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Aug 6, 2009 11:39 PM

Enamelled cast iron cocottes/french ovens?

I managed to get my hands on some Fontignac enamelled cast iron cocottes/french ovens. I did some research online and found out that Fontignac is a sister company of Staub. While I realize the Fontignac DIVA line is not the top line on the Fontignac side and so most likely isn't on par with the Staub line, I'm thinking that the performance is probably pretty close amongst them and also probably comparable to Le Creuset as well. These cocottes/french ovens are made in France and it seems like brand has been around since 1926. The interesting thing is that it seems like the Fontignac brand is not very popular in North America. I've only found one Canadian site the sells Fontignac products and pretty much no one in the US.

I purchased 3 of these pots - the 24cm / 4.25 qt round for $90 CDN, the 28 cm /5 qt round for $100 CDN and the 31 cm / 6.25 qt oval for $110 CDN. From what I can tell, they do not appear to be factory seconds. I'm wondering if they are a good deal (ie. whether I should keep them or return them). My instincts tell me it's a good deal considering the price I paid for them and they are probably of decent quality since they are made in France unlike the Mario Batali stuff that's made in China. Any thoughts?

My other dilemma is whether I should keep all 3 of them or just 2 of them, and if only 2, which 2. I don't really know if I need all 3 of them. I mostly usually only cook for myself and sometimes one other person, although I usually prepare enough to last a couple of meals. On occasion I'd have my parents over so that'd mean cooking for 3-4 people with some leftovers. This is my first time buying enamelled cast iron cookware so I'm not familiar with all its intended uses. I was initially only intending to buy a small round one for making stews/braising and I wanted something that I could put in the oven after browning the meat. I've had my eye on a Le Creuset for a long time. Currently I'm just using cheap cookware (t-fal and revere pot sets that my parents gave me as a house warming present). One day I'd like to invest in a good set of stainless steel cookware such as All-Clad. Hence, I wasn't really intending to buy a whole set of cast iron cookware. I was more intending to buy a piece or two of cast iron cookware to augment the stainless steel set I intend to buy one day. I know good quality pots last a lifetime and hence, wanted to buy something that I would be happy keeping for a long time. However, I stumbled upon these and luckily was able to find the 3 pots in the same color. I know the prices are really good... if I recall correctly even in a Le Creuset factory store/outlet I wouldn't even be able to get a 3.5 qt factory second pot for less than $150 US. So now the question is whether I need all 3 of them? It is tempting from a price point of view as it would cost that much just to buy 1 Le Creuset at the regular price for what I paid for all 3 of them.

My other question is what are the pros and cons between the round and the oval shape? I'm guessing the oval shape is meant more for roasts etc?

Ultimately, I'm looking for good quality, versatile cookware... and if I can find it at a good price, that's a bonus! Any input or advice you can provide regarding the quality and the size of these pots would be much appreciated.

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  1. Oval is better for roasts, but the round is more suited for stovetop use (it fits better on a burner). Maybe you'll need just one of the smaller ones, plus the larger one. OTOH, I'd love to have 3 of them myself! I currently have a 5-qt soup pot and a 5.5 qt Dutch oven, both Staub (which may or may not be out of business, or at least in some sort of limbo). Like you, I usually cook for one or two, but I do occasionally have people over for dinner (or parents visiting for a few days). In that case, one benefits from a larger pot.

    Le Creuset is lovely and I'd love to have a few of their enameled cast iron pieces myself. But understand that many chowhounds here also love their "cheaper" iron pots (e.g. Lodge, Batali), and they probably have similar cooking performances. I do understand your issues wrt Chinese production. Though in all likelihood, the Chinese-made cookware is fine, but I still feel safer using cookware made in the US, EU, or Canada. Maybe this is just paranoia on my part, but the melamine and lead paint scandals have made me warier!

    1. If space were an issue and it were me deciding, I'd probably keep the oval and the larger round if I had to choose.

      I've not heard of this line, but that doesn't mean anything. I did find this site that has the line you are referring to. Disclaimer: I know nothing about this site and haven't done business on this site but thought it might be a good comparison to see if you got a good deal.

      You may have found this site already:

      Hope that is of some help!

      1 Reply
      1. re: grnidkjun

        Thanks to both of you for your advice so far.. I'm still in a dilemma as to which ones to keep because the specs are wrong in the brochure I was looking at, which looked kind of up-to-date since it was a 2008 brochure, page 6...

        The actual specs are actually on their old site on the link below..

        Good thing I checked by actually wasting a bit of water and filling each to actually see how much it really held. Hence, what I really bought was a 24cm / 3L / 3.25 qt round, a 28 cm / 4.7L / 5 qt round, and a 31 cm / 4.7 L / 5 qt oval. Basically the larger round and the oval are the same size. Hence, I'm not sure there is a reason to keep both of them... unless of course, you think the 3.25 qt is too small for my general cooking purposes... I stated in the OP how many I usually cook for etc. Any thoughts?