If there is one name that rings a bell for fans of the traditional Dutch Oven, it likely comes from Le Creuset. When it comes to cookware, what makes this iconic French brand more attractive than other products that are one-quarter of the price?
The Leader Of The Pack
The global fans of Le Creuset are very similar to how the media endlessly adores Elon Musk and his barnstorming ideas. No matter what part of the world you venture across, Le Creuset always has the spotlight. But for what it’s worth, it remains a mystery why so many high-quality Dutch ovens and kitchenware brands are left in the shadows. Is there really a difference between Le Creuset and its magical enameled surface? Let’s find out!
How Did Le Creuset Begin?
Back in 1924, two unlikely Belgians met by chance at the 5th annual Brussels Trade Fair. Both of these aspiring industrialists found common ground and quickly formed an idea to create a new form of cookware. They decided to create a special kind of foundry that would specialize in enamel-coated iron cookware products. Although they weren’t the very first to do this, they did have one advantage behind their location where to set up shop.
This location just-so happened to be located at Fresnoy-le-Grand located to the north of France in the city of Aisne. The two founders: Armand Desaegher was an experienced casting expert, while Octave Aubecq was an expert with enamel coatings. The location of their foundry was no mistake as this was the ideal crossroads trade route that moved three essential raw materials needed for their product line.
This included sand, iron, and coke and gave their new foundry an immediate advantage that had an endless supply of plentiful working materials. By 1925, the very first cocotte had been produced and began a slow rise to build up their products and range of cookware. Despite the Second World War creating difficult times for many French companies, Le Creuset managed to find modest success until 1945.
It wasn’t until the war ended, that the hardship that was endured by the Le Creuset foundry was certainly their strategic location. This was the one thing that saved them entirely from going out of business like many other companies of the time! They began a second wind of producing enameled cast-iron cookware that targeted a new market in America. This grew into a profitable business and allowed them to expand and grow over the next decades.
This expansion now covers a larger market presence in several countries that now have business offices all over the globe. To those who only know Le Creuset being colorful from their recent products, it’s interesting to note they didn’t start adding color to their ceramic coatings until 1945!
What Are The Benefits Of Enameled Cast Iron?
The process that takes place when any Le Creuset pot is made in France is a tribute to quality. Although this process could have been shipped to China decades ago to save on production costs, the factory location in France relies on the same process that’s been perfected over 96 years ago. The cast iron itself is poured into a sand mold and hand-finished after it comes out of the mold.
It then gets cleaned up and is coated with the enamel coating and then gets fired in a special kiln oven. This process can take up to 10 hours just to produce a single pot and takes more than 12 steps from start to finish. Amazingly, the Fresnoy-le-Grand factory can produce up to 25,000 pieces per day. If the castings have any kind of imperfections, the metal is re-melted and recycled again.
As a fun fact, the ceramic coating doesn’t stick too well to cast-iron, so each pot and cookware item is sandblasted beforehand, so it becomes textured. This helps adhere the ceramic to the surface more securely. We’ll get back to that a bit later in this article for better clarification. Needless to say, this laborious process produces a non-stick surface that is easier to clean and doesn’t need seasoning like traditional cast-iron Dutch ovens.
Why Are Enameled Cookware Items Better For Cooking?
The theory behind this is very simple since this has much to do with the insulation that enameled surfaces can provide. If you have ever owned a thermos, you’ll know these are lined with an inner glass sleeve within a metal container. This allows hot liquids to retain heat for longer periods, while the metal further creates a barrier for keeping heat from escaping. This is why a Dutch oven works so effectively for cooking many kinds of foods.
The combination of ceramic coating and cast-iron helps make Le Creuset pots and cookware long-lasting, regarding their lifespan in household kitchens. With an enameled surface, there is no need to worry about food sticking to the surface, and is simple to clean afterward. There is never any need to season the surface as you do with uncoated Dutch ovens, cocottes, and casserole dishes.
Le Creuset has become so popular with the variety of colors available since they’ve given their line a distinguished style across many countries. You’ll often find that select countries prefer higher preference for certain colors as a result. Oddly enough, since the Pandemic began in 2020, their online sales have increased due to interest and the availability of their products throughout the world.
Are The Le Creuset Cookware Products Better Than Others?
While this brand name is certainly a top-shelf brand that has an equal price tag that shows its quality, there are two questions that you have to consider. Enamel coatings are always a big plus but they do require a lot of care. They don’t hold up well to heat and high temperatures which will crack the enamel coating very easily. Even with a special preparation of the metal before the coating is applied, it cannot last long if there is thermal shock.
Since the coating is made from a glass-based ceramic and contains flakes of glass sand that are bonded together by heat. These are a huge danger if they get into your food and is all too easy to cause this by using the cookware improperly. Once you start to see cracks or chips appear, you want to be extra careful that these don’t become spider web cracks which will only worsen over time.
Le Creuset does have an excellent warranty that covers your cookware for a lifetime, so consider the money that you spend on a set before you decide to buy. Uncoated cast iron doesn’t have this problem but does need seasoning to get the non-stick effect. If you don’t mind the minimal effort to season your Dutch oven, you might actually save yourself a bit of money if you don’t realize how easy it is to crack a new pot just from thermal shock.