Gen Z, Le Creuset, and "aesthetic adulthood": Why young people are investing in this pricey cookware

The French cookware brand is making collectors out of a new generation of home cooks

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published September 9, 2023 4:00PM (EDT)

Le Creuset enamelled cast-iron pans (Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)
Le Creuset enamelled cast-iron pans (Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

It takes a certain kind of cookware to be regarded as both an heirloom and a TikTok darling. It's not going to be your standard Circulon, Farberware or Hamilton Beach — but rather, something that is both timelessly durable, yet speaks to the current aesthetics of adulthood. 

I'm talking about Le Creuset, of course, the famed Instagram-friendly brand of bright colored pots, pans and sturdy Dutch ovens.

Sure, the price tag attached to each signature item is enough to make many shudder (said Dutch oven in a 7.25-quart size runs about $368.99) but there's no denying the fact that Le Creuset has been sought out — and adored — by many. After all, the French enamel cookware company has managed to effortlessly blur the line between functional cookware and home decor. Some are in it for efficiency. Others, mainly for the visuals and design. 

That's what makes the brand so fascinating. In recent years, we've seen similar trendy brands crop up, both online and across big-box retail chains. There's the minimalist-themed Our Place, which is the maker behind the cult-favorite all-in-one nonstick Always Pan. There's the simplistic Phantom Chef, the eclectic Great Jones and the sleek-and-chic Material Kitchen.

But none of them have been able to attain the fanbase or cultural significance that Le Creuset continues to revel in — but this isn't just among legacy home cooks or well-established homeowners.

Le Creuset is quite popular amongst Gen-Zers, thanks partially to the online cottagecore trend, which branched away from Pinterest and found a new home on TikTok amid the pandemic. Now, the hashtag #LeCreuSlay occasionally trends on the platform as videos showing young influencers and cooks Le Creuset hauls have garnered over 84.2 million views; the brand itself has 2.1 million likes and over 200,000 followers.

So what exactly is the appeal?

Some may point to the brand's reputation as a wise investment if you're going to make a habit of cooking. Namely, it's that classic Dutch oven that has garnered the most acclaim from chefs, critics and home cooks. Take it from Insider's Connie Chen, who explained, "Basically, Le Creuset is the rare brand that's really as good as everyone says it is. The experience is kind of like going to your first SoulCycle class — you enter a cynic, but you emerge (hopefully less sweaty) a zealous convert."

It's why so many cooking enthusiasts are willing to spend anywhere between $260 to $625 just to get their hands on a Dutch oven — and frankly, any kind of cookware from the brand. The quality is top-notch. The longevity is stellar. And yes, the excellent craftsmanship is an added perk.

As Mary Claire Lagroue of Food & Wine wrote, "What sets Le Creuset apart from others is quality, performance (more on that later), and durability. The pieces are handmade, with the help of machines for smoothing, and multiple people inspect each one during production to ensure that it's as close to perfection as possible."

Lagroue added that she's cooked with her own Le Creuset 7.25-quart round Dutch oven for an astounding four years. Her pots — one that belonged to her mother and another that she bought for herself — held up to high heat, scrubbing off stuck-on food, the dishwasher, and even a move across the country. It also helps that the pots are incredibly easy to clean and aren't prone to staining, despite their white interior.

"Le Creuset's 7.25-quart round Dutch oven is the one piece of cookware I'd recommend to anyone who's serious about cooking, regardless of their experience," Lagroue continued in her review. "While the initial investment is higher, a well-made Dutch oven like this can last a lifetime if you treat it well."

Le Creuset's fanbase also includes its avid super-collectors, who drop hundreds (even thousands) to stock up on items. That entails spending hours scouring the internet for online sales, raiding discount shops and hunting down vintage cookware. "It can be a consuming, expensive and deeply personal hobby. To the obsessed, there's always another piece calling their name," wrote The Guardian's Jill Schildhouse. "Each recipe requires a particular vessel, each season a suitable hue, and each dinner party a special display detail."

However, it's worth remember that many Gen-Zers aren't living on their own. Nor are they necessarily cooking or hosting in the same way as millennials or Gen-Xers, so nostalgia is another key factor in Le Creuset's appeal.

The brand's chip-resistant enameled cast iron means it can last for years (we're talking more than 40 years, in some instances), as long as it's treated properly with care.

That can't be said for many conventional brand cookware, which are more likely to rust and scratch with increased use. Le Creuset, though, is a brand that can be passed down from generation after generation. And what's better than being able to cook your favorite comfort meal using a pan from your mother's kitchen and even, your grandmother's?

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But in the end, Gen-Zers are also drawn to Le Creuset for the same reasons that their parents, as well as their parents, were. The nostalgia-inducing Dutch ovens, posts and pans are emblematic of adulthood. Historically, they belong in the kitchen of someone who has their life together enough to host actual dinner parties — or at least on the wedding registry of a couple who plans to entertain once they are finally settled. 

What does being settled look like in a country facing crippling inflation, pervasive housing crises and the looming threat of another global pandemic? Who really knows.  

That said, while some of the realities of adulthood have changed, Le Creuset hasn't. And as the adage says, old is new again — the recent fashion world obsession with "quiet luxury" is a prime example of this. 

So, how did Le Creuset, the self-described heirloom-quality cookware, become a new Gen-Z icon? The brand managed to create something that's not only practical but also classically beautiful. Each and every piece is a cooking and art crossover, which is essential for success in a food world where "the camera eats first." If you want your cookware to be able to whip up your favorite homemade stew, Le Creuset has just the items for you. And if you want your cookware to just sit pretty on your kitchen countertop, Le Creuset also has just the items for you. It's a versatile brand that essentially appeals to the pragmatic chef, art curator or Instagram influencer.

Perhaps they'll make collectors of a new generation. 

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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