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Jan 22, 2008 01:40 AM

Le Creuset and oven

many people here and elsewhere sing praises of enameled cast iron cookware and Le Creuset in particular. Quite a few say they have a round French oven for stovetop and an oval one for oven. This I find puzzling - since in an (reasonably good) oven the heat comes from all sides anyway, is there any reason to use enameled cast iron pot? Does not one get comparable results with some cheaper cookware (e.g. glass)? If there are any advantages other than the "coolness factor" I would like to know (I'm in the process of upgrading my cookware). Thanks, Honza

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  1. There's a minor advantage in that the cast iron will 'even out' the temperature fluctuations that most electric ovens experience from cycling the elements. Beyond that, it's nice to be able to sear in the dutch oven, put the cover on, and then toss it into the oven, and later to make a sauce in the dutch oven on the stovetop. Keeps all the flavor in one pot, and makes for simpler cleanup. A pot roast is a perfect example.

    That said, I've used one of my All-Clad pots with a tight fitting lid to do the same thing, and the results were no different than using a dutch oven. I think most people just don't think of putting a pot in the oven, plus an oval or rectangular shape does tend to better fit most foods you'd cook that way.

    All in all, it's not a 'must have', but you *should* have something with a tight fitting lid that can go in the oven.

    1. For me, the advantage over glass is this: what you use for baking (glass, ceramic) is not necessarily great for stewing and braising. For the latter you need something that also works on stovetop, since you generally want to brown meat before adding ingredients and moving into the oven. Perhaps secondarily, slower heat transfer is probably an advantage. About the other aspects of your question: I can't see the advantage of oval over round (though I'm sure others do); if you're wondering specifically about the advantage of enameled cast iron over just plain cast iron (as in, say, a Lodge dutch oven), the advantage would be that you don't have to worry about curing (or re-curing, since in stewing and braising, liquids can cause simple cast iron can lose its cure).

      13 Replies
      1. re: alias wade

        I agree that it is the stovetop-to-oven capabilities of enameled cast iron that make it my first choice. It is also quite durable..it needs little special care (e.g., don't toss a hot pot into a sink of cold water) and it will last forever. LC has a lifetime guarantee, so should it NOT last forever, they'll replace it.

        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          Stove-top-to-oven AND oven-to-tabletop. Not too many other pots can do that.

          1. re: JoanN

            I have just bought one because it can do Stove-top-to-oven, but I am finding that it doesn't brown onions as well as SS or Scan pan, and it also takes a lot longer. Correct me if I am wrong because it may be something that I am doing.

            1. re: arangman

              I can't answer your question from personal experience because when I caramelize onions I'm more often than not doing 6 pounds of onions at a time and doing them in a SS roasting pan. I have no experience with ScanPan at all. That said, it doens't make sense to me that a pot that can sear meat can't brown onions. It does take a bit longer for enameled cast iron to come to temp, but once it does I don't see any reason it shouldn't brown onions just as well as SS. Perhaps someone who's actually compared one to the other will jump in here.

              1. re: arangman

                Celeste, you are right. LC won't brown as well as stainless or raw cast iron. One of the reasons is the light surface reflects heat, and it does take longer to heat up. You also have a layer of glass (the porcelain enamel) between your food and the metal that doesn't heat as well. It's really built for long and slow. The Staub having a dark interior does brown much easier, and gives a better sear as it absorbs the heat better, and cooks more like raw cast iron. You will also find that creating a deep sear, as well as deeply aramelizing onions will unfortunately stain the interior of LC, and repeatedly bleaching it to restore the surface will etch the enamel over time causing more staining. That's why I've switched to Staub for my enameled cast iron.

                1. re: blondelle

                  The reason for onions not browning as well makes a lot of sense. But as for searing staining the LC, that hasn't been my experience. I've been using my 7.25 quart LC for about 40 years now and it's been through a lot. Some soaking, some Bartender's Friends, and still no staining.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    Sadly, it seems the older ones do better in that regard. Maybe they changed something in the enamel. The ones I hear about that do resist the stains seems to be the 25" year old ones. I didn't have a good experience with my set that I returned to LC, and they replaced. It was also made many years ago, and it did stain easily, and the enamel wore thin quickly, and it chipped. I'm happier with the Staub, but I do like the lighter interior, but not the worry and care of it.

                    It's strange that people can have two different experiences with the same cookware. Some saying it stains and chips easily, and some saying their ovens are fine and never stain after many years.

                    1. re: blondelle

                      I always regarded the stains as a sign of well-loved, well-used gear. My LC hasn't stained too much, but I don't really mind them.

                  2. re: blondelle

                    I sure didn't say it wouldn't brown well: DEFINITELY not my experience. The greater thermal mass of the enameled cast iron takes longer to heat up, but once at a proper temp, it browns as well as any pan I own. Patience is the key; you can't expect it to react to the heat as quickly as a much thinner skillet.

                  3. re: arangman

                    I saw your post re: onions on another thread and it puzzled me. I always carmelize my onions in LC -- in a braiser to be exact -- and they end up wonderfully golden brown. The benefit of cast iron to me is that I can get it up to heat at a lower temperature, toss in the onions and walk away. For hours. And when I come back -- with maybe some minimal checking because the smell is awesome they are perfectly browned. I've not used SS or a ScanPan so maybe there is something magic about their onion carmelizign properties but my experience has been that the longer the carmelization takes the better the flavor.

                    1. re: redgypsy

                      Me too - w/o a problem and I get nice brown carmelized onions as well.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I have solved the issue concerning browning onions. I took my LC fry pan and the Dutch oven to the shop where they were demonstrating the induction cook top which I have bought, but not installed yet. The lady was very knowledgeable and helped me to solve my problem.
                        The glass on my cook top has broken, and I was forced to use the smaller ring to test the LC cookware on. This created uneven heat which got my onions all clumped together and very unevenly browned. She then demonstrated using my two pans and the onions came perfectly cooked and browned. She also recommended to buy one Demeyere all purpose pan (she is not selling them). Apparently this company makes the best cookware in the world. She used to work for them and she said that in all the years of being demonstrator, all over the world, she has not found any better cookware, and that includes Al Clad. She did like it as well.
                        it looks like I will have to spend the money and get one, I just wish they were not so expensive.

                        1. re: arangman

                          No disrespect to your shopping methodology, but the price of the pan won't make you a better cook. You can brown onions & saute just fine in the cheapest stuff, but if you don't cook often enough to learn the particular qualities of your pan, things will still be difficult. Buy a pound of onions, saute in batches over various heats, and learn to love what you've got, if $$ is a problem. While I love my LC, the most often used pan in my kitchen is a magnalite saucepan, vintage 1990. I saute in the bottom, swear, braise, etc. Probably cost $20 at Wal Mart back then. I haven't traded it in because I know exactly how it behaves--a valuable thing in the kitchen.

            2. You mentioned that you were upgrading your cookware -- I just wanted to post that I hope you were considering the LC for single pieces only rather than considering a whole set. I think a cast iron dutch oven is an essential kitchen tool but I'd never consider most of their other pots and pans - just too heavy. I got a screaming deal at an LC outlet moving sale on a large baking pan but I can't get it out of the oven once it's loaded (and hot). It's pretty but I don't use it.
              I've had my LC dutch oven for 15 years - it's a little stained but otherwise, it's in great condition.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sebetti

                Will All Clad 8QT Stock Pot work for roasts and stews as well as LC? I'm buying something and need advice.

                1. re: jazzblues

                  Well, Cooks Illustrated tested Dutch ovens and their top pick was the AC 8 qt., with LC coming in second. I still think cast iron is the way to go for braising, but there are messages here and other places where people say they get the same results with each, and one saying the results were better in the AC. If you need an all around pot and do some braising and stews now and then go for the AC. If you already have a similar sized steel pot then maybe consider the enameled cast iron pot. I would get a Staub though, not the LC.

                  1. re: blondelle

                    ^^Excellent advice! I too recommend the Staub over the LC!

                  2. re: jazzblues

                    Depends on whether you're talking about pot roasts & stovetop stews or oven braising of those dishes. A stock pot usually is of slightly thinner gauge than a saucepan, and some stockpots have glass lids (good for seeing whether things are simmering or not) that are not rated for oven use. So hold the pot in your hands, if possible, and check out those lid specifications. Also, "stock" pots are usually deeper than wide, which isn't necessarily the best shape for an oven braise.