Le Creuset Dutch Oven...How to boil water
This may be an odd question, but how do you boil water with a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. I bought a 5.5 quart dutch oven yesterday, and although I own a few other Le Creuset products (wok, baking pan, skillet, etc...) this is my first dutch oven. I try not to use my Le Creuset (or any cast iron) on high heat.
So, I was boiling half a pot of water on medium heat last night, and after 30 mins it would not boil. So, for the sake of experimention, I inserted a probe thermometer and the temp was 96 degrees. I moved the heat up to 6 (out of 10), and after 10 more mins, the temp was 97 degrees. I kept doing this , but could not get the water to boil until I increased the heat to high (this was an hour after starting the process). Is this bad for the dutch oven? If so, is there anything else I can do other than not use it to boil water?
I want to note that I have a pretty good range, not Viking or restaurant BTUs, but not a weak range either. There is a noticable difference between each number 1 through 10.
All cooking materials have advantages and disadvantages. In the case of cast iron, most of the cooking qualities are due to it's relatively high mass, which helps to distribute and hold heat evenly. Contrary to popular misconceptions, cast iron is not a particularly good heat conductor, so has to be thick to cook properly. If you're going to cook something in cast iron, you first have to heat the pot itself before you can begin heating the contents, which takes more time than heating something like a thin aluminum pot of equivalent capacity. The thin aluminum pot is also better at transferring heat from the flame (or, in this case, element) through the material, and into the water - albeit somewhat more unevenly. Because there's no particular advantage to having an even heat when you're boiling water, cast iron is not the most efficient choice for a container to do it in.
But, of course, you CAN boil water in cast iron, and the best way to do that is simply to use high heat. I'm curious about why you feel high heat isn't appropriate for cast iron, unless you're using the term "cast iron" to refer to the enameled cast iron exclusively. In that case, there can be some issues with very high heat because of the different coefficients of expansion of the cast iron base vs. the enamal coating but even there I don't think it's a big problem. In the case of uncoated cast iron there's no issue at all and, in fact, that's pretty much all I used uncoated cast iron for - extremely high heat where I need something that can take it (and, in addition, don't care all that much if it can't).
The other thing you need to remember is that when your cast iron pot (or any pot) contains water the inside at least can't get any hotter than the boiling point of that water. An interesting demonstration of that is to bring water to the boil over a candle in a small paper cup.
Not sure why you're not using high heat for cast iron. Does Le Creuset recommend this? I always use high heat on both my LC and my cast iron and have never had any problems with it. In fact, I'm convinced that's why my cast iron is so beautifully seasoned. After each use I dry the skillet over very high heat until it's almost smoking, maybe as long as four or five minutes, then wipe with peanut oil and let come to room temp. I've had my cast iron skillets for decades now and they're gorgeously shiny and can be cleaned with paper towels. The Le Creuset, of course, doesn't need seasoning, but I've never worried about using it on high heat.
About a year ago, at the insistence of a British friend who was staying with me for a few weeks, I bought an electric kettle. Don't know how I managed to live all these years without it. Now, whenever I need to boil water, even a single cup, I put it in the kettle to boil before pouring the water into a pot. Haven't touched my stovetop tea kettle since I bought the electric one.
It does take a while for the Le Creuset to heat up, but if you want to coninue to use moderate or moderately high heat, the electric kettle might be a solution.
I've never had a problem boiling water with LC: actually, it's faster than boiling water in my All Clad pots.
LC does say something about not using more than meduim heat, but you can through that out the window when boiling water. I do all the time!
I have Le Creuset Dutch oven and use it all of the time to boil water or any liquid such as making black beans, cooking macaroni, etc. In fact, water boils faster in it than my All Clad. I find that some cookware is also affected by the type of heat or stove. I have an electric flat glass cooktop and I find that cast iron heats quicker, but my All Clad worked better on the gas stove in my old house. I'll be upgrading soon, hopefully to gas.
Boil away on high..............!!