The Dutch Oven Torture Test
Torture Test Proves It All
Are expensive Dutch ovens really any better or different than less expensive brands? We created some torture tests to see how a few different brands would hold up.
To test our products, we looked at the enamel, the casting method and where the products were made. We also considered the weight and design and even warranty when comparing our brand to Le Creuset.
What separates an inexpensive oven from a pricy French prize? A few coats of melted glass. Enamel is ground up glass and colorants sprayed on raw castings and baked at a temperature that melts the glass into a smooth, non-porous coat. Most enamelware has three layers of enamel. But more layers may not benefit the product and instead create more potential for chipping and cracking.
Enamel is designed to expand and move with the iron as it heats and cools. The first layer of enamel, the base coat, seals the iron and provides a great surface for the second layer to stick. The second layer is the color layer, and the third layer is the glossy topcoat which adds that beautiful finish.
So, what is the enameling difference between Le Creuset and Marquette Castings? Color. Over the years, Le Creuset has come up with hundreds of colors and rolls out about twenty colors a season. Marquette Castings, on the other hand, keeps the color selection focused on the ones our customers have told us they love most - five color options carefully designed and developed to embody the location where our company is based. With colors such as Superior Blue and Shipwreck Gray, it is hard to deny that these products embody Michigan.
Nearly all enameled cast iron is made in an automated casting line. There is little difference between the casting capabilities of any company using this method. Both Marquette Castings and Le Creuset are cast on automated casting lines. Every manufacturer has the same limitations in terms of casting thicknesses, shapes and of course alloy formulations. The good news here is that the surface finish is less important because they are covered and smoothed by the enamel. Care needs to be taken to smooth sharp edges and remove the gates from the rough castings. Even the least expensive options seem not to have trouble getting this right!
Now we know you are wondering about where the products are manufactured. There are two locations in the world that predominately enamel cast iron cookware, France and China. It is important to mention that no enameled cast iron products are currently being mass produced in the United States. So, does it matter which country it comes from? The difference is in sentiment only.
When we were searching for a partner, we evaluated numerous foundries by meticulously checking samples, evaluating their equipment, production processes and their procedures. We are proud to note that our Chinese partner is known to be one of the best in the world turning out quality castings and enamel coatings using modern equipment and strict quality assurance processes.
When designing our Dutch ovens, we had a lot to consider. We began by identifying exactly how thick our pot needed to be so that it would not be too heavy and would conduct heat well. Most designs have a slightly thicker bottom with thinner walls. This allows the pot to heat evenly across the bottom and spread the heat up the walls. Each piece will heat differently, you must get to know how your cookware performs on your personal cooktop. Most companies take these two key components into consideration which is why you will not see a huge variation in weight between brands.
Once we identified the proper thickness and weight, the fun began. Creating the perfect shape was next on the list. We used a variety of cooking tests to make our unique shape. You will notice it has a large flat bottom for more contact with the heat source. We also wanted to keep the pot wide and low to make it easier to work in. We know once filled, the pot is heavy, so we added large loop handles, big enough to safely grab with oven mitts. Our interior is light in color, so it’s easier for customers to monitor their cooking and finally we designed the lid. Our lid is designed to fit securely but still allow for necessary evaporation with three unique ridges. The pot is finished off with our custom pull, made out of solid investment cast stainless steel, not the oven safe plastic Le Creuset uses on their enamelware.
Warranty and Support
Finally, we looked at both warranty and support. Marquette Castings offers a lifetime warranty on all our products. While the French are not renowned for their customer service, Le Creuset does offer a lifetime warranty as well.
What Le Creuset covers:
The enamelware to be free from defects in material workmanship at the time of purchase. For the warranty to apply however you must follow their care and instructions provided, to a tee. The warranty also only covers normal household use. Their warranty also does not cover shipping.
Marquette Castings also has a lifetime warranty. Here is what it covers:
We have taken the approach that allows some leeway if you need your product replaced, even if the damage was caused by the customer’s mistake, the first time. We will also work with you, so those mistakes do not happen again in the future giving you tips or ideas to help you get the most out of your cookware. Our goal is to make it useful to you forever. If you do have problems, please reach out.
After using the Rockwell hardness test, an Arc Spectrometer, a creative home-made impact hammer, a thermal shock test and even cutting the two products in half, we concluded what we anticipated. We cannot find any major differences in the castings, enamel, or design. There is no indication that one product would cook food differently than the other.
If you absolutely need to have a Dutch Oven made in France or are looking for that hard to find color and you are not scared off by the price tag, go with Le Creuset. If you are looking for a top-quality Dutch Oven backed by a no-hassle lifetime warranty and five unique color options, check out Marquette Castings Dutch Oven.