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 microwave and 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.
However, 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.
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
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 2020-02-19 / This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API