When I met my now-husband, I instantly liked him for a lot of reasons, but his cooking skills weren’t at the top of the list. He certainly wasn’t a bad cook, but he kept the most spartan kitchen I’d ever seen, which, to be fair, is completely reasonable in New York. But when we found ourselves assembling a wedding registry, he had only one thing on his wish list: This Lodge combo cooker, a space-saving multitasker whose lid doubles as a fry pan.
A while ago he’d seen a video of Mark Bittman with Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, in which Lahey taught Bittman his technique for no-knead bread. The recipe is crazy simple — just mix together flour, water, salt, and yeast, leave overnight to rise, and the next day shape it into a loaf and bake it in a preheated pot in an oven that’s cranked up as high as it will go. On his first try, my husband produced a crusty russet-colored loaf that made extremely satisfying crackly sounds. In the following days he made whole wheat loaves, carrot-walnut bread, and a perfectly domed round of apricot-walnut bread, all in our completely average oven and all with the combo cooker (and all from Lahey’s My Bread, which I gifted him with not exactly selfless motivations). I think we’ve used the combo cooker once or twice to cook on the stovetop, but if I’m being honest, it’s really just our bread pot. (It’s also the chosen bread pot of Tartine’s Chad Robertson, who actually flips it over and uses the pan as the base and the pot as the lid.)
Although the no-knead bread recipe calls for any Dutch oven to create the superhot oven-within-an-oven, the Lodge does the same while giving you even more: a deep skillet, a fry pan, a small griddle, and a lidded Dutch oven for around $30. Because it’s not as big as most ceramic Dutch ovens, it’s easier to get in and out of doll-size New York ovens. And it’s cast-iron, which lasts forever and gets better with age. Since that first loaf, we’ve used it for levain loaves, thick-crust pan pizza, and even Chinese-style scallion pancakes, making it (and him) a true combo cooker.
The Lodge combo cooker (or any ceramic or cast-iron pot) gets really, really hot in a 475-degree oven, to the point where hand-me-down pot holders won’t cut it. I’ve found that a pair of heavy-duty oven mitts made of silicone is essential.
A dough scraper is absolutely critical for keeping wet, sticky dough off your hands and mixing bowl and on the dough ball, where it belongs. I love this one, which I found at Whisk in Williamsburg.
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