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Cleaning ideas for enamelled cast iron?

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  • ac06 Jan 26, 2009 10:25 PM
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I just bought some used cast iron cookware as I wanted to try cooking with cast iron before spending a lot of money on the more expensive stuff. It is an old French brand -- Le Cousances. The interior enamel is stained dark and rough to the touch. I have tried cleaning it with Easy Off and some of the other cleaning suggestions on this board, and while the colour is lighter, the interior still feels rough. Does anyone have any thoughts on whether further cleaning will be worth it, or is the cookware a write-off? Your advice would be much appreciated.

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  1. did you check that recent thread that had advice on cleaning le creuset, that also referred to lc's website instructions? here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5672...

    you're saying the enamel interior is rough? how? like rusty-rough, or worn-rough, or cut-stuff-with-sharp-knife-in-pot-rough? or none of these?

    1. My guess is that it's just worn down after years of use. A few nicks with a metal utensil here and there over the years as well as the countless heating and cooling cycles the thing has been through will take it's toll. Not to mention, oven cleaner isn't exactly delicate treatment on the surface of a pot. I would just use it for a couple small meals and see how it performs.

      I'm not accusing here, but are you going a little overboard on getting this thing clean? In other words, are you (#1) trying to get it clean just because you want to, or are you (#2) getting it clean so it will perform better? If the answer is #1, I say leave it alone and cook with the thing. If the answer is #2 well then you might be out of luck because of the age of the pot. Any more harsh abrasive cleaning will not necessarily make it better, it might even make it worse.

      1. Thanks alkapal and HaagenDazs, it is I think "worn from years of use" rough. I did check the previous threads, which seemed to focus quite a bit on removing stains. I was trying to get it clean because I thought enamelled cast iron needed to be smooth to avoid food sticking --at least all the threads seem to talk about how shiny, glossy, easy to clean etc. etc. their LC, Staub, whatever is...

        10 Replies
        1. re: ac06

          the enamel will wear, but it is good to go. as hd said, just cook in it. you can start seasoning it with good cooking. start with some nice roast, on a bed of winter root veggies. a little wine, a little herb (ON the roast, ahem!) and a little olive oil....you're good to go. happy cooking! ;-). (it is a dutch oven? i just assumed so....)

          1. re: alkapal

            Enamel doesn't "season."

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              it depends on how much the cast iron pot's enamel lining is worn down, doesn't it?

              1. re: alkapal

                First, enamel in cookware like this does not wear down. It doesn't dissolve away or wear thin like a melting piece of ice. It can certainly chip or break or get gouges or scratches in it, but it won't "wear down."

                So let's assume that cast iron surfaces is what we're talking about. You're right. If the interior enamel is gone then you would theoretically have bare cast iron which would potentially need seasoning.

                But alas, we're not talking about that. If you look again at the original post, the concern was about interior enamel [that] is stained dark and rough to the touch.

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  If the surface is rough, and clearly not just burnt food, then I suspect it has been overheated one or more times. I have a couple of enameled pans that I've let burn dry, and the surface has become dark and rough. It still is ok for tasks like boiling water, but I believe the low-stick qualities of smooth enamel are gone for ever.

                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    enamel doesn't wear down? i think it does, over time, with usage.
                    tmso thinks so too. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5434...

                    my mom has a 40 year old le creuset, and i'd say the enamel is worn.
                    sorta like reviewer #9 here: http://reviews.chefscatalog.com/8855/...

                    1. re: alkapal

                      No it does not. You find me a food item that dissolves cookware enamel. Like I said, it can scratch and chip but it will not wear down any more than glass will, with proper use. For instance Pyrex doesn't wear thin, but it can be scratched and chipped.

                      Again, I'll point to the fact that the original poster was not talking about seasoning cast iron.

                      I think paulj hit it on the head here.

                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                        hd, so, you are saying, no enamel coating wears down with use over time?
                        others' experience count for naught? or, are we all mis-speaking or just don't "understand" the concept of enamel wearing? maybe you are right, but i've seen worn enamel....

                        1. re: alkapal

                          You're both talking about different things!

                          Alkapal is using the words "wear down", and suddenly the word "disolve" appears. I think you'll find they're entirely different things. Disolution is a chemical process, wear is a physical one.

                          So as you've both said, in a round about way, enamel can chip and scratch, which would be classed under wear. After years of use, many minute scratches and scrapes could well give the appearance of disolution, having eroded the entire top layer of the enamel.

                          Now stop fighting you two!

                  2. re: alkapal

                    I have several pieces of Descoware that were purchased in the late '50s. One of the sauce pans has been used almost every day for over 50 years. The inner enamel of all is almost new, Keep metal spoons and the like away from them and they will last forever.

            2. For what it's worth.... I got a Le Creuset skillet, new about 2-3 weeks old. When I first got it, the surface was already rough and dark. We're talking about new here. I was later to have some decent results with just using vim for light abbrasion and grease cutting. I've also used bar cleaner's friend on it if I really had an issue.

              If you can still cook on it, I don't think it's a write off, unlike scratches in a teflon pan.

              I've done a study on hydrophobic surface before, specifically lotus leaves. If you do a microscopic analysis of the leaf structure you will see that it has a fine but rough surface on the microscale and that allows air bubbles to be created at the bottom and repel the water. Have you ever noticed that occasionally a perfectly formed ball of water float on top of your clothing before? That's the physics at work. However, if a surface is way too corase in its roughness, water will get between the grooves instead and it will have the opposite effect and water will stick to the surface. I think the principle can be extended to food sticking on a surface. A rough surface isn't necessarily a bad thing... just how rough is the question. So take it for what you deem it worth to be.

              1. Some cleaners are not made to be used on surfaces that food will be eaten from, so I would be concerned about toxins leaching into the cooking surface, especially if the enamel if no longer in good shape.

                1 Reply
                1. re: City Kid

                  I heard that cast iron shouldn't be scrubbed too hard, as it adds to the seasoning. Not sure about enamel though.