The coveted heavy-duty, Skittles-colored enameled pots, pans, and kettles evoke ambitious Sunday feasts and an iconic French timelessness. Produced in a tiny working-class town far from the lights of Paris since 1925, Le Creuset products have gone global, making their way to kitchens around the world, from Japan to the United States.
Below, photos from inside the Le Creuset factory in France show how this cult classic cookware is made.
For more than 90 years, Le Creuset has used the same basic production process to forge its cast-iron pots, pans, and cocottes (Dutch ovens) at this foundry in Fresnoy-le-Grand, a town 116 miles northeast of Paris. In 2015, the facility doubled its production capacity to meet increased global demand. Translation? It can now turn out as many as 10,000 cast-iron pieces a day.
Every single pot is inspected at each step of the process and a whopping 30 percent are rejected due to flaws. Imperfect pots are melted back down, their iron used to forge new products.
The molten iron used to form each pot, named Volcanique (or Flame in the United States), was the inspiration for Le Creuset’s trademark orange color.
Creuset translates to cauldron or crucible, which is fitting as the iron here is heated to boiling—that’s a sweltering 5,184°F (2,862°C).
Once the molten iron is poured into single-use black-sand molds, the molds are carried on down the line to cool. Each cocotte takes at least 10 hours to make, from casting and sanding to enameling to packaging.
After being broken from their molds, the pots and pans need to be smoothed down. Each piece is smoothed out both by machine and by hand.
There’s a reason all Le Creuset pieces come with a lifetime warranty: Each pot is inspected by 15 different people before leaving the building.
Even the tiniest flaw that would affect the piece’s cooking quality is enough to get it pulled off the line at any step in the process.
After being cast, sanded, and smoothed, the pots move on to a three-hour, multi-step enameling process.
Three layers of enamel are used to create that gradated (and, basically, unchippable) paint job. After getting a clear base coat and a spray of colored enamel, the piece is finished off with a fine coat of darker enamel.
Each of Le Creuset’s colors is mixed in batches from a combination of pigment powders using a closely guarded recipe. While Le Creuset’s palette has expanded, the company has also retired some colors to make way for new ones. You’ll only find colors like kiwi and slate in vintage stores, but you can pick up a new indigo- or dijon-colored coccotte in stores today.
There are about 50 colors in Le Creuset’s palette—and every country has its favorites. French chefs love black and the original Volcanique, Americans prefer primary colors, Germans lean toward the Mediterranean blues, and Japanese cooks go wild for pastels.
Enameled cookware might be what Le Creuset is known for, but in 1995 the company started expanding its product line to include stainless steel, stoneware, silicone, enameled steel, and more. Today, they offer an extensive range of cookware, tools, and utensils for almost every kitchen need, and you can buy a Le Creuset nearly anywhere in the world.
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