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Advice on Le Creuset pan choice - gratin or something else?

tazia Jan 4, 2012 01:55 PM

I was initially thrilled to get a Le Creuset oval gratin pan for Xmas, but became concerned that it's stoneware rather than cast iron. I know this is going to be a pan that will see a lot of heavy use, and it would be great if I could use it on the stovetop as well. The color wasn't what we wanted anyway, so I returned it to Williams-Sonoma and now have a gift card for $40 or so. The most economical option is to just get the stoneware in a different color, but I think I'd like to apply the store credit to one of the more versatile enameled cast iron pans.

My question is, if I'm going to slap down some extra cash, which pan should I be investing my money in? The most obvious choice is the au gratin baker, but part of me wonders if we'd be better served by another pan, like the wide round or oval dutch oven.

My husband and I are both vegetarian, so no meat cooking, but we roast a lot of veggies, and the pan should ideally be good to send under the broiler (hence the initial request of a gratin pan). We have some great All-Clad pans for the stovetop, but this would really be our first high-quality oven-friendly pan, so I want to make the right choice. It's unlikely that we'll be getting a second Le Creuset anytime soon.

  1. tazia Jan 23, 2012 07:16 AM

    Thanks for all the advice everyone! I ended up going with the 3.5 qt braiser, which I got for $160 new on Ebay (black onyx...picking colors is difficult!). I'm still waiting for it to arrive, but I'm really excited to use it. I compared and handled it in Williams Sonoma, and really like the wide, flat surface compared to the wide dutch oven.

    Now, I have $40 for Williams Sonoma, but that will be more than easy to spend on something else.

    1. tazia Jan 5, 2012 08:11 AM

      Thanks for all the advice everyone. I'm definitely not going to get the stoneware gratin.

      It looks like something like the 3.5 braiser/casserole makes sense. I think one of these two options:

      Both are 3.5q--the main difference being in the weight and dimensions. The braiser is wider, shallower and heavier, but also currently $80 more expensive. Is it worth the extra investment for the braiser over the wide dutch?

      When I was returning my pan yesterday, I saw Williams Sonoma has 20% off select colors, so I might try to take advantage of that.

      5 Replies
      1. re: tazia
        rasputina Jan 5, 2012 08:26 AM

        I wouldn't get the stoneware gratin either, I'd get the cast iron one.

        As for roasting veggies, I wouldn't bother to get the braiser for that. Sheet pans work wonderfully for roasting vegetables.

        As for the brasier vs the wide French oven, I own both and they both work well for things like curries. It's easier to stir dishes with a higher liquid content in the French oven though.

        I use the brasier for searing meat before putting the whole dish in the oven to finish cooking, for rice pilafs, curries and basically anything you'd use a sauté pan for. I use the Wide French oven for small batches of stews or soups. My 6 3/4 quart oven and 7 1/4 quart round get a lot more use than wide oven though.

        1. re: rasputina
          Jay F Jan 5, 2012 08:31 AM

          rasputina: "My 6 3/4 quart oven and 7 1/4 quart round get a lot more use than wide oven though."

          How many do you cook for, Rasputina?

          1. re: Jay F
            rasputina Jan 5, 2012 08:35 AM

            I cook for 3 LOL but we like leftovers.

            I'm the type that cooks two chickens at once and then uses the second one for a variety of other dishes the rest of the week.

            1. re: rasputina
              Jay F Jan 5, 2012 08:49 AM

              Thanks. I want to get something in the new Indigo from SLT, but the 7.25 qt. I once had seemed so big, I sold it. I only cook for one, and in the year I owned it, I used it once, if at all. I have the 3.5 and the 5.5 qt., both of which get lots of use, but I probably use my 4.5 qt. more than any other. I wish they'd offer a 4.5 qt. in Indigo, but SLT *never* sells LC in 4.5 qt.

        2. re: tazia
          blondelle Jan 6, 2012 02:55 PM

          Sur La Table has deep discounts now on their braisers and ovens. Better than WS's 20%. I would call them for a price quote.

        3. b
          blondelle Jan 4, 2012 07:43 PM

          I would save your gift card for something else and take advantage of the great in store LC sales now at Bloomies and Sur La Table. They are phasing the standard LC line out to be replaced by the Signature line. You can get some awesome deals now. I would get the 3.5 buffet casserole. You can use it to make a gratin, to roast veggies, and for frying and braising too. Most bang for the buck and much more useful than just the gratin pan.

          1 Reply
          1. re: blondelle
            blaireso Jan 6, 2012 10:15 AM

            I really agree with this. I've had mine for over 30 years and find it to be so versatile. It does everything from pommes anna to beef stroganoff (sorry, know this won't be your dish, I'm just saying). I use it for roasting veggies, making lasagna, even made a gigantic pie in it once. And they look marvelous on a buffet or dinner table. You won't regret it. Mine is white, but they come in many great colors now. All my LC are different colored, it somehow works so don't stress about what to choose. Get the one on sale!

          2. k
            kaleokahu Jan 4, 2012 07:10 PM

            Hi, tazia:

            Given your parameters (vegetarian, roasting, broiling, GC$) and what you haven't mentioned (braises and sautes) I'd go with the oval gratin. Just don't lose your head and get one oversized for your largest hob if you want it to pinch-hit on the stovetop.


            1. Chemicalkinetics Jan 4, 2012 07:04 PM

              A brasier is better for "stovetop to oven" function. A Le Cresuset stoneware gratin is not meant for stoveop, but it can be used for oven, broiler, microwave...etc. Moreover, it is much cheaper.

              1. r
                rasputina Jan 4, 2012 03:07 PM

                Well the brasier is more versatile, but I love my gratin pans. I have multiple sizes of both of these enameled cast iron LebCreuset pans.

                1 Reply
                1. re: rasputina
                  escondido123 Jan 4, 2012 06:35 PM


                2. h
                  honeybea Jan 4, 2012 02:21 PM

                  You can try the 3.5 qt brazier (sp?). It is low and wide and has a tight lid.
                  It's good for veges on the stove and in the oven.

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