Although I love Le Creuset cookware, it does have one downside; its fu**ing expensive! Full price, the casserole Ira bought me runs close to $180 which is why I mentioned before, he got it for major markdown.
When buying Le Creuset, your $$$ gets you quality and style, but you are also paying for the name.
I've been doing a bit of light research as I am in the market for a dutch oven and the L.C. one I want costs upwards of $250.00. Youch!
Cooks Illustrated recently did an article about other less expensive options. Their two affordable top picks are the Chefmate dutch oven listed for around $59.99 and the Mario Batali version available for around $100. Of course, everyone is all excited over the frugally friendly Chefmate. Although listed to be available at target, people seem to be having a difficult time finding it. They must all be selling fast!
Chefmate (left) and Martio Batali (right) Dutch Ovens
My parents gave me a Martha Steward 3 1/2 quart dutch oven from Kmart many years back, and I like it a lot.
My issues with it are that it is too small as I like to cook in bulk and the enamel coating isn't as even overall. Imperfections like this may irritate grouchy gourmands but its never bothered me too terribly.
It does seem to scratch easier then the L.C. pots I've used. However, I also got it when I was much younger and ignorant to the ways of handling cast iron. I think I treat its more costly cousins with a gentler hand. Martha Stewart is now selling most of her cookware through Macy's instead of Kmart, but the prices don't seem to have risen that dramatically.
Reading different forums on the topic, people seem to say buy cheap, buy twice. While I agree its best to buy quality if you can, for some of us, this just isn't an option. You can't spend money you don't have. (Don't mention credit card debt to me, OK!)
So, should we go in debt to be smooth and stylish in the kitchen? I know what the Republicans would say. Boycott the froggy french, buy freedom fry pans!