Lots of people would love to have a Le Creuset 7qt Enamel Dutch Oven, but few of us can afford the $250 price tag that goes with it. Thankfully, Cook's Illustrated has tested just about every knockoff that's come out over the past few years and nearly all of them can hold-up to their French counterparts with one exception--none of them come in a 7 quart size so you have to brown meat in two batches. To that, I say, "Big deal!" At a quarter of the price, I'll take it and deal with the hardship, thank you very much.
My personal favorite is the Lodge Cookware Enameled Cast-Iron 6-Quart Dutch Oven, which comes in a variety of beautiful colors. A recent addition to the line-up at Lodge, which is traditionally known for durable uncoated pots and pans, these are the best bargain and the closest-match to the Le Creuset ones for the following reasons:
- Size - At 6 quarts, they're nearly as big as the LC ones. You'll have no problem fitting a whole chicken in there (my favorite recipe) but it's not so darned heavy that you can't lift it when it's full of liquid--or just to wash it.
- Price - They average around $65 or less--a quarter of the price of the LC model.
- Availability - Nearly everyone sells them and Amazon offers free shipping--something necessary for such a heavy item.
- The Lodge Name - Lodge is no newcomer to the cast iron pot industry. They're one of the oldest manufacturers of cast iron cookware in the world and one of the only ones left in this country.
- Made In the USA - I believe Lodge still makes all of its cookware here. Support local jobs!