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Mar 27, 2010 08:13 PM

Best Le Creuset starter pieces?

We are in the process of putting our wedding registry together, and are very excited about adding some Le Creuset pieces to our kitchen! I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the sizes and shapes out there, though, and wondered if people could share what their favorite 2-3 pieces are and why.

I know every cook and every household is a bit different, but here's a little about us:
- Primarily cook meals for two plus leftovers (so meals for 4-6, I guess?) with occasional dinner parties for 6-8; like to cook adventurously; 90% veggie or fish meals.
- Right now our cookware consists of miscellaneous hand-me down Pyrex dishes, one Emile Henry 2 qt. oval baker, a set of Farberware Millennium stainless copper-clad pans (1 qt., 3 qt, 6 qt, 10" saute pan); and a set of Lodge cast iron skillets in assorted sizes. No non-stick right now. We're planning to keep all of this in circulation, so ideally we'd complement but not duplicate too much if one of these pots or pans is just as effective.

What are your favorite must-have Le Creuset pieces, and what do you like to use them for? I'm also curious to know how similar or different the functions of the braiser and dutch oven are---if we have one in a given size, is it silly to have the other in the same size, or do they cook very differently?

Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated---it's a little daunting to try to sort it all out without knowing what kinds of things each piece might be a good fit for! Thanks!

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  1. Good luck on nuptials.

    1. The 5.5 quart round French oven is probably the ideal starter piece - and you can decide if you regularly need something bigger or smaller. I also have the 'wide' round french oven with lower sides and larger cooking surface which I think is more versatile than a 'braiser' shape if you are looking for a good multi-purpose shape. Size can only be determined on the size of your storage space and cooking needs.

      15 Replies
      1. re: knet

        knet - Do you cook a pork shoulder roast (around 4 -5 pounds) in the wide round? I guess you meant the 6.75 quart round wide round not 3.5 qt wide round. I am thinking about buying this but not sure if the side of the oven is high enough to accomodate the cut (The height of the 6.75 wide round is 4 inch vs 6.75 qt oval is 4.75 and 7.25 qt round is 5.25). Thanks:)

        1. re: hobbybaker

          Hi HB- Yes, I do roast pork and chicken in it and YES I actually meant 3.5 quart. round wide. It works beautifully for roasts. I have a big roasting pan to use if I choose to roast multiple chickens, turkey or larger cuts of meat but that is the exception rather than the rule in my home. What you want in any roasting pan is the lower sides to allow the dry heat of the oven to reach the greatest possible surface area of your roast so I don't think you need to be concerned about the height of the oven wall as much as the diameter. I use the 3.5 to roast a single chicken at least once a week and I always get a nice crispy skin.

          1. re: knet

            knet - Thanks. Can you close the lid on it when you have a pork shoulder in it ? I guess the height of the 3.5 round is 3.3 inch, so you can use it as a roasting pan for pork roast (witnout the lid on) but cannot use it for braising ( with lid on) as pork shoulder must have at least 4.5 inch.

            1. re: hobbybaker

              HI HB It is fine for roasting, I haven't braised a pork shoulder. I don't often do pork and when I do it is more likely chops, tenderloin or loin roast which don't require a lid. However, I have done braised ribs and other things, no problem closing the lid. It all depends on the size of the cut you are accustomed to cooking. Your ever-growing LC collection should have something suitable :}

              1. re: knet

                I am kind of considering to add a 6.75 Wide, but feels it is not necessary. I think the side is too short to make it my ultimate piece and sell all of others at Ebay:)

            2. re: knet

              Knet, do you think the 3.5 qt. low wide is redundant with the 3.5 braiser? The low, wide does have a smaller diameter for smaller amounts, but are they too close to have both, you think?

              1. re: blondelle

                Hi Blondelle - I do think the 3.5 wide round makes the braiser redundant but not sure if I'd feel that way in reverse if you see what I mean. I considered the braiser and decided my wide round French oven does that job so well that I don't need another version.

                1. re: knet

                  Thanks knet! If you could only have one of them, which one would you choose? I can though see making things in the 3.5 wide that I would feel the braiser too large for because of the larger bottom area. Not enough food to fill the whole bottom. The braiser is about 11.75" in diameter, and the low wide is 9" or 10" in diameter I think.

                  Oh heck, who am I kidding. I want every piece they make...LOL!

                  1. re: blondelle

                    Blondelle -

                    I know what you mean, I want ,want, want but then I remember that I have limited space and limited money for LC so hands down, no question at all I'd choose the round wide 3.5 if I could only have one and the braiser would be left in the store.

                    1. re: knet

                      Hi, knet and blondelle, I sometimes feel a SS suate pan and the 3.5 buffet casserole could be redundant to ME. I like saute/simmer or short braising type recipes a lot and have never felt inconvenience for the fact that I have no saute pan. Maybe it is me and it is because I have a 12 inch fry-pan and the buffet casserole. I know you guys are checking the redundancy between LCs, so it might not be relevant, but just my 2 cents:) My goal is also an "efficient kitchen" and avoid unnecessary redundency. My LC collections have not grown since 2007:) I once thought about adding 6.75 Wide but after some experiments I figured it is unnecessary and love 6.75 oval so much for all round meat pot:) By the way, knet, which LC did you give to your friend which you mentioned before?

                      1. re: hobbybaker

                        HB, I'm not sure you can really get a really good sear in a LC pot. Not the same as in A-C. If you're starting a dish where you need to sear something and then cover it for further cooking, would you really be able to do that in the LC buffet casserole?

                        1. re: blondelle

                          Don't get me wrong. Needless to say, I do not use LC buffet casserole if I want to only sear or saute, like steak. For that ofcourse I use my SS fry-pan or lodge bare cast iron pan (not a saute pan in case I own one). However, I get a good sear in LC buffet cassrole all the time because of its low side. That is what I am doing all the time for short braising. I sear the meat, take it out, and add liquid for degraze, return meat, and simmer, all in my LC buffet casserole. No problem at all. Don't you do the same with your 6.75 wide and your 3.5 buffet casserole, too? Do you sear meat rather with another pan? (If the surface of the meat is wet, it tends to stick, so I use paper kitchen towls to dry before browning.) When I use my 6.75 oval, I sometimes use my 12 inch frypan for browning and degrazing, depending on the shape of the meat, because the DO has limited surface to sear. However with my buffet casserole (or 6.75 wide if I ever own it) , I do everything with it, from searing to simmering as it has enough cooking surface. (and one less pan to be cleaned:) I have a great recipes using 8-9 chicken tighs. For that I really love to have this buffet casserole as I can put them all as a single layer, which is critical for short braising type recipes :) Oh, I have a link of my favorite one from the book, All About Braising. I cook it almost every other week. The recipe says 4 qt but 3.5 qt buffet casserole works perfectly. I hope your kitchen fix-up is already done, and you can try this one. so good. I know this is not a homecooking board but just as an example:)


                        2. re: hobbybaker

                          I say if you find all your cooking needs are met with the items you have, then you don't need anything else. Until the day that you DO need something else and you can always get it there. The magic of LC and all cast iron is its ability to maintain temperature. The flip side is that it will NOT react quickly to changes in heat. Therefore, I find both the saute pan and the LC necessary in my kitchen. There are many thing that I cook that require changes in temperature and LC is never going to respond to that very well.

                          1. re: knet

                            knet- I can imagine if I did not own the buffet casserole and a 12 inch fry-pan, I would have bought a saute pan. I sometimes thought about buying a d5 staute pan, or AC 6qt buffet casserole with larger bottom surface during this winter, but only when time comes. Until then, I am fine only with my AC 12 inch fry-pan to meet my need to quick heating or searing.....

                2. re: knet

                  I have probably 12 or more pieces of Le Creuset and my 5.5 round is THE most used of all, too.

            3. The best starter piece in my opinion is the 6.9 L round dutch oven. So versatile. I have given it as a wedding gift a few times and the recipients have always loved them. The workhorse in my kitchen. Not too big, not too small - just right. I find the 5 quart piece I have great too, but just a tad too small for most things.

              1. Thanks all---this is super helpful! We had tentatively picked out the 3.5 qt round, 5.5 qt round, 10" fry pan, and large rectangular baker....I'm going to check into the 6.75 as a possible alternative to the 5.5, though, and will see if W-S sells the wide round, since that seems like it could strike a nice balance between the braiser and the dutch oven.

                We are also in the highly unusual situation of planning a kitchen remodel at the same time we make this list, which is nice because we can design our storage space based on what we plan to keep in it---one reason we're trying to nail the "ideal" list down. Also makes it a bit challenging because we don't want to miss anything big and later realize we should have planned for it, though!

                6 Replies
                1. re: artemis78

                  artemis 78 - you said 90% of your meal is/is going to be vegis and fish. Are you plan to cook meat with your LCs?

                  The reason why I am asking is because I use my larger LC DO mainly cooking meat. I guess if you mainly cook fish and vegis with LC, shallower type vessels suit better your needs, maybe 3.5 qt wide oval which is currently on sale at WS for $129. Or you might consider 3.5 qt round wide or 3.5 qt buffet casserole. (The oval shape might fit better to the shape of fish depending on your recipes and ingredience.) My mom does not eat meat much anymore and mostly fish and vegis as you guys might do. I am going to give her the 3.5 qt oval wide of WS (This is WS exclusive shape. No other shops carry it.) for her purposes, which is a bit different from my or average person's needs. (If you cook soup & stew type of recipes many times, the buffet casserole is not suitable for this. The buffet casserole is more like a suate/simmer pan and a casserole. I love my 3.5 qt buffet casserole a lot. It is the most used piece mainly because I do not have any SS saute pan. ) You can make soup and stew types with wide round and wide oval just like you do with (normal) 3.5 qt round or oval.)

                  But if you want to cook things like pot roast, the deeper pots are generally better. I agree that most people want to start with 5.5 qt round or 7.25 qt round, then if you cook pot roast type of recipes, braising a relatively high/big roast in it, you might be better off picking up 7.25 qt round for max 8 people entertaining recipes.

                  So, it really depends on your meal plan. I have four LC DOs and love the combination for my various recipes. (a 2.0 round, a 3.5 round, a 6.75 oval, a 3.5 buffet casserole.)
                  If you cook rice/grain very often and have no rice cooker, I highly recommend 2.0 qt round DO. The best pot for the purpose with its heavy lid on. So much better than my 2.0 qt stainless steel All-Clad sauce pan. Rice cooked in LC DO tasts so much better than those cooked in other SS pans. The 2.0 qt round is kind of harder to get than 2.75 qt round, but to me the 2.75 qt round is too big for this purpose unless you are a family of six.

                  1. re: hobbybaker

                    Thanks hobbybaker---we very rarely cook meat at home and even more rarely in a way that might involve a LC dish (typically we grill it or else roast turkey at Thanksgiving) so that was one big question, given that many of the reviews talk about how great they are for searing meats, etc. So this is helpful!

                    Thanks also for the heads up on the wide oval 3.5 qt---our registry is at W-S, but for some reason this piece isn't listed at all in their LC section, so I had completely missed it! I found it by doing a specific search for it, and it's perfect for what we needed (in addition to currently being MUCH cheaper than the 3.5 round). Makes me wonder what else is hidden on their site that I'm missing, too! :)

                    1. re: artemis78

                      artmis78 - Yes, that was what I suspected. I believe your needs are very different from others, who mainly use LC DOs for cooking meat. I would stay with the sallower type at leat one. If you want to something bigger, consider a 6.75 qt wide round, too. The side of this piece (4 inch) is sometimes too short for a high/big chunk of meat (pork shoulder), but I believe you are not going to cook anything like that. I guess it might be more versatile for your needs than a 5.5 qt round. ( 6.75 qt wide round has significantly larger cooking surface than the 5.5 qt. round However, heavier. Believe it or not, it is heavier than the 7.5 qt round.) If you want to bake a non-knead bread, the (normal) 3.5 qt is the best size. the 3.5 wide's side is too short for the bread, in my opinion. Think about what can be your best combination. I would choose at least one for a shallower vessel. Depending on your needs, the (noraml) 3.5 qt and the 6.75 wide round can be a good combination for you, too, depending on the type of stove top. Good luck for your registry and wedding!

                      1. re: artemis78

                        I have also often used mine for braising vegetables and for any number of bean/lentil dishes so I don't think it's just for meat. I made a three bean soup today in the LC 3.5 and it was great. Anything that requires low, slow heat will do well in the LC so don't over look that when you make your decision. Perhsonally I think the oval is a bad shape, doesn't often fit well on a burner and is consequently not as versatile. I doubt that most LC users only cook meat.

                        1. re: knet

                          Hi, knet:)
                          - Totally agree LC is not just for meat. I used my 2.0 qt and 3.5 qt for non-meat recipes all the time. But my 6.75 oval is mostly for meat braised in oven. I did not mean most LC users only cook meat. What I said was there are others who mostly use LARGER LC for meat, whose needs might be different from OP's.
                          - I generally agree that the round shape is better for the stove top use in terms of even heating, depending on the type of stove top. However, it is not a 6.75 oval (12.5 x 9.75 x 4.75) but 3.5 oval wide. 3.5 oval wide is (11 x 8.75 x 3.5). I think 3.5 wide oval fits most of the stove top.
                          - My mom likes the 3.5 qt oval wide because the shape, which fits better to longer type of fishes. So, it depends on the needs and personal preference, I guess.

                          1. re: hobbybaker

                            Yes it is all a very personal decision based on what you cook and of course what cooktop/oven you are using. A lot of stove tops have 8 - 9" as the largest burners. That would be too small for an oval with 11" diameter. So again, something that becomes a very unique, personal decision based on your kitchen.

                            I really didn't want to start a 'collection' of LC, I'd have been happy with just one that best suited my needs. However, I ended up with four. Gave one away to a friend who had none; and kept three. I have 5.5 in white; 3.5 round wide french oven and the 2.75 both in black onyx. It's one two many but I love them so much I can't bear to give away another one! I keep telling myself I'll find some special use for each one that will justify its continued existence in my kitchen.

                  2. I would recommend the 7.25 qt round French oven. I love mine and it is my new favorite wedding gift to give. It may seem large, but it is perfect for a batch of soup ( with leftovers to freeze), stews, pulled pork, roasting a whole chicken, chili; endless possibilities. I typically serve 3. I just got the 3.5 braiser/casserole which is great for sauteing chicken, then simmering with a sauce, and serving in the pan for presentation. I originally picked up the LC 12" cast iron skillet but the feedback from Chows led me to exchange it for the enamel braiser. So far I am quite happy with it. I would like the Lodge CI skillet but am afraid to use on my ceramic stovetop.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: lulou23

                      Hi, lulou23, I remember you:) I was the one of the chows to respond to your post:) Happy to hear that you are so far happy with 3.5 braiser/casserole:)