Le Creuset dutch oven - high temperature over induction?
I just got myself a le creuset dutch oven. It looks great, but this being my first enamelled cast iron pot, I'm not sure how to use it.
The instruction manual states that it shouldn't be used for cooking at high temperatures. Do you know if that's the case for induction hobs as well? I want to use it to cook curries and stews, but if I set my induction hob to 4 (out of 9) it takes ages to heat up. It makes it impossible to fry things like garlic and onions before simmering.
Or maybe I should be frying those on the side, add them to the dutch oven when ready, and use it only for simmering?
That little user's guide has bedeviled new owners for years. Have a look at this thread from a couple of years ago:
A search will turn up several dozen more threads like that here and elsewhere going back at least a decade. LC really needs to fix that little book.
I haven't seen my LC's owner's guide in almost two decades --- that says something about the longevity of these pots, eh?
Rest assured that the pans can take a lot of heat and LC just wants you to bring them to heat more gradually than just throwing a cold pan on a burner and immediately cranking the heat to boost. Two, maybe three minutes at 3 or 4 on induction, then crank to whatever heat you want to use for your dish. (Yeah, yeah, I know induction ranges don't actually have cranks, but you know what I mean.) You do the same process with other kinds of burners and it just takes a bit longer than with induction. Have you seen this possibly somewhat clearer explanation from the LC website?
"Medium or low heat will provide the best results for cooking, including frying and searing. Allow the pan to heat gradually and thoroughly for even and efficient cooking results. Once the pan is hot, almost all cooking can be continued on lower settings.
"High heat temperatures should only be used for boiling water for vegetables or pasta, or for reducing the consistency of stocks or sauces. High heats should never be used to preheat a pan before lowering the heat for cooking. Cast iron retains heat so efficiently that overheating will cause food to burn or stick."
Note the "can be" rather than "must be" and that LC's worry is burning food not wrecking the pot. Basically, they don't want you treating the oven as though it were a wok. Beyond that, no worries.
Yes, you should be cautious--it is possible to ruin the enamel lining if you get the pan too hot. This typically only happens (and Wahine actually ruined a 9Q LC oven this way) when you boil a pot dry, but pre-heating would do the same thing.
How cautious you need to be depends, IMO on your induction hob. As I have posted here many times, the control settings can be deceiving, and are NOT the same, brand to brand and model to model. Say you have the typical 1-10 numerical settings. Many people find that Settings 1-3 are too low for most of what they cook, and yet Settings 7-10 are all 'way too high for things other than boiling water. If you are one of these people, you effectively have 3 useful settings. You're left with an ad hoc determination that requires experimentation, but until you KNOW, I'd be very careful with anything over 6 and an empty pan.
Now, having said that, you can fry without worry in your oven. The enamels are not *that* fragile, and if you fry separately, you are surrendering one of the pleasures of these ovens--one-pot meals. Just don't get the pan screaming hot for searing like is possible with barenaked CI.
<it takes ages to heat up. It makes it impossible to fry things like garlic and onions before simmering.>
This make me wonder 2 things:
What kind of induction hob do you have? Built-in or portable? Portable units are notoriously underpowered because they run on 120v and are typically rated at 1800w max. That could be slowing you down.
How long are you waiting for the pan to heat before tossing in your onions? The pan WILL get hot enough on setting 4, even on a portable cooker. If you're used to cranking the heat up to high to preheat your pans, then you're not used to waiting long at all. Patience may be in order.
Garlic and onions shouldn't be fried at 'high' temperatures either, because they can burn and turn bitter. Use the highest power setting that will fry the onions without burning them. Judge 'high', 'medium' by the cooking action, not by the numbers.
What other kinds of pans do you use on the induction?
If this pot is much larger (diameter, height) it might not heat as evenly.
I've been using Le Creuset for over thirty years, and have had an induction range for the past two, and find that they are perfectly compatible. I do notice, though, that the LC will get hotter on a given setting than some of my other pans, undoubtedly due to the high ferrous content. But I've had no trouble using them at any heat level I need.