Founded nearly a hundred years ago by two Belgian industrialists who set up a factory just outside of Paris in the village of Fresnoy-le-Grand, Le Creuset has been a foodie’s favorite kitchenware ever since.
These masterfully crafted cast iron Dutch oven style cookware defy the test of time and are famous for their array of colors that come in – each with their own unique story.
As a cooking enthusiast, their cookware is everything you would want from a cookware brand. The cookware is made to a pristine quality, has a beautiful design and is extremely durable and can be used to create just about any creation in the kitchen.
The cookware range from Le Creuset screams refinement and elegance, offering their ranges in over 20 beautiful and bold colors, and over the decades, Le Creuset cookware has found its way into many households including the famous Julia Child.
Not to mention, Marilyn Monroe who had her own set of Le Creuset’s Élysée Yellow which launched in the 1960s.
However, these premium cookware pieces come with a massive monetary investment. So are they worth it?
This review will focus on the signature Le Creuset Dutch oven cookware and will go through the history of the brand, how the cookware is made and the pros and cons of the Dutch ovens.
There will also be a section on alternatives on the market, so read on to find out all you need to know about Le Creuset cookware.
A Bit About the Brand
When Armand Armand Desaegher, and Octave Aubecq, got together and combined their expertise in casting and enameling, Le Creuset which in French means “the crucible” was born by perfecting the glazing that coats their cast iron pots.
The original and first color of Le Creuset had an orange color inspired by the molten cast iron inside the molds and was dubbed “volcanic”, known today as “Flame” because of its resemblance to fire’s amber and bright red hues.
These cookwares have become the most sought after brands that produce Dutch ovens as they do not ever deviate from the process that is used to create and apply the hardy, cleanable enamel glaze which surrounds the cast iron base.
Because the brand has proved to be so popular in recent years, the range has expanded to include oven-ready bakeware made out of stoneware, a non-stick range, stainless steel cookware, enameled steel cookware and a whole range of kitchen tools and beautiful accessories.
These are available in all the colors present in the Le Creuset range, which includes every color under the rainbow-from shell pink to deep teal. All these options can be found and ordered online from the official website.
Every single piece of cookware is made in the original location in France. The cast iron cookware begins as a mixture of molten pure and recycled iron (recycled iron comes from any cast cookware that didn’t meet the exact quality standards set out upon inspection), which gets poured into individual black sand molds.
Each mold is destroyed and recycled after each item is constructed, meaning that each item is unique and made from scratch.
Once the cast iron cookware has passed through the relevant quality inspections, the pieces are smoothed down by specialist artisans before going into the enameling line where several layers of colorful enamel are applied to achieve that famous glossy glaze.
Thereafter, the pieces are baked in ovens at temperatures exceeding 1400℉. After baking, an additional color coat of enamel is applied to give the Le Creuset cookware its gradient or ombre style finish.
The whole process is labor-intensive, and each piece is crafted by at least 30 skilled artisans.
Throughout each step of the manufacturing process, there are extensive and thorough quality checks to ensure that the end product is of exceptional quality, that performs well and looks brand new, for a lifetime.
If the product doesn’t meet these standards, it is melted down and manufacturing starts all over again. In general, 30% of the cookware is rejected for the tiniest imperfections so that the consumer has the best end product.
There are several features that come along with such a finely crafted cookware range which allow for a lifetime of enjoyable cooking experiences.
The best thing about Le Creuset cookware is that they are so versatile. The cookware is safe to use on the stove top and because the cookware has a magnetic cast iron core, this means they are compatible with induction stove tops as well.
The cookware is safe in the oven up to temperatures of 500℉ with the lid on; without the lid, the cookware can be exposed to temperatures exceeding that.
Even though the cookware takes a while to heat up, once the thick iron walls have reached temperature, they keep the heat in for a long time out of the oven.
Because of the enamel coatings, the iron in the cookware is non-reactive, meaning you can cook all kinds of foods, even acidic foods, without the worry of any iron leaching into the food.
The thickness of walls of the cast iron cookware means that it is warp-resistant and unlike most cookware that will chip, discolor, scratch or otherwise deteriorate over time, the Le Creuset does not.
This is mainly due to the enamel glazing of the cookware, which gives the pots extra strength. This also ensures that the heat is distributed evenly, meaning there are no weak spots or cracks made over time.
The cookware comes with a limited lifetime warranty, although it is unlikely you will use it, as these pots are generally passed down from generation to generation.
As mentioned, the Le Creuset Dutch ovens are carefully designed to retain and conduct heat well because of their dense cast iron core which allows the cookware to reach temperatures gradually and maintain them to obtain an even cook throughout the food, not dissimilar to an actual oven.
This is helped along by the tight-fitting lid, which creates a convection effect in the cookware, keeping food moist and to allow flavors in the food to develop.
The lid has a heat-resistant ergonomically designed knob which is suitable for going into the oven without the risk of warping or melting.
Additionally, the knobs are made out of a variety of different materials and in different shapes and include stainless steel, synthetic materials and even gold.
Inside you will find stain resistant and light colored interiors, no matter what funky color you chose to show off. This is because light interiors, as opposed to darker ones, make it easier to see the changes in the food during the cooking process such as browning and searing.
Furthermore, the exterior colors are from Le Creuset’s signature gradient color blend or a singular shiny color.
These are designed to be resistant to fading, chipping and cracking (as long as the cookware receives the proper care and attention to prevent this from happening.
Speaking of color, there are over 20 exterior colors available in the range which will be presented on the cookware as a two-toned gradient or ombre effect, which means that the color will fade from light to dark.
Colors include cerise red, shell pinks, deep teal, Marseille and coastal blue, as well as the original orange and yellows mentioned earlier in this review. However, if you are not keen on the bright and bold colors, there are a host of gray, blacks and white shades to choose from as well.
The cookware also comes in a range of sizes starting from 1 quart to 15.5 quarts in capacity. There are also a wide variety of shapes in which the Le Creuset cookware comes in.
The most popular choice is the round Dutch oven, but there are also oval shaped cookware and a range of Cocotte shapes as well.
Because of the strong enamel glaze and durability of the cookware, Le Creuset Dutch ovens are easy to clean and are typically low maintenance in terms of upkeep.
However, to prevent unnecessary damage or wear over time, there are a few simple basics that you should follow to ensure that you maintain the cookware to its optimal condition over life.
When cooking with the Le Creuset cookware, it is important to avoid using utensils that are made out of metal. Metal will create scratches and scrapes on the surface of the enamel over time and so it is critical to use utensils that are made from other materials such as wood, nylon or silicone to protect the surface.
What is more, is that the cookware should not be exposed to extreme temperature differentiation or shifts as going from ice-cold temperatures to above 500℉ means that the cast iron will warp over time.
Additionally, if storing smaller pots inside the Le Creuset Dutch oven, a pan protector should be used to avoid any scratching or damage inside the cookware.
The glossy glazed exterior is quite a breeze to clean and in general, some warm water, dish soap and a soft, non-abrasive cloth or sponge should be able to get rid of any grime.
When faced with tougher stains or discoloration, it is advisable to soak the cookware in water to loosen any food before cleaning.
The cookware can be placed in the dishwasher for cleaning, but it is important to note that after several washes, the bright color of the cookware may become more muted or dulled.
Overall, the cookware is designed to resist stains and maintain the vibrancy of their colors.
Over a lifetime of use, there may be slight cosmetic changes that occur, but these will not affect the cooking performance of the cookware in any way shape or form.
The Le Creuset cookware has a lot of benefits to cooking, but one of the major drawbacks of using these Dutch ovens to cook is how heavy they are.
The solid cast iron is what makes these pieces so heavy to lug around, which can detract from the cooking experience.
When carrying the cookware around, be it placing them in an oven or onto the table laden with food or even just while washing up, you have to be careful not to drop them or injure yourself while carrying them around.
To give some context, the popular 5.5-quart Dutch oven weighs, on its own, an outstanding 11 pounds and 4 ounces, which is about as heavy as a gallon of paint or your average cat.
With the thick cast iron walls, the Le Creuset Dutch ovens take a while to heat up, so if you are looking for a quick dinner, this is not the cooking route to go down at all.
This type of cookware is good for slow-cooker type meals like casseroles and stews which take a long time to cook, be it in the oven or on the stove top. As mentioned earlier, once it has achieved this heat, it will stay hot for a while.
There is no sugar-coated way to say this, the Le Creuset Dutch ovens are very pricey and so require a massive monetary investment when you buy them. However, that is exactly what they are, an investment.
The reason why they are so expensive, especially when compared to other alternatives on the market, is because they are expertly crafted by artisans using the best and finest high-quality materials through a refined manufacturing process. All of these factors contribute to the cost of the cookware being so high.
However, the Le Creuset cookware is so much more expensive than other brands because consumers are willing to pay for the premium quality, the exceptionally high rated performance and versatility of the cookware, the design and pops of color, the durability of these pieces over generations and the brand reputation.
As a consumer, you know what you are getting out of the investment that you make, and so consumers are willing to fork out the extra cash for the assurance of a good quality product that will stand the test of time and will not let you down no matter what weird and wonderful food creation you have made with your Le Creuset.
Although this is not a major drawback, the discoloration of the vibrancy of the exterior colors, that occurs over time, does happen-especially with continued and extensive use of the cookware.
Alternatives to Le Creuset
Although they were the pioneers to create the enameled cast iron Dutch oven, and although Le Creuset may still be the market leader in this space, not everyone can afford their price points and so there are dozens of other cookware brands out there that have created their own Dutch ovens using similar materials and processes; at a more reasonable price point.
Here is a list of brands that produce some more cost-effective alternatives to the Le Creuset cookware:
Another brand made in France which is a bit more reasonable in price in comparison to Le Creuset but does not cut back on quality is Staub.
This alternative is probably the closest to Le Creuset you will find as it is a good match up in terms of performance, durability and also has a great brand reputation, even though it is a little younger than Le Creuset (Staub have been around since 1974).
The only real drawback is that there are not as many color options offered by Staub as with Le Creuset, but it is a small sacrifice to make.
A brand that is older than Le Creuset, but perhaps is not as well known, Lodge Dutch ovens have been in production since 1910.
The variety of options in the Lodge range are very similar to Le Creuset in terms of colors, shapes and sizes. The major difference is that they are a lot cheaper than Le Creuser as comparatively, for the price, they are just as durable and last just as long.
Although they haven’t been around for a long time, the Dutch ovens from Great Jones are oval with matte finishes and a smooth, light-colored interior, like Le Creuset.
However, other than this, there are very few similarities in terms of style when compared to Le Creuset. Despite this, the offering holds its own and should not be snubbed as an alternative to Le Creuset.
If you are on a tight budget, then the options offered by the brand, Tramontina. The ovens are beautifully made and are extremely durable, despite its low price point.
This Dutch oven brand has built a solid reputation for itself and in general offers quality cookware at reasonable prices.
Pros and Cons Summary
With Le Creuset, you will be getting premium quality products but is it worth it? Here is a breakdown of pros and cons to help make your decision.
- Reputable brand and excellent customer service
- The cookware is durable and lasts for generations when cared for properly
- The Le Creuset range comes in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as colors to choose from to suit your needs.
- The cookware is versatile and can be used in any way.
- They have great heat retention and cook food thoroughly.
- They are also easy to clean and maintain
- The price!
- Heavy and difficult to carry around
- Can discolor over time
- The ovens take long to heat up
The Last Slice
There is a certain prestige to owning a Dutch oven from Le Creuset, and while you shouldn’t snub other brands out there that are just as good, for a lower price, a Le Creuset Dutch oven offers you a quality like no other, and it colors up your kitchen too.
The cookware also will last a lifetime and even though it is expensive, it is an investment for years to come and will always stir up excitement to cook and host dinner parties.