Unlike other cast-iron pans, the Le Creuset 11.75-Inch Iron Handle Skillet has an enameled interior finish that's dishwasher-safe and doesn't require seasoning. On the down side, this also means food is more likely to stick when cooked without oil. Also, while owners say the pan is durable, it requires careful handling: no metal utensils, no harsh scouring and lower heat than other cast-iron pans.
Aces pro tests. The Le Creuset pan can make scrambled eggs without fat and still produce a lovely crust on pan-seared steak and corn bread. However, when tested in actual home kitchens, its nonstick performance is less impressive. We saw several reviews at Amazon.com that said it's necessary to use at least a little bit of oil with this pan to keep food from sticking to the surface. "If you want these skillets to have the properties of Teflon pans, don't buy them," warns one owner. However, multiple users say the pan will release food better if it's used on a lower heat setting and preheated before the oil is added. This will take a while, users note, because like other cast-iron skillets, this heavy pan takes a while to come up to temperature. Once it does, however, most owners say it delivers even heat and maintains its temperature for a long time.
Size and shape a plus, according to professional reviewers. Testers at a cooking magazine found it easier to handle this pan than other cast-iron skillets, adding that the sloping sides made it easier to transfer food from the pan. Users say the pan's large cooking area is also a bonus; one notes that it can hold five to six chicken breasts with room to spare. However, the pan's large size also makes it very heavy (one owner quips that it's "great for bench pressing"), and it doesn't include a helper handle.
Cleanup is easy, according to owners, requiring no more than warm, soapy water. Even if it's been left overnight before cleaning, one owner says, it will come clean after being warmed back up, soaked in soapy water and scrubbed with a sponge. Unlike most cast iron, this pan can also be washed in a dishwasher, although Le Creuset warns that doing so repeatedly will dull the bright enamel finish.
Bright enameled exterior. Even the editors at the cooking magazine, who normally focus on performance, were impressed by the Le Creuset pan's "pretty" and well-proportioned appearance. Moreover, the finish is easy to maintain, according to one user, who confesses that it often goes for several uses between washings with just a quick wipe of a paper towel. The skillet is available in a variety of cheerful colors.
Users are impressed. One owner says the Le Creuset skillet is in great shape after two years of use: "A few scratches on the bottom, but the interior is perfect." Other users also praise the pan's quality and say they expect it to be a lifelong investment. However, the editors of the cooking magazine warn that the enamel finish is vulnerable to damage. Using metal utensils or stacking anything else inside the pan, they say, could damage the surface. Le Creuset backs this skillet with a lifetime warranty, but it does not cover damage due to "abuse," which includes overheating or accidentally dropping the pan.
1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good The editors of Cook's Illustrated test eight cast-iron skillets, including the Le Creuset 11.75-Inch Iron Handle Skillet, to see whether they offer a viable alternative to nonstick cookware. They sear steaks, scramble eggs, fry chicken and bake cornbread, and they also evaluate the pans' weight and features. They find that pre-seasoned pans, which have had a coating of oil baked into their surface, perform better than those they seasoned themselves. However, all the pans perform acceptably.
Review: Cast-Iron Skillets, Editors of Cook's Illustrated, Sept. 1, 2007
Review Credibility: Good We found about 80 reviews for the Le Creuset 11.75-Inch Iron Handle Skillet at Amazon.com. It doesn't fare quite as well here as other cast-iron skillets, earning an overall rating of 4.1 stars out of 5. Users say this pan does a good job of cooking a variety of foods, and they like its solid construction and large cooking surface. However, in addition to the usual complaints about weight and slow heating, we saw some complaints that food sticks to this pan's enameled surface -- a problem we didn't see in reviews of standard cast-iron skillets.
Review: Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 11-3/4-Inch Skillets, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
3. Food & Wine Magazine
Review Credibility: Good Food & Wine editor Kristin Donnelly tests cast-iron, nonstick and stainless-steel skillets and makes three recommendations in each category. The Le Creuset 11.75-Inch Iron Handle Skillet is one of her picks in the cast-iron category, but she doesn't explain why or how she tested it. However, the article does discuss what to look for when buying a cast-iron skillet.
Review: Testing Skillets to Find the Best, Kristin Donnelly, November 2008