We Went to the Staub Factory in France to Learn How the Cookware Gets Made

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Staub)

A few weeks ago, I got to go to France to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Staub factory. (I swear this is not a humblebrag!) I was there to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the cocotte and the launch of the new Staub cookbook.

I love seeing how stuff gets made — especially stuff that I actually use on an almost-daily basis. And I’m hoping you guys do, too, because I took a bunch of pictures and detailed notes to share the process with you.

Not surprisingly, there are a ton of complicated and specific steps that happen, with a series of quality-control checks along the way. Here’s a super-abbreviated map of all the steps.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

1. Melting

All sorts of raw materials go into a Staub cast iron pan: the recipe is 85 percent metal (leftover scraps, hématite, pig iron, and steel), 10 percent coke, and five percent limestone. A giant crane picks up the materials, dumps it all into a 2,550-degree furnace, and melts four to six tons of ingredients per hour.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

2. Tooling

This part is probably the most technical. It starts with designing and milling aluminum pattern plates. These plates can be used for about 10,000 to 30,000 cycles before they need to be replaced. The plates, which are positives, are then used to form negative sand molds (as in molds actually made out of sand — and water and some additives).

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

3. Casting

Next, the melted cast iron gets poured into the sand molds (fun fact: The sand allows the gasses to escape, which is good because gasses can lead to defects in the cast iron as it cools and solidifies).

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

4. Shake Out

Once the cast iron has solidified, the sand molds get destroyed through an actual shaking process. There’s a conveyor belt that shakes, breaking up the sand separating out the pot. Workers (who somehow don’t seem to mind all that shaking!) stand in the middle of the conveyor belt and turn pots upside down, knock sand out of the handle holes, and remove the gating system, if it’s still attached.

What’s the gating system? It’s the channel that the cast iron travels through in order to fill the mold. The workers knock off this extra piece of metal and throw it into a bin to be recycled and used again in the making of another pot.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

5. Shot Blasting

The pots, still on that conveyer belt, then go through a shot blasting (think: sand blasting, only with little pellets instead of sand) to remove any leftover grains of sand that haven’t been shaken or knocked off.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

6. Grinding

Because the molding process leaves a little ridged line on the cast iron, the pots then have to go through a grinding process to smooth out those ridges. For the more traditional pots, this can be done by a robot. (The robots, which all have adorable human names, are custom pieces of machinery made just for Staub.) The wackier shapes — like the pumpkins or the tomatoes — have to be worked on by hand.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

7. Shot Blasting (Again!)

The pots are shot blasted for a second time (this time, with pellets that are slightly larger). This step roughs up the surface of the pot, which ensures that the enamel will actually stick to it.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

8. Enameling

Depending on the desired color of the pot, either two or three layers of enamel are applied. For the standard colors (Black, Cherry, Graphite Gray, and Mustard), it’s just two coats. For the Majolica colors (Dark Blue, Grenadine, Cinnamon, and Basil), it’s three.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

There are all sorts of fun things to tell you about the enameling process. First, these ceramic balls of all shapes and sizes are thrown into the tank with the enamel mixture and they get tossed around (imagine a dryer) to make sure that the pigments and glass and everything else is evenly mixed and broken up. Second, because paint mixtures vary from batch to batch, there is a set range of acceptable hues that workers check for. And after the spraying, the pots are dried at around 212 degrees and then fired at 1470 degrees. Fun, right?

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

9. Assembly and Packaging

Upon passing final inspection, the pot is ready for packing. It gets a sticker, a guide manual, that signature ribbon around the knob, and goes into its box.

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