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Fontignac: The enameled cast iron debate continues

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eugenegirl Oct 15, 2011 10:51 AM

I've read countless reviews and debates about Le Creuset v. Staub. v. Lodge v. Tramontina and I still haven't come to any conclusions. I'd like to replace a Batili that has chipped, rusted and generally not fared well in the whopping 5 times I've used it.

Has anyone had experience with Fontignac? I've found little discussion of it, and few reviews on the Bed Bath and Beyond website. I do know it's made by Staub, seems affordable and has a shape I like better than the curved sides of Lodge.

Any help? Or anyone with a less expensive brand like Tramontina or Lodge who can attest to its condition after further usage?

Thank you!!

  1. h
    Hecetamom Jul 27, 2012 08:12 PM

    I have had LC since the early '70 s with no problem. They seemed expensive when I bought them but not so much now. I'd go there again.

    1. m
      Mojave Jul 27, 2012 08:05 PM

      I have nothing to add except that you posted this on the day I got married lol. I came here a lot for my registry. I saw your Fontignac at BB&B and wondered about it too and was surprised by the lack of info I could find.

      1. t
        tennblondie78 Jul 27, 2012 11:02 AM

        A few days ago I got the 8.5 qt. Fontignac that Cutlery and More had on sale. It was my first piece of that brand, having only had LC prior. I can say that it was beautiful on the outside, but the enamel on the inside was disappointing. It has several pinholes throughout, and a spot in the center about the size of a nickel that looks like the paint was too think and is pinholey/rough. There is also a small chip on the rim and scratches on the lid. It is quite a bit heavier than LC, but I knew that before I bought it. I thought the price wasn't too bad on sale, so I'll keep it. I just don't know how long it will last. In the future, though, I'll definitely stick to LC.

        1. e
          EqualOpKitchen Jul 27, 2012 08:22 AM

          We bought a 7 qt red Fontignac from Williams Sonoma a few years ago after looking at Le Creuset, but when the clerk saw us balk at the price, she steered us to this. We're very happy with the Fontignac, although we haven't used Le Creuset at all.

          Heavy: great for heat retention & even cooking, but not easy to handle for pouring or washing. My wife leaves that to me.

          Quality: enamel is almost non-stick. Browns meat very well and cleans up extremely easily - usually with just a dish cloth. Nice red matches our kitchen full of red accessories. Cream interior great to ensure it gets clean.

          Heat: mostly use it on stovetop, heat it slowly (empty, but no flaking etc). The phenolic knob limits oven temp to 400, but most recipes for slow cooking are below that, so no issue. I'll replace it with a steel knob from the hardware if/when necessary.

          Seal: lid does not have perfect seal, there's a gap in certain positions. I have to rotate the lid and remember the position compared to handles to avoid steam loss. A little disappointed about this, but not sure if all their products have imprecise lids or just ours. The small inconvenience is offset by the cost savings.

          Country of origin: not made in USA, but neither are any other enameled iron pots that I could find. I think my next purchase will be a 3 qt Lodge (made in China) which has great reviews and low price on Amazon etc.

          2 Replies
          1. re: EqualOpKitchen
            againstthegrain Jul 27, 2012 09:52 AM

            Cooks Illustrated suggests this tip to reduce moisture evaporation when braising in Dutch/French oven pots with lids that don't fit tightly:

            place a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil over the pot before you put the lid on (larger than the pot rim/lid dimensions)

            I wrap the excess up over the lid sides so that the sealing layer lifts with the lid when I check on the cooking progress. This step definitely helps the lid retain a lot more moisture.

            I use the parchment or foil seal with recipes that mostly cook in the food's own juices or only with a little added liquid, but not with those with substantial amounts of added liquids, otherwise the sauce doesn't concentrate and reduce enough during long braising times, requiring longer sauce reduction simmering later.

            I realize that having a parchment or foil layer under the lid interferes with the "self-basting" nubby things on the lid, but the nubby things things don't really seem to make that much difference anyway, according to Cooks Illustrated's test comparison results or my experience with four different variations on Dutch/French ovens.

            1. re: againstthegrain
              e
              EqualOpKitchen Jul 27, 2012 10:35 AM

              I never tried this because of the self-basting lid thing. It seemed to me the flat foil layer would interfere with steam circulation, so thanks for letting me know it doesn't. Wrapping up over the lid sounds like a great idea.

              Cooks Illustrated is my favorite techniques source. I've kept back issues in binders going back to the 90's, issue 22. I remember reading about the foil there somewhere. I like the scientific method they use, plus they give me strokes for my good choices when they give a top rating to something I already have. Seems like we agree a lot.

              We even created an Excel list for favorite recipes that refers to the issue/page for easy finding later. We use it for all our cookbooks, but only the best recipes we've actually used and like.

          2. k
            KissesFromParis Mar 1, 2012 03:06 AM

            It is very difficult to find Fontignac cast iron even here in France. I wonder if the company has been bought by Le Creuset.

            Anyway, there is another company that makes good quality cast iron french pots here, it's Invicta. It's about half the price of LC and Staub, and it's just as good. Yet most people don't know they make cooking pots, because Invicta is associated with heating stoves and other cast iron items, not cookware. Invicta also sells the "Chasseur" enameled cast iron brand.

            5 Replies
            1. re: KissesFromParis
              g
              GH1618 Mar 1, 2012 10:04 PM

              Do you know anything about the Sabatier enameled cast iron dutch ovens? They are quite inexpensive, but seem to have received no attention in this forum.

              1. re: GH1618
                k
                KissesFromParis Mar 4, 2012 08:13 AM

                No, I don't think anyone but a few pros know Sabatier makes cast iron. Sabatier is associated with kitchen knives. Basically, to most people and most shops, like everywhere else, cast iron means Le Creuset or Staub in France.

                1. re: GH1618
                  b
                  blondelle Mar 4, 2012 09:53 AM

                  I believe that Sabatier is out of business. I went to a knife skills class and asked the rep from Wusthof about my Sabatier knives and he said the company was no longer.

                  1. re: blondelle
                    mcf Mar 4, 2012 10:39 AM

                    They still have a web site, though it has not been updated since 2008 for online shopping. But lots of folks are selling them: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/1/3/s... And their enameled cast iron is for sale, too.

                2. re: KissesFromParis
                  mcf Mar 2, 2012 08:58 AM

                  overstock.com has some of the Chasseur and Sabatier. Pricey, though for the size of the Chasseur.

                3. s
                  sentaikat Nov 28, 2011 03:58 PM

                  I have a good sized Descoware, Lodge color and LC collection. I was given a fontignac as a gift. I really wanted a larger for me dutch oven.I know that most people would say that 5.5 quart is small, but not me :)

                  When I make noodles in it, it sticks! I mean boiling water, putting salt and oil in it then boil the noodles.Then drain, which leeds to a very large sticky mess at the bottom! I've made noodles many, many times before in other pots without this problem.

                  I have to stir almost constantly and still there is the big sticking problem.

                  My LC doesn't stick like this, my lodge color doesn't stick like this. Just this new one sticks.

                  So i guess it's okay, just not as good at the others I have.

                  1. d
                    drand Nov 28, 2011 02:07 PM

                    in case anyone is still reading this post, it looks like the (Costco) Kirkland Signature 6.5 qt dutch oven (made in France) is listed as being made by Henckels, who also owns Staub/Fontignac, so likely a quality product. They also have a covered enameled cast iron skillet made by a different company under the Kirkland Signature brand and made in China, so not necessary a like product.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: drand
                      againstthegrain Feb 8, 2012 05:04 PM

                      I "made sure" Santa brought me one of the Costco-Kirkland 6.5 qt pots to round out my enameled cast iron sizes. Love it! Great pot, especially for the price and Costco's satisfaction guarantee. Only wish it came in other sizes and colors.

                      It does have rounded bottom edges, which is great for stirring with a round wooden spoon, and I find the bottom surface is plenty wide & flat enough for browning meat, often in only 2 batches. It cleans up really well, too, with just a quick soapy soak with hot water and a Dobie nylon covered scrubbing sponge.

                      I've used it for making chili, pot au feu, stews, bone broths, osso bucco, shanks, pot roast, split pea soup, Moroccan tagines, whole chicken, pulled pork, soup, and more.

                      I don't use enameled cast iron pots for making rice, noodles, or faster cooking items like vegetables - or anything else that needs to be tipped for draining. I use All-Clad sauce pans for those cooking tasks - they seem lightweight in comparison.

                    2. b
                      blondelle Oct 31, 2011 09:23 AM

                      The Fontignac looked nice when I saw it in BB & B. The only things I didn't like was the interior color and the weight. The walls are much thicker than LC's and it's much heavier than theirs. The interior color is a pale, dirty yellow that I didn't find very appealing. It was dingy looking. Also the enamel on the rim seemed worn in spots where it contacted the pot. There are so many great deals on LC in the outlets, on Ebay, and in discount stores. I would spend my energies trying to find a deal there. This is something you will have for the rest of your life with LC. Find one at a price you can afford, and forget the rest.

                      1. e
                        eugenegirl Oct 27, 2011 03:02 PM

                        Just picked up a 5 quart Fontignac at BBB on sale for $79.99, then the obligatory 20% off coupon. The yellow and green are on clearance. Perhaps not a good sign was that I had to pull out all of the pots to find a near perfect one - they all had imperfections in the rims, but the one I chose was fine. However, the enamel wasn't poured very thickly on the handles. They have a lifetime guarantee, so I'm not too worried.
                        A question, though: do folks find 5 quarts to be a useful size? I like making about 4-6 servings at a time and it's a little smaller than I'm accustomed to.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: eugenegirl
                          againstthegrain Oct 27, 2011 05:38 PM

                          You got a great deal! As soon as I saw your post I ran by my local BB&B store (I had another errand nearby anyway) but they didn't have any of the Fontignac cocottes on sale, and the stock isn't as complete as I've seen before (no 6.5 Qt round cocottes in green, for instance, which is the one I hoped to get at a great price to add to my collection). The website doesn't have any on sale, either.

                          You are right about the enamel being a bit thinner on the BB& B's Fontignac "easy-cooking" cocotte handles. The cast iron on the inner surface of the handle loop has a bit of a rough mold ridge that on a more expensive piece probably would have been filed smooth before enameling. But as I always need to use a mitt or pot holder when moving the hot pot around, it make no difference to cooking performance or appearance. When I was choosing my 5 Qt a few months ago, I didn't have any trouble finding a pot with an unblemished rim, but I did check a few boxes to find the "best" one (the saying "no two are exactly alike" definitely applies).

                          The two other pieces I have from Fontignac's other line ("self-cooking" cocottes) seem to be finished just a bit nicer than the line BB&B sells, with slightly thicker and more even enamel and a more detailed finish overall. www.staub-fontignac.com/index.php/en/... But that line seems to be hard to find in the US, except at pop-up sales.

                           
                          1. re: againstthegrain
                            e
                            eugenegirl Oct 30, 2011 01:03 PM

                            Shoot! Sorry you couldn't find the sale. My store did also have the 6.5 qts but not on sale. Do you find your 5 qt to be useful, or is it too small for dishes like short ribs, etc?

                            1. re: eugenegirl
                              againstthegrain Oct 31, 2011 08:41 AM

                              The 5qt is the size I use most often, but we are a small family of three (one is a 13 yo boy) so it's ample for making a meal with enough for leftovers. A larger household would probably get more utility from a 6.5 Qt size. I sometimes like to make larger amounts for freezing, sharing with neighbors, entertaining, etc., so now that I know I like these pots, I think I can justify buying the 6.5 Qt size, esp at a good price.

                              I really like the 2-3/8 Qt round for reheating leftovers, making rice, roasted vegetable side dishes, Filipino adobo, etc., and even just as a preheated serving vessel because of it's long heat retention at the table. I actually wish I had bought two in this size, but it only had a limited time availability.

                              I've only used the oval 8.5 Qt pot twice since I got it two months ago, for poaching a whole 5+ lb chicken & later simmering the bones & scraps for a supply of broth. I can also do that in the 5 Qt if the chicken is only a small 3 lb pastured bird, but the amount of broth made is so much lower for the similar amount of effort/time/energy.

                              When the 6.5 Qt Fontignac is back in stock at my local BB&B, I'll probably just use one of the 20% coupons that they'll accept even if expired - that's still a very good value. My local store's selection didn't seem to have the rim chip issues that yours had, though minor imperfections somewhere on the enamel were common (but I find the same at the Le Creuset outlet near me, but for far higher prices). Or I'll buy the Costco/Kirkland 6.5 Qt round, though it's only avail in one color (bright red) and during the pre-holiday/fall season. That one also gets good reviews, is made in France, and is backed by a satisfaction guarantee from the store for a very good price ($79.99 online incl S&H, a little less in the warehouse stores). But it has a more rounded bottom, which makes stirring a little easier, but can slightly reduce browning surface area.

                               
                              1. re: againstthegrain
                                e
                                eugenegirl Oct 31, 2011 09:23 AM

                                I guess my theory about cookware is that you can always fill up a big pot, but a small pot will always have its limitations.. I'm trying not to cookware hoard, but I can see how that would be easy :) I found a 6.5 qt Lodge on sale yesterday for $55 and couldn't resist, but I don't think I'll keep it because the bottom is fairly rounded. Sounds similar to the Costco pot. I can't tell from the pic whether it is a rounded as the Lodge. A flat bottom just makes more sense...
                                Also picked up a cast iron griddle pan yesterday, inspired by Nigel Slater's Appetite. I don't have a BBQ, so I'm excited to see if I can truly replicate that experience in the kitchen!

                                1. re: eugenegirl
                                  Chemicalkinetics Oct 31, 2011 10:06 AM

                                  :) Really? I actually like the round bottom because I find it easier to stir and scoop a pot with rounded corner. Anyway, that is just a personal preference.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                    e
                                    eugenegirl Oct 31, 2011 10:16 AM

                                    The flat bottom is better theory is just that - a theory for me, since I'm just starting to cook meat. I assumed more space would be good for the initial sear...?

                          2. re: eugenegirl
                            mcf Feb 8, 2012 05:08 PM

                            I recently bought a 5 qt Staub to take the place of my frequently half full 9 qt LC. I love it, so much easier to lift, wash, etc. I have made my usual sized batch of chili, braised a roast, etc. It holds 5.5 qts when filled to the brim, but is called 5 qt on the packaging.

                            1. re: mcf
                              m
                              mikie Mar 2, 2012 06:35 AM

                              The 5 qt Staub is also our most used piece. We also have the roughly 9 qt, but that's for really big meals.

                          3. c
                            catdoc46 Oct 26, 2011 10:28 AM

                            I have several LC pieces and a single Fontignac 5.5 qt French oven that I bought in a pinch when I needed a good dutch oven for an extended stay with my father after my mother died and I was away from my own cookware. I must say, for something that is half the price of an LC piece, I was impressed with its performance. Enameled cast-iron cookware is almost always what I reach to first because I do a lot of simmering and roasting, and the Fontignac heats evenly, releases well, cleans easily, and has not chipped.

                            You do have to protect all coated cookware from chipping, and that is easily done by hand washing it with a plastic mat on the bottom of the sink.

                            I would definitely buy another piece of Fontignac again. In fact, I purchased a piece as a gift for my sister-in-law as an introduction to the world of higher-priced cookware.

                            1. n
                              Ninevah Oct 20, 2011 10:17 PM

                              I mostly own LC stuff, but I do have a Cuisinart DO, and a Staub Basix (cheapie) edition oval roaster. One thing I ALWAYS notice while using these other brands is that the sidewalls are thicker to the point of making me feel that they're cheaper. The LC I have (it's all probably 20yr old or older if that makes a difference) seems much more "graceful" in comparison. I've never actually handled a Staub piece from their normal line so I can't compare those two.

                              I also know I've chipped the lids or edges of both the Cuisinart and Staub Basix models, so there very well could be a huge difference in enamel quality.

                              1. againstthegrain Oct 20, 2011 11:38 AM

                                Just last year I started cooking with enamel cast iron cookware and I can't believe it took me so many years to discover this option (I'm nearly 50 and have been cooking for my self & my family for my entire adult life) For the past 15 years I have mostly cooked with All Clad stainless (including an 8 qt Dutch oven), but I added French carbon steel saute pans and non-enameled Lodge skillets about 5 years ago (the deBuyer French carbon steel replaced the non-stick pans I gave away).

                                I don't have any experience cooking with LC or other high priced enameled cast iron brands, but I do have experience with Fontignac & Lodge versions. While I am quite price-conscious, I do tend to try to buy the best performing equipment I can afford, with brand name being much less important to me.

                                My first experience with any enameled cast iron cookware at all was with a Lodge covered enameled cast iron semi-shallow casserole on loan from a local "chef quality" casual restaurant (the winter menu take-away family meals-for-four are packed in a covered Lodge enamel cast iron casserole for reheating at home - dishes like Coq au Vin or Braised Beef Short Ribs). I experimented with this borrowed covered Lodge casserole for an embarrassingly long time before I returned it - and I'll sheepishly admit I was seriously tempted to just keep it and forfeit my $40 deposit (the restaurant tells me a lot of their loaned casseroles haven't been returned). The Lodge casserole with its color mismatched lid definitely showed wear & tear from heavy restaurant use - there was chipping of the enamel around the rim of both pot and lid, as well as some minor staining on the interior and exterior (which I was mostly able to get rid of with a good soak & scrub with baking soda & vinegar), but the interior cooking surface and exterior enamel were quite intact (it makes sense to me that the rims would take a beating, esp in a restaurant and on loan in homes). I'd say for a piece that has seen such heavy use the Lodge line is very serviceable, esp for the low price, but it probably won't stay pretty without a lot of babying.

                                With the Lodge enameled cast iron cooking experience under my belt I decided to buy some enameled cast iron cookware of my own, so I read the Cooks Illustrated reviews, online forum comments, as well as looked through my books for cookware advice

                                We are a family of only 3, but I often cook with leftovers in mind or for guests, so I decided a medium size Dutch oven would be best for my first piece. After checking out the local LC factory store, a nearby Sur La Table store, BB&B, Target, TJMaxx/Marshalls/Home Goods, & even a rare visit to Walmart a bit further away, my first purchase was a 5 quart round Fontignac from Bed, Bath, & Beyond with a 20% coupon (btw, I'm told they honor expired coupons) - I think with the coupon it cost about $80 plus tax, which I thought was an excellent price, esp considering it is made in France and by a sister company to Staub. Costco.com had a Kirkland (their own private label) deep red French-made enameled cast iron Dutch Oven with a stainless steel knob on their website in a similar size and price (to the Fontignac at BB&B) that looked very good and received good reviews, but it wasn't yet available in my local warehouse store (Costco had a two pc set LC set in the store but they were much too small for my needs and still quite expensive). The Costco-Kirkland brand option would have been in serious consideration if I could have seen one in person, but BB& B had a choice of about 4 colors in stock in the Fontignac line at the store (& I could compare them side-by-side to the made in China "chef-labeled" pots also in stock) as well as take them out of the sturdy box to inspect closely before buying.

                                I'm extremely pleased with the Fontignac quality and cooking performance. The enamel has perhaps two very minor pinhole pits in the enamel on the exterior that I could see before I made the purchase (all seemed to have at last one tiny pit somewhere, so I made sure I chose one with a smooth interior surface), but I noticed the much more costly LC in the factory store also had similar pits (& the LC clerk assured me they are cosmetic blemishes which don't affect performance). BB&B has a very good satisfaction & return policy, as well, which was reassuring. I like the flat wide bottom surface area for browning, esp after using the smaller more rounded bottomed Lodge casserole, which required browning in numerous small batches due to the reduced surface area (more time-consuming). The tall sides also reduce spatter messes. I've made chili, braises/stews, soups/bone broths, oven-roasted pulled pork shoulder, braised cabbage, braised or poached pastured whole chicken & more in this pot with great success. It cleans up easily after a short soak and looks very nice on the table as well as on display on an open shelf. Even using oven mitts (the entire pot and lid get hot), I have no problem with the handles being too small or hard to grip.

                                After the positive experience with the 5 qt Fontignac, I wanted some other sizes. By chance I discovered OneKingsLane.com, which had a limited time Fontignac sale coming up, so I marked my calendar to make sure I didn't miss it. These were the Fontignac "Self Cooking" cocotte line, which are slightly different than the "Easy Cooking" line carried by BB&B - the main differences seem to be the Self Cooking line has a shiny S/S lid knob instead of a heat resistant plastic knob; the lids have a shallow water reservoir to create self-basting condensation on the inside of the lid, but I just use it as a handy spoon rest; the bottoms are slightly rounded and perhaps a bit thicker than the "EC" line (but still with fairly vertical sides creating a generous bottom surface area for browning); the color selection was different; and perhaps the enamel surface was just a tiny bit smoother and nicer. The sale prices at this limited time OneKingsLane.com sale weren't any lower than the regular BB&B prices, plus reasonable shipping costs were added (shipping was pretty slow, too, though not reasonable IMO, considering the heavy weight and the impatience I have developed after a couple of years using Amazon Prime shipping).

                                The main reasons I bought the two additional Fontignac pieces from the OKL.com site instead of BB&B with a coupon, were the different sizes and colors available. I chose an aubergine 2-3/8 qt round cocotte as well as an 8.5 qt oval, also in aubergine. I've used the larger oval a few times with great results for both long-simmered bone broth as well as large pork shoulders slow-roasted overnight (for succulent pulled pork) or two pasture chickens (they need lower, slower cooking that ordinary supermarket chicken). I've used the really cute little round cocotte close to a dozen times and I think it's now my favorite piece of cookware after my carbon steel saute pans - so versatile and attractive for stove-to-table serving, as well as performance excellence. I even make white jasmine or basmati rice in it - bring the well-rinsed rice, broth, a couple TBL of butter or coconut oil & a bit of sea salt to a boil, cover, and turn off the heat entirely before fluffing with a fork 20 minutes later).

                                Now I'm keeping my eyes open for some other enamel cast iron pieces in shallower casserole styles and different sizes. I wouldn't hesitate to buy Fontignac again, but now that I've seen the Costco Dutch oven in person (it's in my local store now for the Fall season) I'd buy one of those if it came in a different size (the one currently for sale is too close in size to the 5qt I already have). I wouldn't hesitate to buy the Costco-Kirkland Dutch oven to give as a gift. I've been into the local LC store on several occasions over the past few months and even with the many discounts on discontinued colors and styles, or with a 40% off any one item coupon I am offered when I browse without buying, LC just seems so expensive and probably not any better than what I have, so I haven't been tempted enough to buy LC yet.

                                I'm really on the fence about the made in China enameled cast iron options. The borrowed Lodge casserole I used was very good, esp for the price, but in general I tend to think long and hard about buying products made in China, esp if they are no-name brands (IMO Lodge is a reputable brand and should have reasonable QC, even if made in China). With a knockoff no-name brand I'm not sure I'd risk it - too many corners might be cut, even with the "chef-name" versions. I noticed Sur La Table has their own line of enamel cast iron on sale right now for fall (but they are made in China). If the choice was only between the high-priced made in France or lower priced made in China options from stores/companies that stand behind their products, I'd probably consider the lower priced made in China options because I could buy several pieces in a variety of sizes and styles for the same cost as only one higher-priced LC or Staub piece. But since Fontignac is made in France and so far is performing quite well at prices competitive with made in China items, I'm very happy with my purchases.

                                 
                                3 Replies
                                1. re: againstthegrain
                                  e
                                  eugenegirl Oct 20, 2011 01:14 PM

                                  Thanks so for much everyone's thoughts on the matter. Didn't realize there was a LC outlet 1.5 hours from me, and I'll check that out. And thank for you the Fontignac reviews.
                                  Next I delve into carbon steel territory, since you brought that up, againstthegrain!

                                  1. re: eugenegirl
                                    e
                                    eugenegirl Oct 20, 2011 01:41 PM

                                    Oh, and one last newbie question: can one use an immersion blender in enameled cast iron?

                                    1. re: eugenegirl
                                      mcf Oct 20, 2011 01:49 PM

                                      I do, only the plastic comes in contact with the pot's surface. I wouldn't use a metal one, though.

                                2. c
                                  cutipie721 Oct 16, 2011 02:23 PM

                                  Would you consider earthenware?

                                  1. SanityRemoved Oct 16, 2011 08:49 AM

                                    An imperfection on the rim where the enamel and rim coating meet certainly could cause rust with out any misuse.

                                    1. e
                                      eugenegirl Oct 15, 2011 10:51 PM

                                      Thanks for your thoughts and links, everyone. I swear I wasn't abusing the Battali. There is pitting inside on the bottom, and the large chip is in on the interior side. That's where it's rusting. Additionally, all of the raised dimples on the lid are cracking and rusting.

                                      It's still strange to me that Josh has the only experience out of our bunch with the Fontignac. I might just drop the dough for a Staub or LC so I don't have to think about this anymore. But it's a little painful to drop that kind of money, especially when I rarely cook meat and will use the pot for soups and risotto and whatnot.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: eugenegirl
                                        greygarious Oct 15, 2011 11:06 PM

                                        <I rarely cook meat and will use the pot for soups and risotto and whatnot.>

                                        Why didn't you say that in the first place? In that case you can use a large, heavy-bottomed, clad stainless or anodized aluminum lidded pot. When you want to braise meat, sear it in a frying pan first, then transfer to the large pot and use foil between pot and lid for a tighter seal.

                                        1. re: greygarious
                                          e
                                          eugenegirl Oct 15, 2011 11:22 PM

                                          That's a good idea. I guess I've just always been a cast iron cook, and my limited experience with stainless involved lots of sticking. And there's something so seemingly all-purpose and one-pot about enameled cast iron. I've also been looking at Calphalon and Cuisinart versions of All Clad products...

                                          1. re: eugenegirl
                                            Josh Oct 15, 2011 11:50 PM

                                            Stainless is meant for developing what's called a fond, which is a layer of browned, caramelized protein that adheres to the bottom of the pan, which is deglazed with liquid to make a flavorful sauce.

                                            Enameled pans have this same feature.

                                            Any large vessel that can go from the stove-top to the oven will allow for the kind of cooking you describe.

                                            Personally, I really like using enameled pots for risotto, because of its very even heat distribution.

                                            1. re: eugenegirl
                                              d
                                              dixiegal Oct 23, 2011 05:47 PM

                                              For cooking meat, I prefer my bare cast iron. I use my enameld for soups, speghetti sauces, dried beans and peas, etc. But I like my bare cast iron for meats and greens. I think I like the bare cast iron for greens because they seem to absorb some of the meat flavoring from cooking meat in the pots. I also use my bare cast iron for frying eggs, potatoes and meat, and milk gravy.

                                          2. re: eugenegirl
                                            Josh Oct 15, 2011 11:46 PM

                                            I've never seen Fontignac for sale in any cooking store, so it may just be that their product line is intended for other markets.

                                            My first piece was a wedding gift, and I liked it so much I bought another 4 on eBay. Staub and Fontignac appear to be the same company.

                                            I've used the dutch oven many times now and been very happy with it. It cleans up well, and I have yet to see any chipping or flaking.

                                            You will never run out of people advising you to buy the most expensive gear around. It's not necessary.

                                            1. re: eugenegirl
                                              Jay F Oct 16, 2011 06:22 AM

                                              Call one of Le Creuset's outlet stores if there's not one in your area. They're always having sales, and if you spend >$100, the shipping is *usually* free (make sure before giving them your CC number).

                                              http://lcstores.com/locations.asp

                                              1. re: eugenegirl
                                                mcf Oct 20, 2011 01:48 PM

                                                I recall reading of similar problems with the Martha Stewart line of enameled iron, too. Chips, etc. from normal use.

                                              2. s
                                                skyline Oct 15, 2011 05:17 PM

                                                I'm not familiar with Battali cookware (meaning that I've never owned any) but at one time I had about a dozen pieces of Le Creuset of various types and used them on a semi-daily basis for about 10 years (before the wrist went bad 8 years ago and I had to give up the uber-heavy cookware for the most part, LOL). That said, I do still have 3 pieces of LC, including one of the almost-20-year-old DOs, that I use occasionally.

                                                A couple of the LC did get a chip or two but I knew that was my fault from careless handling such as dragging across a coil burner, but otherwise they all held up fine (including the interiors). On the other hand I never "babied" my cookware either (being young and stupid at the time, LOL) -- never used padding in the sink for instance, though I am sure I rapped more than my share of utensils on the edges from time to time.

                                                My first thought on reading the OP and the first link in 77Pat's post is that the Battali pieces may not have as "good" an enamelling process as LC does on theirs, or perhaps the Battali enamel layer is thinner than LC's, and thus it chips easily. I am sure that there are differences in the quality of the enamel and/or actual process, just as there are in many other things (plastic vs metal gears, rubber vs plastic gaskets, etc etc etc). I am sure there is a reason why the Battali is cheaper than LC or Staub (if that's the case generally) and perhaps their enameling process is it -- thus making their surface more fragile in what would be normal usage for other brands of this type. Seriously, in order to sell it for less they MUST be cutting corners somewhere along the line and it sounds it's in the quality of their enameling.

                                                1. Chemicalkinetics Oct 15, 2011 02:31 PM

                                                  greygarious is correct. Enameled cast iron cookware are fragile compared to other cookware. It is the nature of the beast. Now, as you probably know, Lodge Color and Tramontina enameled cast iron cookwares have good reputation and are highly rated by Cooks Illustrated and consumer reviews. So if you don't want to spend extra money, those are your best bet. The other one is Chefmate. I have a Lodge Color. It is pretty good stuff.

                                                  Still, I won't somehow expect there will be some night and day huge difference between a Le Creuset or a Lodge Color or a Batili. If your pot get destroyed in 5 cooking session, then either you got unlucky and got a bad pot or you are not using the enameled cast iron cookware correctly.

                                                  1. Josh Oct 15, 2011 01:41 PM

                                                    Agree with others comments re: usage. 5 uses shouldn't have damaged a pot, unless you were seriously abusing it. (Rust??)

                                                    I have four Fontignac pieces and love them. Great stuff, IMO.

                                                    1. greygarious Oct 15, 2011 12:17 PM

                                                      You have inflicted a lot of damage on your current DO in very little usage. Unless you mend your ways, you'd be wise to replace it from one of the economical lines. My enamed Dutchies are a Martha Stewart from her K-Mart days, and a larger Tramontina. They are about 20 and 10 yrs old, respectively. I also have a vintage naked cast iron one that was old when I got it 40 years ago. You don't drag a DO over the burner. You don't rap utensils on the edge of an enameled. one. If your sink does not have a mat, you lay a towel into it before hand-washing your DO. You take pains not to knock it into anything. You avoid thermal shock. If you treat it properly, even a lower priced DO will last indefinitely.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: greygarious
                                                        Jay F Oct 15, 2011 12:33 PM

                                                        :::: You don't rap utensils on the edge of an enameled one. ::::

                                                        :::: If your sink does not have a mat, you lay a towel into it before hand-washing your DO. ::::

                                                        While I agree with everything else you said, I have not had a single problem in 32 years with rapping wooden utensils (I've never used metal) on the edge of anything by Le Creuset. And I've never even heard of the "put a towel in the sink" trick.

                                                        1. re: Jay F
                                                          mcf Oct 20, 2011 01:46 PM

                                                          Ditto.

                                                        2. re: greygarious
                                                          7
                                                          77Pat Oct 15, 2011 01:38 PM

                                                          Here is one review comparing conditions under normal use.

                                                          http://localkitchenblog.com/2011/01/08/a-tale-of-two-dutch-ovens/

                                                          But then there is also this (although not long term

                                                          )

                                                          http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2011/06...

                                                          I was at Bed Bath & Beyond today and noticed this line. Two colors were marked down to $80 (so with the coupon would be an even better deal).

                                                          I do not have anything to compare to, since I only have a Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker I am using while saving up for a Dutch Oven.

                                                        3. Jay F Oct 15, 2011 11:32 AM

                                                          Here's a discussion I found re: Le Creuset v. Fontignac. I have never used Fontignac, FWIW.

                                                          http://www.seriouseats.com/talk/2010/...

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