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If you're already on the lookout for a great holiday gift for someone 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 options 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's a No. 1 Amazon bestseller, has more than 7,000 five-star reviews — and it’s just $80. We repeat, $80.
Eager to try, I ordered one to test it out. After cooking a few recipes, I have to admit, it really lived up to the online reviews. Here’s what I found.
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 20 cheerful colors, such as Red, Indigo and Pumpkin, as well as neutrals like Sandalwood and Gray (but some shades are a bit pricier than the $80). In person, the color held true, and it has a beautiful finish.
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.
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 seemingly 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.
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 (13.9 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. However, if you're looking for a smaller option, Lodge also makes a 5-quart pot that is pre-seasoned and features dual loop handles.
More than 23,000 online reviewers gave the Lodge Dutch oven a five-star global rating. 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!"
I couldn't agree more.
For more cooking tools we're loving, check out:
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- We tried the TikTok-famous watermelon slicer — and we'll never buy pre-cut again
This article was originally published on November 30, 2017, on TODAY.com.