Why buying a Dutch oven is like buying a car
Test driving the Staub 29cm oval cast iron cocotte in dark blue
Buying an enameled Dutch oven is like buying a car… They’re shiny when new, expensive, and come in lots of lovely colours you’ll have to anguish over. On top of that, you have to think about your lifestyle, how much space you have in your cupboard, and of course, your budget. Once you’ve got your hands on one, you have to look after it, think about maintenance, cleaning and durability. See, just like buying a car.
Choosing between a Staub or a Le Creuset cocotte is like choosing between a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. They’re the ones you want, the most stylish, and they’re made with incredible craftsmanship. The two companies (Le Creuset and Staub, not Ferrari and Lambo) are both famous for their Dutch ovens, also known as French ovens, or cocottes. The Dutch oven was derived from a Dutch manufacturing process in the 17th century, hence the name. The French bit came about when they got hold of them and glazed them with enamel. Today, the terms are all used interchangeably.
Cocottes are perfect for slow-cooking, searing, stewing and braising. As you can use them on stoves (any kind, including induction), in ovens and then transfer them to the table, they’re versatile too. They might be a bit of a pain to wash up, but there’s only one thing to wash up instead of several pans, pots and serving dishes.
I’ve been test driving a Staub 29cm oval cast iron cocotte in dark blue, and wanted to run through the pros and cons if you were thinking about investing in one, as well as comparing it with the equivalent Le Creuset model.
Pros of Staub cocottes
Craftsmanship: Staub products are handmade in France, with really strict quality standards. Each piece is individually produced using a traditional manufacturing process. During production, each item is inspected visually or technically 100 times, to ensure it’s up to scratch. The melted raw materials are cast in individual sand molds which are destroyed after use, so each piece is unique. After molding, it’s onto blast cleaning, and then enamelling.
Colours: The colours of Staub’s cocottes are beautiful. That might sound a bit dramatic while talking about a Dutch oven, but seriously, they look that good, whether they're on your hob or in the middle of your dining table. The Staub colours are mostly earthy tones. Each cocotte is given at least two coats of enamel, and the colour technique used on my dark blue one is called ‘Majolica’, which is 100% glass. You can get more colour options with Le Creuset, and they are brighter, so that’s definitely down to personal preference, like with a car colour.
Aroma rain: Aroma. Rain. Oh yes, the little bumps on the underside of the Staub cocotte lid allow condensation to drop into the pot, ‘self-basting’ whatever you’re cooking. This keeps your dish super moist, succulent and full of flavour. Apparently after 55 minutes of cooking, you’ll have 10% more moisture compared to competitor products.
A snug fit: The lids of Staub cocottes are the tightest fitting out there, which means you’ll have even heat inside, and evaporation is reduced.
Aroma rain, aroma rain, I only want to see you basting in aroma rain
A dark heart: The black matte enameled interior of the Staub cocotte allegedly doesn’t stain. If it did stain, you wouldn’t really be able to see it. I haven’t noticed anything on mine yet. The material also helps to brown meat evenly, and builds up a nonstick coating over time.
Heat it up: You can use Staub cocottes on any kind of stove, or in the oven, so it’s really versatile. The knobs are also metal instead of plastic, which means they can withstand high temperatures up to 500°C. If you want, you can also buy cute animal shaped ones… like a cow. Naturally, I really want the pig one. You can buy different knobs for the Le Creuset Dutch ovens, but the standard one they come with is only heat resistant up to 250°C.
It’ll last a lifetime: Staub products come with a lifetime warranty, so you know it’ll be around for a very long time.
Cons of Staub cocottes
Weighty: I no longer need to do ‘arms day’ at the gym, because I get a nice workout in my kitchen from my Staub cocotte. I love this thing, but if I’m manoeuvring it between the stove and the oven, I do need to prepare myself. It is a bit heavier than a Le Creuset – but neither would be considered light.
Price: You’re buying the best, and you’re buying something that will last forever, so both Staub and Le Creuset don’t come cheap. But they’re really good quality, and worth investing in if you can. My 29cm oval Staub cocotte is £279, while the equivalent Le Creuset is £260.
Learn as you go: The black interior is great at staying stain free, but it does take a bit of getting used to when it comes to browning food, as it can be hard to see. It's all part of the learning process though and I can’t say it’s annoyed me. Le Creuset pans have a light coloured interior which means you can see the cooking process better, but it does get stained easily and is apparently quite easily scratched.
Aroma rain cleaning pain: The little bumps that give you delicious aroma rain, make it a bit harder to clean than a ‘standard’ dome-shaped, smooth lid, but I think it’s worth the effort for that 10% extra moisture.
The choice between a Staub or Le Creuset cocotte comes down to the details – and personal preference. Both are impressively crafted products that will last a lifetime if treated well. Fortunately, they don't need insurance (although it might not be a bad idea...) or a yearly MOT, and depreciation is nowhere near as bad as a Vauxhall.