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le creuset - digging for dirt

  • k

I've been ogling Le Creuset pots on amazon for a while now, and have been considering investing in some kind of soup/stew pot. But am I just being enticed by the name and the oh-so-beautiful enamel colours? Is there a difference between American-made and French-made Le Creuset (I read that some of the pieces are made here)?

I don't understand the difference between a pot made of Heavy-gauge carbon steel with enamel-coated interior and exterior, a Heavy-gauge steel and enamel stockpot and a 'french oven' made of Enameled cast iron.

And finally, is there a just-as-wonderful brand out there that perhaps I am overlooking? I'd love all your advice before making what is for me a large financial investment.

Thank you!

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  1. Plain (i.e., non-stainless) carbon steel and cast iron are both rather poor conductors of heat, which is why cast iron pots and pans need to be thick to cook evenly, and even then don't do nearly as good a job of it as aluminum (about 5 times more conductive than steel/iron) or copper (about 10 times better). In theory, an enameled steel vessel of the same thickness would be about the same, in weight and cooking qualities, as one of enameled cast iron. However, I have never seen (which is not the same thing as saying it doesn't exist) a piece of enameled steel cookware that is as thick as cast iron typically is.

    I was given, and for some inexplicable reason still have, an enameled steel pot, I believe made by Dansk. It might be the single worst item in my batterie de cuisine and is just about worthless for anything other than use as a serving piece, or a flowerpot. Le Creuset and other enameled cast iron is a totally different matter, of course, and I have several pieces in various shapes and sizes. They're great for use in the oven and for some things on the stovetop, but I tend not to use them for long cooking on the stovetop because of problems with hot spots and burning with long-cooking stew-like things, particularly of thick consistency. One of the several clad-type pots, solid copper, or even the old aluminum-bottom stainless pots is better for that, IMHO.

    The best-known LC alternative is Staub, which is more-or-less equivalent in both quality and price. I see that Lodge has also recently introduced a line of enameled cast iron, but I have no experience with it. I have no knowledge about the relative merits of US vs French made LC, or even if they are in fact made in both countries.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FlyFish

      If Lodge is making enamelled iron, that's good news - they do good work, and their stuff is reasonable. Made right there in Tennessee (yay!).

      I have three Le Creuset pieces, plus several unbranded Dutch ones, all of which I found in antique malls for under $20 each. I also have a Chinese knockoff, a 3 qt. oval enamelled iron pot, I bought at Cost Plus for $18 right after we moved to SoCal, that has braised so much stuff it's to blame for at least half my extra personal diameter. And as others have said, Marshall's and T. Maxx and the like are good sources for factory seconds (I also really like the French Chantal ceramic pieces I've found there).

    2. Kate, You can't go wrong with Le Creuset, it's my "go to" cookware. (I have not experienced the hot spot concerns mentioned by Flyfish. I have seen that with aluminum cookware such as Calphalon.) Le Creuset is exceptional for braising, baking, stews and soups. Over the years I have amassed quite a few pieces. The ones I use the most are the 3.5 and 5.5 quart sizes. I use their thick, heavy 1 quart sauce pans for making roux and cream sauces. Le Creuset is a joy to cook with and a good investment. Make the plunge.

      1. Haunt T J Maxx, you may eventually find LC on the cheap. Otherwise, order from one of their outlet stores. If you don't mind weird colors, you can get a bargain. I do not own an LC piece that I paid full price for (and I have 6). I have red, green, saffron, pink and white.

        1. I have a LC 6qt oval dutch oven. It is my favorite dutch oven, even over my All Clad 8 qt. round dutch oven. I don't have hot spots. I don't think you can burn anything in the LC because once you get your contents up to temp you can turn the flame way down because the conductivity of the iron is so great. Everything simmers gently and evenly for long hours. I've used it both on the stove top and in the oven and get good results either way. I like the oval shape because I seem to be able to fit odd sized items into it like whole chickens and long pieces of meat. It's a very good thing. I was able to get mine on amazon.com with a few freebies thrown in and a $25 amazon gift certificate. You can probably find similar deals periodically.

          1. I got a HUGE LC dutch oven by haunting Marshall's and ROSS, as another poster suggested. $100 instead of $350, and I think it's 9 quarts. It's wonderful. NOTHING sticks to the bottom of this, it cooks evenly,it's big enough for all my needs, I find it versatile, and I use it several times a week.

            That said, it's a heavy piece of cookware, and only good for certain things. I can think of two people I know who would hate it. My mom, who considers heavy cookware evil (go figure), and my friend who never makes soups, stews, or braises. So do give it some careful though.

            1. A month ago, I bought three pieces of Le Creuset half-off at a Williams-Sonoma store. There are deals out there. I find them exceptional for all sorts of things, especially considering their evenness and retention of heat.

              I imagine a similar product would work just as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Steve

                if you are near a Marshall's they often have them.

              2. If you want to try cast iron, look at Lodge. I love the look of LC, but for the price of one of theirs I can buy a lot of Lodge.

                Link: http://www.lodgemfg.com/introOriginal...

                1. I love my le creuset...my boyfriend says I have a "problem" with it. I'm mildly obsessed. I love it and cook in it every chance I can.

                  Most recently, bought a 5 qt oval from Caplan Duval at www.caplanduval.com. It's a Canadian company. I got the pot, INCLUDING the shipping for $109. I saw the same pot in Williams Sonoma for $260. Check them out, they have some great deals.

                  The lemongrass is my new fave color, but it seems that the newest colors don't go on sale for a while.



                  1. While rummaging around Marshalls I found a LC copycat manufacturer of enamel cast iron dutch ovens. The name of the company is Olive & Thyme. I bought a 7 qt oval dutch oven for a fraction of what LC would cost. After two years of use I have yet to discover any difference at all. Shop the store and see what you can find. BTW, I have not been able to find any info on Olive & Thyme. I've googled the name with little success. I wonder if it's a Marshalls store brand.

                    1. Look for a Le Creuset at an outlet mall near you. I've gotten seconds as gifts and can't tell the difference. There is one in Hagerstown, MD, and probably many other places as well.

                      1. I was contemplating the same thing around May/June of this year and posted a query, in case you want to search for that. I got LOTS of responses from cooks whom I respect on this board, and the consensus was pretty much that Le Creuset is great and not just hype. Staub, Lodge, and Copco had a few mentions, but the only one that is significantly cheaper is Lodge and it's not enameled. I have a Lodge cast iron skillet which has been fine for certain tasks, but don't want that material for cooking soups/stews/braises that tend to be acidic.

                        Let me heed you a word of warning...even though you are looking for a good deal, only go w/ reputable e-businesses. I was all set to order a 7.25 qt. round w/ a free grill pan for $170 total from Cutlery and More and then found an even better deal for around $140 at eKitchenGadgets. To make a long story short, they kept on delaying my shipping (saying they hadn't received the items to their NY warehouse), so I eventually cancelled w/ no charge. I found similar complaints after the fact. In the meantime, the prices had gone up on other sites, so I ended up deciding to wait til Caplan Duval's sale when they'll have what I want in stock. So still don't have my LC, but look forward to getting one soon...

                        If you can, go to an outlet store or seller that carries a range of sizes and colors so you can see for yourself, lift, etc. Then you can look for the best deal online. I found my outlet store to be pretty expensive still. Another store where I've seen LC seconds is Tuesday Morning, which I think is a nation-wide store. Amazon also has great deals now and then.

                        1. I got a sale flyer from the Le Creuset outlets today. The sale starts Oct 1. They will take phone orders and will ship UPS. Orders over $300.00 ship free. Some of the colors are limited on pieces but a 5qt. oval oven is being offered at $69.99, and a 2.75 qt. round oven at $49.99. The stoneware and their Screwpull items are also on thier fall clearance too.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Candy

                            Do you happen to have any contact info for an outlet? Do you know if they will reserve one if you call before Oct. 1?

                            1. re: Katie Nell

                              Where are you? There is quite a list of outlets on the flyer. The flyer says No Reservations

                              1. re: Candy

                                Kansas City! (doubt there's one even close!)

                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                  Aurora, Il 630-851-3100, Michigan City In 219-873-0090, Osage Beach Missouri 573-302-4600

                          2. I was at the outlets yesterday - the Le Creuset stores have monthly color discounts (sept is 15% off all red pieces) however in the Williams-Sonoma outlet, they had really low prices on some pieces. Better than Le Creuset with the discounts.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: tff
                              Jake by the Lake

                              I've found that the seconds (merchandise with minor defects) are the best bargain at the outlet. They discount those pieces around 40% to 50% and usually the only thing wrong is that the colored enamel didn't get into every little crevice on the Le Creuset stamp on the bottom. But they coat their pieces with a clear enamel as well which does get into those crevices. The piece is perfectly fine otherwise but they consider that a manufacturing defect.

                              1. re: Jake by the Lake

                                Yes ! you are right - I have a round 5.5qt seconds from the outlet... I don't really see anything wrong with it....

                            2. One thing that others haven't mentioned about the outlets is that if you buy 5 or more pieces (the lids each count as 1 piece,) then you get an extra 20% discount off their regular prices (including seconds.)

                              Link: http://www.outletsonline.com/lecreuse...

                              1. In Minnesota, Target has started to carry a line of enameled cast iron similar to Le Creuset. I picked up a couple of pieces last year and have been very happy with them. I looked over the quality of each piece before I purchased and made sure there were no obvious flaws. There are only a few sizes available, but they are the most popular ones. I don't think any piece is more than $50. I believe these are seasonal items only available in the fall and winter.

                                One other option. The Martha Stewart line at K-mart used to a few enameled cast iron pieces.