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The Le Creuset Doufeu


Fat Guy
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Le Creuset makes this very cool looking piece of cookware called a doufeu. You put ice on the top. What's up with that? Is there really anything to it, or is it just a pretty pot?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That certainly seems to make sense, though I don't see anything directly on point on the website. The website simply contains a bunch of marketing claptrap: it will mean the difference between "good" and "spectacular"; the entrée taste and tenderness will leave them in awe. What-ever.

Even on the stovetop, how long could it take the ice to melt. Do you have to pull the lid off every half hour, dump the water, put in new ice and repeat? Or what?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Apparently the ice is supposed to make the lid cooler than the contents, which causes condensation to "rain down" on the food. Apparently "the inner surface of the doufeu lid is dotted with nibs, the water drips into the center of the pot, continuously basting roasts, short ribs and braises so they emerge tender and succulent."

Sorry, but aren't Staub Coquette lids already designed to do this without the need for ice?

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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As the above linked 2005 thread notes, its not new. The product has been on sale in Europe for ages. But any question of design priority is for others to dispute.

The basic concept of any stovetop-intended casserole is to act as a reflux condenser, that is to say using a cool lid to condense the vapours and return them to the cooking brew.

The idea is to prevent the water (and arguably the aromatics) from 'boiling off'.

The cooler the lid, the more effective the condenser.

The Tagine (with various spellings) is a traditional design of an air-cooled condenser.

You lose that effect if you use a Tagine inside an oven! It loses one of its usp's and becomes just another casserole.

The Le Creuset "Doufeu" takes the idea two stages further than the Tagine, making provision for exaggerating the condensation by allowing more cooling (from ice or cool water), and returning the condensate distributed across the centre of the pan, rather than simply having it run down the outside. The latter makes particular sense for the intended stovetop use because the centre of the base is likely to be hotter than the sides, and so more in need of re-hydration.

As a specific stovetop casserole, I'm sure its excellent - more capacious and much easier to store than a tagine - if less theatrical! Le Creuset offer both.

If I didn't already have a couple of Le Creuset casseroles, yes, I'd be tempted by a Doufeu at a good price.

But from where I am today, there are other priorities for space and money.

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I had a 7-quart doufeu, used it a couple of times and gave it to my sister. The lid-filled-with-ice didn't seem to make a difference in my cooking results, and it was a pain to remove the melt water on top. Aside from the resevoir lid, the pot behaved just as nicely as other LCs (well, everything except those silly grill pans, which aren't worth much, IMHO).

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Sorry, but aren't Staub Coquette lids already designed to do this without the need for ice?

Yes, and they do just that, with no need for ice. I have several of them. I no longer use my Le Creuset since I've acquired the Staub pots. They are uber expensive normally but I got a bunch on clearance on Amazon and I just love them!

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I think this doufeu is little more than a not-so-subtle attempt at taking Staub's concept and reinventing it ala Le Creuset. How much more the ice exaggerates the condensation process is debatable, but I know this works brilliantly with the Staub without needing to babysit the ice.

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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My understanding of these "condensation" braisers is that you can cook low and slow in the oven without worrying about evaporating your pot juices. Using less liquid to begin with and not letting steam escape by contantly checking its progress, the juices are supposed to intensify in flavor while the meat gets maximum tender; it doesn't boil in a bath, but doesn't dry out either.

I see how water in the depression accomplishes this, but it seems like ice would melt awfully quick and not make a big difference. However, from the standpoint of degrees of awkwardness when it comes to refilling the depression, perhaps it's easier to throw on ice cubes rather than pour in water?

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it's a self basting roaster. what's so hard to understand about that?

The concept is simple, but I have a hard time believing it. All the efforts to improve braises by getting them to self-baste strike me as dubious. Does this process really hold in the aromatics? Has this been demonstrated? And if not, do you gain anything besides slightly less moisture loss (which is never really an issue with the braises that I've done)? Considering that the inside of a braising pot should always be hovering around 100% relative humidity, I don't see how it matters where the water condenses and drips. I've never been sold on the idea of water-based basting.

Has anyone actually experimented with the self basting concept?

Notes from the underbelly

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The doufeu design and concept has been around since before Staub even existed as a company.

Is this thread connected with Le Creuset's current US promotion of their Doufeu's "75th anniversary" ???

http://www.lecreuset.com/en-us/Promotions/...th-Anniversary/

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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We got one of these contraptions as a wedding gift in 1977. So yes, they've been around a while. For the first year or so, as I young bride I dutifully filled the depression with ice which, to my dismay, melted in mere minutes, requiring me to continuously replace the ice - a process which then required lifting the lid and dumping the water, which I figured was allowing more moisture out of the pot than just letting it cook normally (without ice). So I stopped bothering with the ice and now I just use it as a cast iron Dutch oven casserole. And it works just fine as that. The whole concept is just hooey, in my humble opinion.

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In their March 2006 issue Cook's Illustrated featured this in their "Do you really need this?" column. Their ultimate conclusion was:

The meat was tender enough, but the extra retained liquid made for thinner and less flavorful sauces than those cooked in the regular (ice-free) Dutch oven.

They say they started out with less liquid than normal, but apparently not enough less. I suppose you could dial in the optimal amount of liquid, but then you'd have to adjust every recipe you wanted to use it in. No thanks.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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The doufeu design and concept has been around since before Staub even existed as a company.

Is this thread connected with Le Creuset's current US promotion of their Doufeu's "75th anniversary" ???

http://www.lecreuset.com/en-us/Promotions/...th-Anniversary/

I've wondered about the doufeu on occasion over the years but was reminded of it by an ad in this month's Saveur magazine. That ad was part of the 75th anniversary campaign.

The reason the doufeu is appealing to me is that it has all-metal handles integrated into the casting of the piece. It doesn't have those phenolic resin handles that break. It doesn't have a metal handle that screws on and can become loose. Those handles on the doufeu look like they're going to last as long as the pot aka forever. They're also pretty cool looking.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The doufeu design and concept has been around since before Staub even existed as a company.

Is this thread connected with Le Creuset's current US promotion of their Doufeu's "75th anniversary" ???

http://www.lecreuset.com/en-us/Promotions/...th-Anniversary/

I've wondered about the doufeu on occasion over the years but was reminded of it by an ad in this month's Saveur magazine. That ad was part of the 75th anniversary campaign.

The reason the doufeu is appealing to me is that it has all-metal handles integrated into the casting of the piece. It doesn't have those phenolic resin handles that break. It doesn't have a metal handle that screws on and can become loose. Those handles on the doufeu look like they're going to last as long as the pot aka forever. They're also pretty cool looking.

I thought pretty much the same thing when I saw it in this past Saveur. As for the ice and the self-basting nibs, I think they're surpassed by a simpler (and perhaps older?) tool, a cartouche. Besides, is it really possible that there is any meaningful self-basting going on in the inside of a pot that is probably ultra-humid anyway? Nibs and ice leading to self-basting sounds similar to claims like "searing seals in juices."

nunc est bibendum...

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The reason the doufeu is appealing to me is that it has all-metal handles integrated into the casting of the piece.

For me the handles on the lid of the doufeu are a reason not to get it: there are two, one on each side, which I'm sure is necessary when the thing is loaded with ice, but make it tough to lift the lid with one hand and stir with the other, which is something I do all the time with my dutch oven. You can replace the resin handles on the standard LC models with a metal handle, and I've personally never had mine come loose while cooking. If I notice it getting loose when I wash it I tighten it then, no big deal.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I have not had a problem with the regular knob on the lids of my LCs. But if and when I do, my understanding is that LC will mail one to you for free or you can buy one at places like Sur La Table for about a dollar-US.

I have not done any tests of the alternatives, though I have a Staub and a Nomar(made by Staub) with the basting spikes and think they do well. However, I almost always deal with the issue of moisture retention using a truc I believe I learned from Paula Wolfert, either in a post here or in one of her books: crumple a piece of cooking parchment paper and lay it over the meat and up the sides and over the rim; press the lid down tight. Works great!

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Doufeu cocottes were first created in the 1930s by Cousances and remained in the company until at least the 1980s, after that I am not sure what happened since Le Creuset commmercializes the Doufeu with little or no modification of the original model, but Cousances still exists as a company.

Cousances cocottes (of the Doufeu type or not) may still be found new, or at flea markets and on eBay, and they are outstanding material. I still have one in black cast iron from the early 80s, very slightly enamelled, and it is the best cast iron cooking vessel I ever had. Much better than today's Le Creuset.

The ice is not important. Just filling the lid with water as it evaporates does the trick. It keeps the internal basting and moisturizing going throughout the cooking. As long as the water in the lid remains below boiling point (which it does in slow cooking conditions), it will be cooler than the internal steam and help with the condensation.

One detail: Nomar is not made by Staub but commercialized by Staub. Nomar is a small company located in Saint-Etienne while Staub, which acquired it, is in Alsace.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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...

The reason the doufeu is appealing to me is that it has all-metal handles integrated into the casting of the piece. ... They're also pretty cool looking.

The handles look very like a design from a range Le Creuset introduced maybe 6 or 7 years back.

IIRC it was supposed to introduce a system approach with mix and match possibilities.

There was some sort of 'system' name ... ???

No idea if it reached the US. No longer available in the UK. Maybe not popular. Maybe worth seeking out.

ADDED

Still no memory of the name they gave to that handle style...

... meanwhile, in France, the Cocotte Actuelle est arrivée -- with funky big metal handles (sensible for oven gloves), and a single (metal) knob lid featuring 'doufeu' dimples to distribute the condensation.

http://www.lecreuset.fr/actualites/sept200...te_actuelle.htm

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I don't know if that's true. In this video you can see that the Staub name and Nomar are both shown on top of their factory. They also show a cocotte in the video that looks just like the Staub one, but the name 'Nomar' is on it, instead of Staub.

Here's a link to the video that shows the factory and how they are made.

One detail: Nomar is not made by Staub but commercialized by Staub. Nomar is a small company located in Saint-Etienne while Staub, which acquired it, is in Alsace.

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