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Le Creuset: how am I supposed to cook anything?

I bought a Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart French oven. I was reading the directions, and it said not to boil anything over high heat or use it in the oven above 350C. It said the enamel can crack or chip if I do that. Now how am I supposed to cook just about anything, from getting a sear on a roast to bringing soup to a quick boil prior to simmer if I'm not supposed to use high heat? Do any owners of Le Creuset enameled cast iron cookware have anecdotal comments about their experience, and whether they've had their enamel last successfully even using high heat? If so, I'd like to hear them, because I don't want to risk chipping or cracking on such an expensive piece of cookware, and I'd like to know how safely high in temperature I can use it.

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    1. Go to -- lecreuset.com/usa/products/care

      You can safely cook up tp 450 degrees F -- go to the recipe site, ask people who have them for recipes, soon you will be hooked --- enjoy!

      2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          ooops - thanks for the correction -- T

      1. When I started purchasing high end cookware- AllClad and the Clad Cuisinart lines- i too was surprised to be told repeatedly not to cook over high heat.

        After a bit of practice, I came to realize it is because the pans are crafted so you never have to. The clad pans work by optimising heat conduction accross the entire cooking surface- no hot spots or cool spots- so even over medium heat, if you let the pan heat up first, you can get excellent browning. Le Crueset and other enameled cookware behave essentially like cast iron cookware- they take and hold heat- if you get your French Oven nice and hot, it will cook everything nice and evenly.

        Even when searing steaks of braising shortribs, I rarely find myself going beyond medium-high and almost never above 350 in the oven, either- there's only so high you can heat water-containing foods before you're just boiling them! Tht said, I'm treating yself toa good roasting pan and new dutchoven this holiday season- I will likely go Clad for the pan, but I can't wait for a good enameled dutch oven!

        1 Reply
        1. re: lunchbox

          All-Clad says the pans without the nonstick coating are oven-safe up to 500 degrees. I put mine under the gas broiler on the highest setting with no ill effects. Stainless steel, that's what the oven racks are made of.

        2. I just had the enamel chip on my enamel-on-steel stock pot and it really made me annoyed. We were just sauteing onions in olive oil over medium/medium high electric heat for a minute and-- pop! Maybe our electric stove is unusually hot but still. It's made me think LC is just finicky, which is a shame because I love that pot. I absolutely love my Lodge dutch oven. This has been discussed a bunch on CH, but IMO you'll never get carmelization like you do in the Lodge for a fraction of the price of LC. Of course, it's not as pretty...

          4 Replies
          1. re: Procrastibaker

            Can you deglaze a cast iron pan with wine? That's my concern with cooking with unenamelled cast iron. Also, I want to make a paella in my cast iron skillet but I'm concerned the tomato paste might be too acidic. Any thoughts?

            1. re: ctl98

              Good questions. I think that in a well-seasoned cast iron tomatoes and wine are no problem, esp. since there is usually something fatty in the pan with these items (olive oil, meats). I almost always make tomato sauces in my Griswold cast iron. I just made some fantastic chicken thighs in my Lodge dutch oven-- just sauteed some sweet potatoes and shallots, then seared the thighs, threw in some sprigs of fresh herbs, salt, pepper, about 1/2 c. of vermouth (didn't have any wine, for a change) and about 1/2 c. of stock. Cooked it in a 400 degree oven for an hour and, voila, delicious one-pot meal. That said, certain foods are probably too acidic for the cast iron-- my husband did Scandinavian red cabbage (lots of vinegar, no fat) in an under-seasoned CI pan at my in-laws and it reacted and was nasty.

              1. re: Procrastibaker

                "- my husband did Scandinavian red cabbage (lots of vinegar, no fat) in an under-seasoned CI pan at my in-laws and it reacted and was nasty."

                But would the results have been any different if the pan had a more deeply developed seasoning?

            2. re: Procrastibaker

              It's also, made in China ( Lodges enameled line)

            3. I'm just scared that paella with the tomatoes and the rice would make one big mess and I will never be able to scrape the rice off the bottom of my lodge skillet. You think I should give it a try?

              Oops, meant to reply ot procrastibaker...

              1 Reply
              1. re: ctl98

                This may be incredibly naive but isn't one beauty of cast iron that you could, if you chose, simply burn it off over a flame?

              2. I'm thinking if you added a teeeeeeeny bit of H2O after you remove the paella, and then covered it tightly, you shouldn't have a problem (or not too much of) with sticking leftover bits. (Not that I've tried this in a lodge skillet, but it works in my other pots)

                1. Yes, this will work! The chicken dish I mention above actually kind of stuck b/c I left it in a bit long without enough liquid-- just put some water in the pan while it's still warm/hot and it will scrape right off. If anything sticks, you can scrub a bit with hot water and coarse salt (might want to rub some oil over the pan if you end up scrubbing in case you've thinned the seasoning layer). It will be great. And your paella will only benefit from the taste history of your cast iron pan. I have made paella in my Lodge 12 in. skillet (another bonus of the Lodge oven is that its lid fits the 12 in. skillet). Let us know how it goes, ctl98!

                  1. I bought my first LC round oven several months ago and remember being a little confused by the instructions too. No worries, you'll be able to sear, fry, and more in your LC.

                    What I do is heat up the pot slowly. I'll usually start on medium and then turn up to med-high if I need to. LC holds heat so well that I find that I can get a nice sear on med to med-high. I never feel the need to have it on high heat.

                    I use the LC so often now that it rests permanently on my stove top, and I'm already plotting to buy an oval one!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Absolutely. I sear all manner of roasts and stew meat to a deep brown in my LC ovens using a 15,000 btu gas burner over medium heat all the time. Works like a charm and they're beautiful to look at too.

                    2. I bake the no-knead bread recipe in my big LC oval, oven cranked to 500F for an hour, and the thing's fine. I brown lamb shanks to dark chocolate color over a 13k BTU burner on high. I run over the thing with my car when I'm bored. No problems with the paint or lid handle. Nonsense about 350F limits is just that.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: orezscu

                        Same here. I've got lots of LC, some of it 30 years old. I just do whatever I need to do with it and don't worry about it. Never had a problem, never had to return a piece or discard one. No need to treat the stuff like a religious icon, it's just cookware.

                      2. Don't worry. I cook everything in my LC and have never had a problem. The only thing I really take care about is to heat it gradually. Don't put it cold into a hot oven or onto a hot stove.

                        Otherwise, I cook at low heat, high heat, in the oven, etc. I also cook the no-knead bread in it, covering the handle with foil, as I heard that protects it from very high temps.

                        But be warned--the thing won't stay beautiful. Enamel will wear off on the bottom where it rubs against the burner. the inside will gradually go darker on the bottom. There will be pings. It's important to accept this and move on. If you're someone who will panic at the first sign of wear, you may want to stick to stainless steel or regular cast iron.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kagey

                          My older pieces of LC were made with no enamel on the bottom. I actually prefer them because they don't slide around like the newer stuff.

                        2. Don't read that little book that comes with the pots. They're pots; use them for cooking. Seriously. In my Le Creusets I sear over high heat, boil, braise, put them in the 500-degree oven for no-knead bread - basically treat them like regular cast iron, and they're fine.

                          And in the unlikely event that they do chip, send 'em back and LC will replace them (I broke the handle on one pot - by dropping it on the floor when full of water - and they replaced it. They have excellent customer service).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Bat Guano

                            I didn't even know a little book came with my LC. I think I was too excited and I just pulled the pan out of the box and started cooking. That was 5 years ago and I have had absolutely NO problems and I love cooking with them.

                            So, I agree. They're pots - get cookin'.

                          2. Been using Descoware, LC, and Copco for many years. Never thought about pan damage and they always performed perfectly with no grief. To brag got a large flame doufeu in perfect condition at a Paris flea market this AM for 20 euros, l am so excited. Using it tonight.

                            1. The 450F limit is about the plastic knob, not the pot itself. If you want to roast something at 500, odds are you're not using the lid anyway. If for some reason you do want to use the lid at such high heat, just replace the knob with a metal one. Le Creuset sells fancy ones, but I use a 99 cent cabinet knob that works just fine -- just bring the screw from the original knob with you to the hardware store and look for a knob that's the same size.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pothead

                                "The black phenolic lid knobs on our Signature range of enameled cast iron are heat-resistant to 480°F / 250°C. The black phenolic lid knobs on our Classic range of enameled cast iron are heat-resistant to 375°F / 190°C. Products with integral cast iron handles or stainless steel knobs can be used at any oven temperature. Pans with wooden handles or knobs must not be placed in the oven."