Le Creuset is a French manufacturer of cookware founded almost 100 years ago, in 1925 by two Belgians: Armand Desaegher (a specialist in cast iron industry) and Octave Aubecq (a specialist in enamel).
Nearly 100 years later, Le Creuset cookware is used in nearly 75% of French households, and has become known in the United Stats, UK and Canada as a luxurious brand of cookware, with a good reputation for quality.
That being said, is the price of Le Creuset justified? What makes Le Creuset so expensive?
7 reasons why Le Creuset is so expensive
Secret recipes for the metal and enamel
The starting point for the high price of Le Creuset products is the combination of metals they use to manufacture the products.
The exact proportions and ingredients in the metallic recipe are a secret, but it’s composed of pig iron, recycled steel and regular iron.
A similar situation exists for their secret enamel coating recipe.
Both the metal and enamel Le Creuset uses is designed and manufactured in-house, and Le Creuset has fine tuned both so that when combined, they work in perfect harmony with each other.
Other manufacturers and copy cats often have their metal and enamel manufactured separately, and because of this they don’t mix as well as Le Creuset’s metal and enamel do.
A complex and innovative manufacturing process
Correctly coating a cast-iron kitchen product with enamel is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.
This is because cast iron has a tendency to expand when heated, however enamel (which is essentially glass), shatters and cracks if it expands.
What makes Le Creuset so unique is that their manufacturing process can reconcile these opposing properties of cast iron and enamel so that the end product is resilient enough to last a lifetime of use.
To start, the molten metal used to create a Le Creuset vessel is poured into a mold of black sand that is used only once and then discarded, so as to prevent buildup of imperfections.
Once the metals have been cast into actual vessels, and the enamel produced, Le Creuset will blast grit on their Dutch ovens, pans, skillets. This grit blasting makes the surface of the metal porous at a microscopic level.
This porosity allows the enamel to join the metal at a deeper level, almost as if it becomes a part of the metal itself.
After grit blasting, Le Creuset applies two layers of enamel on their products. The first layer acts as a primer and “seals” the cookware vessel in an bubble of glass-enamel that prevents rust from touching the metal underneath.
After applying the first layer of enamel, the vessel is reheated at high temperatures and left to cool.
Once cooled, a second layer of enamel is applied, after which the vessel is once again reheated at a temperature so high it vitrifies the enamel into an extremely solid and durable glass layer.
The end result is an enamel coating so hard it can easily withstand shocks such as dropping or throwing the vessel, scratching it with metal etc.
A lot of handcrafting and human involvement
Le Creuset employs a high degree of automation in their production processes, however there’s also a lot of human involvement at each step of the manufacturing process.
To be more precise, each Le Creuset Dutch oven passes through the hands of approximately 30 workers before it is deemed finished.
In fact, each Le Creuset product passes through more than 15 inspections before it is considered ready.
These inspections happen at every stage of production, and if even the smallest imperfection is found, the product is tossed away and it’s metal recycled.
When you combine Le Creuset’s secret recipes for metal and enamel, complex and innovative manufacturing as well as the careful quality control, you end up with products that have unique properties that no other manufacturer can replicate to the same degree.
Some competitors, such as Staub, come close. However none can quite match Le Creuset on a quality basis.
Many color variations, with unique gradients
Like everything French, Le Creuset combines both functionality and an appealing sense of fashion and home decor.
Le Creuset stands apart from competitors because of its huge array of colors and gradients.
Most cookware manufacturers can do only 10-12 colors. Le Creuset offers close to a hundred colors across its product line-up.
Not only do they have more colors to choose from, but Le Creuset’s colors are unique because they come in gradients, meaning they gradually transition from lighter hues to deeper ones.
Le Creuset competitors not only have fewer colors, they also come in a single hue that is uniformly distributed across the whole vessel.
Marketed as high class, status symbols
Le Creuset products are pricy because of their high quality, but also because the company brands its kitchenware as a high-class status symbol.
In fact, many of Le Creuset’s buyers purchase the brand more as decoration rather than actual day-to-day tools that can cook great food.
Le Creuset built this reputation by working with well known chefs and upmarket lifestyle magazines.
In the United States for instance, Le Creuset started gaining fame as a must-have kitchenware brand after it was heavily pushed in the 1960’s and 1980’s by cook show TV stars such as Julia Child.
Even Marilyn Monroe owned a limited edition, “Elysees Yellow” collection from Le Creuset, which was eventually auctioned off in 1999 for a whopping $25,000.
In the UK, Le Creuset gained mindshare in a similar way, only through the voice of a Elizabeth David, a famous chef who championed the “French way of cooking.”
Manufactured in France
Le Creuset has multiple manufacturing sites spread across the world.
For instance, Portugal manufacturers stainless steel products, Thailand makes kettles and ceramics, China for accessories and the USA for enamel cleaner.
The flagship products however, the ones involving cast iron such as Dutch ovens, skillets, pans etc. are all made in a single factory in France.
The owner of the Le Creuset company, Paul Van Zuydam, has this to say about the price of Le Creuset and manufacturing in France:
“I could save a huge amount if I did it elsewhere. It would be half the price in Asia.”
Paul Van Zuydam
At the same time however, Paul Van Zuydam considers that keeping production rooted in France is a commitment to long term quality, product consistency and good customer support.
Le Creuset offers a lifetime warranty for nearly all of its products, the major exceptions being:
- Ceramics, wine accessories, salt and pepper mills which have a 10 year warranty.
- Kettles, with a 5 year warranty.
The warranty starts from the moment a customer buys the products, until the rest of their lives. The same conditions apply if one receives the products as a gift.
As for how the Le Creuset warranty works, you’ll either have to take the item to a Le Creuset store near you, or if there isn’t one, you must contact them by phone or email and send them photos of the item.
Afterwards you’ll ship the item to Le Creuset, and they will assess if it was damaged due to normal use or not. In the vast majority of cases the damage will be labeled as “normal use” and they will completely replace the item for you.
Le Creuset cookware, be they skillets, Dutch ovens, pans or pots are some of the most expensive on the market. The quality is great though, and can be used to cook anything, from simple meals to huge, complex dishes.
Part of the price is explained through, but most of the steep cost of a Le Creuset is brought about by the complex and manufacturing processes involved to make their products, which lead to good quality cookware that can be passed down through generations.