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Cast-iron casserole dishes: cheap vs expensive brands

We’ve recently published our new review results on cast-iron casserole pots (also known as Dutch ovens). You can read the results of our review here but we want to hear your thoughts on cheap vs expensive cast-iron casserole dishes.

Prices can range from around $30 for casserole dishes from Kmart, Ikea or Aldi up to $550-$750 for dishes from premium, cult brands such as Le Creuset, Chasseur and Staub.

  • Have you bought an expensive casserole dish or did you opt for a budget version?
  • How do you rate the product - do you think the premium pots are worth the cash?
  • What do you use your pot for - what dishes/recipes are your favourite?
  • Any cleaning tricks?

Thanks!

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We bought a budget (Kmart) one about 5 or so years ago and it has been a great companion in the kitchen. The only thing we have noticed is that the enamel lining the inside of the pot has significantly discoloured over time…but apart from this, it has been well and truly a good pot.

We use it mainly for slow cooked meals and casseroles. We use is about 1-2 times a fortnight.

Generally, the only negative from all these style of pots are their weight. The pot itself is very heavy, and when food is added, it can be quite heavy to move around the hotplate and kitchen.

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We’ve one of each, a cheep Aldi brand and one from Le Creuset. They get used monthly for savoury bakes and casseroles.

Both cook equally well.
Side by side the finish on the Aldi seems not quite as perfect. The hue or evenness or something else. But the Aldi seems to stick less and clean with slightly less effort.

Both are so weighty the wise cook keeps asking if we can get a cheap plain aluminium one as a replacement. I seem to be suffering hearing loss more than in my younger years. Happy to be the assistant as needed.

If Aldi etc offered their low cost CI cookware more often they could put a couple of expensive kitchen ware chains out of business.

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I have three cast iron Dutch ovens . A French Chasseur 26cm 5 litre Ceramic lined . A Smith + Nobel 26cm 5 litre Raw cast iron ( well seasoned ) and a Smith + Nobel 26 cm ceramic lined 5 litre light weight cat iron . They all do a good job but the finish on the French Chasseur is better than the other two . I have had it for years . I think I paid $139 for it . Today would be $600=$700 .

@phb Re cleaning the ovens when they discolour a paste made up of white vinegar and bi carb of soda works for me Peter .

I like using the light weight cast iron oven as it weighs only 3 KG compared to 5.7 KG of the other two . Much easier to lift in and out of the oven .

I mainly use my Dutch ovens for casseroles and slow cooking although I sold 6 I wasn’t using on Gumtree to people who used them for bread baking.

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We’ve got a plain 4qt bare CI camp oven that dates from one of my Grans. Brilliant on the wood stove or in the oven or on the gas, and easy to clean providing it is washed promptly and seasoned as needed. Great for baking bread and casseroles. It has never been outside or buried in ashes.

Some of the camping stores sell them, at what appear to be very reasonable prices compared to fancy enamel finished cookware.

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We too have one of each from Aldi and Le Creuset. I can’t say there is a significant difference between them. Both are great to cook with, and both have discolouration and flecks of enamel chipping off.

In terms of value for money; the Aldi one is a big winner.

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We’ve got a middle-of-the range Enamelled cast iron Baccarat Le Connoisseur “French Oven” from House - 6.3L normal price is $299.99 but we got it on one of their frequent specials for about $150, had it about 3 years. We do have plans one day to upgrade to a Chasseur, but only once our current one is sufficiently damaged to relocate to the caravan!

We LOVE it and use it almost daily, more than any other pot or pan we own (including our “Instant pot” type multi cooker). The ceramic has crazed on the bottom, and there are chips on the handles. Sad to say it has been dropped a few times (its heavy!) but apart from the cosmetic damage its going strong.
We use it always for making up our pasta sauces (and the pasta until we recentlu bought a larger stainless steel pan), chilli con carne, my husband cooks magical risottos in it, we’ve done pot roasts, Corned silverside, stews and casseroles (and pie fillings), and I’ve also used it for making jam, and then washed it out and used it to water bath the jam jars. Its perfect for “one pot” meals (I have a great one pot chicken alfredo that we do a lot).
I thought the “self-basting” dimples on the inside of the lid were silly at first, but they really help make tough pot roast cuts come out very juicy - the steam collects in the lid and then evenly drips back down all over the meat.

Cleaning is simple, I rinse it out while its still warm, and then leave it to soak with a squirt of good detergent. A stiff bristled dish brush does most of the work, and at worst it is dishwasher safe. It’s not much different to cleaning my stainless steel pots.

We loved it a lot while we had a ceramic glass cooktop, but we recently upgraded to induction and it is much much better. The cast iron conducts the heat through the whole pot better than the stainless which has improved the cooking of things like pasta sauce.
But thats the real beauty of the cast iron pots over say, my traditional corningware or pyrex casserole dishes, they’re just as fantastic on the stove top as the oven, and they look pretty on the table too :slight_smile:

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Originally I planned to buy a Staub Cocotte, but happened to be browsing at Harris Scarfe and found the Smith and Nobel cast iron casserole for a fraction of the price and bought it. It is a Chinese knock-off of the original, complete with dimples on the underside of the lid to catch condensation. It looks identical to the KMart Anko and may well be the same product just with different branding. It works quite well and I have successfully baked bread in it too. A couple of things to note are that it is only rated to 200 degrees C in the oven and must be washed by hand, whereas the Staub Cocotte is rated to 250 degrees C and is dishwasher safe. The cream enamel finish on the inside of the Smith and Nobel casserole shows signs of crazing after a couple of years of use. The cheaper copy is fine for learning how to cook in cast-iron, but I plan to upgrade to the original when the enamel on the Smith and Nobel deteriorates beyond a certain point.

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I have a Chasseur 26cm round as well as 2 Smith + Nobels. The finish ,lid fit etc on the Chasseur is superior as it should be because of the price variance . Around $600 .

You will not be disappointed whether you purchase Le Creuset , Chasseur or Staub . All fine products .

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Both and although the premium ones ‘look’ better the cooking results and longevity seems to be the same

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I was given a Creuset casserole pot when I was 21, 40yrs ago. It has some permanent stains in the white interior but is still in use, especially good for large pots of soup. I have had cheap cast iron, enamel plated, which is what all these pots are. The cheap ones have had chipping to the enamel so badly that they are not healthy to use and I have turned them into garden containers. Chasseur is slightly cheaper than Creuset and seems to be as good, Staub are so expensive that I will never get the chance to try them. To clean the white interior of stains, soak and clean off burnt on food, smear generously with Jif or other bleach powder or cream cleaner and leave for an hour, use a plastic not metal scourer to rub stains and rinse.

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A few years ago I learnt all plastic scourers are not the same. Some are non-scratch and others scratch. It makes a b.i.g. difference, especially if you are cleaning something like a stainless cooktop. It took quite a while for the partner to forgive me for the micro scratches.

An enamel surface should not be as fragile but best to start with a non-scratch just in case, and if one needs to move on the scratching variety to start in a test place such as the inside lip of the lid to see how it goes. Keep in mind any scratches made will be micro scratches not easily seen with the eye so be wary.

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Thanks for the input so far everyone. You can read @Pru’s article on our website now:

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As I posted previously under this topic I have a Le Creuset and a Chasseur 26 cm Dutch ( French ) ovens . I also as stated have a 26cm Raw Cast iron oven from Smith + Nobel , Harris Scarfes Home brand . Lately the Smith + Nobel has been getting a good work out .

Harris Scarfe introduced a light weight cast iron Dutch oven a few years ago . At $39.95 it is a real bargain . As previously stated at 3KG’s is considerably lighter than the other 3 , they average 5.5KG’s .

I’ve had other Dutch ovens over the years that were far cheaper than the Chasseur or Le Creuset . I had some Classicas 26cm ovens when they were cheap to buy . Lately their price has sky rocketed . They would start to chip and I would sell them or give them away .

I think over 15 - 20 years I 've been using Dutch ovens the old adage seems to apply . Chasseur and Le Creuset ware in whilst the others ware out . .

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I cannot say much about iron casseroles but I have a set of cast iron frying pans from me mum. They have been in regular use on the stove and in the oven for at least 40 years and aside from the patina, which some would say is a benefit, they are as good as new. They were cheapies bought at a ‘disposal store’ and have zero chips. I am thinking that it is the enamel decoration that wears and discolours.

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I was briefly tempted by the Aldi offerings at various times, but after embarrassing myself by dropping one of the frypans because my wrists arent strong enough to hold one without pain, I realised that these giant weighty things are not for me. If I was able, I’d rather have the ones from a disposal store.

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Hi Sue @SueW . Pyrolux make and Harris Scarfe stock a range of light weight cast iron cook ware under the Smith and Nobel brand . I started using it some time ago due to a wrist injury that flares up occasionally . Well priced too .

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Thanks! I’ve also been considering springing for a Solidteknics frypan which is supposed to be lighter, as well.

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While not quite the same there are also some Cast Aluminium ones that are enamelled inside that are much lighter and give fairly good results. I still prefer the Cast Iron but sympathise with @SueW lifting one of them. I think it has also been mentioned before about Wrought Iron pots/ovens and pans but they are much lighter than cast (about 1/2 the weight) yet cook very similarly, we have a Solidteknics AUS-ION Wok and it is pretty good (Australian made as well). They are expensive but give more than a lifetime of service. There may be cheaper brands.

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