While you may think yourself indifferent when it comes to the tools you use in the kitchen, talk to a Le Creuset super fan who collects—nay, worships—the premium French kitchenware brand, and you’ll hear a different story. Famed for their colorful cast iron collections that seemingly defy the test of time, Le Creuset’s iconic pieces have long been considered essential, since the company’s humble beginnings in 1925.
Over the years, Le Creuset has continued to win over the hearts and taste buds of proud foodies, and has even been known to grace the kitchens of celebrity chefs and A-list collectors (Julia Child and Marilyn Monroe were both huge fans). Suffice it to say, their vibrant pots and pans have earned a special place in the homes and memories of passionate chefs across the world.
“In France, everyone has cast iron pieces that have been in their families for years," says acclaimed NYC-based chef, Gabriel Kreuther. "It’s your grandmother’s favorite, and then, it gets passed down for generations."
But despite the fact that Le Creuset has accrued a cult-like following over the decades, we still couldn’t help but ask, "Why is it the best?"
Considering the majority of their products fall on the pricier side (their famous round Dutch oven starts at $130), young cooks or shoppers on a tight budget may feel tempted to question, "Is it worth it? How long will my cookware actually last? Where should I start?"
To get to the bottom of your pressing questions (and ours, too) we asked seasoned chefs and everyday users what it’s really like to cook with those products. Consider this your definitive guide to all things Le Creuset.
So, what’s the story?
While today, the brand is celebrated world over, Le Creuset (pronounced luh-croo-zay) was born in response to a culinary revolution led by renowned chef Auguste Escoffier that hit the country during the 1920s. Casting expert Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq, a Belgian enameling specialist, teamed up in 1925 to produce what would be Le Creuset’s first enameled cocotte—set in the brand’s now iconic fiery orange colored glaze: Flame.
“As traditional peasant dishes such as boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin were brought to the forefront of French dining, Le Creuset products were custom designed to support these cooking styles,” explains Will Copenhaver, the company’s director of marketing communications.
While the intensely orange hue (which also goes by the name of Volcanique) is still the company’s most popular color option, Le Creuset has since expanded both its palette and product offerings.
Today, 91 years later, the company boasts an array of enameled cast iron cookware, stoneware, stainless steel, and silicone collections that come in a rainbow of colors and finishes—from millennial pink to ultra violet. In addition to their beloved cookware essentials (like the Dutch ovens, braisers, and saucepans), Le Creuset also sells just about everything else you’d need to fill an empty kitchen, including tabletop goods, bakeware, cutlery, and other prep tools.
How are their cast-iron products made?
All Le Creuset cast iron cookware is crafted and thoroughly examined at the company’s original location in Fresnoy-le-Grand, France. Here, each item is cast in individual black sand molds that are then destroyed and recycled after use (thus, no two items are alike). The cast pieces are then smoothed and refined by in-house artisans before they enter the enameling line, where a number of colorful enamel layers are applied.
The most impressive part of the entire design process? At least 15 (!!) pairs of hands touch and inspect every single piece of Le Creuset cookware before it hits the shelves.
What are the advantages to cooking with Le Creuset?
Unlike most brand name pots and pans that can scratch or deteriorate over time, Le Creuset products are generally more forgiving. Thanks to their enamel glaze exterior, their strong vessels retain (and distribute) heat extremely well—and are pretty much guaranteed to last a lifetime.
“The heavy bottom of a Le Creuset disperses heat very well, and the durability factor is a plus. Not to mention, it looks great on the stovetop,” says John Fraser, chef and restaurateur behind The Loyal in Manhattan.
And while their beautiful and vibrant hues, of course, serve as a major bonus (especially if your kitchen is craving a little color), the pieces are truly functional, and can accommodate just about any feast.
“You get a nice even heat that is perfect for searing meat and developing golden brown caramelization, which you need for flavor,” explains Melia Marden, chef and co-owner of The Smile and Smile To Go. “I don’t want a lot of pots and pans taking up space, so I like to be able to use them for everything—from boiling water to braising stews.”
“Sheer weight,” says Kreuther. “Even when cooking professionally, you have to be careful of the combined weight of the pot and your dish.”
Their bulky, heavy bodies make it more difficult to move about the kitchen and carry your food with ease. “You have to be a little careful when moving them around and cleaning them!” adds Marden.
Is it worth the splurge?
“It absolutely is!” says longtime Le Creuset user Lahaina, who can't live without the brand's signature skillet. “I use mine every single day on my stovetop for cooking eggs or stir frys, but also put it in the oven to roast veggies or chicken. I get the majority of my cooking done with just this one pan.”
While deal-hunters may not be thrilled about the pretty cookware’s steep price tags, Le Creuset proves to be a wise choice for aspiring chefs interested in building a solid cookware collection that will stand the test of time. For some, having an everyday pan that’s simply indestructible and totally reliable is a major plus. But for others, the tradition of collecting and the time spent cooking with loved ones is reason alone to put their wallet out on a limb.
“I believe it’s worth the splurge for the cast iron, and the memories you create with your family around it,” says Kreuther. “They become part of your family; you keep the memories forever, and come to love the pieces because they carry so many memories.”
What should I buy?
Historically, Le Creuset has been known for their enameled Dutch oven, as well as their braisers, saucepans, and skillets. But when it comes to building a collection (or picking up one or two essential pieces) that meet your personal needs, it all depends on what you like to cook and how you like to cook.
Not sure where to start? We have you covered.
For the master cook:
“Our 15 ½ QT Goose Pot is the largest Dutch oven we manufacture, and it’s a showstopper for a big dinner party meal,” says Copenhaver. “Also, Pate Terrine.” The brand's braisers also prove to be a popular choice amongst seasoned chefs.
“My favorite is the large braiser,” Fraser tells Domino. “I’ve had it forever! It’s great for large pieces of meat and hearty vegetables.”
For Marden, the 3 ¾ QT Braiser, in particular, is the most versatile option. “I would say I cook about 90 percent of all my dinners at home in this pan,” she says. “It’s wide enough, and has enough surface area that you can use it for sautéing vegetables or searing meat, but it’s also deep enough that you can making saucey dishes or stews in it.”
For the baking fiend:
Love to bake? Copenhaver suggests starting with the Heritage Rectangular Casserole or a set of Mini Cocottes—both of which boast a sleek, nonstick glazed interior to make cleanup that much easier.
For the beginner:
Get acquainted with your cookhouse by snagging the must haves. For Copenhaver, the 3 ½ QT Braiser (often called a ‘do everything’ pot in France) or 11” nonstick fry pan are two good places to start. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with their classic round or oval Dutch ovens.
“I like the cast iron line specifically, and my favorites are the round and oval Dutch ovens and small saucepans with a handle,” Kreuther tells Domino. “I got my first piece—a round Dutch oven—about 15 to 16 years ago, and have added two or three other pieces since then.”
For the shopper on a budget:
Want to pick up a few goodies without breaking your bank account? Consider snagging the 8 Qt Enamel on Steel Stockpot (only $80). Or, if you’re not into the whole cooking thing but still want your stovetop to look fresh, their Classic Whistling Kettle.
Should I mix or should I match?
When it comes to selecting the hue (or hues) for you, go with the colors you naturally gravitate toward. While a monochromatic collection will introduce a sense of cohesion to a streamlined kitchen, an eclectic array of whimsical shades (like the Sugar Pink Matte and Soleil Yellow) can feel funky and refreshing.
“I have a mix of colors,” says Marden. “My kitchen is black, white, and pale pink marble, so anything set against it pops in a nice way.”
Over the past year, Le Creuset has launched a series of new colors—currently, they offer a total of 17 colors to pick from—as well as special anniversary collections and holiday-themed pieces.
Want to stay in the know? You can keep up with all the fun collections and colors Le Creuset has released in 2018 here.
Where should I buy Le Creuset?
Le Creuset is available directly through lecreuset.com, as well as Le Creuset signature stores and a range of premium retailers like Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, Crate and Barrel, and Bloomingdales. Independent gourmet stores may also carry Le Creuset goods, so you might have to do some local digging of your own.
For those shopping on a budget, consider heading to a Le Creuset outlet—the brand has a number of locations across the country.
How do I take care of my cast iron?
While Le Creuset breaks down how to clean and care for all of their products on their site (find detailed instructions here), simple rules like avoiding the use of metal utensils or metallic pads, and not storing products while still damp are useful tips to keep in mind if you want any of their enameled cast iron products to last as long as possible.
Afraid you might smash a lid or crack your pot? Le Creuset offers different warranties depending on the type of product. Find out if your item is covered here.
And the consensus is…
While we aren’t saying you should give up on your go-to cookware brands or that your food will suddenly taste better if you start cooking with Le Creuset, we have to note that the famed French company is revered for good reason.
Feel like adding one small piece to your kitchen? You’re guaranteed to have it for years to come. Seriously considering becoming a dedicated collector? You’ll come to value their pieces not only for their longevity or joyful hues, but also for the memories, traditions, and damn good dishes they inspire.
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The 13 Essential Cookbooks Every Home Cook Should Own
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