With its surfaces of porcelain enamel, the pots and pans are easier to clean than regular uncoated cast iron, while providing all the benefits of cast iron such as even heat, that is held. The handles may be wood, especially on the saucepans, or rolled iron. The surfaces are stain and scratch resistant.
The cookware is expensive, targeted at the middle to upper class population. It comes with its famous 101 year guarantee. It’s not really used professionally, though: it’s for homes.
Le Creuset cookware is good for low, slow cooking such as that involved in stews and braising. It is not really marketed as non-stick, but some users complain the cookware gets stickier over time. The phenolic resin knobs that come with most of the items are only oven safe up to 375 F (190 C.) You can order stainless steel knobs to replace them with.
The cooking vessels are heavy in weight, and colourful and decorative enough that you can use the pots as tableware, serving directly out of them.
In the 1970s, there were two black finishes used on skillets: a non-stick one, and a satin black enamel. The non-stick was discontinued: it did not last well, it seems. It could flake if the pot or pan were exposed to too high heat (e.g. being left empty on a hot burner, which happens.)
The satin black enamel interior finish stands up to heat better. It is used in their wok, chicken fryer, on their griddle / grill pans, and in some skillets. You don’t need to season this as you would regular cast iron: remember, it might look like brand new unseasoned cast iron, but you are really seeing enamel.
No two pieces of Le Creuset are ever exactly the same, owing to the casting process. Each piece is made from a fresh two-piece sand mould, after which each mould is broken back into sand. The cast piece is then “fettled” — smoothed down by hand, then blasted by tiny metal petals to prepare the surface to be enamelled. The piece gets a first coat of clear, uncoloured enamel, then a second coat of coloured enamel. It is then air-dried and vitrified. Each coat is fired at 1472 F (800 C .)
Some people like to maintain a colour line, and have all their Creuset in the same colour.
The Flame Orange (“volcanique”) colour was introduced in 1934. There have been rumours from time to time about it being discontinued but it is still available brand new in stores. In 1956, the Elysees (saffron) Yellow was introduced. Some colours offered have been exclusive to some stores, such as Electric and Sonoma Blue (Williams-Sonoma) and Olive (John Lewis.)
In Japan, the favourite colour is the cherry red. The heart-shaped Dutch oven has also proved popular in Japan.
Some of Le Creuset’s skillets can have shorter sides than other makes of skillets do.
Caring for Le Creuset
The outside coloured enamel can be hard to clean, but you can use oven cleaner on it.
The light interior enamel can stain over time if you use it for high-heat searing of meat, or brown things in it, or burn tomato sauces in it, etc. Bleach cleaners can remove the stain, but some think such cleaners may make the enamel more susceptible to future stains, and to increased sticking. Don’t use abrasive powders or creams, or scouring pads and metal brushes, to clean the insides or the interior enamel coating will wear down over time.
Don’t pour cold water into a very hot Le Creuset pot or the pot may crack.
Don’t use any stovetop heat setting higher than medium with this cookware.
Don’t put under a broiler.
Lead is not used in the enamel — it couldn’t be, owing to the high firing temperatures required for the manufacturing process.
Cadmium was used in the coloration of some enamelled brands of cookware (not just Creuset) up until the 1970s to get really bright exterior colours, until the American FDA expressed concerns about it. Le Creuset changed their their glaze formulas, to ensure that no cadmium is released during cooking. Worth noting as well, perhaps, is that the glaze where the cadmium is, is only on the outside of the pot.
The technique of porcelain enamel was discovered about 1830 in Czechoslovakia.
In 1924, Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq, both Belgian, met at an industrial Exhibition in Brussels. Desaegher was an iron-caster; Aubecq was an enameller. They decided to go into a business adventure together creating enamelled kitchen vessels.
They set up their factory in 1925 in Fresnoy-le-Grand dans l’Aisne, France. That location provided them easy transport access to the supplies they would need.
They made their first enamelled pot that year, their Dutch Oven, and proceded to create a range of products after that, doing radio and newspaper advertising.
During the war, the factory was closed by the Germans.
After the war, the factory re-opened and created new enamel colours.
- 1952 – started exports to America
- 1974 – opened their branch in South Carolina
- 1988 – the company was bought by a South African, Paul Van Zuydam, who still owns it as of 2010.
- 1988 – opened a branch in the UK, in 1991 in Japan
- 1992 – introduced their wok
- 1994 – opened a branch in Germany
- 2004 – Italian and Canadian branches
Literature & Lore
Marilyn Monroe owned a 12 piece set of Elysees Yellow Le Creuset cookware. It sold at auction in New York in October 1999 for $25,300 US. – Lot # 401. [“Marilyn Monroe’s Allure Explained: It Was Her Cooking!”. Market Wire. 29 February 2005.] [ McPherson, Heather. She Was Goddess In The Kitchen Too. Orlando, Florida: The Sentinel. 2 December 1999.
“Creuset” means cauldron, referring to the cauldrons that the iron is melted in.
Biller, Hilary. The Pot Thickens. Johannesburg, South Africa: The Times. 8 November 2009.
Darwent, Charles. The King of Cookware. Marketing Magazine. 1 December 1992.
Le Creuset. Historique. Retrieved July 2009 from http://www.lecreuset.com/fr-fr/La-Marque-/Our-History/ .
“Interview with Paul Van Zuydam, owner of Le Creuset.” Grand Hotels Magazine. 6 July 2010.