Question about cooking with Le Creuset--high heat?
- AppleSister Aug 21, 2006 06:47 PM
The instructions that came with my dutch oven say to keep the flame at medium to medium-low. But a lot of braising recipes call for the heat to be turned to high at the end to reduce sauces, etc., and all these recipes assume you're using some high-quality braise-worthy cookware.
So is it safe to turn the heat high on my Le Creuset pot?
I've been using various Le Creuset pots and skillets for about 25 years with high heat. Never had a problem.
Ditto - though most of the things I cook in Le Creuset require lower heat - risotto, braising, etc.
I've used LC and like products (Copco, Descoware, etc) for more than 40 years and have only had one problem/disaster. A friend, borrowing my kitchen, pre-heated an empty LC skillet on high heat. It was likely forgotten and became almost red-hot, cracking the interior coating. It was beyond use and thrown away. This was explained in a note left for me along with a handsome cheque to cover the cost of replacement.
Browning on med-high and reducing on high (both gas and electric) heat have never been a problem.
Moral of the story: pay attention to the empty LC on high heat, otherwise you should be fine.
I heat my LC dutch oven just about to the smoking point of olive oil--probably around 375° or even a little higher--to brown veal shanks for osso buco. Never had any trouble and it cleans up just fine with detergent and a nylon scrubber.
High heat is 400 degrees and higher - too hot for LC; consider heavy-guage stanless steel for anything over 400 degrees.
I recently got my first LC, so took note of those instructions. I came to the conclusion that I should slowly heat up the dutch oven (like start at med), but that I could eventually crank up to high if I needed. I mean, have you seen how high Mario turns up the heat on his LC pots?!
What I've discovered in my few uses is that, while on medium, the pot can get quite hot and retains heat well. I'm still getting a "feel" for my pot, and I'm sure you will too. Enjoy!
There are three other factors that *may* come into play, depending on how high the heat is.
1) The melting temperature of any "add on" handles. Many LC pot do not have such handles, but some models have separate screw-on plastic handles for the lids and such.
2) The thermal expansion/contraction properties of dis-similar materials. If the iron of the LC pot and the enamel that coats it expand and contract at different rates, eventually, one may reach a temperature that will cause the two materials to separate, or cause the enamel to crack or chip.
3) The melting point of the enamel itself. One can assuming that the enamel melts at a lower temperature than the underlying iron, because if the iron melts first, there would be no pot for the enamel to cling to. I doubt that any of us will be cooking at the melting point of the enamel, but I mention it for completeness.
I left my empty enameled cast iron Le Creuset pot on an electric range, and I turned the heat on high (only meaning for it to heat up for a minute or two), then forgot about it while I was doing laundry. I remembered it because I smelled something burning, and when I ran back to the kitchen and tried to lift it off the electric heating element, the pot stuck, and I had to pull hard to unstick it. I discovered that the enamel had apparently melted on the bottom of the pot. Nothing had cracked, although the enamel on the inside appears to have darkened just a shade. It was only on high heat for 10 minutes max. My stove is old, and it's hard for me to believe that the electric heating element could have melted the enamel so quickly. Has anyone else had this kind of experience?
Don't know why your recipes specify high heat. Braising at medium heat will certainly get water a-boiling, which is as hot as water will go, I usually have to add liquid tp keep the level up, not turn up the heat. Just keep the heat to medium.
actually folks, i just signed up with chow hound to refute your answers. great site, and we all love Le Creuset, but the information on max. temperature for Le Creuset are wrong.
1. With the new replacement lids the pots are safe and warranty VALID to 500 degrees according to the factory in France which my wife and I called. (Probably 550 but the official line is 500.) 2. The melting point of enamel - at least that used on Le Creuset is FAR higher than 500, according to the factory. (Yes, we speak French.)
What is amazing is that they didn't think of replacement lids YEARS ago! Jeez. For example, some steak recipes that require very high, short cooking, at 500, are now within range. The guy in France told us, "yes, it was very stupid of us."
One thing to remember is that there is a lot of energy / heat in cast iron. So it will continue to cook for a long time after you reduce the burner.
I have never had a problem deglazing my pans from fairly high temperatures. Then again I tend to add the liquid gradually.
I recently left my empty Koben Design Enamel Steel pot on med heat for 10 min., bottom turned bright red and the inside, which used to be white, turned charcoal gray. I tried cleaning it out with warm water, baking soda, and dish soap but since the pot was empty it's as if the enamel itself burned.
Is this still safe to use? The enamel isn't cracked or damaged, just dark gray.