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I write about kitchen products for a living, and this bestselling Dutch oven is the one I'm giving as a holiday gift

As a former full-time baker who still likes to spend her weekends whipping up homemade treats and tackling complicated cooking projects, I'm well aware of the hold Le Creuset has on food obsessives. And for good reason: Their products are built to last, not to mention absolutely gorgeous. But, can I go out on a limb and say that my Lodge Dutch oven — an Amazon No. 1 bestseller that retails for a fraction of the price of its fancy French counterpart — performs just as well? Both are made of sturdy, enameled cast iron and come in a bevy of beautiful hues, but one will have your wallet breathing a sigh of relief. And if you're still on the hunt for a thoughtful, practical gift for your favorite cook, well, look no further!

This popular pot has 'Lodge'd its way right into my heart. There's not much I haven't made in this thing, and it all turned out exceptionally. Its 6-quart capacity means I'm able to prepare enough food in it to feed about six hungry people (more if it's a side dish), and since it's heat-safe up to 500 degrees, I never have to worry when placing it in the oven. Its slick enamel coating makes cleanup a cinch — never more than a rinse with soap and water followed by a quick wipe. It may have you asking: "Le who?"

  • Made of durable cast iron
  • Excellent at conducting heat
  • Comes in over 20 colors
  • Easy to clean
  • Quite heavy
  • Hand washing is recommended
$80 at Amazon$89 at Walmart

Le who?

Prior to purchasing my Lodge Dutch oven earlier this year, I'd already been a longtime fan of the brand's 10-inch cast iron skillet, which I swear by for making the best pancakes. (Ina loves this pan, too — and if it's good enough for my queen, it's good enough for me!) My old, cheap Dutch oven had started to chip, and after doing research for a replacement, Lodge seemed like the clear winner.

While I've used Le Creuset Dutch ovens in the past, they're so expensive (upward of $300) that I find myself being too precious with them out of fear of ruining them. I don't want to be afraid of my cookware — I want to be able to put it through the ringer if need be! At under $100, the Lodge is both reasonably priced and has a respected brand name to back it up. (Lodge has been crafting cast iron cookware since 1896, so they know what they're doing.)

author photo of a blue lodge dutch oven on a stovetop
Say hello to my cooking VIP, which has rightfully secured a permanent place on my stove. (Britt Ross/Yahoo)

Super sturdy

Just by lifting this pot, you'll be able to tell it was made with durability in mind. I'm a five-foot-tall weakling, and moving it from the stove to the oven while it's filled with food can be a challenge! (If you're someone who prefers lightweight cookware, check out my Our Place Perfect Pot review). That said, I appreciate its heft; cast iron is excellent when it comes to evenly distributing and retaining heat, so I'm willing to give my arms a workout if it means it will improve my cooking experience ... and my dinner.

While we're on the subject of cooking, there's not much I haven't made in this thing. From soups and stews to baked pastas and braises, this pot has seen it all — and with baking season upon us, I look forward to trying out some loaves of homemade bread in the near future. Everything I've made has been cooked exactly to my liking, aside from the time I mistakenly set my timer for an hour and a half instead of half an hour. User error!

The lid it comes with is solid and secure for when you want to trap in steam, and I love its light-colored interior, which allows me to see when my garlic is getting a little too crispy. With a 6-quart capacity, I find that I'm able to prepare enough food in it to feed about six hungry people (more if it's a side dish), and since it's heat-safe up to 500 degrees, I never have to worry when placing it in the oven.

Thanks to its slick enamel coating, cleanup never consists of more than a rinse with soap and water followed by a quick wipe; just make sure you let the pot cool down before washing, and never use abrasive materials on it. After months of use, mine still looks like new:

author photo of the spotless interior of the lodge dutch oven
Yes, tomato sauce has been all over this Dutch oven — but it cleans so easily, you'd never know it. (Britt Ross/Yahoo)

Equal parts form and function

Dutch ovens are arguably just as sought-after for their looks as they are for their cooking capabilities, and I'm happy to report that the Lodge excels in the aesthetics department. I'm partial to the cornflower blue, but there are 20 other gorgeous colors to choose from, whether you like muted neutrals, eye-catching brights or pretty pastels. If we must nitpick: Does Le Creuset, with its more angular lid, have a slightly sleeker silhouette? Sure, I guess. But until Architectural Digest knocks on my door wanting a tour, I'm perfectly happy with the way the Lodge brightens up my kitchen. In fact, I display it on my stove at all times — it's way too attractive to hide in a cabinet!

Fans galore

More than 28,000 Amazon shoppers are just as in love with their Lodge Dutch ovens as I am.

One happy home cook called it "The best addition to my kitchen in years," adding: "Upon removing 'the oven' from my electric oven, the first word to cross my lips was 'perfection' ... the compliments from around the table made me dizzy with a cook's joyful satisfaction. Cleaning the pot was a dream. It should be noted that the pot is heavy, but not so much that an elder woman with advancing arthritis can't handle it, thanks to the large handles. ... Obviously I'm happy as a clam (chowder soon)."

"I use it several times a week," shared another impressed reviewer. "It roasts chicken like a dream, works wonderfully for scrambling burger for taco night and is a pleasure for making soup. It cleans up so much more easily and quickly than my other pots and pans, and it's so pretty that I just keep it on my stove."

"Lodge has nailed it with this Dutch oven," wrote a final fan. "This oven cooks just as good as the high-end brands that are triple the price or more. The only slight difference that may irritate some, but it's not a big deal to me at all, is the bottom is not 100% flat compared to the Le Creuset or Staub Dutch ovens. This could mean the edges of your meat don't sear as well as they would on a flat bottom if you had a large cut of meat. However, this isn't a big deal to me and wouldn't sway me from recommending to anyone." (I actually prefer the rounded bottom, as it makes stirring with wooden spoons easier, and you don't have to worry about gunk getting trapped in the corners!)

Psst: The holidays are right around the corner, and if you're on hosting duty, this roomy pot can feed a crowd. Buy one for you, and one as a gift!

$80 at Amazon

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The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.