Here at the Strategist, we know that finding the “best” product really depends on exactly who you ask — which is why we’ve devoted a new series to squeezing in as many informed, trustworthy opinions as possible. And we’ve come up with dozens of ways to do this, among them: surfacing reader reviews from across the internet, taking quick polls (among our friends and fellow shopping-obsessed Strategist editors), and partaking in some advanced internet snooping.
With that, we’ve rounded up the best cast-iron pots, according to Strategist writers, professional chefs, prop stylists, and our own internet snooping.
These include the obvious choices — such as Le Creuset and Staub — but we’ve also uncovered some more niche options, including a (Nigel Slater-approved) customisable cast-iron casserole dish from Shropshire that doubles as an outdoor oven.
Expert Approved: The cast-iron pot with near-unanimous approval
Founded in 1925, and available in a wide range of colours, the Le Creuset is arguably the most well-known brand of cast-iron cookware available. “Conventional wisdom is that Le Creuset makes the best Dutch oven that money can buy,” says our sister site’s deputy editor, Maxine Builder. On a purely functional level, a Le Creuset will last for decades (and even if it does break, the company has a famously generous warranty programme). Collaborations and rare drops (like their “sakura” collection, to mark the company’s 25th anniversary in Japan) have helped make them feel more status-y, as do endorsements from everyone from Taylor Swift to Marilyn Monroe (whose personal set, in Elysses yellow, sold for $25,300 at auction in 1999).
Chefs use them at home, too. 45 Jermyn St head chef Jamie Shears told us a Le Creuset was his at-home essential for slow-cooking. “I use it to make hearty dishes like braised beef cheeks and osso buco with saffron risotto, and it’s seen some brilliant curries in its time. It even makes a great loaf of bread.”
The 24cm dish, which serves 4-5, typically retails for £225. The features more than justify the cost — Le Creuset say the knob on the lid can handle temperatures of up to 250 degrees, and the extra-wide handles on the side make carrying it from oven to table effortless. The enameled interior also helps heat distribution, and is a lot easier to clean than non-enameled surfaces. This option featured in our look at the best cast-iron cookware on Amazon — it was the best-rated induction-safe casserole dish.
Trust Me I Should Know: A Le Creuset alternative (beloved by Strategist readers)
Strategist contributor Zhenya Tsenzharyk was working her way up to a Le Creuset when she spied this option on Amazon by a brand called Vivo. “I’m not much of a dupe hunter — I believe that quality is something worth paying for,” she wrote. “But sometimes, I’ll opt for a “starter” version of the thing I really want first, to see if I’ll actually use it. And so, I began the hunt for a starter cast-iron pot that I could test-drive on my road to Le Creuset ownership.”
She was so impressed with this option by Vivo — which she later discovered is a diffusion of Villeroy & Boch, a ceramics company known for fancy tableware — that she ended up not investing in a Le Creuset at all. One key difference (and a reason for the lower price) is that this cast-iron has a non-enamelled interior. But, adds Zhenya, “In theory, an enameled pot is easier to care for, though I’ve had no issues whatsoever, even after slow cooking and baking at very high temperatures.”
Further proof that this affordable option is worth considering: After we featured it on the Strategist, it sold so well that it became our best-selling item that month — knocking the gel moisturiser that had held strong for six months from the top spot.
Ask a Cool Person: A Masterchef set designer’s go-to everyday casserole dish
Sophie Louise Robinson is a set designer and prop stylist who has worked on Masterchef and The Great British Bake Off (as well as being art director on several shows with Mary Berry). She told us that, from an aesthetic point of view, her go-to was Le Creuset, citing the excellent array of colours and ever-changing palettes (which is useful for shows like Junior Bake Off, who often request vivid colours and vibrant tones). “Le Creuset is the Rolls-Royce of cast irons, but I often have to work on a smaller budget, and for that I would say Sainsbury’s cast-iron casserole dish is excellent. It’s lighter duty, and they cost a fraction. But whereas a Le Creuset might last 50 years, this one would likely last about five — that’s the tradeoff.” Impressively, for a £35 cast-iron, this one is enameled.
Snooping: A custom cast-iron from Shropshire (that can convert into an outdoor oven)
We were particularly taken by these 4L custom cast-iron pots from Netherton Foundry in Shropshire (Nigel Slater uses them, according to their website). They are made from heavy-duty spun iron, which makes it particularly resistant to thermal shock and cracking (caused by sudden or high temperatures, and often seen in induction hobs). Each pot includes a hot coals lid — which allows for hot coals or embers to be piled on top of the pot so that it can be used to cook outside. The lid is coated with pre-seasoned flax oil, which, over time, becomes smoother and gives the surface a glossy patina. [Editor’s note: this product does not ship until February].
Expert-approved: Nutshell Chef Patron Marwa Alkhalaf’s pick
Staub is less well-known than Le Creuset, but still a popular option for those in-the-know (the Staub versus Le Creuset debate has been discussed everywhere from cooking subreddits to the pages of Bon Appétit). It was actually the highest-rated overall in our Amazon deep dive, and also came recommended to us by Marwa Alkhalaf, chef patron at Nutshell. “I am always making traditional Iranian food at home which is mainly slow cooked stews and rice. The dark interior of the Staub means I don’t have to worry about staining the interior with spices. And, the tight lid helps to retain moisture and heat better which helps to intensify the flavor of the stews and reduce cooking time. Also, a well-seasoned Staub casserole is perfect for making Tahdig (crispy bottom rice). I just wish Staub had more colours — I would love to have a pastel-pink one”.
Quick Pick: A Staub Cocotte that’s perfect for small kitchens (or solo diners)
Staub do a variety of sizes — if you don’t need a cast-iron for six people (it’s not like any of us are cooking for a crowd right now) a smaller option might be a cheaper, neater alternative. We like this 10cm version, which serves one person, and still comes in interesting shades, like basil, grenadine, or just plain black.
Strategist U.K editor’s pick
Ailbhe Malone recommends her casserole dish by Pyrex, who are better known for their measuring jugs. “I own a small Le Creuset casserole dish, and a larger Pyrex casserole dish (my gran was getting rid of it, and I snapped it up). The Pyrex is just as robust as my Le Creuset and the dimples in the lid (like with a Staub) mean I can sweat down onions without losing any moisture.”
Quick Shop: A no-nonsense option from a catering supplier
Strategist U.K. staff writer Chris Mandle has a number of cookware pieces from Vogue, an affordable, commercial cookware brand that’s often a go-to in professional kitchens (he was gifted several pieces by a chef friend, who bought Vogue for her own kitchen). Their cast-iron casserole dish is much less showy than other options here, but would be a good no-nonsense option.
Celebrity Shopping: The oval cast-iron Kyle MacLachlan swears by
Kyle MacLachlan told our sister site that his oval Le Creuset was one of the things he couldn’t live without. “I remembered that Julia Child used them, and when I Googled it, it turns out that the Dutch oven was one of her favorite things. She kind of introduced it to America, I think. She loved the flame-colored one, which is the exact one I have. I appreciate the flexibility of being able to start something on the stove and move it to the oven and vice versa. I just made black-bean soup in mine.” [Editor’s note: The “flame” colour is out of stock, but you can still pick it up in cerise].
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