Novice needs advicewhen is Le Creuset, SS or Lodge appropriate?

jono123October 23, 2005

I am a novice cook (thatÂs being generous) who has recently started to really like cooking.

I currently have a Lodge 12in skillet that I use exclusively for searing meats like steak and pork. I have non-stick cookware which needs to be replaced as the coating is now coming off.

As I look at cookware, there are a lot of proponents of cast iron, Le Creuset and stainless steel clad cookware. What type is good for what?

Here is what I already know:

Stock pots/boiling water = cheap stainless

Searing on high heat = Lodge

Eggs = Non-stick

Other than this, as I look to replace my non-stick cookware, what should I be looking for? Most of my cooking is on the cook top (an electric smooth top).

Thanks in advance for your advice.

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Hi, I don't any really strong opinions on cookware but just want to say that we, too, have a smooth electric cooktop and it's my understanding you shouldn't use cast iron/le creuset, etc. on it. I could be wrong, but I remember reading somewhere that it could scratch up or otherwise damage the surface.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 10:23PM
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Le Creuset (and Staub and Lodge and any other brand of cast-iron) also is ideal for when you want to cook something "low and slow" -- sauces, stews, braising meat, etc. -- anything which will cook for a relatively long time and improve as it cooks. Cast iron is slow to heat up, but good at retaining that heat and providing a consistent heat level to the food. You do need to be aware that non-enameled cast iron can leach iron into highly-acidic foods like tomato sauce, which is why many people prefer enameled pots and pans.

I can't speak to the electric-cooktop issue, but this may be useful information to others.

As for what to look for in good cookware, cladding is good, but I think many people believe they must have fully-clad cookware to cook properly. If you have cast-iron for those occasions when it's appropriate, IMHO, you don't need fully-clad cookware as wel. You don't need fully-clad cookware to steam vegetables, cook oatmeal, or warm up mac-n-cheese. Aluminum and copper make the best cores for clad cookware. Watch the handles -- solid handles can get quite hot; hollow (rolled) handles less so. Wood handles are more of an issue for gas cooking (open flame) and pans you may want to put in the oven. Ditto for glass lids. Bigger pots should come with two handles (though one can be a "helper" handle). Tight-fitting lids help you use less water to cook and help retain more moisture in the food.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 9:55AM
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Steve has given good advice....
I might add I love Le Cruset for the looks.....and I love that I can start something on the stove top and finish it in the oven. I have several le C. frypans with enamel handles that can go into the oven and a gratin dish, which allows me to do things like melt butter, sautee some onions, then add potatoes, toss to coat and oven brown....or to make a fritatta, starting on the stove top and finishing in the oven.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 12:08PM
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Thank everyone for your helpful posts! This has been helpful.

I understand the uses of Le Creuset now. I was trying to figure out what I may have been missing using ceramic casserole dishes. I get it that I could use Le Creuset for something that would be good to start on the cook top and finish in the oven as well as slow cooked items like stewsÂwhich I want to try.

As was mentioned above, cast iron poses some challenges to use with a smooth top. They do work but one must be careful. You cannot slide or drop heavy pans on a ceramic top and not expect damage, more so than other cooktops. Due to that, I would like to limit my use of them to only when they are really advantageous like for steaks which IMO benefit from searing on high heat and/or high temp ovens/broilers.
While I will continue to use my Lodge for steak, I am hoping to get good results searing other meats that may not need such hight heat and for stir fry on med to med-high heat using a SS clad pan (I have an All Clad fry pan coming and hope that it works out).

Is there any drawback from using a SS clad pan vs cast iron (enabled or bear) for frying or sautéing?


    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 1:54PM
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Is there any drawback from using a SS clad pan vs cast iron (enabled or bear) for frying or sautéing?

SS likely will heat up faster, but, then, it also will lose heat sooner as the cold(er) food is added. SS is lighter than an equivalent-capacity cast-iron pan. I believe cast iron seasons better, so less oil/butter/grease is needed to saute. And SS may discolor from high heat. None of these are, IMHO, enough to make me go out and buy SS if I have cast iron or vice versa. Just points to note as you use it.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 9:29AM
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