If someone gives you one of these, they love you. They’re not cheap –
your loved one or the pot. The big ones can be $500+ (this is a 2010 photo).
Of course, you can use a beat up old heavy pot for low slow cooking or braising. It’s just that these beauties were made for the job and they brighten this dark season.
Why so special? They are porcelain-enamelled cast iron inside and out. Their weight keeps the heat in and distributes it evenly. The enamel keeps the flavours true and doesn’t react with high acidic foods (tomatoes). This picture just happens to show big pots, but they come in all shapes and sizes.
Le Creuset – from France is the most popular and with the best size selection and colour choices. Quality and beauty, an irresistible combo.
Staub – also French, has rich, warm colours, some with beautiful rooster handles. Comparable in quality to Le Creuset. More irresistibility.
Lodge Cast Iron – this old American company has got in the enamel act. A far cry from their original cowboy pot but missing the European design. Great quality though.
There’s also the less expensive made-in-China variety. They work very well and are much cheaper, just not so pretty. If country of origin matters to you, you should be checking all products, because so much western manufacturing is now done in China.
How to love one?
The enamel finish, though durable, needs some special attention. The manufacturers all say something different so I treat mine like the quality tool it is. My first Le Creuset pitted and the enamel came off in flakes with the lamb shanks. It took 30 years of serious cooking but I always feel I could have done better. Thankfully, my mother gave me hers, so this is what I do now…
- Use wooden or silicon utensils to avoid scratching
- Wash by hand. Dishwasher detergent causes the enamel to pit after time.
- Use a nonabrasive srubber, especially on the outside. Kleen-Glo is the best – for everything (thank you, Helen!)
- Avoid high heats. You can sear the meat (what’s the point otherwise?) but if you need that high, high heat, use plain cast iron then transfer.
- Discolouration inside is normal, don’t worry. It works just the same and the patina shows your love of cooking.
Where to get besides the usual cookware shops and The Bay?
- There’s a Le Creuset store in the Premium Outlet Mall just south of Bellingham. The 2015 Canadian dollar probably doesn’t make it financially worthwhile but lots and lots of colours to ogle and since Le Creuset contsantly introduces and discontinues colours it may be a good place to find last year’s.
- The Army and Navy or Winners/Homesense often have the cheaper ones. Ikea, too.
- Winners/Home Sense regularly have name brands at a discount. They won’t have the colour choice but if you find the shape you want, grab it. What really matters is what you serve from it.