At 50, I finally got the courage to learn how to cook, and the initial experience has been both daunting and rewarding. A Tennesse hillbilly, I grew up around some of the best Southern comfort food, this side of Paris (France). As a NYC and Florida interior designer, I spent most of my working life drooling with lust and envy at my clients' $75K - $300K kitchens. Enabling my mid-life crisis, I tossed the Revere cookware and dashed my newly-renovated kitchen here in Orlando, FL with some panache.
From the start, I knew I wanted my new hobby to have cookware that performed well on a Monogram 36" induction cooktop, while not dealing with heavy seasoning and maintenance of the new cast-iron cookware. Admittedly (and perhaps foolishly), I felt more assured with higher-end cookware compensating for my lack of experience, which I thankfully found to be the case. At this point in my life, I was also willing to pay considerably more for "the best of the best" cast-iron enameled cookware. Had I been on a tight budget, or plan to use the cast-iron outdoors (beach, camping, etc.), I would have gone with Lodge (both enameled and non-enameled), often favorably compared with Le Creuset, Staub and other brands from amateurs to professional chefs, alike.
In looking for the best high-quality cast-iron enamel cookware around, I did extensive online research (including Chow Hound) on "Staub vs. Le Creuset". I also consulted with experienced cooks of various degrees, who worked at places like Williams-Sonoma, Bloomingdale’s and Sur La Table, as well as friends and neighbors.
Interestingly, most of the online recommendations leaned towards Le Creuset (and Lodge), seemingly due to their higher familiarity in the U.S.A., and high satisfaction (and Lodge's lower price-point) by consumers, bloggers, professional chefs, and test kitchens. However, most sales associates and friends/neighbors recommended Staub over Le Creuset, because of Staub's self-basting spikes under the lid (in most of their products), lustrous finish quality ("majolique" coloring and glazing process), standard higher-temperature knobs, and slightly less price-point than Le Creuset. Much of Le Creuset's products come standard with a Phenolic knob (oven safe up to 375 degrees), where Staub's nickel and brass knobs are oven safe up to 500 degrees... big difference when moving a French oven (cocotte) from stove to oven. For an additional cost, Le Creuset does offer stainless steel knobs (also oven safe to 500 degrees), but you're paying extra, compared to Staub's standard knobs.
While the price difference between the two is nominal, I've now collected over 30 Staub pieces, thereby saving considerable dough (around $1K), in buying mostly Staub's cookware. This includes retail, clearance, and special incentives. Here in Orlando, there's a superb Le Creuset factory outlet store. There, Le Creuset sells for around the same price as Staub's retail pricing. Unfortunately, there's no Staub factory outlet stores around Orlando, but you can buy clearance and slightly imperfect items on Staub-USA.com's website. I've also bought several Le Creuset pieces, like their double-burner grill, double-burner griddle, and ceramic cookware, mostly because of aesthetic preferences, and am very pleased with their performance and quality.
Both Staub and Le Creuset claim that their interior coatings are non-stick. I've found this to be true with both manufacturers for oven use, and less-so on the stove (even at lower temperatures). In following Food52.com's recommendations, I lightly season the interiors with vegetable oil, which seems to work. And, I hand-wash most of the pieces, in-spite of Staub's "dishwasher safe" claims, as the dishwasher can dull the glossy finish and tarnish Staub's nickel and brass knobs, over time. Because Le Creuset has a duller finish to begin with, I worry less about putting them in the dishwasher. SIDE NOTE: I've found that having a stainless steel sink is ideal for cast-iron cookware, because it's less likely to chip the cookware's enamel, than in a cast-iron or composite sink. It's just going to scratch the heck out of the stainless sink, which I'm OK with.
Regarding the online recommendations of Le Creuset over Staub, this is my theory about that: Staub's market share in the U.S. has rapidly grown, since the German-based company Zwilling J.A. Henckels purchased Staub (a small company from France's Alsace region) in 2008, and hired a U.S. marketing firm, to directly compete with Le Creuset. Since 1974, Staub has evolved from their earlier utilitarian-looking cocottes to highly-sophisticated cooking vessels. Whereas, privately-owned and larger Le Creuset has successfully continued their French country style, since 1925. Because Le Creuset has been around much longer than Staub, thereby having a greater U.S. presence, logically there are many more reviews/ratings/blogging on Le Creuset than Staub. Along with this and not surprisingly, I’ve noticed a bias towards Le Creuset... they’ve earned their reputation.
In reading online and talking with people familiar with Staub and Le Creuset (including manufacturer reps), I learned that both companies are inspired by each other's concepts (and copy each other's product line), while also trying to have their distinctive design attributes. Thus, I think of Le Creuset as the "Mercedes-Benz" and Staub the "BMW" of cast-iron cookware, albeit we're talking French cuisine as opposed to German technology.
Do I think Staub is better than Le Creuset? For overall cooking, yes. For maintenance, no. Aesthetically, I prefer Staub's more sleeker urbane style than Le Creuset's "artsy-country" look. Everyone loves their Le Creuset, but I’m glad I took the road less traveled with Staub.
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