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Le Creuset is the self-proclaimed leader in the production of high quality cookware. (You’ve probably seen their Dutch ovens, available in a rainbow of vibrant colors, in department stores or online.) They also craft pots and pans, dinnerware, and bakeware from just about any material you could wish for: stainless steel, nonstick, stone – and, of course, cast iron with their signature shiny enamel coating.
No one can deny that Le Creuset makes fine cookware. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask the vital question: is Le Creuset safe? Are the materials and coatings that they use free from toxic substances that can leach into our food? These are the questions we answer below.
What Makes Le Creuset Cookware So Popular?
Le Creuset’s popularity comes from the high standards of quality that they’ve been following since 1925 – almost a century! Their first product, the Dutch oven, was and still is instantly recognizable due to its sturdy, cast iron construction, simple style, and bright colored enamel coating, a revolutionary design choice in that era. It was originally formed in the foundry that the founders of Le Creuset, Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq, had built in Fresnoy-le-Grand in France. Today, the company claims, all the cast iron for their products is still forged in that original foundry.
Le Creuset touts their love of craftsmanship and its heritage. They balance tradition with innovation, comfort with creativity. Nearly a hundred years ago, they revolutionized cookware, and they’re still doing that today. At the same time, though, they promote traditional values like homemade meals and family time. This brilliant blend of old and new has allowed them to stay fresh and relevant in the intervening decades.
What Is Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron?
So what’s all the fuss about enameled cast iron? Well, it was popular back in 1925 because it was the only kind of cookware that had any color or life to it. It actually reflected the creativity and vitality of the food it contained. But it wasn’t just pretty to look at; it was also extremely practical for everyday cooks as well as restaurant chefs.
Let’s start with what makes this cookware material so special: the enamel. This layer is a glaze made with clay and colored with pigments. When it is applied to cast iron and fired, it hardens and becomes a scratch-resistant, heat-resistant coating.
Enamel also prevents the underlying cast iron from leaching out iron, which can get into the food that’s being cooked in it and may have detrimental health effects for people who eat it.
Finally, enamel is easy to clean, whereas food tends to stick to unglazed cast iron pans that hasn’t been seasoned.
Can Enamel And Cast Iron Leach Substances Into Your Food?
In spite of all its good points, enamel does have a dark side. Because the coating is made with clay, there are some concerns among consumers that the coating on Le Creuset cookware also contains lead. This metal is poisonous to humans when consumed in high amounts, and it can cause severe symptoms like joint and muscle pain, high blood pressure, headaches, mood disorders, as well as fertility and reproductive issues in adults. 
Another substance that Le Creuset cast iron cookware may contain in its outer coating is cadmium. This substance is a metal that can be found in several different forms, including certain pigments. If a person is exposed to high levels of cadmium for a long period of time through food or drink, they could experience the following symptoms of cadmium toxicity: nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, kidney damage, and even death. 
Le Creuset, however, maintains that only the enamel on the exterior may contain low levels of cadmium and lead. The amount is low enough that cooks shouldn’t be afraid that they’re going to be poisoned. Furthermore, they state that the interior enamel coating is in compliance with California Proposition 65. In order to meet Proposition 65’s standards, the enamel must not leach more than 0.1 mg/liter of lead and 0.049 mg/liter of cadmium into 4% acetic acid. This certification means that Le Creuset cookware is safe to use as far as the enamel coating is concerned.
What about cast iron? Cast iron is well known to leach iron into food. However, the enamel coating in Le Creuset cookware prevents this leaching from occurring. Which is a good thing overall, since not everyone needs extra iron in their food. Some people have hemochromatosis, a condition where their blood holds too much iron and becomes toxic. Enamel ensures that your favorite cast iron pot, pan, or Dutch oven doesn’t become a potential health risk in your home or restaurant.Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Round Dutch Oven, 7.25 qt., Cerise
Is The Rest Of Le Creuset’s Cookware Non Toxic?
What about the stainless steel, stoneware, and non-stick products in Le Creuset’s catalogue? Are they safe and non-toxic, as well? Let’s take a look.
Le Creuset prides itself on using the best materials to make their products. Their stainless steel line is no exception. What’s great about stainless steel is that unless you have a nickel or chromium allergy, it is non-toxic and completely safe to use. It can withstand high temperatures (Le Creuset’s holds up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit), is naturally nonstick, and is easy to clean: everything you could ever want in a cooking pot or pan.
If you are sensitive to nickel or chromium, however, it is best to avoid direct contact with this type of cookware. A study published in 2013 showed that stainless steel cookware leach small amounts of both of these heavy metals into food. These small amounts are not unsafe, but they may exacerbate a person’s existing allergies to the metals.Le Creuset Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set, 10 pc.
Le Creuset’s stoneware is a potentially problematic choice of cooking material. The reason for this is their stoneware is glazed, and glazes are a huge source of potential toxins, such as lead, that could leach into your food. However, the interiors of Le Creuset’s stoneware products are enameled, and we know from the previous section of this article that the brand’s interior enamel coating is safe for cooking.
Therefore, whether you choose their stoneware cooking implements or not is mostly a matter of preference. This type of material endures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit without cracking or breaking, and the enamel coating makes it easy to clean.Le Creuset Stoneware Heritage Covered Oval Casserole, 4 qt. (14″), Marseille
Non-stick cookware is a hot topic of controversy in the food industry. The reason for this is companies have been known to use toxic substances to achieve that special slick texture. Below is a list of the most dangerous substances to watch out for.
Teflon is the short brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is a chemical compound that can be applied to objects to create a slick, non-stick coating. Research has found that heating up a pan coated with Teflon to extremely high temperatures on your stovetop can cause fumes to rise from its surface. These fumes, when inhaled by human beings, can induce flu-like symptoms such as a fever, chills, coughing, and difficulty breathing. 
Teflon fumes have been found to have a far worse effect on birds. These creatures have delicate respiratory systems and are extremely sensitive to PTFE. If a bird is exposed to the noxious substance, it could die. No other type of animal is known to have such a serious reaction to this chemical.
Perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA is a chemical that was once used during the production of Teflon. But no longer, or at least not in large amounts. That’s because this chemical, which lingers for long periods of time in air, water, soil, and the human body, has been found to be extremely toxic after long exposure. It is even classified as a possible carcinogen by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer): some studies have found links between people who live near industrial plants that use PFOA and various types of cancer, including testicular, kidney, thyroid, prostate, bladder, and ovarian.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are synthetic compounds that are quite similar to PTFE. They provide water, grease, and oil-resistant properties to surfaces like frying pans and other nonstick cookware. But much like PFOAS, they tend to stay in the elements and human bodies that are exposed to them for long periods of time. Studies have shown that high amounts of PFAS in a human body can cause liver damage, as well as have a negative impact on development, reproduction, and the immune system. These findings are alarming considering that as of 2003-2004, 98% of United States citizens have PFAS (as well as PFOAS) in their blood due to diet. 
So how does Le Creuset measure up with regard to safe practices for nonstick, non toxic cookware? The company states that their nonstick lineup is completely free of PFOAS… but it doesn’t mention Teflon. So if you have concerns with Teflon cookware, we recommend you skip this particular line and go straight to their other materials which we discussed earlier in the article. The product however worked very well for us, it’s a real high quality non-stick solution, but you have to be careful with how you use it and make sure you get rid of it when damaged (see our guide here).Le Creuset Toughened Nonstick Pro Sauce Pan and Skillet Cookware Set – 8-Piece
Verdict: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron, Stainless Steel And Stoneware Are Safe
Overall, we highly recommend Le Creuset’s cast iron, stainless steel, and stoneware lines. They are non toxic cookware, and leach only trace amounts of metals like lead, cadmium, nickel, and chromium (if they leach at all). Each of these three materials is easy to clean and care for, withstands high oven and stove top temperatures, and pretty to look at. What more could you ask for?
On the other hand, we recommend that you be careful with Teflon coated nonstick pots and pans. Teflon pans are not as dangerous as they used to be as PFOA is practically banned since 2013, there are however still some health risks. If you are interested in the details, read our article about when you need to throw away your non-stick pan.
So, while the “non-stick” moniker is enticing, my experience is that any of the first three materials will also serve you well in that department.
If you wish to know more about the topic, check out our writing about the safest non-stick pans out there. We detail the risks and also provide a few recommendations.
Q&A On Le Creuset Safety
Is Le Creuset dishwasher safe?
Yes, you can wash your Le Creuset cookware in the dishwasher. However, the company recommends you hand wash each piece to ensure durability. Over many dishwasher uses, enamel has a tendency to become dull.
Is Le Creuset microwave safe?
Le Creuset’s stoneware is safe to put in the microwave. But do not heat up their cast iron or stainless steel products this way.
Is Le Creuset oven safe?
Yes. All Le Creuset’s cookware materials can withstand high oven temperatures with cracking or dulling.
How to clean Le Creuset cast iron?
To clean your Le Creuset cast iron, first make sure it is room temperature. Then let it soak in warm water for 15-20 minutes to loosen any food debris. Then use a soft brush to scrub the cast iron and remove the remaining food and stains. Do not use a hard abrasive during cleaning or you will damage the enamel coating.
How to clean Le Creuset enamel exterior?
Always use a soft brush with warm soap and water when cleaning your Le Creuset enamel exterior. Never use a tough scrubber or abrasive cleanser, or you risk damaging the finish.
Is Le Creuset safe when enamel is damaged?
It is not safe to use Le Creuset or any other brand of cookware with damaged enamel. This is because the enamel could break even more, and the pieces from it could contaminate your food.
Is ceramic cookware better than cast iron with enamel?
Ceramic cookware is among the safest of most types of cookware as they don’t have any coating that could contain potentially dangerous substances like e.g. lead and cadmium (and they are of course also PFOA free). The disadvantage however is that they are usually not non-stick.