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What kind of Le Creuset pan to cook pasta in? (and how to drain the pasta?)

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  • cmm3 Apr 3, 2011 09:06 PM
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Hi all-

This is a followup from my most recent post here about being new to cookware: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765167

I'd like to use enameled cast iron for most of my cookware, including my pasta cooking. I am unsure what type of pot will cook pasta best?

Would this 8 quart stock pot work? Is there something else? http://bit.ly/e3LH5i (it is on sale for $55 - is that a good price?

)

And what is the best way to drain the pasta? I usually use a flimsy plastic strainer in the sink, but 1) the strainer is too flimsy and 2) my sink is too small, so I always get water running through my pasta as I pour the water into the strainer, because I can't hold with both hands, while holding the pot.

Finally, can you recommend some simple utensils to use with Le Creuset enameled cast iron cookware? What kind of material should I use against Le Creuset's materials, so I do not damage it? Right now I have a bunch of cheap, plastic stuff from IKEA (some teflon, others just plastic).

Thanks!

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  1. I can't imagine using CI for cooking pasta. Too heavy.

    You need a metal colander for draining pasta:

    http://www.cooking.com/products/shpro...

    I use wood utensils

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Is All-Clad stainless steel (not iron ore) lighter? What material do you recommend then?

      Any specific type of wood? Any brands that are better than others?

      1. re: cmm3

        Any material. All you're doing is boiling water.

        Any wood.

        1. re: cmm3

          Go to a store. Go to a cook supply or kitch store, like a Bed, Bath and Beyond, lift an actual pot.
          Geesh, you can't cook by remote or online, you have to touch and try.
          I have dollar store plastic utensils that work great! I think Ikea stuff is good and I have several "magic spoons" a phrase a friend and I coined about that wooden spoon that was used o well that all it stirred, cooked was great. I have dollar store ones I use daily and I have a huge solid, should probably be registered as a weapon one that I inherited from my Great-GrandMother's house.

      2. I would not use a CI/enameled pot for cooking pasta. And I am a huge CI and LeC fan. I also love pasta (noodles of any sort). I find a large heavy based stock sized pot works best for me. I actually shop thrift stores alot and things like this pop up often, i.e. Revere Copper bottom pots. For me, good pasta cooking pots need room for the pasta to move around in as it cooks. That amount of water in a CI/LeC pot to hold it, well I ain't the Ex-Governor of CA...if you catch my drift.

        As to draining. I have a solid plastic colander, as well as some oldie metal one (again, just found another one at the thrift store) are fine for my pasta.

        But if you want or have wrists of steel to lift and drain CI stock pots, probably beats monthly gym membership.

        1. Le Creuset stock/pasta pot is not enameled cast iron; it is enameled steel which weights much less and suitable for cooking pasta. The 8 quart size is fine if you are cooking a pound or less of pasta. If you also use it to make stock, I would buy the larger one. Cheap aluminum will do the job just well if you don't mind that material. Otherwise, an inexpensive stainless steel will be fine and costs less than half of Le Creuset.
          Use any utensil that will not scratch the enamel: mainly wood or plastic that can stand high heat as cheap plastic will melt.
          Buy a good sturdy strainer, one that has a lot of holes on the bottom so that it drains fast. The material is not that important. Flimsy strainers are dangerous when handling large amount of boiling water.

          24 Replies
          1. re: PBSF

            Thanks!

            1 pound of pasta is fine for now. I'll purchase it!

            Would this be a good strainer? http://www.cookwarenmore.com/display....

            Do I put that in another pan, or directly in the sink?

            Can you recommend bakeware to make brownies and pies? Should I use stainless steel? Something like the "All Clad 12''x15'' Shallow Baker" ($85 from cookwareandmore.com)? Could you recommend a tray that I can use to cook pizza (at 450F and 500F)? (I know you must be careful at such temperatures

            )

            I also enjoy making lasagna... what type of baking pan should I use for this?

            Finally, could you recommend a Le Creuset frying pan(s) for 1) cooking eggs/omelets, 2) chicken with curry sauce and 3) red meats with various sauces (usually red wine and peppercorn)? Would an 8" and 14" pan (the 14" pan having large sides) work well?

            Do you know of anywhere I can buy seconds/irregulars of Le Creuset? Will the best deals be found at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, at the Le Creuset store there? Or can I find the best deals online (much preferred)!

            Thank you very much!

            PS: Any other utensils you could recommend? I am trying to cook meals that will last 3-5 days each time I cook, so I am new to all this. :)

            1. re: cmm3

              You must be an engineer.

              Try this site:

              http://www.cookingforengineers.com/

              1. re: Quine

                I've seen that site! Thanks to it, I have made my first lasagna a few weeks ago.

                But why do you say I am engineer? I'm actually a theoretical physicist (in training). :)

                1. re: cmm3

                  The over the top analytical approach for starters. *wink*

                  Sorta like asking what sort of special sand and water in what unique climate to make a sand castle.

                  Just go at it, try it, do it then analyse it.

                  Stay simple, start small, build with experience not with theory. Your mileage may vary in your in theoretical physics.

                  1. re: Quine

                    I just want to make smart purchases. To me, a smart purchase is one that is versatile (thereby accepting the initial high cost of ownership, i.e. buying an expensive piece of cookware) and minimizing the amount of purchases that will not benefit the former. That is, I just want to be able to buy what's necessary, then buy stuff I need later.

                    I have never really cooked before, but now that I'm having a child, I am trying to get a crash course. And save money. :)

                    Thanks!

                    1. re: cmm3

                      You should certainly buy what you want and can afford. But boiling water for pasta requires nothing more than the proper size vessel. As long as it doesn't leak :) and is heat proof it really doesn't matter what it's made of. And, for me anyway, the lighter the better for pasta pots cause, as others have pointed out, you want ALOT of water in that pot.

                      Do you live somewhere where you can sign up for some beginner cooking classes? That way you can see and handle other things and make a more informed decision.

                      1. re: cmm3

                        i have found Alton Browns book Gear for Your Kitchen to be helpful making smart buying decisions....

                2. re: cmm3

                  You can probably get a colander for around $10. What's with paying top dollar for everything.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    What am I looking for in a good one versus an average one versus a bad one?

                    1. re: cmm3

                      You're draining water. I still use my mother's old metal one that's about 75 y.o. and was never expensive to begin with.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        So they will not rust? Ever? What type of metal specifically?

                  2. re: cmm3

                    I am not much of an expert on cookware. I ran a restaurant kitchen for years, therefore, I am big fan of aluminum: inexpensive, easy care and good conductor of heat. And through the years, I've accumulated an assortment of stuff that I've managed to make use of. I am from the old school that how pots and pans looks is not very important.
                    My opinion on Le Creuset is except for a good dutch oven, not worth it. Enamel chips and it is to heavy for me.
                    I can testify that the All Clad colander that you referred to works well because a friend of mine has one. I have a large hard plastic by Oxo that cost about $10 that work beautifully. The best way to strain pasta is to put the colander in the sink (make sure your sink drains well) and pour the water and pasta into the colander. Might save a little pasta water to thin out your sauce if needed.
                    I am amazed how expensive some cookwares are. Since I can't fathom putting out hundreds of dollar for All Clad, Mauviel, Viking, etc., I might not be the one for the best advice. I have a large collection of heavy copper that is just hanging on hooks for display. I haven't use them in years because to me, copper is not practical.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      Is $55 for an enameled cast iron stock pan from Le Creuset considered expensive?

                      A 12x9 baking dish for $50?

                      14" stoneware oval dish for $35?

                      These seem like good prices... However, it looks like there is a large premium on sauce pans (I need a 3 and 5 quart sauce pan, at least).

                      My friend (whom I'll listen to on this one) has told me to stay away from stainless steel (including All-Clad). So, if I want sauce pans at relatively low(er) prices (at least less expensive than Le Creuset, what are my options in both brands and materials? I don't want to use Lodge, because of the risk of chemicals.

                      Also, what about a good priced frying pan (2, either the same size, or one 10" and the other 12-14")? Le Creuset is a bit high priced here as well, but it doesn't seem extraordinarily so...

                      1. re: cmm3

                        Why not stainless? It's a great material for many cooking purposes.

                        1. re: cmm3

                          Time for some new friends ;). All clad as well as other clad or disk bottomed stainless is great. You could also do copper if that's in the budget. Could somebody gibe the link to the cookware discussion on egullet? I think it would be helpful.
                          I think cast iron or carbon steel fir frying pans.

                          1. re: olympia

                            Sorry the darn phone won't lt me edit my typos! Urgh!

                      2. re: cmm3

                        It's hard to know whether you are serious, but I would say that a Le Crucet dutch oven is a really useful basic tool that is worth the cost because it's really good at things like braising and making stews and being able to use the same pot on the range and in the oven is useful.

                        many of the things you mention are better done in a saucepan, and while I'm sure le creucet will sell you one I think that a lot of things are best done in a metal saucepan. I bought an all-clad one from amazon for less than I would have paid at a department store, but there may be better deals out there. america's test kitchen recommends the one I have, FWIW. the 12 inch size is versatile.

                        there are somethings, like boiling water, that don't warrant the expense of a le crucet. I often make pasta in a glass pot which transmits heat well, but a stockpot also works fine. the post above about boiling water is dead on.

                        1. re: brooklyndude

                          >>>>many of the things you mention are better done in a saucepan, and while I'm sure le creucet will sell you one I think that a lot of things are best done in a metal saucepan. I bought an all-clad one from amazon for less than I would have paid at a department store, but there may be better deals out there.

                          Same here.

                        2. re: cmm3

                          "Can you recommend bakeware to make brownies and pies?"
                          GoldTouch pans from WS outlet. But if you picked stainless steel because you want to avoid non-stick altogether, you probably need to line it with parchment anyway. Might as well get a regular aluminum pan, probably available in the WS outlet too.

                          "Pizza pan"
                          Pizza stone. Mine lives in the oven.

                          Lasagna
                          I just use a plain old Pyrex glass baking dish. Others have reported Pyrex explosion. If you're scared, look for porcelain or stoneware. You may find some Emile Henry bakeware from the outlet, both in the WS or Calphalon store.

                          "Le Creuset frying pan(s)"
                          You mean their stainless steel line? At that price I'd rather go with Mauviel Mcook, which is just slightly more expensive. People here were just talking about All Clad "reinventing" the handle on their stainless steel line so the old 3-ply stainless steel stuff is coming down in price gradually.

                          I don't remember seeing any LC stainless at the outlet. Probably because I wasn't looking for them to start with.

                          "Best deals for LC"
                          The outlet store is your best bet. Get yourself onto their mailing list and they'll mail you a little postcard with sale info from time to time. If you're lucky you may find some discounted LC at the Marshall's / TJMaxx / Home Goods chain. But you have to keep checking because they don't always have them.

                          "Utensils"
                          I like Lamsonsharp stuff, available on Amazon. Love the slotted spatula.

                          Hope that helps.

                          1. re: cutipie721

                            The cheapest I've ever seen LC was the $30 sauce pan on a Williams-Sonoma clearance table, tohugh that was probably an utter fluke.

                            And I'll second the love for WS' Gold Touch bakeware line.

                          2. re: cmm3

                            >>>>I also enjoy making lasagna... what type of baking pan should I use for this?

                            Since you like Le Creuset, I recommend one of their rectangular roasters. I also use them for roasting fish, potatoes and veg together (cook the veg until 10 minutes before they're done, then put the fish in, S&P, EVOO, rosemary).

                            http://www.lecreuset.com/en-us/Produc...

                            1. re: cmm3

                              >>>>Will the best deals be found at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, at the Le Creuset store there?

                              You might. In fact, it's highly likely. You won't find every color there, though. Do you know which color(s) you want?

                              1. re: Jay F

                                It doesn't really matter. We are open on that.

                                Will the outlet store quote prices over the phone, or do you have to go in?

                                1. re: cmm3

                                  Yes they will. They'll ship it to you, even. When I bought some things in Nov. and Dec., they offered free shipping on orders over $100. And once they've got you in their computer, you get an extra 10% off. At least, it worked that way in Dec.

                                  I would make a first purchase of >$100, wait to receive it, then order more. And they're some of the nicest retail people I've dealt with.

                                  BTW, you can order stuff from any of the Le Creuset outlet stores, not just the one nearest you. And the salespeople are able to see on their computer if other stores have items they're out of.

                          3. Hi, cmm3:

                            You can boil your pasta in just about anything, but IMO the easier your hob/pan combination returns your water and pasta to a boil, the better off you're going to be.

                            This usually means erring on the side of the largest pot you can bring to a full, roiling boil. Move volume of boiling water means less time to come *back* to a boil. I will differ with some of the others here, and observe that a higher heat-retention or conductivity pot will be marginally better than a thin or poor heat conductivity pan, so if your hob can bring a larger ECI pot to a roiling boil, that material will actually help you somewhat, if not be inexpensive.

                            I would also recommend that if you cook a lot of pasta, that you *not* get a colander. I would instead recommend a pasta boiling insert. These are quicker and safer, and are usually scaled to the pot. The fancier ones are segmented, so that you can cook several pasta shapes at the same time and still keep them separate for dressing/plating.

                            Have fun,
                            Kaleo

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Oh kaleokahu, you are just playing with the poor guy. You know as well as anyone that for a pound of pasta, a good honest cheap pot and a colander will work for a lifetime. Wanna break it down to ions and how much salt will change boiling points, should standard pressure be used?

                              Be nice to the young'un wanting to learn, real stuff.

                              1. re: Quine

                                Hi, Quine:

                                Nope, not playing with the OP at all. S/he asked specifically about ECI, which isn't a terrible choice for the application. And I'm *not* recommending that the OP go out and spend $$$ on the best stockpot/insert out there, either.

                                Yes, one can spend a lifetime boiling a pound of pasta in a small speckled pan, tote it to the sink, and drain it in a plastic colander if you want. It works, and that's the way I bet a majority of folks do it--with drops, slops, burns, spills and near-misses over the years. But IMO, a setup that maintains the boil (hence the larger volume) and drains itself in situ (the insert) is a nice improvement. This arrangement also comes in very handy for blanching vegetables, making stocks, and even deep frying. Unfortunately, the consumer manufacturers price the inserts quite high--if you scrounge around, you can often find wire baskets or smaller colanders that will work as inserts.

                                Why not have the OP consider starting this way?

                                Kaleo

                              2. re: kaleokahu

                                I forget that people have that issue of bringing it back to a boil. Since I went induction, I actually have to turn it DOWN from 10 to 7 to keep it from boiling over. I also really like the insert. It makes holding back some of the water a non-event, doesn't it? I'm always forgetting it when I use a colander. I HATE getting old :)

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Hi, c oliver:

                                  Well, there you go... Induction *will* probably allow you a shorter boil recovery time, depending mostly on the output disparity. It would also therefore tend to allow a smaller pot and less water, all other things being equal. See, I can recognize advantages of induction.

                                  I'm still shopping for real inserts; I've been using colanders and China caps so far. Vollrath makes one that suspends from the rim that I like--easier on my tin linings.

                                  Something I discovered lately about using an insert is that you can boil pasta and blanch veggies in stock, and then go on to use the stock. Saves a buck and the pasta tastes better.

                                  Kaleo

                                2. re: kaleokahu

                                  What would you recommend as a combo?

                                  Can I buy a pasta boiling insert for this 8 quart stock pot? http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product...

                                  Someone here mentioned this would be lightweight, so I'd prefer to purchase this to both 1) make pasta and 2) make stews/soups/other things that require 6 quarts worth of space...

                                  But I can purchase a dedicated pasta pan/strainer, if you can recommend a good one...

                                3. I love Le Creuset, but as practically everyone suggested, it's too heavy for boiling pasta. I use an extremely light 8 qt. stainless steel pot I bought for <$10 years ago.

                                  It came with one of those pasta inserts, but I find those incredibly sloppy, and I threw it out the last time I moved.

                                  I have a cheap colander, too, but I see nothing wrong with your buying that one from All Clad you like. Most of the time, though, I end up removing pasta from the pot with a Chinese spider. I tend to eat short pasta rather than spaghetti. The only time I bother with a colander is when I make angel hair.

                                  I have one of those LC enameled steel stockpots, and it was a waste of money. It chipped like mad. I do get some use out of it as an actual stockpot, but there are plenty of better ways to spend the money it cost.

                                  If you like All Clad, I use my 8-qt. stockpot for cooking ravioli. Unlike a typical stockpot, this one is shaped more like a Dutch oven, wider than it is tall, so I get more ravioli in the pot in one layer than in any other pot I own. And it's not nearly as heavy as the LC.

                                  Hope this helps.

                                  1. I sometimes cook small batches of pasta in my Le Creuset cast iron, usually one of my smaller dutch ovens like the 4 quart or their large saucepan. In those cases I just drain into a stainless steel colander. Alternatively I sometimes use a pasta scoop and just scoop the pasta out of the hot water, if I'm doing something like ravioli.

                                    I only have 1 non stick pan left in my collection and it's a smaller stock pot, just haven't replaced it yet. I avoid using it as much as possible.

                                    As far as utensils, I use mostly wooden spoons, silicone or plastic spatulas although I do use metal spoons and a metal whisk when I need to.

                                    1. I'm not sure what you mean about "water running through your pasta" but I might recommend an over-the-sink strainer. Because I'm a messy cook, I often have a sink with dishes in it when it's time to drain the pasta so I find this thing invaluable. It's also (or course) great for washing veggies or whatever. This is the one I have. It's a bit pricy, but I'm middle-aged and I got it as a gift from my dear husband. I'm sure you can find similar ones for less. And I agree with others, you want a largish not-too-heavy pot for cooking pasta. Water is heavy.
                                      http://www.zappos.com/oxo-stainless-s...

                                      1. I just bought that exact Le Creuset pot on clearance at TJ Maxx for $29. HOWEVER, pasta sticks to it! I actually wouldn't recommend it for boiling pasta, but it's a very nice stock pot. I just use a random non stick pot that I have.

                                        1. I've long used Le Creuset cast iron Dutch ovens, not the enamel over steel stock pot, for pasta. The soup pot/bouillabaisse shape also works well. So I think you're fine sticking with enameled cast iron, as long as you don't have problems with or can find a way to work around the weight.

                                          I'd say that the main thing is to have an adequate amount of water for the amount of pasta and the second thing is to not have such a wide surface relative to the depth of the pan that half your water evaporates before the pasta is done. There are many different ways to separate the pasta from the water at the end of the cooking, which is where handling the weight of the hot pot plus boiling water becomes very important.

                                          Usually I am cooking for one, and I have found the 4.5qt Dutch oven to be plenty big. In a pinch, like if the 4.5qt size is occupied with a long term project like Bolognese, I will use a 2 or 3 qt-sized pot for a 4-6oz serving size of pasta.

                                          To drain, I have a crescent moon-shaped stainless strainer made by Kuchenprofi that fits 24cm diameter pots which I hold against the rim of the 4.5qt DO when I tip it over the sink, pouring the boiling water down the drain and leaving the pasta in the warm pot to toss with sauce -- just in cases where I'm not concerned about remembering to retain some of the pasta water for another purpose.

                                          When I want to add pasta to a skillet where I'm creating a sauce and need to reserve some of the pasta water, I have often used a skimmer or pasta server to fish the pasta out of the pot when it's done. I'm less likely to accidentally pour all the water down the drain when I actually need to retain some of it.

                                          I find these options more convenient and sanitary in my small kitchen, especially when I already have a small pile of dirty things in the sink.

                                          Yesterday I was cooking multiple larger sized batches of pasta to freeze and for the first time in my life used something like a pasta insert -- it was a collapsible silicone colander made by OXO Good Grips -- in a 7.25 LC Dutch Oven. I think I could easily become addicted to the convenience of this method, and so I'll second the recommendation for a pasta insert, or a set that fits together in a pot so you can boil multiple shapes simultaneously.

                                          I just use wooden and/or silicone utensils when dealing with pasta in the LC pots. I avoid metal utensils, but if I need to use metal, I'm just careful not to apply any force with it. I've never had any damage from metal utensils in the LC pots. Your cheap non-metal stuff will work and not cause damage as long as you don't leave them inside the pot or leaning against it while it's hot.

                                          Enjoy!