If the world of enameled cast iron cookware were anything like highlander, Le Creuset would be the only one. It seems to me that just about every week some manufacture is introducing a new line of colorful enameled cookware in direct competition with Le Creuset. So why was this Le Creuset French oven at the top of Katt’s wish list, and why was I willing to spend considerably more for it? Read on to find out.
To begin with, Le Creuset is not new to the game. Founded in France in 1925 by two Belgian industrialists, one of their first products, and to date their most popular, was the Dutch oven. But wait Brian I thought you said it was a French oven? Here’s the thing, culinarily speaking I don’t believe there is anything called a French oven. The Dutch were making sand cast, iron cooking vessels since the 1600s. By the time Le Creuset came around the term Dutch oven was already pretty well established. However being French they were not about to let anyone but the French take credit so Le Creuset decided to market their Dutch oven as a French Oven. In 1934 Le Creuset introduced what is, to Katt and me at least, one of the most iconic cookware colors ever created, Flame (orange). It was this color that I purchased for Katt.
So what makes Le Creuset so much better than their often times considerably cheaper competition? For one, their construction, all Le Creuset French ovens are still produced in the same foundry in France. Each one is individually sand cast and hand finished before being sprayed with two coats of enamel and fired. The results are a cooking vessel that is built like a tank and made to endure even the toughest of kitchen abuses. The other nice feature is that the lid is cast at the same thickness as the pot itself. This means you have a very robust lid that sits nicely on the pot and has the same heat retention properties as the vessel.
In addition to construction you are also getting the Le Creuset image. It’s the difference between owning a Ferrari or a Corvette, a Ducati or a Honda. While there is little tangible performance increase (in some cases at least) you know you own the best and just the act of viewing this object becomes enjoyable. There is a pride that comes with Le Creuset ownership that just can’t be explained unless you own one.
Right, but how does it cook? In a word, perfectly, I don’t think either Katt or I have a single complaint about the vessel. From stews to soups, to slow cooking beef tongue for tacos, it’s tough to screw up in the Le Creuset French oven. You could even create a tagine in one, if heaven forbid, you didn’t own an Emile Henry tagine already. The benefits of an enameled cast iron pot are clear the moment you turn the heat to low and let it simmer all day. Stainless steel just can’t keep up. It doesn’t retain the heat as well and will end up with burn marks on the bottom. Cleaning the French oven could not be easier, either toss in the dishwasher if you are so inclined (please don’t I will cry), or simply clean by hand in the sink with minimal effort due to the enameled surface.
I have found 5.5qt size to be just about ideal for home use. Anything smaller and you have to figure out how to cut down most recipes. Anything larger and you have a lot of unused pan. Probably one of the greatest things about owning a Le Creuset French oven is the knowledge that in 100 years your French oven could still be around and functioning just as well as it does today. This means that you can start your own culinary traditions, ones that can be passed down for generations to come, and can you really put a price on that? Yes, it appears you can, and it’s 229.99 at most retailers.