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Jan 23, 2012 08:58 AM

So...You Don't Have to Season Le Creuset..But..but...but...

I have a "stickage" issue with my dutch oven. I do NOT use a scouring pad or brillo and I treat it like a baby. However, yesterday after cooking a boeuf bourginion for five hours, there is a stickage issue with my le creuset. Has anyone had this issue? Should I season it as though I'm seasoning a cast-iron skillet?
Thank you.

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  1. Seasoning a cast-iron pan serves a purpose, you're taking a surface that is prone to rust and has micro-imperfections and "sealing it" with a baked on oil coating. Le Creuset has an enamel coating which seals and coats the cast iron, "seasoning" it serves no purpose and isn't really possible.

    1. Odds are you had a little burn to the bottom, which you'll have to scrub off. LC is not a "non-stick" and you can't make it that by seasoning.

      1. Might the heat have been too high during the stovetop part of your cooking?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jay F

          Thank you all for the replies. I posted before seeing the other post about a burned LeCreuset. I didn't have the temp up too high as I simmered...but I'm going to clean it out as though it were burned. My bad!

        2. The only LC you can 'season' are the pans with the matte black interior. It's not possible to season a gloss porcelain enamel.

          1. Hi, jarona:

            I would bet that nearly everyone who's honest has had this issue. I know I have.

            Just so you know, there are probably three related things at work here. First, your heat may have indeed been too high.

            Second, your hob (like the vast majority of hobs, so don't feel bad) is probably somewhat uneven. Unfortunately (for everyone except LC), cast iron exacerbates uneven hobs by hot-and cold-spotting. You may not have had the same problem with a clad, aluminum or copper pan.

            Third, the "even heat" claim for cast iron only holds true in the oven OR on the stovetop when you are cooking non-viscous liquids. The latter tends to be what most people consider even because the thin liquids form convection currentrs within the pan (in effect, the liquid over the hotspot(s) moves itself upward, setting up a circulation, evening the contents' heat). Thicker liquids don't form currents as well, and so the hot food stays low in the pan, where it can sit right on top of the hotspot(s) and scorch.

            So cooking thick things in cast iron on an uneven hob for hours is a recipe for either disaster or constant stirring/scraping.


            4 Replies
            1. re: kaleokahu

              Thank you kaleokahu: Thank you so much for giving me an ephipany! You know, I thought about my stove top being uneven because on two of my burners, I always notice a "hot"spot in any given pan or pot when I'm cooking. I noticed this at first when making the burnt sugar for creme caramel...and my husband thought I was nuts. I swear you are correct. You know what else? I had a "knock off" of Le Creuset--I think it was called "kitchen essentials" or something like that. I had the same stickage issue with the knock off and gave it to one of my sons when he moved into his own apartment. In hindsight, I am thinking that maybe the cheap 19.99 version was on an equal par with my Le Creuset.
              Thanks again!

              1. re: jarona

                Hi, jarona:

                You're very welcome.

                I sometimes get in trouble here over my treatment of LC (Just so you know, earlier in life I too drank the KoolAid and spent large sums acquiring a large number of LC pieces--which sums I generally now regret shelling out). Many, many people are fiercely loyal to the brand, and for some it is heresy to question anything about its comparative culinary usefulness.

                Personally, I've never owned a knockoff. But I've handled many. IMO, the circa 2012 knockoffs are so close to the level of quality, fit and finish of LC and Staub, that the only reasons I can see to favor the $$$ over the $ are color, brand-uniformity, some unique specialty models, and "patriotism". All fine reasons, just not culinary.

                So it wasn't you, you can feel good about that. But I would be remiss if I did not also point out that replacing your range or cooktop to better suit cooking in cast iron is a very doubtful and pricey step. More even hobs are good things in their own right, definitely. But as I wrote above virtually *all* hobs exhibit some unevenness, and GENERALLY stovetop cooking in cast iron will exacerbate whatever unevenness is there.

                If you search the threads here, you will find a few that endeavor to answer your question about whether LC is indeed on a par with the "knockoffs".


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  There are two different issues that it's worth treating separately: 1- Whether enameled cast iron is the best material for a given cooking task, and 2 -the quality of Le Creuset enameled cast iron relative to other producers.

                  There are some kinds of cooking for which enameled cast iron is outstanding, among them long oven stewing/braising in casseroles, Dutch ovens, and braisers, and roasting of vegetables and/or meat in gratins, low bakers, and roasting pans. Oval and loaf-shaped terrines make great general bakers in addition to being well suited for (of course) terrines and pates. ECI doesn't have any advantages in most stovetop applications, in my experience.

                  Le Creuset has maintained high quality throughout a long production history. But from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s it had competitors who produced equally good stuff, whole lines that competed with every item from LC. One was Descoware, made in Belgium for sale in the US; another was Copco, made in Denmark for the US company. Pristine and near-pristine examples of both show up all the time online and at thrift shops and garage sales. They're lighter on the planet than new production, and a much cheaper alternative to LC.

                  It's quite possible that some of the current competition for LC is equally high-quality; I haven't seen or handled much of it.

                  1. re: ellabee

                    Hi, Ellabee:

                    Then we think mostly alike. You are absolutely correct in stating those as two issues. They *are* separate things, but since the OP limited her query to stovetop use, well, I chose not to dwell on in-oven use.

                    But since you framed it so well, we might as well treat the in-oven aspect, too. In the dark, hot cave of a modern oven, evenness isn't much of an issue. Basically, within limits, it matters not of what the vessel is made. So my view about ECI in the oven is not so much that it excels, but that its stovetop chains are removed. The oven is the great emancipator. We will see what happens in my "new" wood cookstove's oven with different materials, since it's reported that most such wood-fired ovens have idiosyncratic hot spots; there, more conductive vessels may matter some.

                    Now, where ECI shines, in my estimation, is on its way *back* into bondage, i.e., when it comes *out* of the oven. It doesn't go back willingly, it fights like hell to hang onto every calorie of heat. For a popular slice of cooking, this is a great feature, like a built-in iron cozy. To equal it with another material would either be exceedingly expensive and heavy (copper), or astoundingly thick and clumsy (aluminum). To some extent, this "cozy" effect (engineers sometimes specify cast iron as a heat *insulating* material) extends to stovetop use--that big 'ol pot of chili (scorched or not) tends to hold its temperature a long time. But past a certain volume, which is smaller than most of us would guess, it is the *food* that holds the majority of the stored heat, not the pan.

                    I agree wholeheartedly with your view on Descoware, etc. I have several inherited vintage pieces of Descoware and Belgique, and these grand pieces can indeed be had for little money. Just as the very best copper pieces can be had for a small fraction of the prices asked by Falk, Mauviel and Paderno. If we can be light on the planet in the process, why not?