classic “you have to season this pan” variety. I was curious to know how the 6 qt. Enameled Lodge (introduced in 2005) stacked up against a high end luxury brand, such as Le Creuset (made in France since 1925). So today, opposite the Lodge is one of my favorite Dutch ovens– the 5.5 qt. Le Creuset in Juniper Green.
Now, what exactly IS Le Creuset? Oohh La La . . . I’m so very glad you asked! 🙂 Le Creuset has been making enameled cast iron since 1925. They are still produced in small quantities and limited colors in France, and shipped over here (wouldn’t you hate to do THAT postal delivery?!). They are well known for almost a century of craftsmanship and for their famous “lifetime guarantee.” However, all this French class comes at a price. A classic Le Creuset 5.5 qt. Dutch Oven is gonna run you about $325. Ouch.
When I first wanted to get an enameled cast iron piece, I thought, “I wonder if the super expensive ones are worth the money?” And now, after having cooked with both . . . voila! I’m prepared to show you what I found and let you make your own decision. 🙂 I don’t want to just tell you “I think this oven is better.” Because, ya knowwwww . . . what if we have different taste? I’d much rather show you the features of each, and “how they handle,” and let you decide, based on specifics, which oven is right for you. 🙂
In appearance, here is what I found:
Lodge: the color was surprisingly bright and good, but I did notice a few bumps in the paint. These in no way affect performance, but bumpy surface *can* sometimes indicate a more cheaply made piece, and I wanted to mention them. The pot didn’t seem to be dull on the bottom, as some cheaper cast iron pieces are. The shape was rounded and pleasing, and the handles were nice and large, but I found them to be a bit blockish. The round lid knob was a pleasing shape, and I liked the silver color. I also liked the ombre color effect of the oven, fading to darker on the edges. Overall, I give this oven a 9 out of 10 on appearance.
Le Creuset: the color is bright and extremely shiny. The handles are ample (although *some* LC models have smaller handles, so keep that in mind if you decide to purchase), and smoother than the Lodge handles. The handle was a matte black (although LC sells other handles including stainless steel, if you prefer) and had a nice, chunky grip. The paint was smooth as silk, overall. I saw no bubbles or flaws in the paint. I also loved the ombre paint effect. Overall, 10/10 on appearance for LC.
Lodge: The cheaper Lodge pan was surprisingly heavy, and I was pleasantly surprised. Generally, cheaper cast iron pieces tend to be lighter because manufacturers use fillers to save money. But this Dutch Oven was nice and heavy. No sign of quality skimping, here. The lid was nice and heavy, too, and it fit nice and snug (a wobbly lid is a sure fire way to tell you have a poorly made piece). I was slightly concerned that the interior white enamel was a little lumpy. Generally, pans that are not perfectly smooth do not have as long of a shelf life, and tend to crack and craze more easily, but that remains to be seen since I haven’t had this oven long. The slightly bumpy surface did not seem to affect cooking, so for now I will just keep an eye on it, and mention it. I give Lodge 9 out of 10 for quality, which is really astounding considering its price point of about 25% the cost of its more expensive counterpart.
Le Creuset: The quality of Le Creuset is legendary for a reason. The pot is heavy and “equal” in my hands, with no unevenness at all. The surface of the enamel, both inside and outside, is like a mirror, it’s so smooth. To be honest, when I was trying to take a photo of the interior, to show you the difference, my camera was unable to find a “point” to focus on inside the LC. That should tell you something about the smoothness. So I “helped” out my camera and put the lens cap in there for focusing purposes. But seriously. They don’t get any smoother than this. The Le Creuset lid fits perfectly with no wobbling, and the lid is equally heavy and high quality. The LC Dutch Oven receives a 10 out of 10 for quality.
This is what I was really looking forward to seeing. Because, at the end of the day, even if a pan is pretty, it’s got to work hard to survive in my kitchen. 😉 I was curious to see how the Lodge held up to the much more expensive LC. A note on cast iron cooking: the better made the piece, the better it conducts heat. That just means that a well made piece will be able to sear meat on low heats, if given time to heat up. A cheap piece will not heat up as well, and you will need to turn the heat up higher to achieve the same sear as a more well made piece.
Lodge: I put the Lodge out at first on the same heat that I usually start my LC pieces on to brown meat: 2 on the dial. I know what you’re thinking. “Um . . . two? How can you cook anything on a 2?! It’s barely warm!” Well, a good quality cast iron pan will brown and sizzle on 2 on the dial. BUT you have to give it time. Too many people break the enamel on their pieces by turning up the heat too high, too fast. People who don’t cook with cast iron expect the piece to heat up in a minute or two, like a nonstick pan. But honestly, it takes a cast iron piece 8-10 minutes to achieve “full” heat. So when I’m going to cook something, I put my cast iron on the stove before I get any of my materials out, and start it preheating. Then, when I get my vegetables chopped, or my meat prepared, the pan is nice and ready.
*Ahem* haha. Sorry. I told you I was passionate about this subject. It’s hard not to ramble. 😉
So anyhoo . . . the Lodge. I started it out on 2 on the dial, like I do LC. I gave it 10 minutes to heat up. And I added my hamburger to brown. But I noticed that my hamburger was barely cooking. So I turned up the heat to 3. Still not really. So I went to 4. And then my meat started browning, but not burning up. So I had to turn the heat up higher than LC for this pan, which was an indication to me that the pan was perhaps not as good at conducting heat. However, with the slightly higher heat, it performed its little heart out. I was quite pleased.
When I added my lid after preparing the chili, it fit snugly enough that the chili simmered nicely, and I found that the simmer time was comparable to LC, albeit at a slightly higher heat on the dial. Overall, this Lodge pot performed like a champ! 🙂 The higher necessary temperature makes me wonder how the quality will fare in the long term, but I was quite impressed. Overall, the only problem I could find with this oven was that I had to use a higher temperature, but once I did, it cooked its little cast iron heart out for me. I give this oven a 9 out of 10.
Le Creuset: I can fill my LC with water, turn the dial to 2, and cover the pan. The water boils in 6 minutes. That’s how amazing these pots conduct heat. They are legends for a reason. I browned my hamburger on 2 on the dial (3 is enough to sear a steak), and simmered at 1/2 (turning it to 1 will actually be too hot, as they conduct heat so well). People who turn these ovens to 8 on the dial thinking “It’s not getting hot!” will have enamel crack or pop off. Don’t blame the pan. These babies are the Cadillac of cookware. They really can cook almost anything without going above 3.5 on the stove dial. Give them a little time and keep the heat low, and they will serve you well for a lifetime. 🙂
The LC browned my meat, bubbling merrily, at 2 on the dial. It simmered like a dream at 1/2, and the lid fit snugly and kept in the moisture, keeping everything nice and tender. I give this oven a 10 out of 10.
Lodge: I love that the Lodge offers a 6 qt. size. I found it to be *just* big enough for a huge pot of chili. The LC oven is 5.5, and I felt that 6 qt. added that teensy little bit of extra space that made all the difference. I liked this extra “wiggle room” greatly.
Lodge has excellent customer service, but they do NOT offer a lifetime guarantee on their pieces. And I mean, seriously, who can blame them. The price of the Lodge oven is about 1/4 the price of a LC. These ovens aren’t expected to last a lifetime, and you aren’t paying for that. But they do really give you a nice bang for your buck, and if you have to replace it when you’re 70, then I still think that’s money well spent, and definitely more use than you’d get out of a cheapie store brand pot.
Le Creuset: The LC doesn’t offer a 6 qt. size, and I wish they did. The sizes jump right from 5.5 qt. to 7.25 qt, so if you want to make a pot of chili I find that the 5.5 is a squidge too small, and the 7.25 is a squidge too big. Of course, there are other smaller and larger sizes. Lodge currently offers only the 6 qt. and is experimenting with a braiser type, 3 qt. model in enameled cookware. While LC has many more size choices, I do wish that they offered a strict 6 qt. size.
LC also has their drool-worthy “lifetime guarantee.” I have personally taken advantage of this guarantee, and LC replaced my Dutch Oven, no questions asked. They were jolly well nice about it, too. Seriously. LC customer service cannot be beat. *however* LC will replace the pan only if it is not user error that caused the accident– it must be a flawed piece. This merely means that when you don’t read the directions, and you turn up the heat to 8, and your enamel pops off, and you destroy the Cadillac of cookware because you weren’t paying attention and giving it time to heat up on low heat, LC won’t replace a piece because of your error. And honestly, that seems fair to me. But they will replace any piece that is flawed, or has some sort of manufacturer error. Like I said, I have personally taken advantage of this guarantee, and they could not have been nicer, walking me through the returns process and sending me a new oven right to my door.
So, to sum it all up, here is what I found.
- The Lodge is about 1/4 the cost of a Le Creuset.
- The Lodge does NOT offer a lifetime guarantee, while LC does.
- Le Creuset offers many more color and size options in enameled cookware.
- The quality of LC is pretty much flawless, but Lodge gave a fine account of itself.
And at the end of the day, all that really matters is whether my chili tastes good or not. 😉 And friends . . . both chili recipes were DEEEEEEELICIOUS!
Me, personally, I think Le Creuset is absolutely worth the money. The quality is insane, and the guarantee is for life. I cook with my LC pieces every single day, and they have never once let me down or made me anything but proud.
But I admit I was highly impressed with the Lodge pan. For its price point, it gave a darned good account of itself in the kitchen. And I think if I were new to cast iron cooking, I would start out with a Lodge enameled piece– try it out to see if I even like cast iron cooking, without breaking the bank. And then once I decided that I LOVED cast iron (come on! Who doesn’t!!!), I would invest in the more expensive Le Creuset.
These are my thoughts, and you will have your thoughts. But give cast iron cooking a try, today. Your Grandma was smart– she knew cast iron was the way to go.
And the chili tastes just fine, whether it came out of a red or a green pot. 😉
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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