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Le Creuset... Am I paying for the name?

Hello everyone,

To throw it out there I'm completely new to enameled cast iron, never owned one, no experience with them or brands, just want to be informed :) So today I went to my local Sur La Table with full intentions to walk out with the highly regarded Le Creuset Fennel Wide Oval French Oven, 3½ qt. for 129 bucks. I spent all last night reading forums and everyone seemed to agree that it would last a lifetime, was great, made in France great quality, etc etc.. While staring at them in the store and seeing the other brands, particularly the Sur La Table brand had a 8 qt oval French Oven for $109.00, it occurred to me that no one exactly stated "why" Le Creuset is the best. Is it the best cause its made in France compared to almost all the others including Lodge are made in China? And if thats the reason is French iron better then China iron? Is it because Le Creuset has been around the longest therefore other brands haven't had the time to gain years of ownership reviews? I'm just kinda confused on what exactly makes Le Creuset last decades longer then other brands. Does anyone have any experience with the Sur La Table brand or Lodge compared to Le Crueset that offer some insight? I love the idea of being able to pass this down to my daughter, and I'm a full believer of buy cheap buy twice, if Le Creuset is the clear winner Im not arguing and Ill be next in line to get one, if its Lodge ill be there too! If the Sur La Table brand is just as good then I'm all for saving money :) Here is 3 links to the 3 in debate, and ty for any help it is very much appreciated!! I'm all ears!

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-EC6D33-Ca...

http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO...

http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO...

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  1. "everyone seemed to agree that it would last a lifetime, "

    I don't think that true. Most people would say that Le Creuset has good warranty. There are many posts about Le Creuset customers have broken Dutch Ovens and that they are able to exchange new ones for free or at a discount price. If anything these stories show Le Creuset cookware do not last a lifetime.

    "the reason is French iron better then China iron"

    It is definitely not the iron. If anything, the argument for Le Creuset is the enameled surface.

    "I'm a full believer of buy cheap buy twice"

    Except the Lodge Color cookware are sold at 1/4th of those of Le Creuset.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I think all 3 are enameled though right? And as far as lodge being 1/4 of the cost if it is of equal value in craftsmanship or close to equal I would gladly buy that instead that's what has me so confused on why Le Creuset is so much more then the others, what makes it so much more, the name? Am I paying for the Armani of cookware?

      1. re: cookingal01

        Yes, all three you showed are enameled cast iron. Let me argue for both sides.

        For Lodge/Tramontina/Chefmate:
        Lodge Color (enameled) is considered a very good product at a much lower price point. Lodge Color, Tramontina, and Chefmate are the three enameled cast iron cookware recommended by America's Test Kitchen

        http://mikeshowalter.com/the-tramonti...

        I am also sure you have read the great reviews of Lodge Color on Amazon.

        For Le Creuset:
        Le Creuset enameled layers are (supposively) more chip resistant, and Le Creuset has a better return policy when the cookware is broken. (it appears people were able to get a free exchange for a broken Le Creuset, now the they are able to get one at a reduced price) So you are paying more now, but you may be paying less in the long run.

    2. lodge is not made in china.......and is over 100 years old and made in tennesee
      le creuset has been around since 1925
      and i dont know how old staub is...
      and yes u do pay for some of the name...le creuset and staub..for instance..
      but u are also paying for quality..like u said ..if taken care of correctly --your kids and possibly grandkids can use them...
      does that justify 129$ for the pan?

      12 Replies
      1. re: srsone

        The Lodge enameled cast iron cookware are made in China.

          1. re: srsone

            Here:

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

            Nonetheless, the Lodge Color (enameled) cast iron is considered a very good product.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Thanks Chem for your help so far, it is appreciated, I think I will look into the Lodge a little more. Thank you!

              1. re: cookingal01

                I post a for-and-against argument up above.

                1. re: cookingal01

                  I have purchased a kitchen aid enameled cast dutch oven for a fraction of LC and it works very well

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  hmm..do they just assemble it in china?
                  or is it completely from china?
                  i have lodge regular cast iron...
                  and one le creuset 3.5 qt..(i got it at tuesday morning for 99$)

                  1. re: srsone

                    For the Lodge Color enameled cast iron coowkare:

                    The cast iron is made in China, the porcelain material is made in France and the final application is in China. I read that a long time ago, so I don't have all the sources right now, but here is something:

                    "chip-resistant, enamel, imported from France"

                    http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Kitchen-H...

                    1. re: srsone

                      Chinese factories have been making cast iron for hundreds of years, possibly longer than LC or Staub, and definitely longer than Lodge in Tennessee.

                      The quality question revolves around the enamel coating. I have had LC for 40 years, and they have chipped or discolored, or become spidery.
                      I have had 2 Staubs for for 5 years, and one piece broke when it fell. No warranty there.
                      I have had Batali and Kirkland for 5 years, and both are excellent, and fully warranted against breakage or spiders or discoloration by the seller.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        "Chinese factories have been making cast iron for hundreds of years, possibly longer than LC or Staub, and definitely longer than Lodge in Tennessee."

                        The first china came from China as well, but that doesn't mean that the china coming out of China today is the same quality as what was produced 400 years ago. Its doesn't mean that if today you wanted the best china you would buy made in China, that's for the mass market. They may still be able to make Ming quality, but that's not what's being sold in stores today.

                        The same is true of cast iron, just becaue they cast iron first or sooner, doesn't mean they have developed the best technology over the years. Although I have more first hand knowledge in areas of cast iron not related to cookware, China had and still has to some extent, a lot of quality issues with cast iron. As American companies have moved production to China, they have brought some technology with them and that has made a lot of improvement, but the quality is still not there yet.

                        Manufacturing in China is all about economics, not about quality, as long as people will sacrifice quality for cost, the made in China model works. Once you hold those products to the same quality standards as those made in the US or EU, the economics start to crumble.

                        1. re: mikie

                          mikie: Your points about the inventing country not necessarily being the standard-bearer of the state of the art are well taken.

                          "Manufacturing in China is all about economics, not about quality, as long as people will sacrifice quality for cost, the made in China model works. Once you hold those products to the same quality standards as those made in the US or EU, the economics start to crumble."

                          Agree with the first sentence. I'd like to agree with the second, too, but I can't. The technologies of "high standard" EU and US CI are old, and easily duplicated. They are **manufacturing** technologies, after all, and we don't do much of that anymore. The latest-generation Chinese CI stuff is like a Nissan compared to their older "Datsun". They're getting better all the time, and they're going to figure out the last few tricks to better quality. They keep their currency value 'way low, pay their workers dirt, and seduce our corporations with low labor costs and lassez-faire regulation.

                          Now, if they were held to the same wage, environmental and safety standards with a properly-valued currency, THEN the model is is finished.

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            "Now, if they were held to the same wage, environmental and safety standards with a properly-valued currency, THEN the model is is finished."

                            Of course, a poorer country will have a lower wage. Look at India, my company outsources to India. Indian's wages are not exactly higher than Chinese wages. If these conumer products are not made in China, they will be made in Indian, if not India, then Brazil, if not Brazil,.... The point is that these products/jobs are outsourced for good. As for environmental standards, that is the same for poorer countries too. China, India, Brazil... As for properly valued currency, well, I think our country lost some credibilities in the recent move to print a $600 billions to pay our debt while inflating the currency.

            2. I'm going to let others address your main question but I'd like to suggest that 3-1/2 quart is awfully small. There's just the two of us but I wouldn't want that size.

              3 Replies
              1. re: c oliver

                Yes I do agree hehe, but if the quality surpasses the others I am willing to let others starve.. Lol just kidding :) just thought I'd throw in some humor hehe.

                1. re: c oliver

                  We use a 2.75 Qt Staub cocotte all the time. It's perfect for just the two of us. YMMV.

                  1. re: KansasKate

                    I am with you Kate. The size highly depends on what you want to cook and how you use it.

                    I use my 2.0qt Le Creuset all the time for grains, rice, vegis, and a small amount of soup for two. It is almost used everyday. more than the larger 6.75 qt which is used twice weekly basis. I know I can use my 2.0qt SS All-Clad saucepan for those, but it is not what I reach out. DO makes difference .

                2. I got an LC that is oval... Looks like about 6 qts . Yes, whoever got it for me paid for the name but I love the pan and will never wonder or wish for something else. It is in "flame" btw

                  1. cookingal01: IMO, yes, you would be paying for the LC name. And the guarantee. And the trendy/matching colors. And the wide product range.

                    Here are some other "reasons" most frequently given in threads here on CH to justify paying 3-5x more for LC or Staub, and my opinion whether each makes a difference in performance or longevity:

                    1. The enamel -- There seems to be a strong feeling here that the enamels of LC and Staub resist chipping better than Chinese-made, but both chip, and both cook just fine. There are a few alarmists who believe the Chinese enamels are somehow unhealthy, but I have seen nothing resembling proof.

                    2. The weight -- Some say the LC and Staub are thinner, and therefore weigh less and come to temperature in the oven faster. But thinner CI hotspots worse than thicker. There is really little consensus on how much this matters.

                    3. The fit and finish. Some say the lid/pan tolerances are tighter/closer on LC than Chinese, but I can tell no real difference. Also little consensus. No performance issue.

                    4. The knobs. Some say the Chinese CI comes with knobs that melt at lower temperatures. LC knobs melt, too, and if you plant to put them in ovens over 400F, you should replace the knobs with SS anyway (@ $10 each).

                    Of course, you may prefer not to support companies who ship jobs to China or further unbalance US trade, but those really have nothing to do with performance or value. Likewise, you might find more satisfaction from passing on a pan from a company with a long history, rather than a jobbed pan that might never be seen again after. Again, not performance issues.

                    In the not-so-distant past, like maybe 30 years ago, ECI was a much more special thing. As such it was often collectible, and held value. Since that time, it has been mass marketed, and so the values of new ECI are generally not what they once were, i.e., heirloom.

                    Depending on what you're cooking on now, you are likely to be very pleased with the oven performance of either LC or Chinese-made.

                    28 Replies
                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      The best argument for LC is the warranty really.in my opinion.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Chem: It--the warranty--may be the only thing that saves LC. That and perhaps variety.

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          So what happend to the warranty on your LC disscussed in other thread ? I am curious. Please keep us posted on your experience.

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            It is odd. I read all these wonderful stories about LC lasts for 50+ years, and then I also read stories like "OMG, my LC enamel has cracked within a month!"

                            kaelokahu. I wonder if you are just too rough with your cookware. :P

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            I don't know anything about Lodge but LC is lighter than other knockoffs and Staub. Any less single lb matters when I put into/out from the oven for cooking as I am a small and weak person. LC is easier to work with especially when the pot is big as 6.75 qt or so.

                            EDIT: I don't have any hot spots problem with my LC. How do you know Staub has ? or other knock-offs don't?

                            1. re: hobbybaker

                              We have a few pieces of Staub: 2 cocottes, a braiser, a fry pan and a grill pan. Haven't noticed any hot spots or other problems. In fact we love. The semi-nonstick interior is easy to clean and seems to become more nonstick with use.

                              1. re: KansasKate

                                Thank you Kate. That is what I thought with Staub because Staub is heavier than LC.

                                I disagree with Kaleo and I think neither LC or Staub has hot spots problems.

                                I am interested in buying a small staub if I see a good price :) Hopefully dark green (basil) or light green (pesto).

                            2. re: kaleokahu

                              "LC knobs melt, too,"

                              Actually, according to the Le Creuset web page, their knobs are phenolic plastic. Phinolic, or as some oldtimers may know it Bakelite, is a thermosetting plastic and therefore will not melt. It will however experience thermal shock and degredation and can blister and crack if exposed to temperatures above about 350°F. That preheated oven thing (thermal shock) really gets it.

                              Just trying to keep all the facts technically correct.

                              1. re: mikie

                                mikie: I stand corrected on melt-vs-blister&crack. This may come as a shock to those who think I slam LC at every turn, but I have actually never had any problem with the phenolic knobs on my LC. But I don't put them in the oven at 400+, either.

                                Speaking of which, mikie, if it's the thermal shock that does the damage, would the knobs do better if you preheated your lid along with your oven?

                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  We put the LC lids into 500 degree ovens on a regular basis and have had no problem with the knobs.

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    I cover my knob (!?!) with a double layer of aluminum foil when baking the no-knead bread recipe, and it works fine, no knob issue. One time I had the pot in the oven (for a reason that escapes me) and turned up the oven to pre-heat at 500. Knob was uncovered. Stank up the house for a couple hours. But the knob itself wasn't much worse for wear - a little shiny on one side, but that's it.

                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                      I think whatever coating there was on mine burned off years ago so no smell or problem of any kind. Do you really think the foil makes a difference?

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        I've wondered about that .. seems the tin foil would amplify the heat to me. but I'm sure there is a scientific explanation around here about tin dispersing the heat or something.

                                        1. re: grnidkjun

                                          The foil does not change its final equilibration temperature, but it changes the time it takes to get to the final temperature. The foil (being a good reflector) slows down the heat exchange.

                                          The aluminum foil basically is a heat reflector. If the outside is hotter, it keeps the object cooler. If the outside is colder, it keeps the object wamer.

                                      2. re: foreverhungry

                                        I'll try to answer several of the above questions here.

                                        First kaleokahu, yes it would help some to not have the thermal shock, but you would still get thermal degradation. Thermal shock is one of the tests required by the metal cookware association for pot and pan handles and knobs. The continous use temperature for phenolic accoringing to Underwriters Laboratories is only about 300°F, but your DO knobs will not see that many hours at that temperature in your lifetime.

                                        escondido123, my spouse has put pots and pans with phenolic handles in the oven at higher than 350°F and I've replaced just about all of them. If you haven't had a problem, you've been darn lucky. Search the net and you'll find 350°F-375°F as the maximum recomended by cookware manufactures including LC. Just an example: http://www.worldkitchen.com/faqPrinte...

                                        foreverhungry, the smell is amonia, it's a byproduct of the catalyst that crosslinks phenolic and it's the first sign of thermal degredation. Even though the knob may not have looked physically deformed, there is internal damage to the polymer structure that weakens the part. The Underwriters Laboratories thermal rating I mentoned above tests the mechanical strength after thermal ageing and looks for the point of 50% strength retention, so the knob is becoming more fragle every time it's exposed to those kinds of temperatures even if you don't see blistering.

                                        Lastly, odly enough, covering with foil does make some difference.

                                        1. re: mikie

                                          Mikie, we've been putting them into a 500 oven for at least 20 years with no problems...are we that lucky?

                                      3. re: escondido123

                                        I am curious about that issue too. I typically use the dutch ovens for "low and slow" braise. But, I routinely bake the "no knead bread" in them at 450. At least several times per month (maybe 3 or 4 times). I have no problems, so it's just "luck"?

                                        I might be wrong, but I thought my LC book said don't bake over 500.

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          The website says 375 for phenolic handles--ours are definitely not cast iron. 500 periodically, 450 every few days for that no knead bread.

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            They started installing plastic knobs on DOs since more than 20 years ago? I thought it was a more recent thing, like within the past several years. Wow...

                                            1. re: cutipie721

                                              Mine are really old (20 to 30 years old I think). The knobs are black and "plastic y".
                                              I never thought about putting them in an oven over 500 degrees. I can't see why I would need to? I will have to check to see what they are made out of.

                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                Wow I just did a simple Google search. The mystery continues.

                                                http://steamykitchen.com/168-no-knead...
                                                "Yes, my cover has a thick plastic knob – but I did call Le Creuset’s customer service and they said while their literature says safe to 400F, it is still fine at 450F."

                                                If only LC can decide whether it is 350F or 450F!!!

                                            2. re: escondido123

                                              I did technical service work for two different phenolic manufactures for a period of 17 years. We sold to every pot and pan manufacturer in the US back when they were all made here. Revere, West Bend, Rival, Farberware, I can't remember all the companies. Before they could use a product we had to test it for thermal shock and I don't remember the exact temperature but it may have been 375, I know it was below 400 °F. The only thing I can think of is that the cast iron pulls so much heat that it takes longer for the the knob on the top of LC to get hot, so it doesn't see the thermal shock, but there is still thermal decomposition, but that could go unnoticed given the texture of the LC knob. Smoth shiney knobs get dull after a few hours at those temperatures.

                                              If there wasn't a potential problem at these temperatures I'm sure LC and other cookware manufacturers that use phenolic knobs wouldn't list maximum temperatures of 350 to 375 °F. So, yes, I guess you are that lucky.

                                              1. re: mikie

                                                mikie: Is it possible LC changed the phenolic some time ago? Mine are old and haven't been degraded.

                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                  I'm just going by what's on their web site. They claim the new knobs on the WS Signature is more heat resistant, but I don't know what plastic that is. It could still be phenolic and they have just upped the rating. Or they could have switched materials, the plastic I work with now has a melting point of about 545°F, but is much more expensive than any phenolic.

                                                  One other possibility that hadn't occured to me is that perhaps at $235 a pop, unlike the $35 a pop for the brands I did tech service for, perhaps they are using a more expensive and therefore more heat resistant phenolic. There are grades that hold up better than others, but usually, because of cost, a general purpose mineral filled phenolic is chosen for knobs. If they are using a more expensive and more heat resistant grade, that would likely be another reason why they would be prefered over a less expensive made in China DO with a plastic knob.

                                                  I should take a picture of my wife's InKor handles I took off and replaced several years ago. They are phenolic, I sold to those guys, and they did not hold up well in the oven. That's what used to go in the oven for pot roast, before we bought the enameled cast iron.

                                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                                    I dunno. But mine are old and are holding up perfectly -even at routine 450 degrees. They might be different material. I would hate to tell others that- then have them try it and ruin them. Yikes.

                                      4. re: kaleokahu

                                        Is there a source for stylish knobs? I wouldn't mind treating my enameled ci to something nicer

                                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                          Pick a fancy draw knob from a furniture stores.