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Inside the Brilliant World of Le Creuset

COLORFUL COOKWARE
Inside the Brilliant World of Le Creuset
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. This is how they’re made.
By Maggie Fuller, AFAR Staff
Photo by Céline Clanet
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    COLORFUL COOKWARE
    COLORFUL COOKWARE
     Chances are good you have something from Le Creuset in your kitchen. . .
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    FOUNDING A FOUNDRY
    FOUNDING A FOUNDRY
    For 91 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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    COVETED COOKWARE
    COVETED COOKWARE
    Last year, 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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    INDIVIDUAL INSPECTION
    INDIVIDUAL INSPECTION
    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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    INTO THE FIRE
    INTO THE FIRE

    Is it any surprise that the molten iron used to form each pot was the inspiration for Le Creuset’s trademark orange color? Naturally, it’s called Volcanique (or Flame in the United States)

    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    MELTING POINT
    MELTING POINT
    Creuset translates to cauldron or crucible, which seems fitting as the iron here is heated to boiling—that's a sweltering 5,184°F (2,862°C).
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    10,000 GLOWING STARS
    10,000 GLOWING STARS
    Once the molten iron is poured into single-use black-sand molds, the molds are carried on down the line to cool.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    A LABOR OF LOVE
    A LABOR OF LOVE
    Each cocotte takes at least 10 hours to make, from casting and sanding to enameling to packaging.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    SHAPING UP
    SHAPING UP
    After being broken from their molds, the pots and pans need to be smoothed down.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    SPECIAL TREATMENT
    SPECIAL TREATMENT
    Each piece is smoothed out both by machine and by hand.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    QUALITY TIME
    QUALITY TIME
    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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    TASTE THE RAINBOW
    TASTE THE RAINBOW
    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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
    RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
    Each of Le Creuset's colors is mixed in batches from a combination of pigment powders using a closely guarded recipe.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    CHECKED AND DOUBLE-CHECKED
    CHECKED AND DOUBLE-CHECKED
    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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    A SOLID FOUNDATION
    A SOLID FOUNDATION
    After being cast, sanded, and smoothed, the pots move on to a three-hour, multi-step enameling process.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    THE FULL SPECTRUM
    THE FULL SPECTRUM
    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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    LAYING IT ON THICK
    LAYING IT ON THICK
    Three layers of enamel are used to create that gradated (and, basically, unchippable) paint job.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    LIGHT TOUCHES
    LIGHT TOUCHES
    After getting a clear base coat and a spray of colored enamel, the piece is finished off with a fine coat of darker enamel.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    SHIPSHAPE
    SHIPSHAPE
    These days, you can buy a Le Creuset anywhere in the world, including Namibia, where the company opened a store in 2015.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    COCOTTES AND BEYOND
    COCOTTES AND BEYOND
    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.
    Photo by Céline Clanet
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    NEXT. . .
    NEXT. . .
    Photo by Alex Crétey Systermans