Cast iron casserole dishes are the Marmite of the cooking world—some swear stews cooked in them taste better, and that once you’ve tried them you’ll never go back, while others moan that they’re too heavy, not non-stick enough and there are better, modern alternatives. But if you are looking to invest in this cooking classic, here’s what you need to know.

Made in France

Available in 11 striking colours, and in seven other sizes, from 18cm (1.8L) through to 34cm (12L). Le Creuset

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Cast iron is heavy—that might sound obvious, but it’s worth bearing in mind especially when it comes to picking a casserole dish. If you’re not hugely strong, buying a 34cm casserole dish that weighs 9kg when it’s empty, and has a 12-litre capacity, is probably not the best idea. After all, there’s no point preparing a delicious meal if you don’t have the strength to lift it into and out of the oven.

Great for Families

This well-sized pot works with any heat source, and has twin easy-grip handles. Available in seven other shades, and with a coordinating shallow pan, grill pan and grill dish. Dawsons Living

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Don’t be misled by the term casserole dish—enamelled cast iron is hugely versatile. You can use dishes like this on most hobs (including induction and gas) as well as under the grill and in the oven, and for far more than casseroles. They’re great for baking bread and making biscuits, as well as roasting joints of meat, making pies, and more.

Lasting Heat Retention

Low profile option for stovetop or oven use, ideal for sauteing or for paella-style dishes. Available in nine other colours, and also in a 30cm version. Le Creuset

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While the weight of your pot should be a consideration, also have a think about what you want to cook in your cast iron casserole and how many you’re going to be cooking for. Shallower pots work better as stove top sauté pans but won’t work as well if you want to make large volumes of chilli or beef bourguignon. While the deeper ones are ideal for family-sized (and then some) dishes, and baking larger loaves of bread.