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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Tracy Saelinger

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Using interviews with specialists, online reviews and personal experience, TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! TODAY does have affiliate relationships with various online retailers. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

If you're looking for a great Mother's Day gift for the mom who loves to cook, we've found just the thing.

When it comes to preparing some of your favorite dishes, a Dutch oven makes all the difference: It's not just pretty to look at, it also heats evenly, retains a steady temperature and can easily go from stovetop to oven. But do you have to spend a fortune on a pricey, famous French brand-name pot that goes for $300 and up?

To find out, we pored over hundreds of reviews to find one at the intersection of rave reviews and sane price point. We found it in the Tennessee-made Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It has more than 5,000 five-star reviews — and it’s $59. We repeat, $59.

Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, $59, Amazon

Eager to try, we ordered one to test it out. After cooking a few recipes, we have to admit, it really lived up to the online reviews. Here’s what we found.

1. It comes in gorgeous colors

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: A lot of people like the pricier models out there, because of their lovely colors. And to be fair, a lot of people leave their Dutch ovens out on the stove, so they should look good. Lodge offers more than half a dozen cheerful colors, such as red, turquoise, poppy and green, as well as neutrals like white and gray (some colors are a bit pricier than the $59). In person, the colors held true, and they have a beautiful finish.

Lodge's Dutch oven caramelized a batch of onions beautifully.Tracy Saelinger / TODAY

2. It browns food beautifully

Compared to the pricier French model I also used in the kitchen, the Lodge did an identical job caramelizing a big batch of onions, and the stone-colored enamel interior allowed me to monitor the browning. The cast iron heated quickly and evenly — and its weight and generously sized handles made it easy to carry across the kitchen, without feeling like I might drop it on my foot.

Good as new! Even after a tough job, the Lodge Dutch oven cleaned up easily.Tracy Saelinger / TODAY

3. Cleanup was a cinch

After caramelizing a batch of onions, I was a little nervous when I looked at the pan, with delicious-looking but hard-to-clean bits at the bottom. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to clean it all up in about 15 seconds — with just a few passes of a sponge, it looked good as new.

4. It's easy to handle

Weight-wise, at just over 14 pounds, the 6-quart Lodge sits in between the 6.75-quart Le Creuset (13.2 pounds) and the 6-quart Staub (16.9 pounds). Make no mistake, it's not light, but the handles, which are nicely sized and well shaped, make it easy to lift out of the oven.

More than 2,700 other online reviewers have raved about the Lodge Dutch oven, too: One commented on how the enamel was thicker than another brand's that had scratched, while another swears by it for bread. One person, who admitted to "snobbery" about her cast-iron pots, said she "overcame" her bias as soon as the pot arrived and she braised a whole chicken in rosemary, pears and leeks. "There is absolutely NO difference in the performance of this pan," she wrote. "It's fantastic!"

We couldn't agree more.

This article was originally published on November 30, 2017 on TODAY.com.

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