Le Creuset Redux

by Valerie on December 23, 2008 · 0 comments

It’s always funny what posts hit a chord — my Le Creuset post from last week brought commenters out of the woodwork (thank you!) and I even got several emails and questions (more thank you’s!). So here is follow-up on the comments and questions.

Why is it so great anyways?
You know, I kept asking that question myself. I think it’s great to different people for different reasons. If you like braising meats, it works great — and probably better than non-cast-iron. If you love making dishes that require crusting followed by deglazing to get depth of flavor, the Le Creuset makes it happen faster than many other types of pots. If you like to make chilis and soups, chances are you’ll be able to cut cooking time. You can make no-knead bread in it too by the way. And many people just like the Le Creuset because it cooks evenly.

How I can find one without paying too many shiny dollars?
As those who commented and emailed me reminded me — there are many ways to get Le Creuset for less than retail. Not only are the outlets very well stocked, but discount stores are an option. Le Creuset is one of the few brands that does not appear to be counterfeited (knocked off with other brand names, yes, but not counterfeited and passed off as Le Creuset, no — I think it has something to do with how darn heavy they are). Le Creuset pieces often pop up at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Also, Bloomingdales will sometimes let you combine coupons with a sale price, and Macy’s does too — so wait for a good discount weekend. And Amazon often has pieces on sale. The real key to getting a Le Creuset for less than retail is to be flexible on the color and the sizes — I find that red and flame are the easiest to find at less than retail, followed by green and cobalt. Don’t be like me – I was stuck on wanting a neutral and a specific size/shape, which narrowed my options. The Slate color still is a Williams Sonoma exlusive. Oh, and there’s always ebay, though the shipping cost would cut into the savings.

Does everyone need one?
As much as I love mine, and think it has become a shortcut for stronger flavor and all that, I probably could have continued to live without it. I didn’t want to, but I could have. That said, the Le Creuset does stuff my Circulon pans take longer to do and, seeing as most of my pots and pans were bought 8-9 years ago, it seemed like a good idea to splurge now, before Le Creuset becomes even more expensive. Plus I owned nothing for braising or making no-knead bread, so I was going to have to buy something anyways. I also have a theory that Le Creuset is doing a huge marketing push — you may have noticed that it is on just about *every* Food Network show — I really think prices will just keep going up.

Does it need to be Le Creuset?
Honestly – no — it doesn’t. Many prefer Staub. I just recently read in the WSJ that Chocolate and Zucchini’s Clotilde prefers it because the shape of the lid traps steam in such a way that it condenses back down the sides and makes the cooking situation auto-basting. I also remember Smitten Kitchen raving over Staub — by the way, despite its name, Staub is French. Also, there are many other brands that do less expensive cast iron — including Rachael Ray, Mario Batali and Crate and Barrel’s store brand — that seem just as good. My one concern about those brands,though, is that they have not been around for decades yet — like no one says “my Mario pot is just as good as when my grandmother bought it” because the Mario pot didn’t exist then. I have seen many Le Creuset pieces from years and decades ago, and had proof they held up.

So why did you buy a Le Creuset?
Since I had not bought a new pot in 8 years, I figured that I wanted to go for top of the line – so it was down to Le Creuset or Staub — I lifted every single dutch iron from both lines, and found that Le Creuset just worked better for me – I almost dropped the Staub ones several times. Something about how the weight was distributed. Plus then there was the whole shape and color debate, and Le Creuset really has the biggest selection. And some of it was aesthetics too.

Is it an addiction where you will keep building on your collection?
That was one of the side benefits of going with the Slate color — I figured there were not as many additional pieces to buy. The red Le Creuset line has so many items in comparison I was almost thankful that I wasn’t into the red color. I think the size of the first Le Creuset you buy has a lot to do with repeat buying — many people I know started with a 3 quart dutch oven or a 2 quart casserole (like the pumpkin or the apple or the heart, see here) and invariably wanted a bigger size so got a 5 or 7 quart one. I also saw people buying the 7 quart and deeming it too heavy for frequent use, and then buying a 4 or 5 quart one. It’s definitely one of those purchases where you want to be really strategic about it.

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