In the battle of budget versus brand, which do you prefer? Would you spend more for a solid reputation and lifetime guarantee, or would you rather save some money when you’re shopping? Lodge and Le Creuset enameled cast iron are two excellent examples of this battle. In this match-up, we decide which is worth it. Let’s take a look.
Types of Cast Iron
Before we get started, there are two types of cast iron you should be familiar with.
- Bare cast iron – Bare cast iron has no coating and often requires a period of “seasoning” to reach actual non-stick status. It’s typically more affordable than enameled types and often makes appearances in the great outdoors during camping. It’s classic and imparts a complex flavor to your dishes because of the way cast iron tends to absorb flavors over time.
- Enameled Cast Iron – Enameled cast iron is excellent for all-purpose cooking. It has a natural non-stick surface that doesn’t require seasoning and is typically easier to clean than bare cast iron. It’s dishwasher safe (usually) and requires less maintenance.
Once you decide which type of cast iron you need, you can begin the process of eliminating the different brands until you get your perfect cookware piece. In our comparison, we’re only dealing with enamel-covered cast iron.
Le Creuset versus Lodge – The Showdown
Our side by side comparison should help you decide which of these famous companies is better suited to your kitchen. Let’s take a look.
Both Le Creuset and Lodge use enamel-covered cast iron in different colors to distinguish their brand. Lodge has a rounded bottom and more rounded handles. Le Creuset has cleaner lines and oval-shaped handles. If you tend to use bulky oven mitts or have larger hands, you may want to consider Lodge.
Lodge has a circular, metal knob that’s a little more durable than Le Creuset’s standard. You do have the option of upgrading Le Creuset’s knob to a stainless steel version, but you’re going to have to fork out extra for that option. However, overall, the Le Creuset top and metal handle options are more attractive.
The color variations of Lodge are pretty, but I often find little bubbles or imperfections in the surface. Not so with Le Creuset. The appearance is always flawless because Le Creuset’s inspection process is a considerable to-do and products that don’t pass 100% are rejected.
The design of Le Creuset is pretty much flawless. It’s one of the lightest cast iron pieces available with an even weight and great feeling. The interior of the pots provide maximum cooking capacity while even the plastic knobs can withstand a high amount of heat coming from an oven.
Lodge’s enameled cast iron is a lot heavier though it does feel pretty evenly weighted. The imperfections in the surface of the enamel don’t seem to affect cooking, but they may bug you as they catch on cooking utensils. The marks can be buffed out during cleaning, but it’s something you may want to think about. I do like that the metal knob comes with Lodge’s typical cast iron, but it is nice to be able to upgrade handles to something like stainless steel.
The Quality of Le Creuset is beyond comparison. It uses a manufacturing process that’s mostly unchanged since the 1920s and relies heavily on human expertise to make sure it’s all done right. The cast iron is pure and the highest quality possible, never from recycled materials. Despite this, it’s significantly lighter than some other cast iron on the market, and a lifetime guarantee backs its quality.
Lodge is undoubtedly a good build quality for a fraction of the price. It’s going to be heavier than Le Creuset, and typically the enamel has a few more imperfections in the surface. These don’t usually affect cooking. Their enameled cast iron is manufactured in China, a sore point for many people who were hoping the company would manufacture in the United States. The company stands by its quality agreements with Chinese factories, but for some, this could be a deal-breaker.
Here’s where the cast iron hits the heat, so to speak. When cooking with Lodge, I noticed that it took a little longer to heat up sufficiently and required a slightly higher temperature when doing something like browning meat on the stovetop. Many people make the mistake of turning the heat on too high instead of allowing the cast iron to heat up properly, but Lodge did require a little bump.
Higher heats could mean that the material isn’t conducting heat as efficiently as cast iron typically does, but it could also be the coating. Le Creuset, on the other hand, heated up well with lower heat and had no uneven spots. In the oven, it performs well provided you give it time to preheat while the lid kept moisture in the pan nicely. Lodge’s lid did allow a tiny bit of moisture to escape, but I didn’t notice too much. I think with longer cook times, you may have some trouble keeping meat simmering without drying out.
The Verdict – Le Creuset
Le Creuset is still the winner when it comes to build quality and cooking performance. You just can’t beat the performance of the lid and the way the cast iron evenly cooks food at a much lower temperature. Make sure you aren’t turning the heat on too high but experiment with what your stove and Creuset oven can do together.
Invest in Le Creuset if:
- you have the budget
- you cook more than once a week in a dutch oven
- you want the highest quality yet lightest cast iron
- you want the specialized colors of Le Creuset
The sizing can be a little strange with numbers and letters, but we have prepared an article to help you figure out how big you need your crock to be.
Le Creuset Round Dutch oven sizes:
Lodge performed quite nicely, so if you don’t have the budget for Le Creuset just yet, you’ll still get plenty of excellent dishes out of your much cheaper alternative Lodge oven. The difference wasn’t so noticeable that I’d never recommend Lodge; I just think you should upgrade eventually.
Go for the budget Lodge if:
- you don’t have room in your budget yet
- you don’t need to use the dutch oven that often
- you aren’t bothered by surface imperfections
- you need larger handles
Investing in Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron is a versatile cooking tool and well worth having a few pieces in your kitchen. You can’t go wrong with the quality of Le Creuset. If you take care of it, you’ll be passing your famous dutch oven down to your child and possibly your grandchild. And with a lifetime guarantee, even they’ll be covered.
Last update on 2021-05-29 / This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Comments clearly fake. Lodge is not as good. LC sent me a new Dutch oven in a week no questions asked. But probably fine. Despicable customer acquisition though.
I have owned two Lodges and a Le Creuset Signature. Either the author is fooling themselves into the thinking they are neutral and really can’t see their own bias. Or they know full well they have a bias and are pretending to be neutral. But the end result is the same.
Neither of my Lodge dutch ovens have any issue with the finish. And none of the ones I have ever seen (and I have seen quite a few in the stores when I browse) have any issues either.
The ‘small amount of steam escaping” happens with the Le Creuset too. That’s because you want it to let a little of the liquid out so your stews and braises have properly concentrated broths. In fact, in the truly biased articles regarding the performance of Dutch Ovens, one of the reasons people felt the Lodge was the best dupe for the Le Creuset is because they lost a similar amount of liquid and their broths were similar in consistency and flavor. They also stain similarly with their similar light enamel interior.
I do several recipes consistently in my Lodge pans and they cook VERY similarly in end result. And I have NEVER EVER had a ‘dry’ long term braise. Note that she hasn’t tested that to be the case, but she dings the Lodge for this problem she imaged.
Now to where the Lodge beats out the Le Creuset: it’s not just price. The Lodge’s rounded bottom is actually much more stew and cooking friendly and also easier to sear in. Many other reviewers have remarked on this too. And my personal experience bears this out. For certain meals, I specifically use the Lodge over the Le Creuset because of the shape of the bottom. Unlike the ‘finish’ irregularities the author mentions again and again, the interior shape actually affects the cooking experience and function. No edges means no stew bits glued to the corners.
Another issue with this review is that the author doesn’t mention that there are two lines of Le Creuset: the Classic and the Signature. The Signature has 40% larger handles. And the top knob is either an upgraded composite that allows for super high heat or metal (mine) standard. Also the interior enamel of the Signature Line are upgraded in quality. And that means that the Classic line has small handles, the interior is not as durable long term, And the knob is only good up to like 350 degrees. And it still costs the earth. And it also has a lid that slides more, so it actually loses more steam than the Signature. So compared to the Lodge the Classic Le Creuset really isn’t that great an upgrade. But if you get a Signature Le Creuset, there is more of a difference and it might worth it for some to get the Signature. That’s actually one of the reasons I have a Signature Pot. When I live next to an Outlet and could have bought a Classic line for less.
While I love my Le Creuset I am happy I also have a Lodge.
I do agree with the author of two important points: 1. The le Creuset is lighter and that is very important to someone like me who has arthritis. 2. The Lodge does need a little extra heat boost for searing.
Staub is better
Le Creuset offers a lifetime guarantee. Why did you throw it away instead of return it? The pandemic is impacting call wait times for every business.