Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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!

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.  😉

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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.

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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. 🙂

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

Appearance

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 Vs. Le Creuset

Quality

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.  It bears mentioning, too, that the interior of the Lodge pan is rounded, which gives slightly less cooking space.  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.

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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 angle of the bottom of the pan is straight, rather than rounded, which gives a squidge more cooking space (which I love).  The LC Dutch Oven receives a 10 out of 10 for quality.

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

Cooking Ability

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. 😉

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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.

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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 Vs. Le Creuset

Other Features

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.

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

So, to sum it all up, here is what I found.

  1.  The Lodge is about 1/4 the cost of a Le Creuset.
  2. The Lodge does NOT offer a lifetime guarantee, while LC does.
  3. Le Creuset offers many more color and size options in enameled cookware.
  4. The quality of LC is pretty much flawless, but Lodge gave a fine account of itself.

Lodge Vs. Le Creuset

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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16 Comments

  1. Bonnie

    Thank you so much for this review! First off, I love your voice in your writting, it was fun to read as well as being informative. I have been using my grandma’s hand-me-down standard cast iron skillets for years but have been drooling over the delicious cast iron enameled LC colors for years… at a distance… afraid to make a splurge. I appreciate your honest opinon between these two brands. I feel that I can make the compromise with Lodge and not lose out on too much functionality! Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Dear Bonnie, your comment made my day! 🙂 I agree– I think definitely I would start with Lodge. If you find you love it, then you can invest in the more expensive ones. But I found that Lodge worked very well, and I was very pleased with it! Thanks for stopping by! Your comment made my day. <3

      Reply
  2. Datdamwuf

    I came late to enameled iron but I love it. After my last one died, I bought a Lodge 6 quart because I couldn’t believe the price of LC. Mistake. The LC mat enamel along the rim and the lid of the pot was not applied properly and promptly began rusting upon second use. Lodge could care less, I could not get a replacement after less than 30 days. I kept using it for a while, being careful to clean, dry quick, and oil to keep rust from forming. I had uneven browning with the Lodge after about 6 months. Finally had to replace for fear of rust forming and leaking into the food during oven braising.

    I bought a 7.25 LC recently and it is awesome. It’s larger than the Lodge but is easier to manage with the larger handles. It cleans like a charm where the Lodge stained badly. Another thing I hadn’t realized (and you don’t address in your review), is that the LC has a flat bottom while the Lodge is rounded. There is much more room for browning meat due to this difference.

    I regret not buying LC a long time ago! I suspect buying the cheaper brands cost me more in replacements than it would had I bought he LC to begin with. Thanks for your review! I was actually looking for info on heat settings as I tend to overdo!

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Thanks so much for this info! I agree re: the rounded vs. straight bottoms of the pan. I tried to show that in the photos, but I will go back and add a line of text to support this. Great observation– thank you! And I could not agree more– I cook with my LC pieces every day, and they clean up more easily, just like new, whereas the Lodge has gotten more dingy the longer I have used it. I think over a lifetime of cooking the more expensive piece more than pays for itself vs. the cost of replacing the cheaper models multiple times. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Dan

    Thank you for the time you spent in preparing this review. I have been searching the various cookware review websites trying to decide whether to make the splurge on purchasing a la creuset over the less expensive Lodge. This review was soooo helpful. Concise, objective and very informative. I felt that of the myriad opinions and reviews on the web, this was by FAR the best on the web. I love to cook and now I feel comfortable purchasing the La Crueset. What really sold me was your picture showing the difference in the enamel finish. Thanks again Emilie, very well done!! Cheers!

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Thank you Dan! Your comment made my day. Thank you <3

      Reply
  4. Terri

    How did they compare weight wise? Was one heavier to pick up than the other?

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Hi there Terri– any cast iron piece is going to be heavy. They were very similar in weight, but the Lodge was a squidge larger than the Le Creuset. I think overall the LC is a touch heavier, quart for quart, because it doesn’t have as many fillers. Hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Nick Linden

    Lodge does Enameled does come with a “Limited Lifetime Warranty”; not sure if you saw that on their website. Back a number of years after they first started selling Enameled cookware I used that warranty and had no issue they replaced with no problem. I had a flawed pot, have not had an issue since. I also never turn the heat up past say 6 on a 1-10 dial, normally it is at 3-4. Anyway here is a link to there warranty. http://www.lodgemfg.com/Lodge-Enamel-Warranty.pdf

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Awesome info Nick! 🙂 And I agree– I never really need to turn cast iron above 3-4 on the dial. Great tips! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Yvonne Carter

    I’ bought my Lodge enameled Dutch oven when they came out in 2005 for $50. I didn’t know that you had to keep the temperature low. I’ve used mine on high heat hundreds of times and thank goodness I’ve never had a problem. My pot is just as nice today as the day I bought it, almost 13 years ago. I will keep the temp low from now on after reading your very helpful and insightful article.

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      So glad to hear you found it helpful, Yvonne! I generally keep all cast iron pieces low to medium low, but I will say that I have been able to turn up the Lodge to a medium heat with no problems. If you’ve cooked successfully all those years without damage I think you must be doing something right! 🙂 Thanks for taking time to comment and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Angela

    Thanks for the article. I didn’t realize the cooking temperature difference and have only used a Lodge, BUT just received an LC and will be cautious with the heat. By the way, I’ve used my Lodge for a couple of years and no issues, although it’s possible the enamel is wearing down. I’m excited to try out the LC but won’t be tossing out my Lodge, it’s a keeper.

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Thanks for the great insights, Angela! I have used LC longer than Lodge and was very curious how Lodge held up in the long run! Thanks for sharing. I agree– the lower heat needed for LC (I never go above 4 on my dial and they all still look like new) is a definite clue that LC is higher quality, but honestly, Lodge did really well, especially at about 25% of the price of LC, and I won’t be throwing out my Lodge pot, either! 🙂 Cast iron aficionados unite! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Sarah

    My Lodge enameled pot was fabulous for about 5 uses, and then the enamel started cracking and things stuck to it. I use their back cast iron every day, but definitely wouldn’t recommend their enamel cookware (sadly).

    Reply
    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Great to know! Sounds like maybe the cheaper version doesn’t hold up long term! Thanks for sharing Sarah! 🙂

      Reply

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