Le Creuset: which shape and size?
I have been reading past threads on getting a good set of kitchenware, and have gathered the bottom line is not to go with one-brand sets but to put together a mixed set of essentials.
To wit, two questions about Le Creuset.
Other than shape, is there a difference between the "soup pot" and different sized "ovens". I ask because I often make soup, but thought it could useful to have something bigger than the 2.75 quart size I found in the soup pot. Is it appropriate to use one of the oven sizes/shapes to make soup? Basically I am asking whether only the size and shape varies, and how seriously to take the named designation.
Related questions: the Le Creuset skillets have an enamel cooking surface, rather than cast iron? So they would not be the same as a cast iron skillet? How does a LC skillet compare to a well-seasoned cast iron?
Thanks for your time and suggestions.
My LC skillets have had a non-stick rather than enamel interior and never lasted very well, so I gave up on them some years ago. Now mainly use Tefal/supermarket products and replace as needed.
As for the casserole pots, all you need to know is that you will never, never have the right size for the dish you are preparing! I covet the 34cm. round casserole (down from £200 to £140 in one place) but my wife's having none of it. Ho hum.
I have a LC 5.5 qt oven, and have made soup for larger parties - 4 to 12 - in it well. I also use it for braising a lot for smaller group dinner or personal stuff. I think I'd have a hard time making due with a 2.75 as a "single" oven to own - seems a bit small - you'd be limited to cooking only for 1-2 and having no leftovers. They might call the 2.75 a soup pot because you aren't going to be able to cook much else inside it.
No difference that I know of, other than capacity. The oval ones might be a bit better for things like chickens, which could fit a bit more easily inside.
I don't know what style my Creuset is but the capacity is 7 qt and I make soup, stews, and braise short ribs in it. I have a tiny city apartment kitchen but I would never trade down for a smaller creuset. I love it.
I also have Creuset's version of a cast iron. Loads of CHers will tell you do just use a regular cast iron and season it yourself because its so much cheaper than getting LC's version. That's true.
But mine was a present so I don't really care that a cast iron is cheaper. You can use LC's just like a cast iron. The interior is not enamel but I wouldn't consider it "non-stick" I just made rib-eye steaks in it this weekend and they came out awesome. Sear it on the stovetop for five minutes flip it and finish it off in the oven.
I agree that you don't need the whole LC line. But those two items are great.
I don't like the bottom style of the soup pot....and the french ovens are good, but my absolute favorite LC style is called the risotto pot. Extra-wide bottom with lower sides makes it perfect for my native style of pot cooking--practically everything starts with a roux, and the dimensions of this pot are great for roux-making. No need to make a roux in a separate skillet then transfer it to the pot, so it saves one dirty dish. I also dig the buffet casseroles--I treat them like lidded skillets, for the most part. The buffet casseroles (also sometimes called bistro pans) are great for braised/southern-style slow cooked veggies.
The satin-enamel skillets are pretty good, though the surface does need a little seasoning before it is really great to cook on. It is an improvement over uncoated cast iron, to me, because it is easier to clean & won't rust.
The names are purely decorative as far as the actual usage (that is to say, there is no technical reason you can't make soup in the french oven or braise something in the soup pot).
The actual difference is that the french oven has a large bottom (the bottom is about the same size as the the lid and relatively straight sides. The soup pot has a small bottom and curved, flaring sides sort of like a wok. Their marketing materials claim that the design of the soup pot is intended to minimize the corner between the bottom and side where ingredients can get trapped.
I have a 4.5 qt soup pot and I really love it. Until I got a 2.25 qt "Buffet Casserole," it was probably the most oft-used pot I have. The soup pot does have some limitations, though. For example, the small bottom doesn't give you much surface area to work with if you want to brown something - I once had a bright idea to brown my meatballs right in the soup pot and then make the sauce in the soup pot as well. Except I could only fit 3 or 4 meatballs at a time on the bottom of the soup pot! I also would have some reservations about doing a braise or a pot roast in the soup pot because the shape would would impact the amount of liquid vs. the depth (at a depth of 2", the soup pot would have less liquid than a french oven of the same capacity).
Based on my experience with a 4.5qt soup pot, I think the 2.75 would not be all that useful and if you can't get a larger soup pot, you would probably be happier with a larger oven. For some reason the mid-sized 4.5qt is not listed on the LC website so perhaps they only make the 2.75 and the massive 7+qt bouillabaise.
Regarding the skillet surface, it's not as non-stick as well-seasoned cast iron. It will take on a seasoning of sorts over time (and you can help the process along in much the same way you can cast iron), and with practice you can do pretty well with it, but I don't think it ever gets as non-stick as cast iron with good seasoning. I do like my LC skillet, but I still have to keep a non-stick skillet for some things. I don't have a plain cast iron skillet....yet.
I use the 5 quart round Dutch oven for soup all the time (may be 5.5) , and it is enough for at least two meals for 3-4 people. I'd go a little bigger, but not smaller. I have a 3.5 quart and rarely use it, so 2.75 is really small for that purpose. I also use it for meatballs and sauce, osso bucco, and stews and other braises.