Enameled cast iron is my go-to cookware. While the vast majority of my pots are Le Creuset, I also have pieces by Lodge, Chasseur, and Staub – that’s what owning a cookware store for 15 years does! I’m a sucker for a new piece of cast iron. Anyway, I thought we’d run through how to clean enameled cast iron cookware. There is a LOT of misinformation out there (hello rock salt and lemon!) so let’s set the record straight!
The good news is, with proper care, a quality enameled cast iron Dutch oven or skillet can last years, if not a lifetime. Some of my earliest pieces of Le Creuset are now 15+ years old and they have quite a good bit of life still in them!
Here’s my best tips for a new piece of cast iron cookware
Enameled cast iron pots and pans do not need to be seasoned like raw cast iron. Simply remove all packaging and stickers, and wash in hot soapy water. Once you’ve dried it, you are good to start cooking.
Most enamel cast iron is suited to low to medium heat cooking. Take the time to heat up your cookware on a low heat (always with oil in the base of it) and your cookware will last a lifetime. While it may seem impossible to cook at that temperature, cast iron retains an immense amount of heat so in a couple of minutes you’ll have a cooking surface hot enough to cook in.
Never plunge your hot cookware into cold water directly after cooking. Wait a few minutes for it to cool before cleaning. While quality cast iron cookware is highly durable, misuse can cause cracking or chipping if handled incorrectly. So for best results, I leave my cookware for at least 10 minutes before cleaning.
There are different types of enamel and they need to be treated differently
Le Creuset has a different type of enamel on their cast iron Dutch ovens and their skillets. One is cream in color, the other black. The cream enamel should always have oil in it prior to turning on the heat. While neither enameled pot is suitable for direct high temperatures, The black enamel can go to a higher heat, making it a perfect choice for steaks. Instead of oiling the pan, you’ll get a better result if you oil the foods you are cooking instead. For example, oil your steak before placing it in the pan, don’t oil the pan. Because of this, you can use a stronger pot brush to clean a black interior enamel pan than you should use with the cream finish.
How to clean cast iron with an enamel coating
The BEST way to clean cast iron is with warm water, dish soap, and a non-abrasive pot brush. Here’s how…
- Make sure your pot or pan has completely cooled before cleaning.
- Add a small amount of hot water along with some dish soap – If you have any stuck-on food, you may need to soak your pan for 20 minutes or so prior to cleaning. Really stuck on bits, may require the pan to be heated on low heat with a little water and detergent to help remove the baked-on food bits or soaked overnight.|
- Clean the bottom of the pot with a soft sponge or non-abrasive pot brush.
- Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
ALL THE BEST SLOW-COOK DINNERS
Easy Dutch Oven Recipes
These are the warm the cockles of your heart, melt in your mouth, slow-cooked suppers. Make sure you’ve got a bottle of red handy!
My cookware is stained. What do I do?
Well this one is totally up to you. Personally, I love a good red wine stain on my enameled cast iron pots. I take it as a sign that your pans are loved with years of use. It’s love and flavor you might say! If stubborn stains bother you, Le Creuset has a pots and pans cleaner which can help. It’s a cream cleanser that is applied to the pot and rubbed in a circular motion to remove tough stains and maintain the enamel surface.
Can I pop it in the dishwasher?
It depends on the brand. All of Le Creuset’s cast iron cookware is dishwasher safe providing it doesn’t have a timber handle. However, it is recommended you don’t dishwash skillets with black enamel as it will strip any patina that has developed with use – handwashing is always preferable. Ideally, to best maintain any enamel cast iron, handwashing is the best option. Over time, constant dishwasher use may cause enamel to dull in color, and lose its durability.
Can I use steel wool?
If you take anything away from this post, remember this… Steel wool belongs in the garage or laundry, NOT the kitchen. Steel wool can destroy good cookware in the blink of an eye. I’ve never used it in the kitchen, but I have seen firsthand the damage it can do. Please please please, throw it away, or find a new home for it. Steel and enamel do not mix. The same goes for metal utensils. Use them on your BBQ grill instead.
I’ve seen people clean burnt-on food with lemon and rock salt. Will this work?
It probably will, however, rock salt is quite abrasive, so you will damage the enamel finish in the process.
What about cleaning with bleach?
No, no, no! Please stay away from all of these “tips”. All they will do is destroy the enameled surface.
I think my enameled Dutch oven is beyond repair. The base is black! I forgot to turn off the heat after serving up a stew and left it for a couple of hours! What do I do?
Have faith! I once did this and was picking burnt rice off the bottom of my enamel pot for a week. Try boiling soapy water in it for 20 minutes at a time and while it’s boiling, try gently scraping the burnt food with a wooden spoon. If there is hope, black bits will start lifting and rising to the surface. I had to do this multiple times before my pot was useable again so be patient. If the black bits don’t lift off, then yes, it’s probably beyond repair. My condolences.
What sort of cooking utensils should I use on my enameled cookware so I don’t ruin them?
Silicon, wooden, or nylon utensils are best for most cooking surfaces. I tend to favor nylon purely because they are heat resistant to a higher temperature than silicon as well as being dishwasher safe.
Here’s a bit more about cast iron cooking…
- French Oven vs Dutch Oven… Everything you need to know!
- What is the Best Dutch Oven size to buy?
- The Best Oil To Season Your Cast Iron Cookware
Any questions, drop them in the comments!