Customer Review

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great starter piece or addition to your Le Creuset collection, June 27, 2006
This review is from: Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 3-1/2-Quart Buffet Casserole, Flame (Kitchen)
Le Creuset manufactures porcelain enameled cast iron cooking vessels as well as other products. Le Creuset casts these cooking vessels from molten iron poured in sand moulds that are used only once. For this reason, one pot may look like another, but each is unique in its own way.

Cast iron is a highly efficient material which absorbs and distributes heat efficiently. It is recommended that cooking with cast iron is done on low to medium heat. However, there are exceptions like boiling water where cooking on high heat is appropriate and okay. Remove cast iron from the heat and it does not cool off quickly. This heat retention helps your food stay warm while serving. Beware; iron tends to be heavy so are these cooking vessels.

Cast iron is an effective material for cooking so why cover it with enamel? Iron tends to rust; iron oxide (rust) doesn't add any complimentary flavors to your food. If your cast iron cooking vessel was not enameled, you would have to season and maintain your cooking vessel. Adding the porcelain enamel not only looks good, but has multiple benefits. The enamel, being a solid coating, is one of the most hygienic surfaces to cook on, does not stain, absorb odors, retain flavors, and is easy to clean. The enamel can be damaged, so limit cooking tools to plastic or wood.

The benefits of cooking with Le Creuset cast iron are many, but lets get down to the buffet casserole specifically. The buffet casseroles are one of the most versatile pieces in the Le Creuset lineup. Use this pan as a sauté pan, a roasting pan, for poaching, or as a shallow braiser. The 3.5 quart capacity can is plenty of space when it comes to casseroles, so consider your recipes when determining the size you need. The buffet casserole tends to do best if at least three quarters full. Any less and you may overwhelm your food with the evenly dispersed heat in the pot.

With a large flat bottom that curves up this pan resembles a curved sided saute pan the only thing missing would be a long handle. The tight fitting lid is mostly flat with curved sides. This lid seals in heat, moisture, and flavors and can be used to hold your meat while you are making a sauce from the drippings. Its shape and design makes this an extremely versatile pan.

I tend to use this pot for basic dishes like smothered pork chops more than anything else. But once you get past the basic functionality that lends itself to recipes such as paella, frittatas, deep dish pizza, and casseroles, you can really open up the possibilities. Keep in mind this is a 3.5 quart pan, feeding two out if it is ridiculous unless you want leftovers. It is probably the perfect size for a family of four in most cases. Try baking pineapple upside down cake or bread pudding for when you need to please many guests, poaching fish, or Mac and Cheese. The possibilities almost seem endless.

One feature that people tend to complain about is the cost. The cost does seem steep compared to other pans made from other materials. Heck, cast iron doesn't seem like it should be expensive when comparing to that old cast iron pan past generations have used for cornbread and camping. However the manufacturing process requires making a mould for each and every pan produced. They then go through the enameling process before shipping these heavy pans. If you take what goes into making and distributing these high quality cast iron products, the cost tends to make sense. Then consider that this pan will easily last a lifetime when taken care of.

PROS:

Extremely versatile

Efficient absorption and distribution of heat

Hygienic enamel cooking surface

Does not stain, absorb odors, or retain flavors

Easy to clean when not abused or misused

Can be transferred from stove top to the oven to the table

Can easily last a lifetime

CONS:

Its heavy, as cast iron tends to be weighing in at about 12.25 pounds.
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