It’s a fact that when you buy Le Creuset bakeware, you’re getting quality and the best of both baking worlds. Heavy-duty, durable, cast iron pots, coupled with the benefits of a strong enamel coating. This not only takes the hassle out 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 states, *‘chronic toxicity associated with the use of enameled cookware under normal circumstances is extremely low and negligible’.
When I’m asked what’s been my best bakeware investment, it’s LeCreuset, without question. After years of faithful service the ‘cost per use’ price is down to cents.*
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Is Le Creuset worth the price?
Once you’ve used this cookware you’ll have no doubt it’s a YES, worth every penny. It’s a quintessential part of every cook’s kitchen, and it lasts. Care for it properly and this is cookware that you pass down to your children. And they’ll love it too.
Le Creuset bakeware is widely considered to be some of the best cookware in the world.
Unfortunately a few home cooks have reported faults with the pots, and with the outcome of their kitchen efforts. They are absolutely in the minority and it is because they don’t fully understand the ways in which Le Creuset should be used. Let’s go through the key points to remember for longevity of the bakeware, and ensure your optimal baking results – every time.
What is Le Creuset bakeware?
Think of Le Creuset bakeware more as a slow cooker or crockpot, rather than an ‘everything pot’.
They’re also known as ‘dutch ovens’ or as Le Creuset prefers to call them ‘french ovens’, but they are all essentially referring to the same product. The classic definition is ‘a cast-iron pot with thick walls and tight-fitting lid causing heat to be trapped inside the pot’. This mechanism keeps the food cooking when it’s moved from the heat source. The meal stays warm for much longer than if it were cooked in traditional pots and pans.
The real advantage of Le Creuset is the enamel coating. And it’s because pans are easy to clean, sticking is minimized and requires no seasoning.
While a slow-cooker will do the job, if you slow cook acidic dishes often, the acidic foods eventually react and wear down the stainless steel whereas they will not react with the enamel coating. By acidic foods, I’m referring to slow cooking with wine, tomatoes, lemons etc.
How to use Le Creuset
This is a guide to using your Le Creuset stoneware at low temperatures, protecting the pot and creating perfect results every time.
Great Results at Low Heats
One of the main concerns people have is that cooking at low temperatures won’t produce optimal results. Using Le Creuset stoneware as a type of slow cooker or crockpot creates excellent results for stews, casseroles and curries. In fact any cooking where you want a delicious, rich flavor to develop.
If you’re using the bakeware on the hob, consider which ring would be the best option. The manufacturer advises 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, Le Creuset bakeware should be exposed to heats no greater than 190 degrees celsius, or 375 degrees fahrenheit.
Browning meat or thickening sauces
Tips to ensure you get great results, even when using at lower temperatures.
- For browning or braising 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 produces even better results than quick hob cooking, as it gives the flavors a chance to develop beautifully.
Think about how a curry or chilli always tastes better the next day because the flavors have had a chance to develop.
Cooking rice and potatoes with Le Creuset
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.
Why buy Le Creuset bakeware
Although there are cheaper options and brands in the market, Le Crueset is a valued, quality addition to your kitchen and should last a lifetime.
These are an investment in quality. If you break down the ‘cost per use’ over the years of service these products will give you; well we think there’s no comparison.
If you’ve seen reviews about Le Creuset saying the product didn’t really live up to expectations, it could be because they weren’t using the pot in the correct manner. It’s important to understand the ways in which Le Creuset should be used to ensure longevity of the pot, and get optimal baking results.
What you need to know about Le Crueset
The underlying cast iron conducts and retains heat very well, with the metal expanding when exposed to heat, and contracting once cool.
What causes cracks in the enamel of bakeware?
Rapid heating can cause the metal to expand too quickly, creating cracks. They are sometimes so small that they can’t be detected, are the main reason cooks struggle to use their Le Creuset.
Cracks that expose the bare cast iron can cause food to stick to the pan, and can contribute to the formation of rust.
It’s not difficult to keep your Le Creuset bakeware healthy. The secret is to avoid high heats as much as possible, sticking instead to low or medium heat which won’t crack the enamel.
How do I clean Le Creuset bakeware
Use warm, soapy water. You can make cleaning easier by soaking the pan. Let the pan sit with the soapy water, 15 – 20 minutes, and then wash normally. Don’t use boiling hot water, you want to avoid thermal shock/ heat shock.
What does thermal shock mean?
Simply put, adding too hot or boiling water to a cold pan, over time, can cause thermal shock which can create hairline cracks in enamel. In the same way, plunging a hot pan into very cold water can cause shock.
Don’t use harsh abrasives and scourers on the enamel. Instead opt for soft cloths, non-metal scrubbing pads or a wooden spatula.
Do you have hard to remove spots?
We all know that baking soda is a hidden gem to have in the kitchen cupboard, but if you simmer water in your french oven and add a small amount of baking soda (about 1-2 tablespoons, depending on the size of your pan) or soap, let it cool, and then clean using your soft sponge, spots will be much easier to move. If they’re still stuck – try a little diluted vinegar. Rinse well.
Any stains and burnt-on food marks can be removed using Le Crueset cleaner and protector. Just use a little on a sponge, leave it for around 10 minutes and wipe over to remove residue.
As alternatives, I have heard that using a Magic Eraser or bar keepers friend for stains works well. Caution: don’t use these products aggressively as they may dull the shine or enamel finish. I don’t use these myself however, so I can’t recommend them from personal experience.
My Le Creuset bakeware is a lifelong investment for me so I prefer to use the recommended Le Crueset cleaner and protector to clean and I’ve had no problems with this.
Knowledge is the key
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.
Le Creuset bakeware is some of the very best in the world, and knowing how to use it will have you looking like a true pro in the kitchen.