Ever hear of a Tramontina Dutch oven? If you’re a reader of Cook’s Illustrated there is no doubt you have.
Cook’s Illustrated is a popular cooking magazine with about 1 million subscribers who pore over detailed recipes, taste tests and highly respected equipment tests. Read the Wikipedia article for more details on this success story. The magazine has a companion PBS cooking show, America’s Test Kitchen, and a series of books that sell so well you would have had difficulty this past Christmas finding the exact one you wanted in stock at your local bookstore (especially if you waited until Christmas Eve like I did).
What I doubt you know is how much reach and influence Cook’s Illustrated can have. Consider the Tramontina Dutch oven. When Cook’s Illustrated first evaluated Dutch ovens (note: article requires subscription), the choices were expensive:
When we tested Dutch ovens in 1998, the top performers were pots made by All-Clad and Le Creuset. Nearly a decade later, the only flaw we might find in these workhorses is their hefty price—roughly $250.
Yeah, most home cooks would find $250 to be a little steep for a pot that’s not used every day. So they looked at the category again in January 2007 and found out that, what do ya know, there were some cheaper options that were just as good. They made Chefmate’s “Round Enameled Cast Iron Casserole” their Best Buy and then watched it sell out almost immediately:
We were impressed by the significantly cheaper Round Enameled Cast Iron Casserole with Lid by Chefmate for Target ($39.99). Just as our article was published, however, Target’s website sold out of this test kitchen Best Buy.
Hmmmm. Coincidence? Maybe. Now fast forward to January 2008 and another update to its Dutch oven overview:
Shelling out hundreds of dollars for a Dutch oven is less necessary than ever. We put two new low-cost models, one from Tramontina ($39.86) and another from Lodge ($49.86), to the test and liked what we found….We recommend the Tramontina as an inexpensive alternative to our favorite 71/4-quart Dutch oven by Le Creuset ($229.95).
My sister-in-law passed on this information to my wife a few weeks ago, and she began to talk about the product with the same look I’m sure I get when I talk about some electronic or computer gadget that will change my life. Let’s buy it on Amazon, I said. Oops, not found. Okay, let’s Google it. Looks like Wal-Mart has it. Oops, out of stock.
Besides the lack of online inventory, it was out of stock at every Wal-Mart location within 100 miles. WTF? Can it be this difficult to buy this product? Tramontina USA has a Web site, but it has no product information or “where to buy” details. Does the company even know that one of its products has reached cult status?
What have others found?
Fuzzykitty: As soon as I discovered this I went to Walmart’s website to order the Tramontina but it was not available so I ordered the Lodge. Also, both were out of stock in any nearby store according to their website.
Mission be less poor: They say you can pick it up for about $40 – but I can barely find it, much less for $40….So, I made a resolution of heart to get up early this Saturday morning (as it was after payday) and suck it up to drive the 18 miles to this fabled Wal-Mart, largely to reward myself for all the no-spending I’ve done in the past 2 weeks. All this work for a dumb pot.
You get the idea.
In the end we gave up and bought the Lodge, which seems like a perfectly fine product. Cook’s Illustrated had downgraded the Lodge because it was a little more expensive and was slightly smaller than the Tramontina. Good enough, and it was just a Dutch oven after all. Keeping the paradox of choice in mind, I’ll try not to be disappointed.