Le Creuset — manufacturers of an extensive range of cast-iron cookware, covering everything from small omelette pans through to 30cm diameter buffet casserole dishes, via griddle pans and gratin dishes. Le Creuset believes that it produces a pan suitable for every culinary requirement.

Le Creuset pans are cast at the foundry in Fresnoy-Le-Grand, Northern France, where they have been made since 1925. Every Le Creuset pan is unique; they are cast using sand moulds, the moulds are destroyed following each casting and the sand is then recycled. Furthermore, the pans are finished by hand, with around 30 craftsmen putting their expertise into each one.

Two sand moulds are required for each casting, one forming the interior shape and the second forming the exterior shape. They are screwed together, leaving a small gap through which the molten raw materials (predominantly pig-iron) are poured. The raw materials are melted in a giant cauldron, called a creuset in French, hence the name of the company.

After cooling, each pan is then fettled, or smoothed by hand, before being painted. The first coat of paint is that which gives the pan its colour. Anybody who has ever seen a Le Creuset pan will know that they are made in a variety of vivid tones: volcanic (orange), blue, jade, cerise (which is more deep red than cherry), granite (which is perhaps my favourite, although my pan is cerise — but I am not complaining, it was a present) or stone (off-white, rather than grey). The paint is fired at a temperature of 840 degrees Celsius. The second enamel coat is air-dried and then vitrified, making the finish impervious.

Le Creuset pans are suitable for use on any cooking medium and are dishwasher-safe (although the pans with wooden handles should be hand-washed). They provide an even distribution of heat, which allows things to cook evenly, and have a high heat-retention capacity. Consequently, they need only be used on medium-to-low flames, making them energy-efficient and food keeps warm whilst being served. All Le Creuset pans have a lifetime guarantee, but do not worry should the paint chip, it might look a bit unsightly, but it does not diminish the performance in any way.

I know that all of this makes me sound as if I work for Le Creuset, or perhaps own shares in them: honestly, I don't. I am just a fervant devotee (and have just converted all of my housemates), although I must confess that sometimes I do wish that they were not quite so heavy (an opinion also shared by my housemates, they are fed up having to shlep my monster of a pan around for me).

Information gleaned from owning a Le Creuset and the little information booklet that comes with it, and www.lecreuset.com

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