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My first Le Creuset finally...need your help!

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There comes a time in every cook's life when he/she acquires a new kitchen tool or gadget, something that has the potential to change his/her cooking forever. For instance, one distinction I make in my cooking life is before-Wusthof vs. after-Wusthof. More recently, before-Zuni cookbook vs. after-Zuni cookbook.

After my 10 years of serious cooking and only getting fiercer w/ these boards, my darling husband suggested that we get me (us) a Le Creuset French oven, something I've been coveting for a long time, for our upcoming anniversary. Yeah, not a surprise, but the surprise French mandoline one year wasn't a big hit. :-)

So this will be my first (and only) Le Creuset item. I'm anti-clutter, so I only want ONE item that will prove to be the most versatile and functional. I know that I want a round French oven, not the oval. I know I want the bright flame color (pic below). My major dilemma is around the size: should I get the 5.5 or 7.25 qt.?? Am leaning towards the 7.25 since I've read that's the most popular size and erring on the bigger side seems smart (a chowhound tenet); however, I'm worried it will be really bulky, heavy, and cumbersome (I'm petite and a weakling) and that I won't really need the extra volume in the end.

It's just the two of us, but I generally make at least 4 servings of things and we do entertain regularly. Imagine myself using it more in the fall/winter for braises, roasts, cassoulet and such. Which size would you recommend if you could just get one? Pros? Cons?

So far we've found the best deal at Cutlery and More (see link). Around $140 for the 5.5 qt. and $170 for 7.25 qt. w/ a bonus grill pan; no tax and free shipping. Caplan Duval is about the same but charges for shipping, and we missed their big overstock sale earlier this year. Any major redflags or horror stories w/ C&M? Anyone know of a better online deal? Thanks for aiding in my culinary milestone...

PS. If you want to talk me out of it for reasons based on your experience or have a different brand rec, I'm open to that too.

Link: http://www.cutleryandmore.com/lecreus...

Image: http://www.boardandbasket.com/prodimg...

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  1. Well, I solved my dilemma by getting both sizes. :-)

    BUT, having said that, it really depends on what you cook for more - just the two of you, or entertaining.

    I use my 7.5 quart every time I entertain, which is somewhat to fairly often. I use my 5.5 quart very often when cooking for just my husband and myself, though I actually use the 3.75 qt most of all for just the two of us.

    So, choose between entertaining or cooking for the two of you, that's my advice. I will say that the 7.5 qt is *indispensable* when cooking big things or braises, whereas I could probably use other pots for when I use the smaller sizes.

    I love my Le Creuset pots. They are possibly my most treasured possessions.

    1. You'll be very happy with the Le Crueset. I use mine for soups, roasts, etc. I don't know the sizes, cause I swiped them from my mother who can't lift them anymore. I use the 5.5? quart one most often (it's about 10 inches across). The larger one is incredibly heavy to me, and I rarely lug it out of the garage. I have a saucepan and a 3 qt? one too, but it's that middle sized one (5.5) I use the most and has a space in the kitchen. :-) I've read here about Staub brand, and we also have 2 Copco's picked up at an estate sale. For some reason, all we make in that is rice.

      Amazon has some Le Cruesets that come with free gifts and $25 off a $125 order thru June.

      1. When your ready for your next life changing experience, buy the Staub 5 qt Dutch Oven. We just upgraded all of our Le Creuset to Staub and it has made a huge difference. The bottoms are more textured and the pots get hotter both of which produce better browning. The lid has little domes which increase the surface area and traps more steam keeping the food juicier.

        1. I would choose the bigger one personally. When we use the LC we tend to make bigger recipes and either use them to entertain or to freeze. I might be inclined towards an oval shape as well. I often thought it would be handy to roast a leg of lamb with the bone in.

          6 Replies
          1. re: JudiAU

            Thanks for your and others' responses thus far. Ok, truth be told, I'm waffling a bit on the oval vs. round. Major pro of the oval is that I can get a 6.5 qt. which seems like the perfect medium btwn. the two round sizes I'm struggling to choose from. I also like that I can braise or roast something that's oblong in shape like pork loin.

            My main concern: heat distribution and balance on the cooktop. I have a gas stove, but I'm worried that the oval shape will make for uneven heating or be more unstable. Are my fears unfounded? Any advice on oval vs. round is much appreciated!

            Link: http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details...

            Image: http://www.cutleryandmore.com/img/143...

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I've not had any problems on my gas coook top with my oval.

              1. re: Carb Lover

                Check out Caplan-duval (www.caplanduval.com). They have the best prices I've seen on Le Creuset. I ordered my 5 qt. oval oven from them, and although I am for the most part pleased, I sometimes wish I'd gone for a slightly larger size. So my advice is to go for the 6.5 qt. oval oven. Oval is nice, and it heats completely evenly on my gas stove.

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  I don't think heat distribution would be a problem. However, after I've browned the meat on the stove I almost always transfer the pot to the oven to braise.

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    I actually have the 7.5 quart in oval and round. First I had oval, but I noticed when doing the browning stage that it wasn't evenly browning on the narrow ends. So I got a round one. I think the oval is good for oblong things, but I find the round one more all-purpose.

                    1. re: Celeste

                      I agree. I have about a 7qt oval and there isn't as much brown stuff stuck to the narrow ends of the pot after browning. I get around it by browning most of the meat in the middle. This really isn't a big problem though. It has never affected any of my dishes dramatically.

                2. I have a 3.5 qt. oval for our 2 adult household. This size works great for our everyday needs but when cooking for 4+ people, it's too small and the 5 or 6.5 qt would work better. I understand your concerns about its heft and asked myself the same questions. I'm anti-clutter too. In the end I went with the smaller one because I wanted to make it a highly used & functional piece of cookware. But when I'm cramming a heap of oxtails or shortribs in there for company, I do long for a larger size.

                  The oval shape is nice because it can accomodate long, whole meat (roasts, chickens) more tightly.

                  You're right, this is one of those pivotal kitchen purchases-I think you're going to love where it takes your cooking!

                  1. I have the larger one that I love.

                    The only negative I have heard from friends is that it can be very heavy for some people to get in and out of the oven but I have never had that issue.

                    1. I have lots of Le Creuset. I used to be able to get it at cost+shipping in a kitchen shop I worked in briefly. I stocked up at their LC's annual sale. Like you there are 2 of us and I am anti-leftovers. We do entertin a lot and are also in a dinng club. I have a 5qt. round I use quite a bit and a 1.5 qt. I use for rice (got that at a church rumage sale years and yers ago...boy was I excited even back then to get it for about $3.50. I also have 2 #3's. I use them a bit too. I have a #29 oval which is about a 5 qt. It will take a smaller chicken for roasting. But for really large amounts like our annual mussel feast in December and for large braises I have the 8qt. Calphalon deep saute pan with loop handles. It heats evenly for browning and fits in my oven and best of all I can pick it up when it is full. I had entertained getting a really large LC but after trying to lift it empty I decided against it. It was heavy enough.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Candy

                        About the Calphalon....I have a flattened dome lidded pan - saute/casserole? that is just great but, as with all Calphalons nothing acidy can be left in it for long. No spaghetti sauce, etc. That's a drawback. LCreus. can hold leftovers in the fridge til whenever without interreaction.

                        Or maybe I just have an older-style Calphalon and newer ones aren't made of alum/reacto/stuff.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          I would never store a pan in the fridge with food in it. Occasionally in winter when it is too cold to use my screened porch I may put something out there in a pot but that is highly unusual. I have had most of my Calphalon for over 15 years and have never had problems with acid foods, but again I would never store food in them. Le Creuset out on the porch but Calphalon never.

                          1. re: oakjoan

                            I would never store a pan in the fridge with food in it. Occasionally in winter when it is too cold to use my screened porch I may put something out there in a pot but that is highly unusual. I have had most of my Calphalon for over 15 years and have never had problems with acid foods, but again I would never store food in them. Le Creuset out on the porch but Calphalon never.

                        2. I have both and I regularly use the 5.5 and rarely use the 7.25. From years of watching cooking shows on tv I think most of us home cooks use pots and pans that are larger than what we really need.

                          The best use I've found for the 7.25 is for stocks and osso buco. The 5.5 gets much more use for curries, pasta sauces, pasta, etouffes, etc.

                          1. I don't know if it's still around, but there used to be a Le Creuset outlet store at the junction of 880 and 550 (not sure this is correct number, but it's the connector from 880 to 5 north this side of Davis -a big conglomeration of outlets, restaurants, etc on the south side of 880).

                            I got a whole set of Le Creuset for $200 - 2 small fry pans which also served as lids for 2 sauce pans, 1 large fry pan w/out lid and 1 med/lrge casserole with lid. This was about 6 years ago, so it's probably more now, but they had a huge selection. If you can save $100 it's probably a good deal to make that drive.

                            I'd caution anybody who is cursed with an electric stove to REALLY be careful of Le Creuset, since the heat can crack the coating - since it's harder to tell if stove is off or on with elec.

                            I love my LC, but they are heavy - something I'm more aware of now that I'm old and decrepit.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: oakjoan

                              Yes, it is in the Vacaville outlet mall off of 80. And I agree with those who said bigger is better.

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                Thanks, oakjoan, for reminding me about those LC outlet stores. I think you're referring to the Vacaville outlets, and in fact, the Gilroy outlets (which I can get to in about 40 min.) also have an LC store.

                                Well, I called the Gilroy outlet store and their prices def. aren't as low as online retailers. Was quoted $179 pre-tax for a first quality (no defect) 6.5 qt. oval whereas I can get it for $150 w/o tax or shipping from Cutlery & More. The rounds were equally inflated. Second quality (w/ minor defects) only get a 15% discount. Geez. Thank goodness for online commerce!

                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                  Yeah, I figured the individ prices were not that great, but their "sets" are usually so cheap that it's worth it to go for them even if you throw away the rest of the pans ---- JUST KIDDING!!! PUT DOWN THAT GUN!!!

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    Oakjoan, Please tell me why electric stoves are a problem with the L.C.? I have a smooth top electric (wish I had gas) and one L.C. has a black bottom, but the other is enamel. I don't want to do anything to damage them, so please let me know what I need to do, or not do. TIA! Mary

                              2. When you say you are petite, it reminds me of when I got my Le Cru set for Christmas. I actually bought it myself but whatever. I got 4 pieces for $100 including shipping,on sale from Chefs' Catalog. Anyway, my sister-in-law (never weighed over 90 lbs in her life)was giving out the gifts, picked up the first package and almost fell over. Picked up the second package and started moaning. She made me pick up all the rest of my presents myself! Whenever I'm taking them out, I just pretend I'm doing a little weight training exercise. Don't worry, they are worth it!

                                1. h
                                  Hungry Celeste

                                  I think Le Creu pots are pretty, but I must admit that I can't get over the price. My Lodge brand un-enameled cast iron cooks beautifully and lasts forever, and costs 1/4 of the price! My sister has a collection of Le Creu and I can't say that it cooks any better than my pots!

                                  1. Welcome to LC! I think you'll be glad you got one. I would recommend the 7.25q. I have both (as well as a 3q--going out of business sale at a shop near here and an outlet an hour's drive away). I too am half of a two-person household and I love to entertain. The big one is invaluable for a lot of soup or stew or even mulled wine or cider in the fall/winter! Even just cooking for us (+ leftovers) I often start out with the 5q and find that I really should have used the larger one.

                                    I am 5'1" and not terribly strong (although I have stepped up workouts since purchasing the ice cream machine!) and I don't have a problem with the 7.25q. Getting it on and off the stovetop, or in and out of the oven, is not a problem. I wouldn't, however, use it (or its smaller brethren) for something such as cooking noodles, since hoisting and draining might be a little much...


                                    1. I have the 5.5 qt. in the Flame color (I love it that the French word is Flambeau). I love this pan, and use it a lot. That said, I would love to have a larger one, preferably oval, since I already have the round one. I know you will be happy with whichever one you choose. Yes, they are heavy, but they are just fabulous to cook with. BTW, I have an electric range and have not had any problem useing my LC on it.

                                      1. check amazon.com. i bought a 7.25 dutch oven and a 9 inch grill pan for $139 dollars minus $25 so i payed around $114 for both. this includes s & h. this price was available during the friday sale.

                                        1. Thank you so much, dear hounds, for your input. Looks like I will be in good company entering the world of Le Creuset. Another marker in my food journey: before-Chowhound vs. after-Chowhound.

                                          Even w/ all of your great input, I'M STILL TORN! Ack! This is harder than buying a car (but alot more fun!). Shows that it boils down to personal preference, lifestyle, needs...and possibly that I can't limit myself to just one. :-) Even though I'm going to buy online, I'm going to check out the LC outlet store near me this weekend, so I can see and touch and lift. Good to see them in person.

                                          I just remembered that my sister got the 6.5 oval one for her wedding last year and seems to use it regularly, so I'm going to ring her up tonight and pick her brain. Well, at least I've decided on the color. That's a first step. And thanks for the tips for bargain retailers. Gotta check out those Fri. Amazon sales. Also good to learn about Straub and Lodge brands, but I'm still ga-ga over LC's look and reputation. Thanks again!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Carb Lover

                                            I bought a 5.5qt flame seconds at the LC outlet. After the purchase, I received a calendar coupon book. I think I offered it up before here but no takers. I can mail it to you if you want - hopefully in time for the weekend (I won't get it in the mail until tomorrow and I am in MA). It is a good idea to go to the store and take a look at the different sizes in person. You can test the heaviness etc.

                                            Let me know.

                                            1. re: tff

                                              Thanks so much for your kind offer, tff; however, I don't think I'm actually going to buy from the outlet. Their prices that were quoted to me over the phone are much higher than online competitors, plus I'll get taxed (and I feel I already pay enough taxes to this great state).

                                              Don't know how much you paid, but the Gilroy LC outlet charges $169 for the 5.5 round (15% off for second quality). I can get a first quality one online for $140 total, no tax or shipping fee. There may be even better deals floating about. Love this no tax thing via some online purchases and dread the day when that may change...thanks again for the offer.

                                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                                Stumbled across this link while surfing at Amazon and thought you might be interested. You can get the 7.25 quart round oven with a bonus square skinny grill for a special price.

                                                Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/...

                                            2. re: Carb Lover

                                              Not that you want to do anything rash, Carb Lover, but I think your indecision indicates that you will want to (eventually) get both!

                                              Now that most hounds will have moved on from this thread I have a confession to make: although I am usually a sort of reverse-snob regarding kitchen equipment, and my storage space is limited, I LOVE LC. It is a joy to use, especially if, as I do, you like to make soup, stews, chili, paella and the like. Not only do I have the 3-, 5- and 7-ish quart round ovens I admitted to in my earlier post, I actually have 2 of the 7q (at some times of the year we have to use both simultaneously for entertaining purposes), the 6.5q oval (got that one at the going out of business sale of a local chain, but have to say I rarely use it), AND my husband recently bought an 8.25q round oven during the Cap Duval sale (I did try to discourage him, but not very hard).

                                              So--get one, see how you like it, and don't be surprised if you start making a list for future gift occasions!

                                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                                I have the 6.5 oval one and I like the size a lot. I can make dinner for four in it up to eight. It will fit a large chicken, two rabbits, a good amount of short rib, yet is still manageable to pick up. I think the oval may give you more flexibility that the round, like if you have two smaller chickens you want to cook at the same time, for example.

                                              2. for what it's worth at this point, i have the 5.5 flame orange one. i use it all the time. it's usually just two of us, but it makes plenty of leftovers, and i've never wished it were bigger, even when we've had several guests. it is a bit heavy and cumbersome to clean, but not horribly so.

                                                in the end, i think you'll find that you'll be happy either way.

                                                1. I just got my first one too about 2 weeks ago and it's the exact one you pictured. My husband got the larger one and he got a GREAT deal at Bizrate.com $150.00 plus shipping. I LOVE this pan as it gives you the wonderful brown bits (fond) that I could never get with other pans. It is heavy and cumbersome but my husband usually gets it out and replaces it in the cabinet. You'll be happy with either size, but I say go for the large at that price.

                                                  1. I was just using the 13-quart last night. I am not a particularly large/strong person. When it is full, it is a little difficult to get out of the oven, and bows the rack a little bit. The other problem with this is that it looks so empty, so last night I made far too much spaghetti sauce.

                                                    So. I have been needing something between that and the 3.5 quart buffet casserole that I use constantly. I personally have the 6.5-qt oval on my wish list--definitely the oval for aforementioned roast shape considerations.

                                                    I had my eye on the doufeu, mostly because I like to avoid the screw-in handle on top if possible. However, I saw a similar set-up in Chef's catalog that has the top double as a grill pan (on the underside), and now am torn. Has anyone used either of these?

                                                    Link: http://www.surlatable.com/common/prod...

                                                    1. I bought my 7.25 LC Round Oven w/Bonus Grill from Cutlery & More for $159 (no tax, free shipping) last year and had no problems at all. Arrived in amply cushioned packaging. They had the best price at the time.

                                                      I love using my Round Oven LC -- it's heavy but definitely doable. Pleanty of space for browing a large batch of meat which saves me a lot of time. That said, I will eventually get a 3.5/4.5 qt Round Oven for dishes that require layering and less surface area. I've used the bonus grill twice and had great results, beautiful grill marks. It's a challenge to thoroughly clean, but from what I've seen on these boards that's a problem many have with any brand.

                                                      1. I had this same dilemma last winter-- knew i wanted a 5.5 or 7.25 round french oven, but couldn't decide which. I fretted and fretted and posted here about it and got some good advice. Eventually I wound up yes, I'll admit it, buying both. I got lucky with the Caplan Duval sale, and paid about 110 for the 5.5 and 130 for the 7.25 in the blue color (then the cheapest), plus a total of about 35 bucks for shipping.

                                                        I use the 5.5 qt one far more frequently. I cook for two, but I always want leftovers for lunches, so I usually aim for 4-6 servings per meal. However, as Chowhounds in the know predicted back when I was debating, I find that fairly often I start something in the 5.5 qt and wind up pouring it in to the 7.25 qt for more room. The 7.25 qt gets used pretty frequently for soups, stews, and big pots of tomato sauce.

                                                        I say buy one now- either one, you can't go wrong really since they both have many uses. Then, in years to come, you can perhaps splurge for the other when you find the right price.

                                                        Have fun! I also divide my cooking life into pre- and post- Le Creuset, and pre- and post- knife skills class!