My mom’s Le Creuset set is an heirloom in our family.
She bought it in the 1960s after she’d moved to New York from a small village in Greece and met and married my father. The pots made the move with us to California in the early '70s. Our weekly meals were simmered, sauteed and roasted in those pans. I’m not sure if the nostalgia that wells up when I think of my childhood family dinners is more connected to the weekly meals my mom made, or those Le Creuset pots.
They were a beautiful orange-red hue, and the color of those pots and pans always triggers a memory; my mother standing by the oven quickly cooking her weekly menu of meatloaf and Spanish rice or beef stroganoff or Greek stuffed vegetables, before she had to rush off to work. She was a waitress, and her mornings were spent getting us all off to school and doing all the things that needed to be done around the house, while her evenings were spent serving people dinner. When she was finally able to retire in her late 60s, she packed up those pots once again and they traveled back to the East Coast — to Florida this time.
Am I giving too much context and doing too much storytelling around a set of pots? Maybe. But I’m not sure how else to convey how these Le Creuset pots are one of the few things that have managed to exist alongside my family for all of these years. There’s also a 1950s Sunbeam stand mixer and a set of teak mid-century modern furniture: The dining table has since become mine since my mom moved into a retirement community that simply doesn’t have the space to house all of this stuff she’s cared for for decades. And since her kitchen is no longer large enough to cook the family meals she once lovingly crafted — and she now lives alone and usually eats dinner at one of my siblings’ homes anyway — my sister inherited the set of Le Creuset Dutch ovens, pots and pans I just recently learned are a color called, “Flame.”
I learned what this beautiful red-orange hue was officially called, because after all these years of not owning my own Le Creuset, I’m testing the Dutch oven for my job, which is pretty incredible. And it reminded me of a sentiment my mother has echoed more times than I can count, and one that I am starting to hear come out of my own mouth more and more: They don’t make things like they used to.
Unless the thing they used to make is a Le Creuset Dutch oven.
The pot arrived in some pretty basic packaging, so if packaging is your thing you won’t be as impressed as you’d be opening something like the Always Pan, whose box greets you with cute little sayings. But come on: this is Le Creuset. They don’t need the bells and whistles, because the pots and pans really speak for themselves. I got the 5.5-quart Dutch Oven, in Flame of course. “Inspired by the pour of molten iron, Flame is a glowing, confident orange, ready to fire up your kitchen and appetite. Introduced in 1925, Flame became Le Creuset’s trademark hue and launched a legacy of quality that has made Le Creuset the world’s first, finest and favorite cookware,” the company's site explains. “Beloved for its French classicism, heralded for its pure energy — this iconic color has been a cornerstone of kitchens around the world over the years.”
The Dutch oven absolutely shines. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more gorgeous pot. The color is as deep and vibrant as I remember it being. Here is a comparison of the two: On the left is my mother’s 1960s-era Le Creuset Chef’s oven, and on the right is my brand new Le Creuset Dutch oven.
My mother’s pot is still making meals weekly. This is not a pot that has been stored away with care, unused. It’s more than 50 years old, and it still looks this good and is in great working order, save a few scratches on the interior from five decades of meals.
And there’s no reason to doubt that the newer cast-iron cookware from Le Creuset will stand the test of time just as well. The iconic cast-iron cookware is still being made in its original foundry in France.
There are some things you should know about owning Le Creuset cast-iron cookware, however. For one, it’s heavy. You’ll need a good space to store it, and for safety reasons it should be stored in lower cabinets, not upper. Also, the cookware has exceptional heat retention and dispersion, so you don’t have to cook at high temperatures. And the brand even advises against it, warning, “medium-high heat temperatures should only be used for boiling water for vegetables or pasta, or for reducing the consistency of stocks or sauces. High heats should never be used to preheat a pan before lowering the heat for cooking.” Because cast iron retains heat so well, overheating will cause food to burn or stick.
When it comes to cleaning the cookware, the company reminds users to always cool a hot pan before washing. You can soak the pan after the heat is reduced to remove tough residue left behind from cooking, but never use harsh, abrasive cleaning products or metallic pads.
When I opened the Dutch oven and set it on our stove, I told my 10-year-old that this would be in her kitchen one day, to which she promptly rolled her eyes. She doesn’t care about pans right now, and that’s fine. But of course, a part of me hopes that when she sees this orange-red hue as she grows older, she’ll think of all the time I spent cooking meals we loved, and brag about how well the old pot has endured.
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Maria Guido writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.