Monday, February 9, 2009


As a kid, I avidly watched all the cooking shows on PBS with the fancy French cookware. The delicious meals they created just seemed that much better because they were being cooked in those colorful pots that just mesmerized me. I didn't know who made them back then, I just knew they were cool and what real cooks used. If it wasn't for an astute husband, I wouldn't have become such a huge fan of the Le Creuset product line.

If you watch any cooking shows (and who doesn't?), you've seen Le Creuset. Those colorful dutch ovens and stock pots can be found in every TV chef's kitchen to make soups, stews, and other savory treats. Their bold colors make you notice the food being prepared, especially since so much of what we use in our own kitchens is black, gray or silver.

My love affair with Le Creuset began with this humble two quart Tomato stockpot:

I am a cook and my husband is a serious foodie and capable cook in his own right. The quality of our cooking was not matched by our cookware. In late 2000, we each did a bit of research as to what better quality brands we would replace the middle tier pots and pans we owned at the time.

To be honest, as much as I admired the LeCreuset products I saw on TV, I hadn't given the pieces serious consideration. I had seen them featured on Julia Child, Earl Payroux and Justin Wilson's cooking shows in my youth and knew if they had used them, they had to be good. When I looked at the price tags, though, they seemed a little too rich for my wallet.

So, we set our sights on other brands, like Calphalon and All Clad. A going out of business sale in 2001 netted a top of the line Calphalon Commercial Non Stick set and a Lodge Chicken Fryer for half of retail. I'd grown up cooking with my great grandma's two cast iron skillets and was a huge fan of the even heating cast iron provides.

Then, my husband found a steal of a deal in his Amazon Gold Box one evening. The above pictured Tomato-for 75% off. He wanted Le Creuset, he knew I wanted it and without hesitation, he bought it. To his way of thinking, we'd been picking up open stock of every other brand to see if they were a good fit, why not Le Creuset? Let's see if it is as incredible as those french ovens seemed when seen on TV.

It was all that and more. That little tomato has the even heating of cast iron combined with an enamel surface that is as easy to clean as non stick. It is dishwasher safe and oven safe. And it quickly replaced my rice cooker, because it did a better job of cooking my Basmati than the purpose built item! My only complaint was that we didn't pick up the pepper, apple or pumpkin when they were Gold Box deals! I talked my husband out of at the time because seriously, who needs four 2 quart pots?

The Tomato convinced us that we needed bigger pieces. It had become a workhorse of the kitchen for making side items, and had a permanent home atop the stove, thanks to nearly daily use. Thus, our travels in nearby outlet malls brought us into a few LeCreuset stores. We'd gone from thinking LeCreuset's products were too expensive to agreeing we needed more, but disagreeing about the colors and sizes. (I'm a fan of Sonoma Blue, my husband, Flame.)

Eventually, we stopped in an outlet in South Carolina on our way back from a trip to Florida and found a great deal on a 5 1/2 quart in the color I wanted, Sonoma Blue. The first time I made my Marinara sauce in that pot, I was so thrilled that I didn't have to stir it constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Even better, no matter what had been cooked in it, pot roast, marinara sauce, pasta, soup, or my strawberry syrup, a run through the dishwasher and it was ready for duty again. I can't do that with the Calphalon pieces.

One of the main reasons why the LeCreuset gets called into duty before my other stock pots is because the cast iron cooks more evenly at lower temperatures. When we purchased the Tomato and the 5 1/2 quart pot, we had a gas stove and found that the even heat distribution it does by itself meant my heat diffuser stayed in a drawer. A later move to Florida necessitated to switch to electric burner stoves, but there was no change to the LeCreuset's quality of cooking, unlike some other pieces in our arsenal.

Now, we have a glass top oven. The manufacturers discourage the use of traditional cast iron on these cooktops, because the rough serface pits and scratches the glass. However, the enamel coating of LeCreuset cookware is safe to use, thanks to its smoothness. This is something to consider if you like cast iron cooking.

Another other great feature of the LeCreuset product line-you can cook in each piece, then refrigerate your food in it. When you're ready to reheat, just put it back on the stove top or in the oven. The silicone handles are oven safe to 425 degrees.

These two pieces we owned were used so much that once we moved to Florida, I decided I needed a third pot in between these two sizes. Thus, the 3 1/2 quart French oven was added to the stable a few years ago:

You're thinking, is it really worth that price tag? Yes, it is! LeCreuset backs it up with a lifetime guarantee. They're not joking about it, either. I'd made a batch of strawberry syrup one time and the candy like syrup stuck to the bottom of my 5 1/2 quart pot. I didn't think it'd come off and called their customer service department in a panic. The representative quickly gave me a return tag authorization and told me they'd be happy to replace it. However, an overnight soak and a little bit of elbow grease got every bit of stuck on syrup off. They truly stand behind their product. Lifetime guarantee really means LIFETIME when you purchase their product!

Now, if only I had a LeCreuset Skillet, Roaster and Wok, I'd be all set. Sooner or later, though, they will be in our kitchen.

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