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Is Le Creuet worth the price?

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I need to buy 5 - 7 qt. Dutch oven. Is it worth it to bite the bullet and spend money on the Le Cruet or are there other brands of equal quality which are less expensive? Anyone have any luck at Le Cruet outlet in Clinton CT.?

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  1. This response is likely to get me flamed here, but as an owner of many pieces of LC over the years, I have to answer your question: "Not anymore." Sadly, the Chinese have knocked off the best French enameled cast iron so effectively, that there is no real functional difference anymore. World Imports has a great DO in the size you want for $50 or $60. The Chinese haven't quite got the aesthetic down yet, though.

    6 Replies
      1. re: lexusalhambra

        lex: Pretty sure it's World Market, but maybe World Imports. Like Pier One used to be. They also have good Chinese-made enameled CI skillets for $19.95. All of it heavy stuff. I'm in Seattle, maybe there is no store where you are.

      2. re: kaleokahu

        There is one functional difference (aside from the LC lifetime warranty). I've used LC, Lodge and Tramontina. The sides of the lodge curve in at the base, providing a smaller cooking surface that is not very flat. The LC and Tramontina have sides that are closer to vertical, resulting in larger (and flatter) cooking surfaces. This helps when browning stuff prior to braise.

        1. re: bkling

          bkling: I'm sorry, I don't understand. Are you saying LC's pan bottoms are flat and others are not? And my LC have bottom-wall junctures have quite a radius to them, so are you saying that the Lodge bottoms are a lot smaller and the radius larger?

          1. re: kaleokahu

            I'm saying the lodge bottoms (on the inside of the pot) are smaller than for an LC of similar capacity. Also, aside from size, the bottoms in my LCs are much flatter than in the lodge pots I've had.

            1. re: bkling

              bkling: OK, I think I understand. As to the "small bottoms", some folks prefer a bigger radius/smaller bottoms for easy access with utensils and less sticking in the "corners", witness the popularity of evasees and chefs' pans. You (like me, apparently) prefer straighter sides and don't mind the "corners". I wouldn't call that a performance issue, but one of personal preference.

              Re: flatness... Are you referring to the surface that sits on the hob or the inside of the pan? Either way, that IS a performance issue. I've only had US-made Lodge bare CI campware, all of which was dead-true flat. Maybe their Chinese "partners" have let it slide with the ECI. That's too bad.

      3. In addition to the aformentioned, try Lodge Color and the like. You can also get a discounted Le Creuset at a store like TJ maxx and the like sometimes. Both are IMO much better options then paying retail for a le creuset...considering it is made of cheap materials anyway (enamel? ceramic? cast iron? cheap, which is why it can be replicated and sold by competitors for much less). One of those gourmet magazines has surely done a comparison that will likely confirm this. Check whatever you buy for chips/blemishes before you purchase.

        1. I think it is. But I've never used one of the knockoffs. I hear they chip a lot.

          Sometimes you can find a good price on eBay. I found a brand new large roaster last month for $99. They usually sell for $189. Here's a used 5.5 quart round French oven. As I write this it's at $66 with 1 day and 4 hours left to go. It looks as if it's in really good condition.

          http://cgi.ebay.com/Le-Creuset-Dutch-...

          Overall, it depends on whether you're the kind of person who generally likes to pay as little as s/he possibly can for something. I have a friend like that. It would cause him great emotional pain to pay for something from Le Creuset when he could have bought a cheaper alternative. He prides himself on being a cheapskate. "Cheap" is his central shopping principle.

          He ends up replacing everything he owns every six months to a year, because his "bargain" crapped out on him. He bought eight pairs of the same shoes one day at K-Mart. He spent, let's say, $60. Without telling him, I bought one pair of shoes that cost $60. He had worn his way through all of his cheap shoes long before I wanted to replace my one pair. And I only had to break in one pair of shoes.

          He's constantly buying cheap computers that all crap out on him.

          The long and the short of it is that no one can tell you what you should buy. You have to decide what's most important to you. I couldn't say whether those Chinese Dutch Ovens represent value. I've never used one.

          I bought a set of Le Creuset in 1979 which, by 1999, I had cooked to death. When I discovered the internet around that time, I discovered Le Creuset had a lifetime guarantee. They replaced my entire 1979 Flame set with a brand new set in Jade. I really started cooking again after that. That's the kind of thing I find it hard to put a dollar value on.

          Here are more 5.5 qt round ovens on ebay: http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=le+c...

          13 Replies
          1. re: Jay F

            Jay, I just wanted to compliment you on one of the BEST replies to anything I have seen on the cookware board. Thank you.

            1. re: Jay F

              Jay: You're generally right on things that wear out (like your friend's shoes). But LC's and its dealers' margins on these CI pots is HUGE. Witness the poster here in the last 24 hours who bought a LC oval DO on clearance for $40 that retails for nearly $300. Witness also the markdowns in Sur la Table's and W-S's 2010 holiday catalogues for LC and Staub of at LEAST 50%. They're still making money at HALF the price.

              I don't own one of the Chinese knockoffs (and I certainly won't defend their trade practices and industrial espionage), but I have examined the wares. There are really no salient differences anymore. If you pay 1/5 the price, and the piece lasts only 1/2 as long, even with no free replacement, you're probably ahead. This from a guy who recently bought a $75 copper pan and happily paid $275 to have it reconditioned.

              BTW, my LC chips just fine, too.

              1. re: kaleokahu

                In all this time, I've had one chip in a piece of LC, a 1/2" triangle that came out of a small saucepan a roommate let burn, back in 1979. The rest of mine got blackened on the interior bottom over time, but otherwise no chips.

                As for the current "sale" pricing, yeah, I noticed the W-S catalog with the Ocean LC. A 4.5 qt. is $200, with a MSRP of $355 (same for both Signature and Classic). I've only been paying attention to the prices again for the last few months, and every online retailer seems to offer the same price, across the board. Were things selling at full retail online prior to 2010?

                I'll be interested to know how many of the knockoffs are still in use in 2030.

                1. re: Jay F

                  JayF: "I'll be interested to know how many of the knockoffs are still in use in 2030."

                  Yeah, me too. By that time we'll probably be 100% owned by the Chinese. Not their fault. we let them do it.

                  1. re: Jay F

                    I will add this.. I have LC, One piece of Chantal.. and I had also tried to buy the Cuisinart version of an enamel cast iron pot to initially try and save.

                    The Chantal is still in nice shape.. but I don't bang any of them around.. it's been a decent pot though and purchased it at TJMaxx.

                    The two Cuisinarts I purchased, had both chipped and had enamel flakes in the bottom of the pot by the time I got them home from the store.
                    From the shelf into my basket they were fine.. at the register.. the lids were wrapped separately.. I drove home carefully.. I promptly returned those two and put the money into an LC. I've not had that issue yet (*knock on wood*)

                2. re: Jay F

                  I also thinkj Jay said this very well.

                  I'm the kind of person who generally likes to pay as little for something as I can - but this is a matter of necessity. If I want to have nice things, I have to stretch our dollars as far as they can go. I'm usually a very good shopper, I know prices, and I know a great deal when I see one.

                  That said, what I REALLY am is someone who likes to pay as little as possible for quality. I like to be able to keep my stuff for a long time and I know the value of paying for quality. I only own a few pieces of Le Creuset, but I love them and I'm glad I bought them. I've bought them all at outlets with a coupon, I would never pay full retail - but it's still worth the extra money to me.

                  1. re: flourgirl

                    +1. It is more fun to hunt brand products with discuount rather than replacing one cheap to another .

                    1. re: flourgirl

                      Well said flourgirl!! I adore my Le Creuset and think it was worth every penny. My 1st piece of LC was a gift purchased from Williams Sonoma, but my other pieces of LC I've purchased from the LC outlet with coupons when they are having a sale. I've gotten some unbelievable bargains that way. My outlet pieces work the same and are just as pretty as the one from Williams Sonoma. Even bargain priced, they are still expensive, but knowing that they have a lifetime warranty and knowing that Le Creuset doesn't hassle you when you have to use the warranty , makes a huge difference to me.

                    2. re: Jay F

                      As they say, "Buy quality and you only cry once."

                      1. re: Jay F

                        Does this mean that LC have only a 20 yr lifespan?

                        1. re: paulj

                          paulj: "Does this mean that LC have only a 20 yr lifespan?"

                          No, what I meant was that in 1999, Le Creuset replaced an entire set I'd bought in 1979.

                      2. I've used the knock offs and feel they work pretty well for a fraction of the price. Even if you bought 2-3 pieces over you cooking career it's still cheaper than 1 LC.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          I spent $198 in 1979 for a

                          4.5 qt. round French oven
                          2.5 qt. round French oven
                          10" frypan
                          20 cm saucepan
                          16 cm saucepan

                          In 1999, Le Creuset replaced all except the small saucepan for free. I think this has been a terrific value over 30 years.

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            Has anyone had the cheap knock-offs examined in a lab for lead, mercury, and arsenic? Most Chinese products are at least somewhat contaminated with heavy metals as they are common in the soil and water, especially because industrial processes rarely use drinking water when water is required.

                            I have one piece of Le Creuset from 1960 which is perfect except for a singe mark on its wooden handle. I also have nine other pieces (all different colors), three of which are dragged into VERY heavy usage (my 26 blue skillet, my 24 black round roaster, and my 18 flame round roaster). I bought the black roaster in 1994 and have used it at least weekly and often daily since then, and it's the only piece that shows any wear (the enamel on the bottom on the inside is fairly worn; I'm considering sending it back for replacement but it is an old friend). I'm not especially careful but none of my pieces are chipped.

                            I think you get what you pay for and I'd rather spend my money with a French company with a long and honorable tradition (and an excellent warranty) than give it to yet another no-name, no intellectual property, crappy warranty, untested Chinese company. The potential for heavy metal issues in something I put next to food all the time over many years seals the deal for me.

                            My next piece of LC will be what we call the "baby bathtub" -- the 15.25 quart oval roaster... we roast lots of chickens, two or three turkeys a year, and I do a lot of canning... I'm not sure "too big" is in my vocabulary, though at 27 lbs empty, maybe it should be. LOL

                            P.S. I've gotten two pieces of LC at thrift stores for <$20. I always look in that section FIRST. I'm not wild about paying full price and shop sales, but over 20-50 years, a couple of hundred bucks is not that much for a thing that brings so much pleasure.

                            1. re: DiaFun

                              Lodge makes its enameled cast iron cookware in China. Lodge enameled cast iron cookware are in compliance with California Proposal 65 which is the strictest:

                              http://www.lodgemfg.com/use-care-help...

                              Le Creuset is also in compliance with California Proposal 65.

                              http://www.lecreuset.ca/Care--Use3/FA...

                              There is no difference. These tests are done for countless other enameled cast iron cookware. Enameled cast iron cookware sold in the US have been tested. There is no foundation for lead poisoning from enameled cast iron coowkare sold in US. It is a spectulation based on some preceived notions.

                              Conversely, it is known that lead is used in lipstick -- intentionally and acceptable. I don't remember people worry about lipsticks 1/100th as much as cookware. I keep hearing people say that they won't use enameled cast iron or whatever cookware because of the (unfounded) potential lead poisoning, yet I have rarely heard anyone said that they would stop using lipsticks. Why? You are putting the lipstick right on your lip and swallow it everyday. People need to put things in perspective and have a better idea of what is what.

                              http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?...
                              http://www.latimes.com/health/fl-nbco...

                              1. re: DiaFun

                                I would also be concerned about potentially toxic heavy metals in pots coming from China...especially those which carry an unknown label. Rightly or wrongly, I suppose I'd be slightly more confident if the Chinese product carried a known label such as Cuisinart.

                                Like many others, I have 2 LeC Dutch ovens that were purchased >20 years ago. I use them all the time, and aside from very minimal discoloration on the bottom, they're like new. They clean up easily with Barkeepper's Friend, and the minimal discoloration mentioned above can be pretty much eliminated by an hour bleach soak. If the op can afford LeC, and is not an obsessive bargain hunter, LeC is the way to go.

                            2. The other posters have done an excellent job with your first question, so I'll answer the 2nd. ;-) No experience at the outlet in CT, but I have shopped several times (via telephone, I'm in St. Louis) at the Foley, Alabama outlet. I heart them something fierce. I've ordered seconds, almost exclusively, and have been very happy with them. It's usually a microscopic cosmetic flaw that makes them seconds - they cook beautifully. This time of year, the outlet stores usually run a 30% off sale + free shipping, which when coupled with the second-quality pricing, puts the cookware in the range of a nice off-brand. (My 2 cents - I've tried some of the off-brand enameled and have had problems with chipping/crackling. Target, I'm looking at you.)