Why are Gen Z TikTokers gushing over dutch ovens?

By Margaret Eby
October 08, 2020
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Credit: Boris Roessler / Getty Images

I have lost many hours to TikTok, particularly during the pandemic, when frequently leaving the apartment is roundly discouraged by health experts. The app is an endless stream of amusements, from a fanged man biting into oversized jellies to people doing their makeup while lip-syncing along to John Mulaney stand-up bits. A recent TikTok trend that is equal parts wholesome and baffling is Gen Z TikTokers raving about Le Creuset. 

Le Creuset, if you’re unfamiliar, are makers of extremely nice enameled cast iron kitchenware. Their Dutch Oven is the gold standard, and it comes in a rainbow of hues. There are bright orange-reds and muted blue-greys, and often, limited-edition patterns and colors. The most recent additions to the Le Creuset color wheel are Deep Teal and Cosmos, a dark navy blue. They make cookware that is both beautiful and functional, and enameled cast iron will last decades, given proper care. It’s a good thing, too, because Le Creuset is not cheap: The sticker price on a round, five-and-a-half quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven in the TikTok-popular color Artichaut is $360. 

Why, then, are Gen Z TikTok stars going bonkers over $400 pots? As of the time I’m writing this, the hashtag #lecreuset on TikTok has 12.1 million views, growing steadily by the hour. There are pages and pages of TikToks admiring the white Le Creuset with the gold knob, or the dutch oven in nectar, an orange-yellow color. Le Creuset’s constant place on wedding registries means that there are a number of people on TikTok jokingly (I think?) offering to get married for the chance to receive registry items alone. There’s even a corner of Le Creuset TikTok comparing Le Creuset colorways to Harry Styles’ looks. Le Creuset pots are beautiful, but they aren’t exactly novel or cool. Why the flood of appreciation right now?

“A Le Creuset pot is sort of the perfect cross-section of like, five different parts of TikTok,” explained Rebecca Jennings, a Vox reporter who covers internet culture, and is somewhat of an expert on TikTok.  “First, it’s a product, a thing you can buy that looks very beautiful and makes you feel like if only you had this gorgeous $400 pot, you would also magically have a perfect kitchen and make sumptuous pot roasts on a cozy evening. Plenty of products go viral on TikTok, and not all of them are expensive—LED room lights and CeraVe moisturizer, for example—but I think a Le Creuset is more similar to the strawberry dress, a dreamy $500 chiffon gown that also went viral earlier this year. In both, there’s a yearning for something that’s not only luxurious but meaningful.”

Jennings also pointed out that the TikToks are mostly made by young people who are new to cooking, and Le Creuset has a kind of talismanic appeal. Once you own the right items, it’ll mean that you’ll be closer to a certain picture of adulthood. “A Le Creuset can be a shorthand for a kind of person who has some money and their shit together, sort of like how we’ve decided Infinite Jest is synonymous with shitty straight dudes and pumpkin spice lattes with basic white girls,” Jennings told me. 

Another element of it has to do with the rise of cottagecore, an aesthetic movement that, as Isobel Slone explained in The New York Times, is “where tropes of rural self-sufficiency converge with dainty décor to create an exceptionally twee distillation of pastoral existence.” Think long blousey dresses and screen-free, slightly cluttered cabins. Le Creuset pots fit into that world, one where rather than throwing something in the Instant Pot or slow cooker you go the long, slow oven route. 

“Basically the entire phenomenon of cottagecore is about living a cozy and adorable life and taking the time to make beautiful things, and a Le Creuset evokes these kinds of activities,” Jennings said. “It shows you care about household labor, but also about the beauty of the object. And finally, and this is the least interesting part, but the cooking community is also massive on TikTok! Everyone on earth loves to watch a sped-up video of food getting made, so the fact a kitchen appliance is going viral on this app or any other is not all that surprising to me.”

Plus, in a time when we’re all stuck inside staring at our screens, willing the pandemic to end, it makes sense to lust over a pot. Doom-scrolling and doom-shopping go hand-in-hand, and both have the same internal logic: You might finally land on something that will help you feel better. Maybe a Le Creuset pot would fix things? Probably not. But in the meantime, you can hear a lot of TikTok opinions on which one you should buy.