Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cast Iron on the Brain

I’ve wanted Le Creuset for a long time, but I’ve never bought any until recently (and only a butter crock at that!) mostly because it’s darn pricey. I convinced A many years ago to buy a semi-pricey set of pots, and now I get a wary look if I ever mention buying a new pot. I also wasn’t allowed to register for many cookware pieces because of that set. In my defense, they’re the same pots my mom has used (and still uses) my whole life, so I knew that they were good pots. At the same time, since my mom owns the same stuff, I’ve never cooked with anything else besides these, Ikea pots and the couple Calphalons we got from the wedding, but that’s a whole other story that’s totally off topic.

Anyway, I finally managed to convince A that we NEED cast iron, and he’s finally agreeing! :-D I think it helped that my recent issue of Real Simple listed a Dutch oven as one of the only 5 pieces of cookware anyone really needs. (In case you’re wondering, the 5 pieces are a Dutch oven, roasting pan, pasta pot, frying pan, and saucepan. We have everything except the Dutch oven, so it was an easy win for me.) What spurred my mad research was the fact that the recommended piece wasn’t LC. It was Staub. I never even thought about any other brand outside of LC, so seeing the Staub made me curious as to what else is out there and which brand is the better investment.

Here's what I found:

Le Creuset—The ultimate in recognizable, quality, pretty cast iron. Those who own it are pleased with it, though price is generally an issue, and they either love or hate the fact that the light interiors stain over time. It’s pretty much a cast iron status symbol, and, really, they’re just plain gorgeous to look at. Not to mention the lifetime warranty and their reputation for wonderful customer service. Made in France.

Staub—The cast iron with the cult following. Those who own Staub swear it’s better than LC because of the dark enameled interior (no staining and supposedly develops a patina similar to regular cast iron) and the spikes in the lid cause some self-basting action while cooking. Many reviews that own both LC and Staub say that they reach for their Staub more often than their LC. While I find their LaCocettes quite sexy, I've read a few reviews that question the customer service. Pricing is similar to LC, but they’re supposed to be harder to find. Made in France.

Lodge—Loved for it’s raw cast iron (Cook’s Illustrated rated Lodge’s skillet higher than LC’s), Lodge is one of those brands that gets handed down from generation to generation, but it’s still one of the cheapest around. While their standard cast iron in made in the USA, their enameled pieces are made in China but are CA Prop 65 compliant. Those who own both LC and Lodge find them to be comparable, but since the enameled pieces are relatively new to the market, there’s no telling if their durability is comparable to other pieces in the Lodge line. They’re decently cute, though.

Mario Batali—This is more of an honorable mention because I don’t think I‘d buy one of these simply because they’re not aesthetically my taste. They’ve gotten pretty good reviews, though, and have basting spikes similar to the Staubs. Price-wise, they run in between Lodge and LC.

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