Entertaining

French Cookware 101

When it comes to food, the French have it all figured out—their culinary philosophy laid the foundation for the rest of us (‘cuisine’ is a French word, after all). Today, chefs around the world continue to employ those fastidious techniques, and with good reason: They work like a charm.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a master of haute cuisine to cook like a pro. All you need is a proper toolkit. Unsurprisingly, the French don’t mess around when it comes to cookware. From Le Creuset to copper to enameled cast iron, French cookware is built to last. Our handy guide helps you stock your kitchen with essentials, from stockpots and skillets to Dutch ovens and sauce pans. Soon you’ll be braising and sauteing like a pro.

Le Creuset black french ovens and cookware

Why We Love It

French cookware earned its reputation for a reason: Its benefits are innumerable. Durable cast iron has been prized for centuries for its ability to sustain high levels of heat. This quality makes it a candidate for both the stovetop and the oven—and, with a sturdy trivet, a place on your table (don’t forget your potholder—remember, these pans retain fiery heat). Enameled cast iron pans are coated so ingredients are less likely to stick to your pan when cooking. Fortunately, many French cookware brands today are coated in enamel or ceramic—though you might have to re-season a few times over the course of the pan’s life. Last but certainly not least, cast iron doesn’t transfer chemicals to your food. The durable material and enamel coating protect it from scratches and scrapes.

Le Creuset

Le Creuset has been producing top-of-the-line enameled cast iron kitchenware out of the same factory since 1925. There’s nothing assembly-line about their process—everything is made in sand molds and has been since day one. The only thing that’s changed is the colorway variety, which never ceases to amaze.

Cast iron french ovens and cookware

The Essentials

Your French cookware will be the workhorse of your kitchen, so build your collection carefully—remember, when properly cared for, it lasts a lifetime. You’ll need two skillets, one big and one small (which you use depends on how much food you’re preparing). A wide, lidded pan is perfect for family meals, as is a sturdy stockpot. Saucepans are designed for sauce, but you can hard-boil and poach eggs, plus cook grains and beans in them, too. Dutch and French ovens are ideal for larger-format meals, and you can use baking and casserole dishes in both sweet and savory cooking. Confused about the difference between the Dutch and French versions? Put simply, French ovens are Dutch ovens (large cast iron lidded pots) with enameled interiors. If you want to pick up a collection in one fell swoop, we recommend buying a set.

Get Cooking

Once your collection is underway, it’s time to hit the kitchen. You’ll choose your vessel depending on what you’re cooking: Cast iron takes well to frittatas, Spanish tortillas and cobblers, and is ideal for searing and roasting meat and vegetables. You can even make stir fries in well-seasoned pans. Stews, soups and braised meats belong in Dutch and French ovens, and cheesy, crispy-topped pastas come to life in casserole or baking dishes. Cook pasta, stir fries, and grains, to name a few, in wide, lidded pans.

There you have it. When it comes to enameled cast iron, the French really do it best. But cooking delicious meals? That’s your time to shine.

How do you use French cookware to prepare your favorite meals? Share your ideas with us by using the hashtag #CrateStyle.

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