Pros: Beautiful heavy pan that brightens the kitchen, cooks well gently, holds warmth, and cleans easily.
Cons: Expensive, heavy and delicate, and the non-stick lining is not durable.
Ive always liked Le Creuset cooking pots. Mums kitchen included Le Creuset frying pan and casserole pots 35 years ago (and she still uses one of them). And so it was with delight that my wife and I received a Le Creuset frying pan 14 years ago as a wedding gift from my aunt. It was a 28 cm (11 inch) diameter flame-orange pan with a grey enamel interior, and it lasted all of five years before it slipped from wet hands, hit the vinyl-coated floor and shattered into three pieces. Five years ago, my wife gave me a new Le Creuset frying pan for my birthday. She searched for the enamel cooking surface, but Le Creuset frying pans seem to have switched to non-stick these days.
This is a beautiful pan that can be brought to the table with pride. Its made of cast iron with the traditional flame-orange coloured enamel on the outside. It has 28 cm (11 inch) diameter from inside lip to inside lip. The inside surface is coated with black Teflon (triple Silverstone, apparently). The handle has a black grip and ends in a chromed loop for hanging the pan. This pan weighs 2.9 kg (just under 6.5 pounds).
The store told us that this was a tough pan that doesnt need to be babied, except that we should avoid metal utensils, so it became our everyday frying pan. We fried eggs, browned beef, seared sausages, and for about two years it held up well. The non-stick surface was effective, and could be cleaned with just a brief soak and a wipe with nylon cleaning pad.
However the non-stick surface started to deteriorate, becoming slightly dimpled and progressively harder to clean, until the day I couldnt get a fried egg out of the pan in one piece because it was stuck to the pan. I was about to discard the pan, but my wife rescued and posted it to Le Creuset Canada, and to my surprise a brand new replacement arrived a month later. That was certainly a good investment in postage ($12)!
We now treat our replacement pan with great care. We have learned that it is more fragile than it appears, and certainly does need to be babied!
The cast iron part will last forever if the pan is not dropped. It is entirely coated so rust is not a concern.
The exterior enamel is hard but brittle, and can chip quite easily. We have six Le Creuset pots and their lids, and nearly all have minor chips. To minimize chipping, it is important not to stack Le Creuset pots in the cupboard and sink. Also, if a hot pan is dipped into water, the cast iron shrinks faster than the enamel coating, causing cracking and crazing of the enamel. So this item should not be washed straight from the stove, but needs to cool down first.
The black plastic handle seems very tough, and according to Le Creuset can be used in a hot oven. Our casserole pot lids have black plastic handles that have survived many trips to the oven (though not hotter than about 300 F)
The least durable part of this pan is the non-stick plastic surface. We never use metal implements, so scratches are not a problem, but we are very aware that the surface is easily abraded when hot. I suspect that the surface evaporates slightly at high temperature, so now we dont run this pan hot. (I think that the non-stick surface is a big mistake. Le Creuset should be almost eternal if used with care, but I doubt that the non-stick surface could last 10 years of normal family use).
We use the pan for gentle simmering and frying. Its OK for omelettes and eggs, but it takes a long time to warm up because we run our gas stove at medium. Once warm, the pan holds the heat very well. It cooks bacon and sausages and pancakes very well.
We never use this pan for browning meat or for stir-fry or any other application that needs a really hot pan.
This is a two-handed pan. It is much too heavy to use just one hand, and though the handle can fit two hands, the most stable way to carry this pan loaded is to have my right hand firmly gripping the handle and my left hand in an oven mitt holding the small lip opposite the handle.
This pan looks spectacular and its bright orange brings warmth to our kitchen. It looks good enough to serve food at the table, and the cast iron holds the heat for ages, keeping food warm.
This pan washes up very easily. I usually let it cool down for an hour or so, and then let it soak in warm soapy water for a few minutes. It wipes clean instantly, and then dries immediately too because the water runs off the non-stick surface.
I like the look and heft of this pan, and use it frequently. However its a heavy and quirky sensitive beast that must be handled with care. Im skeptical that the non-stick surface will last a decade even with great caution. However I must praise Le Creuset for their replacement policy.
Would I buy it again? Well, at CDN$200 Id have to hesitate. Thats a huge chunk of change for a frying pan. Perhaps.