dupes week

I Tested 6 Dutch Ovens to Find the Best Le Creuset Dupe

Photo: Courtesy Retailers

All of my most ambitious cooking happens in my Le Creuset Dutch oven. I’ve braised chicken thighs with adobo chiles and vinegar for hours on end, until the apartment smells warm, like garlic and spice, and the meat nearly drips off the bone — and let it sit for another two hours before serving at a dinner party, only to realize that the dish inside was still hot. I tried my hand at a version of Julia Child’s coq au vin recipe this winter, and I can’t imagine sautéing the bacon and browning the three pounds of chicken and simmering the half-bottle of red wine down to a thick, spoonable sauce in anything but a Le Creuset. (Plus there’s nothing that feels more fancy than serving Julia’s coq au vin in a fancy French Dutch oven.) But most of my everyday cooking happens in the Le Creuset, too. Just the other day, I made Alison Roman’s stew, and I cooked the notoriously hard-to-brown chickpeas until they had a little bit of a crisp, and I wilted down more kale than the recipe could’ve ever called for. Best of all, the white enameled interior didn’t stain from the turmeric.

Theoretically, you could do all of this cooking in any Dutch oven, but conventional wisdom is that Le Creuset makes the best Dutch oven that money can buy. And after years of using one in my own kitchen, I have to admit I’m something of a Le Creuset acolyte. It’s made of high-quality cast-iron, so it’s known for heating evenly and efficiently, and there aren’t really any hot spots while you sautée or brown. The cast-iron also means the Le Creuset can retain that heat for hours on end, so your precious braising meat or thickening stew is really cooking in there. And the glossy, enamel finish makes it durable and relatively easy to clean, with warm water, soap, and a scrubber brush.

But boy, is it a lot of money. A 5.5-quart Le Creuset enameled cast-iron Dutch oven — the size and shape most people imagine when they talk about a Le Creuset — will cost you $350. That kind of purchase feels particularly excessive when there are so many different brands of enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens on the market that claim to do everything the Le Creuset does, at just a fraction of the price. So what is the difference, exactly, between all of these different brands of enameled Dutch ovens, and how do they compare to the OG?

To find out, I put six different Dutch ovens — AmazonBasics, Cuisinart, Dansk, Great Jones, Lodge, and Milo — up against my Le Creuset. (I excluded Staub from this lineup because, in my mind, it is a very different type of Dutch oven, even if it does come in a rainbow of candy-colored exteriors like Le Creuset. That’s because Staub Dutch ovens have uncoated, matte-black interior; Le Creuset Dutch ovens, and all of theses dupes, have smooth, enameled insides.)

To make sure my testing was as fair as possible, and to do it in a way that wouldn’t require me to turn on my oven in the middle of a New York City heat wave for hours at a time, I crafted an experiment: I put a quart of cold tap water in each Dutch oven and timed how long it took to come to a boil on my gas stove as a way to gauge conductivity and heat distribution. Once the water was boiling, I turned off the heat, covered the pot, and let it sit for an hour. At the hour mark, I took the temperature of the water (using my Thermapen, which gave an excellent instant reading) in an attempt to gauge heat retention and how tightly the lid sealed in liquids.

Long story short: You shouldn’t feel like a chump if you’ve shelled out over $350 on the Le Creuset because it more than held its own during this process. In my hourlong heat-retention test, the water in the Le Creuset only dropped to 128 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the best-performing Dutch oven in this category. (The AmazonBasics Dutch oven did the worst, dropping down to 116 degrees, but the average temperature decrease across all seven Dutch ovens was 89 degrees, from 212 to 123 degrees.) And though this temperature differential isn’t that much in the scheme of things, it does speak to the fact that Le Creuset has fine-tuned these small details (and that the exceptional heat retention and efficient heating I’ve experienced as a cook isn’t all in my head).

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5 1/2–Quart Round French (Dutch) Oven, White

But some of the other things that make the Le Creuset special aren’t as easily quantified. One factor that I didn’t really take into consideration until all of the Dutch ovens were lined up in my kitchen is just how pretty the Le Creuset is. Yes, you may have spent $350 on this object, but at least it feels like an objet, something you can proudly leave on your kitchen stove, and that attention to aesthetics was something that was missing from some of the less-expensive options. It also has the widest color range of any Dutch oven on this list, so you can really match it to any décor. Plus the Le Creuset brand has a long heritage. It’s the kind of thing you can pass along to the next generation — and has been many times already. My co-worker, for instance, cooks in a 30-year-old Le Creuset Dutch oven and reports that it works great.

So the reason to spend $350 on a Le Creuset Dutch oven is because you want it all: a high-performing enameled cast-iron Dutch oven that has a long legacy and will still look great on your stove in basically any color that you want. But if you’re willing to compromise on any one of these features (something that many, many home cooks are!), you can still get a very good Dutch oven that, technically, does everything the Le Creuset does, from braising large cuts of fancy meat to making your favorite chickpea stew, all for much, much less. The question now is: Which Le Creuset dupe is the right one for you? I broke down your options, depending on what you want from your Dutch oven.

If you want a functional Le Creuset dupe

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Enameled Cast Iron 5-Quart Round Covered Casserole

We’ve written about the Cuisinart cast-iron casserole as a Le Creuset Dutch-oven dupe before, especially since it’s often on sale at Amazon. But I had never actually used one before, and I was happy to see that, of all the Dutch ovens I tested, it performed the closest to a Le Creuset. In that heat-retention test, the temperature of the water only went down to 127 degrees, the second-best result after Le Creuset. It was also surprisingly stylish. Instead of trying to re-create the gradient of the Le Creuset, this Cuisinart Dutch oven was just red, with a matching red porcelain knob, that gave the whole thing a modern, monochromatic look.

However, unlike Le Creuset, there are limited color options. Also, this Le Creuset dupe is missing the pedigree of the original. After all, Cuisinart’s only been around since the 1970s, and it’s really better known for its food processors than its cookware. That means I can’t speak to this pot’s longevity (and I don’t know anyone who has inherited a Cuisinart Dutch oven). But for a fifth of the price of the Le Creuset, this Dutch oven a solid, functional, and mostly good-looking dupe, and if your progeny aren’t a concern, that’s probably all you need.

If you want a Le Creuset dupe with history

Dansk Kobenstyle White Casserole

Let’s get this out of the way: The Dansk Kobenstyle is enameled carbon steel, not enameled cast-iron, so I’m not sure if it really counts as a dupe for the Le Creuset. However, I think it is one of the best alternatives and, of all the Dutch ovens I tested, comes the closest to hitting all of the same marks as the Le Creuset. It’s highly functional. The carbon steel is light, certainly lighter than a Le Creuset, meaning it’s easy to carry around a kitchen, even when it’s hot, and it retains heat well, dropping down to just 126 degrees in my testing, compared to Le Creuset’s 128. It’s aesthetically pleasing, with a unique mid-century design and spiderlike handles that don’t look like they should work but feel sturdy. It’s got a history, and they’ve been proved to stand the test of time. In fact, Samrin Nosrat uses a vintage Kobenstyle in her Netflix show, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, and as I explained at the time, these Danish-designed pots were first introduced in the mid-1950s but faded into obscurity until 2012, when Lenox, the company that now owns Dansk, started manufacturing them again. The Kobenstyle also has some features that the Le Creuset lacks, like a lid that can be repurposed as a trivet, and, best of all, it’s under $100.

One big downside to the Kobenstyle, however, is that the handles are a little hard to grasp while cooking. (In fact, I accidentally singed a hand towel on my gas stove while trying to stir some curry I was making in the pot.) The carbon steel also means it doesn’t have the heavy bottom of a cast-iron Dutch oven, and that means it might not be the best choice for searing meat at high heat. But for $100, I’d say the Kobenstyle is the most similar in spirit to a Le Creuset than any other Dutch oven on this list.

If you want an aesthetic Le Creuset dupe

Milo Classic Dutch Oven

In terms of performance, the Milo was decidedly average, with the water temperature dropping to 124 degrees in my heat-retention test. (Again, the average was 123.) But even if it wasn’t the best-performing Dutch oven, it was far from the worst, and what it may have lacked in function, it more than made up for in clean aesthetics. I was pleasantly surprised by how closely it resembled the look and feel of my white Le Creuset Dutch oven without trying to be a döppelganger. The silver knob on the lid, for instance, has a similar feel to that of the Le Creuset, but it’s refreshingly free of branding. There aren’t any ridges on the lid, a feature that’s emblematic of Le Creuset and many of its knockoffs, but I found the smooth, logo-free lid to look wonderfully clean. Even the width and heft of the Milo cast-iron is closest to that of the Le Creuset. And though Milo is an L.A.-based direct-to-consumer start-up that’s only been around since 2017, it’s been making Dutch ovens from the very beginning, and each pot comes with a lifetime (albeit limited) warranty, so you feel like you perhaps have stumbled upon the start of something, even if it’s not over 90 years of French manufacturing.

The color options on the Milo are even more limited than those offered by Cuisinart, however, and if you want the gloss finish on the interior, you have to get white. (The black Dutch oven, with a gold handle, is coated with satin enamel, meaning it’s more porous and a bit more like a Staub than a Le Creuset.)

If you want a status-y Le Creuset dupe

Great Jones The Dutchess

I struggle to think of any other cookware brands that have generated as much buzz as Great Jones. Since it launched in 2018, Great Jones has raised $3.35 million from investors like David Chang. (Full disclosure: One of the company’s co-founders, Sierra Tishgart, is a former Grub Street editor and has written for the Strategist before.) Their signature product is called the Dutchess, a cast-iron Dutch oven that really stands out from the crowd owing to its matte exterior, the gold U-shaped hardware on the lid, and wide oval shape.

It’s a status Dutch oven for the Instagram era, and fortunately, its appeal doesn’t end with good looks. The oval shape means there’s a lot of surface area to cook on, which would be great for big batches or stews. The gray interior is tastefully different, and I imagine it wouldn’t stain as quickly as the white interior of my Le Creuset has. The matte finish is lovely, and the green I received is vibrant without looking tacky. The color range is also wide, with a bright yellow, and Yves Klein–esque blue, and a limited-edition millennial pink all available, in addition to a white or black.

One drawback, at least for my small New York City kitchen, is that signature oval shape. When the Dutchess was on my (admittedly smaller-than-average) four-burner stove, I could only really fit one other pot on it. And because the Dutch oven was essentially too big for my burner, it also took the longest time to boil a quart of water (almost 12 minutes). It must also be said that even though the Great Jones Dutch oven is less than half the price of a Le Creuset, it’s still the most expensive pick on this list. But if you’re looking for a slightly cooler pick for a wedding registry than a Le Creuset that’s also less expensive, the Dutchess is it.

If you want the cheapest Le Creuset dupe

Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6 Quart

We’ve written glowingly about the Lodge cast-iron Dutch oven before, so I was expecting to be blown away by this enameled Dutch oven’s performance. Unfortunately, my experience wasn’t exceptional. It took over 11 minutes to get a quart of water to boil, about 20 seconds longer than it took the Le Creuset, and the temperature of the water dropped to 119 degrees over the course of an hour, well below the average heat retention (and the second-lowest result). It also, quite frankly, looked kind of bulbous and felt a little bulky. The red gradient — which is a clear take on Le Creuset’s cerise, a tasteful red gradient that goes from a crimson to scarlet — looked a little clumsy as it raced from black to cherry Slurpee.

But with all of that in mind, if you really are looking to spend the least amount of money possible for the best enameled Dutch oven you can, this is it (and really, given the results of the even-cheaper options, I wouldn’t suggest you spend less than this). One feature that I especially liked about the Lodge, not available from any other Dutch oven on this list, was the rounded interior. That means your spoon won’t get stuck on the edge, between the bottom and the side, while stirring. Plus, it’s got a wide range of colors, even if they might be a bit brighter than those offered by Le Creuset, including some limited-edition colors, like this fun melodramatic purple or Gen-Z yellow. Lodge is also a company with history, founded in 1896 in Tennessee, and it’s been making cast-iron cookware ever since. So even if it wasn’t my all-time favorite pick, especially on the aesthetics front, it is a brand that’s stood the test of time, and it does everything you’d want a Dutch oven to do at the lowest price possible.

Le Creuset Signature Stainless Steel Knob – Medium

If you already own a Lodge Dutch oven and want to give it a little zhuzh, you can buy a single Le Creuset stainless steel knob and swap it on the lid. It’s a little hack I learned from a friend, who did just that when the original handle on her Lodge Dutch oven got wobbly and eventually came off. She swears you can’t tell the difference now.

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I Tested 6 Dutch Ovens to Find the Best Le Creuset Dupe