Stovetop to oven - what pot or pan?
December 27, 2019 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I would like a shallow-ish pan, maybe lidded or maybe not, that can be used to, eg, saute things on the stove and then put in the oven to finish. I'm not sure what to buy.

So far, I'm thinking one of the following: Lodge enameled casserole, Le Creuset braiser, large Le Creuset skillet or Le Creuset balti.

I'm a little nervous about the Lodge pan because while I've heard good things, I've also heard enough stories about the enamel on the inside cracking or coming loose or actually breaking violently during cooking that it makes me nervous. Also, I know they're heavier than Le Creuset. The advantage of the Lodge pot is that I can afford to buy one new right now.

The Le Creuset braiser is what I really want, but I'll need to stalk them on eBay until I find a gently used one that I can afford. (I can pay more than the cost of the Lodge for a used Le Creuset, but not the full new price for the Le Creuset.) Ditto the balti.

A gently used large Le Creuset skillet would be affordable now for a little less than the Lodge one. My only worry there is that it won't be as deep as the other ones.

I'd like to be to saute vegetables, beans and pastas and make a sauce in this pan, then slow-cook it in the oven, sometimes to concentrate the sauce, sometimes to brown the top. A lid would be nice, but there's always aluminum foil.

I already have a big dutch oven; I specifically want a shallower pan.

Anyway. What do you use for these purposes? What do you recommend?
posted by Frowner to Shopping (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We cook a lot, and our Lodge enameled dutch oven gets a good amount of use. I don't know if the cracking you describe is a generally known Lodge thing, but I have not seen anything out of the ordinary, even compared to the other (smaller) Le Creuset we own and use. It gets plenty of stovetop-to-oven usage. Assuming the casserole is the same only smaller/differently shaped, I would not hesitate to recommend it.

It might also be worth a trip to TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Ross/whatever to look. They often have this type of cookware at a reasonable discount, and you can even get lucky with high-end stuff (Le Creuset, All-Clad, etc).
posted by papayaninja at 11:55 AM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do you have Aldi where you are? It's in the clearance stages, but they have a $30 6qt enamel braiser still left in small quantities in my stores, and I finally gave in after looking at it longingly for ages and I'm very pleased with it. It's huge, being 6qt, but I'm now really glad I went that big because it'll hold a large, deep casserole; I suspect a 5qt would have frustrated me in the same way my too-shallow baking dishes and skillets do.

If you're willing to economize around the Lodge price point, Costco has a small range of enameled cast iron under the Kirkland brand I believe, and Cuisinart and Crock Pot (which looks a lot like the Kirkland) makes enameled cast iron at similarly low prices. Tramontina also makes some enameled cast iron; until now I had most often used my Tramontina clad skillet for stove-to-oven applications, and it's 15 years old and still going strong, I just wanted something a smidge deeper and without the long handle. I don't see a 6qt on initial glances, but it's worth digging a little.

I wouldn't worry too much about reports of spontaneous cracking, particularly in the Lodge line, as they're likely pretty badly misused since they are so accessible.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:57 AM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

We have a couple of Le Creuset dutch ovens and really like them -- the enamel is better and they are lighter than the cheap ones I used to have. (But, much as I like the design, they don't actually cook any better than the cheaper ones.)

That said, for a shallower pan that can go stovetop to oven, I always just use a regular (ie, cheap Lodge black iron, no enamel) cast iron frying pan with a lid borrowed from another pot (the lid doesn't have to match, it just has to more or less fit), unless it is a really acidic dish in which case I use the deeper enamelled dutch oven. (It's easier to manage a deep dish that is partially full than a shallow dish that is totally full, too, especially bending over to get it in or out of the oven.)

Of the ones you list, the balti seems like it would be the least adaptable and the shape looks optimized for cooking over an open flame. The Lodge will cook just as well as the more expensive Le Creuset, just slightly heavier and maybe (but only maybe) it will wear slightly faster; that is the one I would buy unless cost was not a consideration.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I bought the le Creuset Balti at an outlet store some years ago, and I love it. We use it several times a week, for all sorts of stuff. Indian cooking, as intended, but also for Chinese dishes, finishing a pasta dish, and not least: shepherds pie. The kids use it all the time when I'm not home, too. I recommend, but I've seen on the internet that some people are irritated that it doesn't have a lid. Later on, I also bought a skillet at that outlet, and I'm going to go to see if I can get an other one for my adult daughter next weekend. I don't think she would use the balti so much, but the skillet is such a practical item, and lighter and easier to clean than a traditional cast-iron skillet.
Amazingly, someone gave me the le Creuset braiser, and it is so beautiful and I love thinking up dishes I can serve in it when we invite people over. But to be honest, I don't use it so much. It's too big for daily use for a family of four.

I just checked the outlet here, and there are a lot of good offers, amongst them the braiser. They ship. So maybe you could check out the nearest outlet to you.

All of that said, I have a lot of cheaper brands and vintage enameled cast iron, and while the enamel is often cracked and less pretty on the cheaper pans, they are still useful and I've never seen any enamel coming loose. If you can find vintage, they are both top quality and good looking. I'd look for vintage Dansk Kobenstyle, which is not cast iron, but enameled steel. It should be easier to find in the US than here. The brand has been relaunched but I don't know if it is the same quality.
posted by mumimor at 12:41 PM on December 27, 2019

I use a Lodge enameled dutch oven, and so far the only chip is on the handle where I banged it in the sink. And you can buy several replacements before you get close to the cost of a Le Creuset. Staub, Martha Stewart, and Cuisinart also make enameled cast iron cookwhere.

And if you really don't want ot spend money, get raw cast-iron from Lodge. They're basically the only name in that business, and unless there's a fancy cover on the handle, everything they make can go from stovetop to oven to blazing firepit.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:51 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Have you considered carbon steel? They're (relatively) affordable and will handle going into the oven easily and have many of the advantages of cast iron for substantially less weight.

Le Creuset balti

I have a similar design 3 quart balti and find that I just don't use it all that often. I typically find that I reach for a dutch oven or a triclad skillet or pot instead. It's just not big enough to really do things like a stirfry in like I would a wok while also not being quite different enough from something stainless to be useful for me. YMMV.
posted by Candleman at 2:18 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not to muddy the waters, but you can just use a regular old cast iron skillet too - a Lodge 12in is $20.
posted by Dmenet at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

With any enamel pot or pan, the cook needs to use the sort of tools he'd use on a teflon pan: wood, silicone, etc. Enamel is resistant to heat but not physical scratching.
posted by tmdonahue at 3:06 PM on December 27, 2019

I like this particular Corning Vision glass pan (the chicken fryer).

I don't think it suits glass top stoves because it might scratch them, and I think it probably works best with gas, but I've only used it with old style electrics. The lid it came with new is far less than useless — a thing it shares with the entire Vision line — but a 10" stainless Cuisinart lid, widely available at thrift stores, fits perfectly.

I think you might be disappointed in the long run with a vessel of less than two quarts such as the Balti you link, because that's awfully small if you ever want to use it for a casserole. I also wonder whether those handles wouldn't tend to get too hot on a stovetop.
posted by jamjam at 3:36 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

There are all-stainless options too, like this from Calphalon.
posted by trig at 4:05 PM on December 27, 2019

I have two Lodge enameled cast iron pans and they are great. I would go with that and not worry about it.
posted by medusa at 4:29 PM on December 27, 2019

We use a regular cast iron skillet, as above. Tonight I put it in the oven with nothing in it at 500 degrees (f) for 10 minutes to get hot enough, took it out and seared a steak off on the induction burner, and back in the oven for 5 minutes. It'll get mostly non-stick soon enough (sooner if you work at it), but if you get one of these anything will come off, easily.

We also have a bunch of old thrift store le crueset dutch ovens where some of the enamel has come off, if you like those a basic cast iron skillet should be fine. I tend to like the older stuff, (it's a bit thinner), so you might have good luck at local garage sales and such.
posted by true at 4:56 PM on December 27, 2019

Confirm before buying, but many a triply ordinary frying or sauté pan is oven safe to 500 F or so. Amazon often sells All Clad pans like that for around $100. Don’t ask me why, it just keeps happening. Not sure if deep enough for you but worth a look. There’s a fine line between pans like that and a shallow pot.
posted by praemunire at 6:05 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

We have a deeper version of the lodge one and I love it. It ended up replacing two other items that I was able to declutter out of the kitchen. It's really sturdy and we're hard on kitchen gear.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:21 PM on December 27, 2019

I absolutely use clad stainless for this all the dang time. Sauté pan or skillet. Way lighter than cast iron, and better heat distribution too. If it fits in a shallow pan I rarely break out the enameled Dutch ovens.
posted by supercres at 7:21 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

My triclad, name brand and not, is all rated to 500 degrees.
posted by Candleman at 9:17 PM on December 27, 2019

Does it have to be enamel? I have a dutch oven that I love that's not enameled. My mother had an enameled one and I use it exactly as she did and have had no issues!
posted by Carillon at 12:35 AM on December 28, 2019

Another vote for the shallow Lodge enameled lidded pot - I have one, have had it for 10 years, it has never chipped or cracked, and it is *perfect* for stovetop-to-oven.
posted by Miko at 6:50 AM on December 28, 2019

I've been using a Lodge enameled Dutch oven for years -- including on the stovetop and at oven temps up to the max of 500F -- and it has been a totally reliable workhorse. I recommend the Lodge with no hesitations.
posted by ourobouros at 10:02 AM on December 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

The cheap bare cast iron pans are great. The old cast iron pans at garage sales are greater, and almost free sometimes. There are probably ones at thrift stores too.

The reason they are greater is that modern pans from e.g., Lodge, seem to be cast, seasoned and shipped. The old ones appear to have been machined to give a nice flat inside surface instead of the pebbled surface straight from the mold. This is much nicer to fry on (in my ever-so-opinionated opinion). Turns out if you have a cheap orbital sander and are willing to spend a half hour sanding the inside, you can take one of the new ones down to a smooth finish. I ran through eight 60-grit pads and a couple finer ones doing this with a 13 inch pan earlier this year. You will have to reseason it, but it is totally worth it if like a smooth finish.

My daughter has a cheap enameled dutch oven I got her maybe four years ago. I noticed there were some people complaining about the enamel cracking and popping off and advised her not to pour any liquids in when it was hot. She hasn't had any trouble. If you want to do that with enameled cast iron, I'd spring for the more expensive pan.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 10:31 AM on December 28, 2019

Maybe instead of cast iron something stainless like this?

I have a few of the pans in this Cuisinart line and they’re as good as the couple of All-Clad stainless pans I have.

I have not had great luck with low-to-mid range enameled cast iron, unfortunately. The edges have always tended to start chipping after minimal use, compared to Le Creuset, Staub, or similar.
posted by padraigin at 6:27 PM on December 28, 2019

I've abused my Lodge enameled Dutch oven over the last ten-plus years and all it's got to show for it is a bit of staining in the bottom. My collection of non-enameled Lodge skillets is also pretty great to cook with. Target usually has lower prices for them in stores than any price I've seen online at Amazon, etc. My local Ace Hardware also stocks them at good prices.
posted by asperity at 10:21 PM on December 28, 2019

I have this Staub that sounds like exactly what you're looking for. Not that much cheaper than the Le Creuset braiser, but maybe you can find a deal, or a used one? I love the shape and the glass lid --- I'd have chosen it over the Le Creuset because of the lid even if they had been the same price.
posted by slenderloris at 12:39 PM on December 30, 2019

Well, I was going to get the Lodge, but then I spotted a floor model deeply discounted Staub brazier for more than the Lodge but less than even a used Le Creuset one and I have ordered that. So we'll see. I think I'm proud of myself for not being seduced by the pretty colors of the Le Creusets and breaking out the credit card - there were definitely moments.

In the long, long run I think I'll also get a small used Le Creuset skillet - that seems to be the starter pan/not-actually-heavily-used model and there are a lot in the market at low prices, and I actually have an ancient enamel one (from France, but time has obscured the brand and it's not LeC style) where the handle is riveted and the rivets are getting fragile and it's obviously going to be beyond repair when they do go, and it seems like I alone use a 6 inch skillet all the time. This may be where I satisfy my yearning for pretty colors.
posted by Frowner at 6:44 AM on December 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

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