One of the stranger social media-driven phenomena of recent years has been the embracing by hip young kids of Le Creuset. For whatever reason, Tiktok users cannot get enough of the brand's pans, accessories and – above all – its casserole dishes. Or 'Dutch ovens' as our American pals for some reason insist on calling them. This is a weird choice of name because Le Creuset is a French brand. And I can assure you, the French think about as much of Dutch 'cuisine' as they do of British cookery.
At first I assumed this Millennial love for expensive pans was some sort of ironic affectation, but, as with most things Millennial, it turns out to be a painfully sincere position. Perhaps Le Creuset is seen as some sort of symbol of adulthood and having 'arrived'. Au revoir, ready meals and takeaways; bonjour slow-cooked ox cheek ragu. Perhaps, given the impossibility of buying a home, younger people spend their disposable income on items that would be perfect additions to a first home instead, pining for the day they have somewhere permanent to put them.
Anyway, whether you're young or old, rich or poor, there's no doubt that Le Creuset makes some of the best non-stick pans and some of the best saucepan sets you can buy. They make plenty of other great stuff as well; I just don't have any more relevant T3 best-of lists to link to.
I've used Le Creuset pans for years and I still think they're usually great. That is a slightly controversial point of view, as some people feel that the brand's quality control has suffered as its popularity and Tiktok-appeal has swelled. I don't agree with that, but I'm afraid I do have a new favourite pan brand. And just to infuriate the French even more, it's British.
Samuel Groves Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Non-Stick frying pan recently picked up a five-star review from T3. Well, it was from me really, since I wrote it.
The brand has been making cookware in Birmingham for over 200 years, and has top chef and extreme dieter Tom Kerridge on board for a range of pans bearing his name. I've tried the saucepan sets and non-stick pans and they are truly joy-sparking bits of kit that feel more desirable than Le Creuset, while costing, on average slightly less. What more could you ask?
The thick, premium steel used in their construction immediately inspires confidence. Just pick one up and you can tell it's the real deal. The pans are also also styled as elegantly as is possible, given that they are essentially big slabs of metal with handles on.
The signature, curved handle makes the pans easy to lift and manipulate on the hob, despite their agreeable heft. Where there are lids, they fit snugly. They look great hanging on a hook, Nigella-style, and on the hob, and they're also oven-proof to unusually high temperatures.
Sure, you could get equivalent products from Tefal or Greenpan for way less, and probably be perfectly happy with it. But if you really love cooking – the sizzle, the smells, the… stuff – and you have the necessary dosh, why wouldn't you treat yourself to something nicer? Cooking – and eating – is meant to be a feast for the senses, not a mechanical exercise done in between visits to the toilet.
Paying a bit more should also mean getting pans that last longer. A lifetime, in fact, in the case of pans without non-stick. This is another area where Samuel Groves goes above and beyond the norm, however.
The surface used on Samuel Groves' non-stick pans seems very tough, but anyone with long experience of non-stick knows that it never lasts forever. In general I'd expect 3-5 years of optimum use and up to 10 years of slightly crappier, stickier, but still usable 'non-stick'.
That's where Samuel Groves' other trump card comes in. Their Pan For Life guarantee means they will actually resurface your non-stick pan when the coating starts to wear. They also promise to replace worn rivets – although looking at those rivets, it is hard to imagine them ever coming loose – and even re-polish the pan so it looks good as new.
The non-stick pans are also a kind of gateway drug to Samuel Groves' more pro ranges. As well as stainless steel pans, they do carbon steel and copper, as well as the aforementioned Tom Kerridge range. I often find myself looking wistfully at their website, contemplating expanding my already enormous cookware collection even further.
The cast iron casserole is perhaps the most classique Le Creuset piece, but Samuel Groves does not make one of those, although it does make some very pleasing-looking steel casseroles. However, I have bad news for Le Creuset on this front as well: I prefer their Gallic rival Staub's 'cocottes' to Le Creuset's 'Dutch ovens'. Mais oui!
Not only are Staub's pots even more expensive then Le Cruze, and therefore better, they also look more handsome and feel even more hefty. The name 'cocotte' is also an old French slang term for 'prostitute', although I am assured that is mere coincidence. Either way, what's not to like?
Samuel Groves, by contrast, is generally slightly cheaper than Le Creuset. For instance their 26cm non-stick, tri-ply steel pan is £125, where LC's 24cm one is £130. Add up the lower price, better looks and studier build and you have a true 'Le Creuset killer'.