Le Creuset bakeware is widely considered to be some of the best cookware in the world. Knowing how to use it will have you looking like a true pro in the kitchen.
Unfortunately many home cooks report faults with the pots, and don’t get the best outcome. They don’t fully understand the ways in which Le Creuset stoneware should be used to ensure longevity of the pot, and optimal baking results.
With Le Creuset bakeware, what you get is the best of both worlds – the heavy duty, durable, cast iron pot, coupled with a strong enamel coating that not only removes the hassle of cleaning and seasoning bare cast iron, but also transforms the pot into something that’s very safe to use.
As the National Institutes of Health state, ‘chronic toxicity associated with the use of enameled cookware under normal circumstances is extremely low and negligible’.
However, enamel-coated pots do need to be treated with care and attention. The underlying cast iron conducts and retains heat very well, with the metal expanding when exposed to heat, and contracting once cool. The cast iron needs to be heated slowly and consistently which encourages the coating to stretch. Rapid heating can cause the metal to expand too quickly, creating cracks in the enamel. These cracks,which are sometimes so small they can’t be detected, are the main reason cooks struggle to use their Le Creuset stoneware. Cracks which expose the bare cast iron can cause food to stick to the pan, and could even contribute to the formation of rust.
For best results, think of your Le Creuset bakeware more as a slow cooker or crockpot, rather than an ‘everything pot’.
Here’s a guide to using your Le Creuset stoneware at low temperatures, protecting the pot and creating perfect results every time.
Low Heats Improve Longevity of Le Creuset Bakeware
Heating your Le Creuset bakeware too rapidly can create tiny cracks in the enamel coating. You’ll be leaving the bare cast iron exposed. If you’ve cooked with cast iron before, you’ll know that in order to improve the non-stick efficacy and prevent rust build ups, cast iron needs to be seasoned well using a good quality oil after each use. Therefore, if you’ve got exposed cast iron in your Le Creuset that you’re not treating, it’s going to create some problems when cooking.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to keep your bakeware healthy. The secret is to avoid high heats as much as possible, sticking instead to low or medium heats which won’t crack the enamel. If you’re using stoneware on the hob, consider which ring would be the best option.
Le Creuset themselves advise that you should choose a ring that, when lit, creates an even distribution of heat all across the base of the pot, but not one that is so big that the base is exposed to a highly focused, intense heat. If using the pot in the oven, this bakeware should be exposed to heats no greater than 190 degrees celsius, or 375 degrees fahrenheit.
Getting Great Results at Low Heats
One of the main concerns is that cooking at low temperatures won’t produce optimal results. Using Le Creuset stoneware as a type of slow cooker or crockpot will create excellent results for stews, casseroles, or curries for example.
Browning meat, thickening sauces, cooking rice or potatoes? Here are a few tips to ensure you get great results, even when using at lower temperatures.
For browning meat or thickening sauces, the secret is to heat the pot slowly but consistently on the hob, until the pan reaches the ideal temperature. A temperature that starts to seal the juices into the meat, or begins to boil a sauce or stock. Once this temperature has been reached, the pot can be transferred into a moderately warm oven where it will continue to cook with even heat distribution, rather than through the heavily concentrated heats of the hob burner.
Note: Cooking slowly and steadily often produces even better results than quick hob cooking, as it gives the chance for the flavors to really develop. (Think about how a curry or chilli always tastes better the next day because the flavors have had a chance to come out).
For rice and potatoes that need to be boiled on the hob, rather than baked in an oven, Le Creuset bakeware is still an excellent choice. As with meats or sauces, slowly bring the water up to boiling point, and then pop the lid on and turn the heat right down as low as it will go, or you could even turn it off completely. As long as there’s a tight seal between the pot and the lid, the food will continue to cook in the steam.
Knowledge is Key
If you’ve tried cooking with Le Creuset stoneware in the past but have found that it didn’t really live up to expectations, it could be because you weren’t using the pot in the correct manner. Knowledge is key here and understanding why enamel-coated pots need to be treated in specific ways is the secret to boosting the longevity of your pot, and producing delicious, mouthwatering meals each and every time.