I Was A Le Creuset Guinea Pig

Back in the 1980s, I made my first Le Creuset purchase: a 22 cm, 3-in-1 Multipan or Marmitout in Flame Orange. It was the very thing for a young bachelor living away from home. The set had an enamelled cast iron pot the lid of which was a small frying pan; so, the 3 were a pan, a pot, and together a casserole/French oven. With my Le Creuset and a copy of Delia Smith’s One is Fun, I learned to cook.

The set, however, had a fundamental flaw: rather than the usual sand coloured enamel interior, the pot had a black seasoning of some kind; and the frying pan had a non-stick surface of some variety. Over the years, the bottom of the pot began to pit. About the time that I got married, I stopped using the pot.  I kept it as a ‘back up’.  Unreasonably, I know: I wasn’t going to use it. So, I was left with a functioning small frying pan.

Using money which we were given as a belated wedding present, we bought a replacement from Arnotts in Inverness while on holiday. This time the colour was blue and the inside of the pot was sand coloured enamel.  The frying pan had the same coating. This became our perfect pot for making rice by the absorption method. The two small frying pans were great for individual omelettes.  Le Creuset certainly added to newly wedded bliss.

Alas, just as bliss was resulting in neonatal classes, the coating wore off our orange frying pan. It went to join its pot, where it remained for some years, until in 2011, we bought another piece of Le Creuset and I read the warranty. Thus armed, I telephoned Le Creuset Canada and told the lady all about my Marmitout. She was most sympathetic and said that if I sent it to them (at my cost) with a letter of explanation, they would inspect it and call to inform me what their warranty obligations were. This is the meat of the letter which I sent:

Please find enclosed a 3-in-1 pan set which I do not think lived up to the expectations which I have of Le Creuset products based upon my other pans and casseroles.

This set was purchased in the mid 1980s and was used regularly until the early 1990s when the finish on the pot part of the set began to come off and some slight pitting appeared.   This greatly restricted the use to which the set could be put; and a replacement set was purchased in 1997.  I noticed that the non-stick finish in the pot part of the set had been replaced in the newer model by your enamel finish.  Was the change made to remedy a design or concept flaw in the original?

Also, the finish on the frying pan/lid has blistered.

I have kept the old set in a cupboard as a ‘spare’, but it has not been used for many years.  After reading the warranty information in the booklet which came with my latest Le Creuset purchase, I called Le Creuset Canada and upon the advice of the very helpful person on the telephone, I send it to you for assessment.

I am the original purchaser of this set.  It was my first purchase from Le Creuset.  It is the only one with which I have had a problem.

Thank you for your attention.

I sent the letter in the box with the pot and pan to the address in Mississauga which I was given. Then I waited. No call. Just as I was working up to call them again, the UPS man came to the door with a large box. “What’s in this?” he asked. He wasn’t impressed when we said, “We don’t know.” He didn’t wait while we opened it, so he doesn’t know that it contained a 23 cm frying pan and a 2.1 litre saucier, both cast iron and both Flame Orange. It would seem that as far as Le Creuset customer service is concerned actions speak louder than words.

Some time ago, the non-stick coating on the new frying pan had started to go the same way as its predecessor. Up until this February, we have been using the blue Marmitout to cook rice, and using the pan only as a lid. That was when we began to wonder about the chemicals used in older non-stick preparations.  So, an email correspondence began with Le Creuset Canada customer service, who had moved in the meantime to  Montreal. So, I sent (at my cost) the blue set to Quebec. Today, I received a Marseilles Blue 30 cm cast iron skillet.

Firstly, I was a Le Creuset guinea pig. The 3-in-1 set has changed over the years. Now, if you can find it, you’ll see that it has the sand coloured enamel in both the pot and the pan. It took the company a couple of tries before they got it right. I don’t know why they didn’t simply do what they do best in the first instance. Nevertheless, I now have three useful pieces of cookware. The two skillets are enamelled on the outside and have black satin enamelled interiors which will develop their own non-stick patina over time. The saucier is traditionally enamelled and is of more use than I at first thought in might be. But as it has a hole in its lid, we got a 1.8 litre round oven at a very good price from Consiglio’s to cook rice now, and little meals when the children are gone.

Secondly, Le Creuset has a great warranty and they live up to it. Now, their products are not used for making fast food. And the slowness which marks out the cooking techniques for which one collects Le Creuset pieces seems to have infused the company. Don’t expect speedy responses. But don’t give up hope. The UPS man will come; and you will be pleased.

 

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About Tweed and Briar

I am the pastor of a rather conservative rural congregation. My interests alongside of work are hunting, fly fishing, cooking, and life in an agricultural community. By way of family, I have a wife and two children: a daughter and a son. I am of indeterminate age because my wife is a bit younger than I am and my son is ages with some of my friends’ grandchildren. However, to say that I slip smoothly among the generations would imply an agility which I no longer possess. I aspire to the genteel poverty of the country manse.
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