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Le Creuset always scorches tomato sauce

I made a batch of meatballs in tomato sauce this morning. I use my biggest pot, a 13 qt Le Creuset casserole. I use a commercial #10 can of ground tomatoes. Every time I use it, no matter how careful I am, the center of the pot above where the gas burners come in contact with the bottom of the pot scorches and deposits a black burnt tomato residue. I have to move the pan around & simmer less so I won't impart a nasty flavor in the sauce. The pot is old and the interior very slightly discolored from use. Anyone else have this problem and do you have a solution?

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    1. You have found the pots' hot spot. When I was in college (Home Ec. Ed major) we had to test pots and pans by cooking vanilla pudding in them to locate hot spots. Cast iron is susceptible to them because in casting occasionally a bubble will form that is not visible but it leaves a weak spot and that is where it is going to form. Do you have a flame tamer? It can help to distribute the heat evenly. The Ilsa flame tamers mentioned in the other reply is just what I had in mind. I have 2 of them and use them frequently.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        My guess is that the poor conductivity of cast iron is culprit.

        I read about 'hot spots', but I doubt the casting bubble explanation. A bubble can't be more than a mm in diameter (i.e. less than the thickness of the iron). It might weaken the iron, but I don't see how it would produce a hot spot. If anything it would make a cold spot, since air in the bubble is less conductive than iron. And the spot couldn't be much bigger than the bubble itself.

        The pot interior directly above the flame is always going to be hotter than surfaces further away. With enamel coated cast iron that effect will be greater due to its poor conductivity. A large pot and volume of sauce can exaggerate the effect, since you need enough heat to keep the whole thing simmering, but all that heat has to pass through middle 6" of the base.

        possible solutions:

        - heat diffuser
        - put it in the oven
        - stir more frequently and thoroughly

        1. re: paulj

          If I am busy and don't want to stir, I put it in the oven at whatever temp gives me the simmer I want. About 200F or so for my oven.

          1. re: paulj

            Hey, paul: "My guess is that the poor conductivity of cast iron is culprit."

            +1. Any "bubble" in the casting is likely to be tiny, and would correspond, if it were noticable, with a tiny (i.e., pinpoint) hotspot.

            While the OP's gas hob may be contributing in a minor way to this (it is an expansive 13Q oven after all), IME tomato sauce is just viscous enough to highlight CI's poor performance on the stovetop--there aren't active-enough convection currents forming, too much of the heat stays right at the flame, and ascorchin' we will go. Caramelized onions are much worse, but tomatoes are bad enough...

            I recently turned to a heat diffuser in making a marmelade prep which expressly forbade stirring--and I'm glad I did. This was even considering I was using a very heavy Belgian copper preserve pan and a triple-ring gas hob. It really removes worry that, as the sugar % goes up, there'll be a scorch where the flame is licking...

            Aloha,
            Kaleo

        2. It's the nature of the beast. There are countless posts about the poor heat distribution and hot spots in cast iron. Our larger gas hobs are twin burner or inner and outer ring, whatever and they do a better job of distributing heat across the bottom of the pot. 13 qt is one heck of a cast iron pot, so it's going to be difficult to keep a simmer and not burn where the flame hits the pot. If I made a batch of sauce (gravy to us old Italians) I would probably look for a large pot or sauce pan with a disk bottom to more evenly distribute heat.

          BTW, what's the diameter of the 13 qt casserole?

          2 Replies
          1. re: mikie

            Diameter is a little under 14". I have a smaller anodized aluminum similarly shaped pan but it's about 7 quart that I use for smaller batches. I don't have any problems with that one.

             
            1. re: zackly

              The anodized aluminum transfers heat a lot better, but is also doesn't have as much sauce in it, so you could use a lower flame to still get the sauce to simmer, thus making it less likely it will burn on the bottom.

              I think you have multiple issues going against you in this case. One; the diameter of the LC is too large for the hob, two; the cast iron doesn't conduct the heat well enough, three; the amount of sauce you are trying to make is more than the size (diameter in this case) can handle, thus you are putting more heat into a concentrated area when you are trying to get the contents to simmer.

              I think regardless of the pot construction, you are going to have issues with this volume of pasta sauce on a regular gas hob. Kaleo made a comment on convection currents and how the thick sauce just isn't going to move much. I believe that's a component of your problem.

          2. I use a Berndes non stick (not teflon) pot and don't have these problems. I have a Le Creuset pot that I've used for braises like short ribs but I have to be careful to keep the heat on the low side. I would not use it for tomato sauce.

            1. You have a few options:

              1. Use a different pot. Aluminum will work well.
              2. Put le creuset in the oven to simmer
              3. Put the pot onto of a griddle or inside of another pan.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Pwizduo

                Wouldn't I be better off with a commercial weight aluminum pan that cost 25% of what the Le Creuset set me back? Like this one?
                http://www.acitydiscount.com/Update-I...

                Why all the love for enameled cast iron? I cooked in French restaurants for years and only once saw enameled cast iron and these were terrines.

                1. re: zackly

                  Yes you would be, the aluminum disperses the heat much better through out the pan which prevent's scorching.

                  Tomato sauce is acidic which means it will leech slight quantities of the aluminum from the pan (just as it would with raw cast iron) and over time cause pitting. Unlike iron, I don't find that aluminum gives a perceptible off taste and pitting isn't a huge issue in a stock pot.

                  1. re: zackly

                    Hi, zackley: "Wouldn't I be better off with a commercial weight aluminum pan..."

                    Yes, of course. Emphasis on the word 'commercial'.

                    "Why all the love for enameled cast iron?"

                    The God's honest truth is a combination of convenience, marketing, Francophillia, and color affinity/identification (ever wonder why oil companies use the colors they do on their signs?). Add a nod to the linings' non-reactivity, but that is mostly a post-hoc rationalization.

                    OK, everyone please flame me now and get it out...it's good to let the anger go...

                    Aloha,
                    Kaleo

                    1. re: zackly

                      <Wouldn't I be better off with a commercial weight aluminum pan that cost 25% of what the Le Creuset set me back? >

                      You might be, but as others have already noted, tomato sauce is so viscous that there are few, if any, convection currents in the sauce. What's on the bottom will sit on the bottom. I think the pot you linked will scorch, because the pot isn't the sole issue. Me, I'd probably go with the cheaper option of a flame tamer, or put the pot in the oven.

                      1. re: DuffyH

                        Or once everything browned/sweated/ sautéed, I will pour it all in my crock pot. All day simmer no problem. If I want a "quicker" sauce like for lasagna, then I keep it in the Le Creuset

                        I love my Le Creuset, but I run into this problem, partially due to me ruining the enamel finish cleaning up the burnt spot once a little too aggressively.

                      2. re: zackly

                        <Wouldn't I be better off with a commercial weight aluminum pan that cost 25% of what the Le Creuset set me back?>

                        Most likely yes.

                        <Why all the love for enameled cast iron?>

                        Because it looks pretty.

                        < I cooked in French restaurants for years and only once saw enameled cast iron >

                        Look likes the previous employers figure out.

                    2. Scroll down to the part about materials and heat conductivity.

                      http://forums.egullet.org/topic/25717...

                      Another good article.

                      http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ar...

                      1. Le Creuset (enameled cast iron) is not know for best heat conductivity or heat even distribution. You simply has a cooking surface which has very uneven temperature. This sauce some burning.

                        <do you have a solution?>

                        Try a heat diffuser or a flame tamer.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Does anyone make a fully clad stainless steel over aluminum (All Clad style)large brazier, 10 quart or more?

                          1. re: zackly

                            I wouldn't have thought a brasier came that large (outside of restaurant supply, perhaps) but I was wrong.

                            http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                              1. re: zackly

                                Sure. There are braziers like that. Here is one example:

                                http://www.katom.com/175-77760.html.

                                http://vollrath.com/ProductFamily/Pro...

                                Of course, you can just get an All Clad like mcsheridan has pointed out.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  That's very nice! Do you think it's real heavy gauge aluminumlike you see in restaurant kitchens? Does anyone want to buy a used 13.5QT Le Creuset pot?

                                  1. re: zackly

                                    Yeah, these are real heavy gauge aluminum (cladded with stainless) cookware. Of course, they won't be as thick as a pure aluminum cookware though.

                                    Since Vollrath is professional cookware company which produces cookware straight to professional kitchens. Its cookware are definitely functional. If anything, I have heard home cooks complain them being too thick and heavy.

                                    In term of function, Vollrath is no worse than All Clad. However, Vollrath cookware is not nearly as polished as All Clad. Simple handle, simple design, not mirror finish shiny...etc.

                                    1. re: zackly

                                      Hi zackly,

                                      I've got a Vollrath Tribute saucier. It's got a very thick aluminum core. It's a 3-ply pan that I think is easily the equal of All-Clad and Mauviel 5-ply, and is possibly approaching the thickness of Demeyere Proline or Viking 7-ply pans. Let's just say there's a lot of aluminum.

                              2. I must admit somewhat to my chagrin - that my hard-anodized aluminum calphalon rondeau easily outperforms my much loved LC "French Oven" for stovetop use - It heats more evenly, does not scorch, develops a more even fond, and deglazes nicely. The larger ECI/CI pieces are great for oven use and the fact but not as great on the stovetop.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JTPhilly

                                  I've taken to using an old Calphalon Commercial (anodized uncoated) 3q saute pan on lowest heat for braising and longer stewing of tomato sauce and I won't go back to ECI! Cleanup is a breeze! I've kept an eye out for larger!

                                  An $8 thrift shop Romertopf unglazed roaster has become a favorite for slow sauces in the oven at low temps too.

                                  1. re: JTPhilly

                                    Do you know where "french ovens" also work well? On "french top" stoves....

                                  2. Hey zackly,

                                    I've found the perfect pan for your task. The Never-Burn Saucepot. It's got a silicone oil-filled chamber in a big ol' sandwich base. It's pricey, but if it fills a real need better than anything else, it might be worth it to you. http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/3...

                                    Duffy

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                      :) I remember we were talking about these silicone oil filled chamber base cookware.

                                      If constructed right, it should make the base very evenly heated (see attached picture). However, nothing beats manual mixing when cooking something thick and viscous. Even a perfectly even heating pot will still burn thick sauce unless it is regularly mixed.

                                      Therefore I recommend this:

                                      http://chromebygoogle.net/wp-content/...

                                       
                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        CK -

                                        I'm waiting for the silicone stirring rod model. ;-)

                                        Duffy

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          I think I'm going to switch to cookware with a solid silver or gold base.

                                        2. re: DuffyH

                                          That's very interesting, thanks! The reviews are unanimously positive too.

                                        3. Boy am I an exception. I recently switched to using my 7 quart LC for my uber thick meat sauce due to the batch size and the chemically inert trait of ECI.

                                          My meats are pre cooked as are onions caramelized in a non stick pan, best thing to pre make and stash in the freezer.

                                          So no fond is in the ECI. I just sweat down some other veggies and tons of mushrooms add the precooked stuff and tomatoes to simmer. No burnt funk but I do stir a lot.

                                          Jim

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: knifesavers

                                            Also I'd bet your 7qt. LC is much better sized to your hob, than the OPs 13 qt.

                                            1. re: knifesavers

                                              As you said, you stir a lot. That, plus the smaller pot size noted by mikie, makes a HUGE difference.

                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                Yeah, if stirring constantly floats anyone's boat, great.

                                                There're several "auto-stirrers" on the market, virtually none of which are worth the powder with which to blow them up. See, http://www.dudeiwantthat.com/househol... http://www.uutensil.com/products/stir... http://www.squidoo.com/automatic-pot-... http://www.ebay.com/sch/sis.html?_nkw...

                                                There's even an auto-stirrer for INDUCTION!!! http://thatsflawesome.com/2012/10/18/... Sorta like an IUD for your lawn tractor, but someone will buy it...

                                                If I was sentenced to stovetop cooking in LC ovens, I might use my prison candy money to buy one of these: http://www.ebay.it/itm/Botta-paiolo-e...

                                              2. re: knifesavers

                                                Jim,

                                                Stirring does help a lot. No question about it. It may also has to do with what you make vs what other people make. Some soup/sauce simply burn more easily than others.

                                                While you did not experience any soup burning experience in LC, my guess is that you won't experience any soup burning in an Teflon aluminum pot neither -- using your technique.