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Nov 6, 2009 01:40 PM

Oval v. round Dutch/French/oven

I was looking for an enamaled cast-iron Dutch/French oven (or casserole or cocette or whatever you want to call it). I assumed, without much thinking about it, that I was looking for a round one. Then I saw the KitchenAid 6-1/2-Quart Cast-Iron Oval Casserole at a surprisingly reasonable price (presumably made in China, oh well). Oh, I'd like to be able afford a Le Creuset, but I'd also like to be able to afford a lot of things. Anyway, I have two questions.

1. Is there a reason to prefer round or oval? Are there some things that would be awkward to cook in one rather than the other? I think of casserole recipes as somehow naturally fitting into a oval dish and a pot roast naturally fitting into a round one. But I don't really know what difference it makes.

2. Are there quality or other problems with the KA that I should know about?


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  1. Staub makes a much better cocotte than Le Creuset (I did a side by side comparison braise in the oven; also worked in several restaurant kitchens in France and they all prefer Staub). Staub is thicker and thus ensures a more even distribution of heat. Yes all these are expensive products but consider that they can last you a lifetime (and your children's lifetime, and your grand-children's lifetime, etc.; they are indestructible). Also consider that IMHO, quality here really makes a *huge* difference. This is one place where I would spend money (as opposed to say non-stick skillets).

    5 Replies
    1. re: chickenluv

      I hadn't known about Staub--they're not sold at places where I can afford to shop. :-(

      BTW, I have a 30+ year old Le Creuset enameled cast-iron skillet with a black matte interior. I don't if the it's significantly different than current incarnations (it does not have the current incarnation's "helper handle opposite the full handle). Is the black interior surface of the Staub cocette the same sort of stuff? If so, that would seem to be a good thing.

      I'm still also interested in the difference made by round v. oval--when one would prefer one over the other. I guess round is better when stirring (I made a ragu recently), but I suspect that is only a minor convenience.

      PS. I certainly agree that I wouldn't spend big money on a non-stick coating. No matter how expensive, the stuff scratches if a metal implement so mush as looks at a non-stick coating from three rooms away.

      1. re: jmnorris

        Hi again,
        Re: staub interior, yes it is cast iron not enamel like LC. I have seen the LC interiors "craze" a bit with a lot of use (lots of spidery lines appearing especially at angles). In my experience cast iron is more non-stick than enamel (it is, after all, the non-stick before there was non-stick).

        The oval cocotte is good for items that aren't round. For example, a chicken. In France, I have had Bresse chickens (very fatty and delicious), baked in oval cocottes- this was not a nicely browned bird, so the skin wasn't appealing, but the flesh itself was probably one of the most succulent things I have *ever* eaten. The cocotte seals in a lot of moisture so you get an almost braised result without the additional liquid, so the product bakes in its own juices. There is in fact a technical term in French Cookery for cooking in a closed receptacle in an oven, but it is escaping me.

        I have also prepared cote de veau (rib of veal) in an oval staub. The shape accommodates the bone. Because veal is a very delicate product (white meat) the closed cocotte is an ideal way to ensure you end up with a juicy morsel instead of stringy dried out bits. I would imagine a pork tenderloin would work beautifully as well.

        I have used oval Staubs on stove tops and found heating to be, interestingly enough, very even. Intuitively, one would think that this would not be the case since the heating element doesn't cover the entire bottom, but the thickness of the iron on the staub does marvelous work of distributing heat. Again, this has not been my experience with LC, especially on the stove top.

        As for affordability, as a poster below suggests, I would try online sources, especially around sale times. I bet this holiday season is just going to be packed with deals on all kinds of things. I know that I have gotten as much as 50% off in sales; stores get rid of discontinued colors when a new line comes out. Since to me the most important thing is the effectiveness in the kitchen (not in having a matching set of cocottes), I have no issue with buying the less popular colors in exchange for discounts.

        Good Luck.

        1. re: chickenluv

          I'm not going to address your *belief* that Staub is "much better" than LC -- there have been MANY *independent* studies and comparisons that indicate there are NO perceptible differences in performance. It is up to the OP to do their own research and reach the same conclusion. (It never fails to amaze me what marketing, viral or otherwise, can do to people's perceptions.)

          I will point out, however, that you are incorrect in stating that the Staub interior is "not enamel like LC." It is in fact enamel, as per Staub's own website:

          "All Staub products are enameled on the inside and out, *including* the Black Matte finish."

          1. re: Joe Blowe

            This is a good point. I have both brands in my kitchen and the inside of the Staub is so completely different than the LC that I assumed different materials. Makes sense that there would be enamel so that one can cook with acidic ingredients (toms, etc.). Nevertheless, the inside texture is completely different and in my experience helps keep things from sticking better than LC; I have had things burn and stick in the LC, never in the Staub.

            On another note, I've never seen an advertisement for Staub. I don't watch TV and I haven't seen them advertise on the Internet so I am not sure what your marketing comment is about since you don't know me. Pretty bizarre that you cannot just make your point without stooping to being patronizing, it makes you look a bit insecure, you know? Everyone has their opinion. Perhaps we can all share our experience to everyone's benefit without stooping to being petty?

            My recommendation to the OP is based on experience comparing both products side by side in my kitchen and on working in kitchens like Atelier (Robuchon) in Paris as well as Ledoyen. Both use Staub. Now, granted, *they* may be biased by marketing, but I do find the predominance of Staub in the French professional kitchen striking.

            1. re: chickenluv

              I can't argue with your experience, and I do think Staub is nice stuff; but when I last visited Dehillerin, supposedly Paris's most august professional cookware shop, about 5 years ago, the only enameled cast iron ovens on display were by Le Creuset. (Maybe they had a secret stash of Staub somewhere, but I didn't investigate.) As for marketing, Staub may not be heavily advertised in the US print media, but it's featured at high-end cookware stores like Sur La Table. In France it's endorsed by celebrity chef Paul Bocuse, and some styles have even had his signature cast into the lid. And of course, it acquires a certain cachet from being discussed on boards like this!

    2. Round ovens fit on stovetop burners more efficiently. I will (at some point) invest in a round one. That said, I have a Staub 5.5-liter oval cocotte (complete with the cute little rooster handle!) and I love it. My Staub was purchased through a good deal on Amazon (I also have a 5-l soup pot). I am pleased with both pieces. However, I would be very happy with Le Creuset, too.

      Here's a photo of the handle to my cocottee!

      3 Replies
      1. re: nofunlatte

        My only oval FO is quite small, nofun (the 3.5 quart LC). I love it, and I find that as long as I give the pot time to heat up properly before adding food, I have no problems. It doesn't seem to take too long to me, and I don't have issues with hot spots in it. I was thinking of getting a larger oval and was wondering if you found problems with the 5.5 on the round burner?

        Btw, I am a former Staub fan who has gone over to "the dark side". I have invested in a lot of LC, and I love it. But I was looking at one of the rooster pots the other day and I was severely tempted!

        1. re: Normandie

          Hi Normandie, I have not found problems with larger ovals on round burners (induction and gas), but I use Staub, not LC. IMHO, this is where you will see the biggest difference in quality and where the thickness of the Staub will really show up.

          1. re: chickenluv

            Thanks, chicken. I noticed since I posted the question to you that in MTAFC, Julia Child in fact suggests that the larger of the two FOs/DOs she recommends having be a larger *oval*. (I think her preference was about 8 quarts or so.) So I'm guessing the key is in the conductivity of the CI and, yes, giving it enough time heat up.

            I haven't noticed any performace advantage that way in either my Staubs or my LCs. To me they seem different in appearance, but equal in quality to me. I'm one of those people who prefers the LC simply because of the light interior in the FOs (their customer service, too, but that's a non-food issue). I find the lighter interior to be especially helpful if the pot is in the oven and I don't want to pull it out to check the food. Burner-top doesn't matter as much, to me, because the hood has halogen lights that allow me to see the food well, so I suppose that's why the dark interior of the LC skillets doesn't bother me.

            But this discussion just goes to show once again we each have different priorities for our equipment based on our needs and habits. I don't think anybody can lose with either of these pots, though.

      2. I have both round and oval Le Creuset. If I had to keep only one I'd keep the oval. While it's true that a round one fits more closely on a burner, that's relatively minor. More significant is the fact that the oval one can accommodate something like a leg of lamb where the round cannot. They're equally good for things that don't involve one large item. So the oval wins.

        1 Reply
        1. re: BobB

          Pot roasted leg of lamb is sole reason I want a large oval CI pot and one day this single meal is going to cost me an awful lot of cash :(

        2. If theKitchenAid price was around $50 it's a bargain. I purchased a KA 5 Quart oval for that amount and am happy, Where I live a Le Crueset 6 qt round is $340. Only time will tell whether my chose was wise. I am not worried. Remember, it is chef first, and equipment second.

          Other posters have dealt with the notion of oval vs round.

          1. Thanks for all the replies. Here are my conclusions so far.

            1. Round v. Oval

            There are more oblong foods too long fit into a round pot than there are round foods too wide to fit into an oval pot. Round may be more traditional for stews and ragus, but that's more a matter of tradition rather than function.

            2. Le Creuset v. Staub

            A. Staub may contain more iron -- or maybe they can just get away with charging more. More iron may be an advatange -- or maybe LC has enough.

            B. Staub may have higher quality enamaling which is more resistant to chipping -- or maybe they can just get away with charging more.

            C. Staub's lids have an ice cube well with those knobby things underneath making the pot more self-basting. In this respect, it is more like LC's so-called Doufeu than like LC's so-called French Ovens. Self-basting is good -- or maybe its not. Coook's Illustrated didn't like the LC Doufeu. There was more liquid left after braising which lead to thinner, less flavorful sauces. Maybe this is a real problem or maybe CI is full of it. Maybe there are other foods where the self-basting lid is more successful, or a self-basting lid is just a gimmick. Maybe CI's problem could be solved by forgoing the ice cubes, or maybe not. Maybe that's enough maybes, or maybe not.

            3. KitchAid v. LC/Staub

            One person reported being happy with a KA dutch oven.

            4. LC/Staub v. my checkbook

            My heart says "Staub or LC". My checkbook says "Ekco".

            1 Reply
            1. re: jmnorris

              I'm contemplating the same purchase and have been swayed to the Staub side of the debate. I've also found their products to be no more expensive than LC, maybe you need to shop around? While I don't plan to use water or ice for the "doufeu effect" 9too much trouble!), I do prefer the presence of the basting spikes. All of my older cast iron camp stoves have these and they seem to work great, and at one point I'm pretty sure Alton Brown recommended that cast iron have them, which is enough of a recommendation to make me do nearly anything!