Photo by Rebecca Firkser

We put Milo to the test against the classic

Rebecca Firkser
May 03, 2018

You’ll probably know a pricey Dutch oven when you see one. The outside is brightly colored and the pot is heavy, the formerly cream-colored inside stained brownish from years of braising and searing. Though they are kitchen workhorses and last for decades, a good Dutch oven can run you over $300—not not a small price tag for most people. If you’ve received a hand-me-down Le Creuset for a relative or snagged a Staub at a super-sale, count yourself lucky, because most of us are left debating whether we should pay rent or buy a Dutch oven. That’s where Milo comes in. Milo is a new brand of Dutch oven that promises the same quality as a pricey pot for less than a third of the usual price (that’s right, it’s just $95!).

“A Dutch oven is a tough thing to buy because you’re either paying $300-plus or you’re getting something cheap and low quality,” Zach Schau, founder of Milo, told me in an email. “Neither of those is a good option.” Schau, who says Dutch ovens changed his life, loved using Le Creuset hand-me-downs from his mother and sister. However, he was frustrated that there were no affordable new Dutch ovens on the market that matched the quality of the expensive ones.

Schau says there are three things that make a great Dutch oven: the design of the mold, the enamel coating, and the quality of craftsmanship. “When all these are working in tandem, you get a piece of cookware that you end up coming back to, night after night.”

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

Though a Milo is just a bit more expensive than a Lodge, the cheaper Dutch oven often recommended by culinary professionals, the Milo was created with the intention of competing with the big boys, so we decided to put one to the test against the beloved Le Creuset.

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

In terms of looks, the two pots were very similar: both had a similar shiny enamel coating (Schau mentioned that a lot of the cheaper Dutch ovens out there skimp on the enamel, making them susceptible to scratches). The Milo’s handles were a bit smaller than the Le Creuset’s, to the point where you may not be able to get four fingers in; I have a running joke about my hands being roughly the same size as a young child’s, so I didn’t even notice this until my normal-sized-handed coworker pointed this out. However, when the pot is hot, you’d be using a towel or pot holder to pick it up, so the handle size likely wouldn’t be a major issue. The pots were also similar in weight, and both hold 5½ quarts of liquid. The Milo was a bit taller and the Le Creuset wider, which could technically give Le Creuset the edge when it comes to searing meat, as there is more surface area, but it’s a pretty minimal difference.

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

First, we tested which pot would toast bread the quickest. After a few minutes at medium heat, the slice of bread in the Milo (the white pot) was more toasted than in the Le Creuset (the green pot), though the toasted surface was a bit more even on the Le Creuset. This indicated that the Le Creuset bottom was perhaps a bit thicker than the Milo, and that the heat dispersed a bit more more evenly. However, we definitely aren’t in the business of enjoying waiting for toast, so if the Milo heats up more quickly that’s certainly not a flaw.

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

We cooled the pots and then did a boiling water test. Two cups of water went into both pots over medium heat. Again, we found that the Milo heated faster, and was approaching a rolling boil while the Le Creuset was still just forming tiny bubbles.

Finally, we took the pots off the heat and then stuck a thermometer in each pot. After five minutes, the Milo registered just under 160ºF and the Le Creuset registered 190ºF. After 10 minutes, the Milo was at 100ºF and the Le Creuset was just under 140ºF. Ultimately, this once again pointed to the notion that the Le Creuset’s walls were thicker: it may take a bit longer for the pot to heat up, but it will hold heat for longer.

Ultimately, the real test here will be longevity. As Schau pointed out, a good Dutch oven like a Le Creuset can last for decades, while some cheaper ones show wear and tear in just a couple years. However, Schau’s commitment to making a Dutch oven that holds up to the pricey ones indicates that this Milo could be in it for the long haul. In fact, he hopes people eventually start passing down Milo Dutch ovens, just as many do now with their Le Creusets. How about we check in on this again in 2028?

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