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Sep 10, 2010 11:36 AM

Vintage Enameled Cast Iron Cookware (Descoware, Cousances, Etc.)

I've been looking at pots on eBay and other web sites: Descoware, Cousances, Dru Holland, Dansk Kobenstyle (not sure if this one is cast iron or steel) and early LC. Many of the items I've seen have taken a beating, but some appear to be in really good shape for their age. If you are familiar with any of these lines, I'd like to hear what you think about them, particularly Descoware and Cousances, but also the others. I know that Julia Child thought highly of Descoware and supposedly preferred it to LC. The prices certainly are tempting vs. buying new LC or Staub.

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  1. Cousances is an old name, now under Le Creuset if I am not mistaken. I have two of their ovens (brought over from France more than 20 years ago) and they work perfectly...

    5 Replies
    1. re: penthouse pup

      I've got vintage Le Creuset, Descoware, Dru Holland and Dansk. The Le Creuset and Descoware seem to hold up the best--it's easy to find virtually perfect examples on Ebay. It seems that the Dru--although it's lovely; I've got three casseroles in blue, and a large baking platter--chips more easily, as I rarely see a totally unblemished one of these. I have a Dansk paella pan and a sort of lasagne thingie, but they're lightweight and not nearly in the same class as the others.

      1. re: Beckyleach

        Oh, one more thing: the interior condition really is far more important that if there are a few chips or blemishes on the exterior (lid, handles, etc. ). If the interior is scorched, several scratched from some fool using metal utensils, or deeply chipped, the cooking experience goes out the window, I think...I've got one Le Creuset (a 3 quart round) that I bought even though I knew it had a "rough" interior (it was really cheap, at Goodwill), hoping I could clean it up. Nope. Food sticks to the rough surface and it's such a bitch to clean, I don't use it any more...

        1. re: Beckyleach

          Thanks, Becky. A major selling point for Descoware was its lighter weight compared to other brands (about a third lighter). There's a school of thought that says that thicker walls and heavier is better for long oven braising and roasting, but my aging wrists are wishing for lighter!

          One more question: What do you think is the minimum size oval pot to roast a chicken in? Staub's chicken roasters are 5.5 quarts. I've seen some nice Descoware 4.5 quart roasters (about 11" x 8.5" x 4.25", not including the handles). Would that be large enough? There's a larger size Desco roaster, but good ones come up for auction less often.

          1. re: cheesemaestro

            I don't have any oval pots! Clearly, I need to hie me hence to Ebay. ;-)

            So, I can't answer your question on that one. Sorry.

          2. re: Beckyleach

            Yep once the inside is truly cashed they are no good for cooking but make a lovely planter.

      2. cheesemaestro: "If you are familiar with any of these lines, I'd like to hear what you think about them, particularly Descoware and Cousances, but also the others."

        We have a few old Descoware pieces, and they are excellent, at least as good as our later-vintage (May of this year) Le Creuset. In all of the Descoware, the enamel of the inside cooking surface has crazed (but not chipped), but that is probably due to our early youthful ignorance about putting a cold pan onto a hot electric coil burner or putting cold water into a still-hot pan. Overall, the quality of Descoware was very high; it's a shame that Le Creuset killed Descoware and shut down the manufacturing facility after purchasing the company.

        However, for finish quality and cooking properties, the best enameled cast iron we have bears the Copco brand, a vanity line commissioned by the founder of Copco (and later OXO Good Grips), the legendary Sam Farber. Farber commissioned the late designer Michael Lax to design a full line of enameled cast iron, and had the pieces manufactured for Copco on a Danish island by Morsø, a company that is a major player in the cast iron stove industry.

        The new owners of Copco discontinued the cast iron cookware line. However, cast iron cookware using the same Michael Lax designs is still made and sold by AGA, the British stove maker; it is unlikely that the AGA cookware is made by Morsø; but I do not know if AGA manufactures it or merely markets its enameled cast iron cookware. If the new AGA cast iron using the Michael Lax designs is as good as the Morsø-manufactured Copco cast iron -- I cannot tell you whether it is or isn't -- it would be excellent.

        A search on eBay for "Michael Lax" sometimes will turn up Copco cast iron cookware. The prices often are a bargain for very excellent enameled cast iron.

        See also

        3 Replies
        1. re: Politeness

          I didn't include Copco on the list, since I'm familiar with it. I have had a Michael Lax Copco dutch oven for years, and it has seen a lot of use in my kitchen. As you point out, the quality is excellent. The only thing I don't like about my piece is its lid. Lax designed it with two square loop handles that fit exactly over the handles on the pot. It's difficult to lift the lid when it is blazing hot, because the handles are small. You need both hands to do it, plus a place to set the lid down if you are going to give the pot a quick stir. It's so much easier (and safer) when there is a center knob/handle on a lid. Other than that, I would not hesitate to recommend Copco.

          1. re: cheesemaestro

            I've alternately blessed and cursed that Michael Lax lid over the more than 35 years I've been cooking with it (an orange 4-quart size). On the plus side, the lack of a central knob means it can fit into a small oven with more clearance, and the pot can have something else stacked on it when in storage. But you do have to use both hands, well protected, to do anything with it during cooking.

          2. re: Politeness


            I have Le Creuset, Descoware, Cousances, and Copco cookware in my kitchen. I prefer the Copco for the quality of its construction and excellent design. Descoware is 2nd, and Cousances and Le Creuset bring up the rear.

          3. AFAIK Cousances is made in the LC factory - it's the same thing. I bought a Cousances 4.8 litre oval roaster about 9 years ago new at a hypermarket in Calais for about 40 euros - quite a bit cheaper than Le Creuset for the same thing! I use it all the time - for stews, it handles the no-knead bread no probs, made a huge risotto the other day etc. Can't see why you'd spend like 5 times more for LC

            1. I almost forgot to update you all. I purchased a Descoware oval roaster (yellow/citron) on eBay. It's got one tiny chip on the rim of the cover; otherwise the inside and outside are in near perfect condition. It's a bit smaller than I would have liked, but I'm sure it will be put to good use this fall and winter.

              1. I have a wood-handled Belgique 6" saucepan, a 6" all-cast Descoware saucepan, a wood-handled Descoware 10" skillet, and a Descoware grill pan that qualify under your question. All at least 30 years old and in great shape. Cornflower yellow color on 3 of the 4.

                I also have about a dozen LC pieces from the '90s in the ubiquitous blue.

                I have to say that the enamel on my Descoware and Belgique appears heavier and smoother (and the colors look DEEPER, if that makes sense to you) than the that on my LC. I have had almost no chipping or discoloration on the older pieces, but an unsettling amount on the LC. In all cases, the LC is lighter in weight for equivalent sizes.

                You may find that many of the older pieces have enameled BOTTOMS, my D & B pieces all do, rather than bare cast iron. I actually like that, but for the fact that the skillet has a bottom rim, the enamel from which has worn (not chipped) in places.

                Hope this helps.

                5 Replies
                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Thanks for your response. The Descoware oval roaster that I just bought (see my entry just above yours) does indeed have an enameled bottom. I'm hoping that won't be a problem on my glasstop range, although I expect that the roaster will see more oven than stovetop use. (Glasstop manufacturers recommend against using glass cookware, like the old Visions line, as the glass supposedly can fuse to the glasstop under high heat. Enamel is basically a form of superhard glass.)

                  I'm surprised that your LC pieces are lighter than your Descoware for equivalent sizes. A big selling point for Descoware was that it was claimed to be about 35% lighter than other enameled cast iron cookware available at the time. Perhaps LC in the '50s was heavier than in the '90s.

                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                    Sure. I have my older pieces at a beach house that has a radiant glass cooktop, and I've had no problems with glass-on-glass. Nor with the rimmed skillet being up off the deck a mm or two.

                    I have no vintage LC to compare with my vintage Descoware, Belgique as far as weight goes. Maybe there was a modern trend toward lightening. They both work great.

                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                      cheesemaestro: "The Descoware oval roaster that I just bought (see my entry just above yours) does indeed have an enameled bottom. I'm hoping that won't be a problem on my glasstop range ..."

                      Partial comfort and assurance: We have Descoware, enameled on the bottom. It has never performed below flawlessly on our "glass"top cooktops. Mostly, we have used the pieces on induction cooking areas. However, I an pretty certain that we used the Descoware on the ribbon radiant side of our former half-induction, half-ribbon radiant cooktop, and without a problem.

                      1. re: Politeness

                        Thanks. I'm feeling more confident that I made a good choice. I should point out that there is a thin ridge around the pot's bottom perimeter. Only the ridge rests directly on the cooktop. Most of the bottom is slightly raised above it.

                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                          Yes, ours has that same ridge. It sort of gives a lie to the oft-heard maxim, "the pan must have a perfectly flat bottom," doesn't it?