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Repairing Le Creuset Cast Iron Cookware

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gki Oct 5, 2009 02:55 PM

I love cooking with my enameled cast iron pots. I cook with high heat. The two do not mix and I have three VERY large pots that have badly cracked enamel. Before I throw them out and buy replacements at a cost of around $800, I want to try to repair them. I'm discussing this idea with high fire ceramics folks who own kilns but I need more technical information. Will the existing enamel on my pots re-anneal at 1,800 degrees fahrenheit? Or should it be the temp Le Creuset mentions on their website, 1,544 degrees? Do I need to re-apply new enamel? Is this a bad idea altogether? An easier alternative is shipping pieces back to Le Creuset and buying replacement pots with a warranty discount. It would be much cheaper to repair them IF I can figure out how to do this and whether it will work at all. For this I need, help! !!

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  1. StriperGuy RE: gki Oct 5, 2009 03:31 PM

    Can't be repaired. No WAY you can match the old enamel and get the new stuff to meld with the old.

    I have quite a bit of Le Creuset and quite a bit of old school cast iron.

    I use my regular cast iron 95% of the time and the fru fru le creuset on rare occasions.

    Don't bother with Le Creuset, use cast iron, it's just better. Better at charring, browning, baking, simmering, high heat, low heat, and way better for frying an egg if you don't want it to stick. Cast iron rules.

    1. tanuki soup RE: gki Oct 5, 2009 03:53 PM

      If you cook with high heat, you might want to check out Silit Silargan cookware from Germany instead of replacing your Le Creuset. It is ceramic on steel and is intended for high-temperature cooking.

      32 Replies
      1. re: tanuki soup
        StriperGuy RE: tanuki soup Oct 5, 2009 04:04 PM

        Just took a look at that stuff. NO WAY it is as tough as cast iron.

        For example, the way I cook fresh caught mackerel: Gas oven on broil, pan in broiler for 20 minutes, when it is SMOKING hot, drizzle with oil, toss in mackerel, broil for 5 min.

        I don't know or anything other than cast iron that can stand up to that treatment.

        1. re: StriperGuy
          g
          gki RE: StriperGuy Oct 5, 2009 06:57 PM

          Fanatic about food, fanatic about cooking and it just follows that people will be fanatics about cookware, too. Thanks. I agree about plain cast iron. I do love cooking with it but I've followed DOZENS of secrets to keeping it "clean" and always get frustrated and throw the darn things out.

          1. re: gki
            Chemicalkinetics RE: gki Oct 5, 2009 09:41 PM

            Gki,

            Enameled cast iron cookware is not intended for high heat because of the expansion. Your enamel will crack and if you get the new one, it will happen again soon or later. I would definitely try care cast iron cookware. It is much cheaper (20X cheaper) and you can sear your meat on bare cast iron and do a lot of things on bare cast iron. It takes some skill to get use to it, but it is all worthy if you are into cooking. Cooking has always been a balance between ease of use and taste. A nonstock telfon cookware is easy to use but it rarely produces the best dishes. Cast iron and carbon steel cookware requires more skill but they deliver better tasting food. I was an enameled cast iron user until I switch to bare cast iron, and bare cast iron is better when it comes to taste. If you have the patience to learn bare cast iron, it will reward your "love". Relationship is something to work with you know. It takes time, effort and sacrifice, and there will be laughter and tears along the way.

            Now, I will say even bare cast iron is not designed for high temperature cooking. It can, but it heats up slow, so it is not the best. If you are really into fast and high temperature cooking (oil starting to smoke everything), then you need to go to carbon steel or maybe stainless.

            Now if you insist you need an enameled cast iron dutch oven for high temperature and that we cannot convince you otherwise, then I would suggest you buy a different brand because they may not last. Get the Lodge enameled cast iron. It is cheaper and many reviewers (like Cooks Illustrated) claim it is just as good as the Le Creuset. If you have to have enameled cast iron and have to have Le Creuset, then go to Home Goods or Marshall or TJ Max.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
              StriperGuy RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 6, 2009 02:33 AM

              Stainless sucks. It sticks, is hard to clean and can't really stand HIGH heat.

              1. re: StriperGuy
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                surfereddie RE: StriperGuy Dec 17, 2009 08:47 PM

                I use stainless for searing meats where I will make a sauce from the faun. Also, if it's think I can throw it into the oven to finish. You cannot do this with cast iron. On teflon the faun stays with the meat so there is nothing in the pan to deglaze.

                1. re: surfereddie
                  StriperGuy RE: surfereddie Dec 17, 2009 11:46 PM

                  Uhhhh, you are completely wrong here.

                  Cast iron is MUCH better than stainless for searing, and deglazing for making a sauce then stainless; I deglaze with red wine all the time in cast iron. Brief exposure to acid (wine) is perfectly acceptable, I have researched this extensively, in cast iron, you just don't want to simmer for hours.

                  Try searing a good steak in stainless (where it will stick, and be hard to get off if you really use high heat) vs. stainless where you will get a beautiful sear, a better crust on the meat, and the steak will be much easier to remove; uh yah, and it WILL TASTE BETTER.

                  I do agree that for tomato sauce and soups I use stainless which I actually state elsewhere (see Revereware in this thread).

                  Bottom line you are just plain misinformed or do not have much experience working with cast iron.

                  The only folks who should really avoid cast iron, per what Chemicalkinetics says below, are those very rare individuals who have hemochromatosis and must minimize consumption of iron at all costs.

                  1. re: surfereddie
                    C. Hamster RE: surfereddie Dec 18, 2009 07:29 AM

                    Don't make sauce from the faun. That sounds like bambi!

                    Use the fond instead. :-)

                  2. re: StriperGuy
                    d
                    Dave5440 RE: StriperGuy Apr 15, 2011 01:01 PM

                    Striper

                    Stainless has a 400deg higher melting point than CI FYI ,
                    Although i agree on most of your points

                    1. re: Dave5440
                      StriperGuy RE: Dave5440 Apr 15, 2011 01:08 PM

                      Hmmmm, I did not know that, but nowhere did I mention MELTING point. ;-)

                      I said it could not stand high heat, by which I meant COOKING at high heat.

                      Try taking a cast iron pan and a stainless pan and put them on burners full blast.

                      Wait 5-10 minutes or so until smoking hot, and throw a steak on.

                      In the stainless you will get a burning, stuck-on mess. On cast iron you will get beautiful sear.

                  3. re: Chemicalkinetics
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                    surfereddie RE: Chemicalkinetics Dec 17, 2009 08:42 PM

                    I'm confused on how cookware makes thinks taste better, unless of course you're anemic then the cast iron cookware would produce the best tasting food. Every class of cookware has its advantages cooking a specific dish or types of dishes. Try simmering a tomato sauce from scratch in a cast iron pot for a couple of hours. Try deglazing the pan faun for your red wine sauce in a cast iron pan. So I highly disagree with that statement.

                    1. re: surfereddie
                      Chemicalkinetics RE: surfereddie Dec 17, 2009 10:10 PM

                      You are confused how cookware can makes things taste better? I do not know what to say to that.

                      However, I highly disagree with the statement that "unless of course you're anemic then the cast iron cookware would produce the best tasting food". It either produces better tasting foods or not, independent of anemia. Frankly, that is a dangerous advise. Iron deficiency anemia is not the only form of anemia. Patients can have both hemochromatosis and anemia at the same time. In which case, this advice will create severe adverse effects.

                      http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9907/26/hem...
                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13...

                  4. re: gki
                    StriperGuy RE: gki Oct 6, 2009 02:36 AM

                    Agree mostly with what CK said below.

                    gki: cast iron won't get "clean" the way other surfaces do. If you are a super-tidy scrubbed scrubbed scrubbed person it probably isn't for you.

                    Part of using it is that the pan will always look a little funky. If that bothers you, every 6 months you can (it's a shame to do it) broil off the seasoning and start again.

                  5. re: StriperGuy
                    Chemicalkinetics RE: StriperGuy Oct 5, 2009 09:44 PM

                    StriperGuy,

                    Good point. How about carbon steel? Have you seen those really high hot burners (high BTU) in Chinese restaurants? They have both carbon steel and cast iron woks there. So I am guessing they can take similar abuse?

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      StriperGuy RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 6, 2009 02:31 AM

                      Carbon steel works too.

                      I find because I don't have a high BTU burner at home (wish I did like in a restaurant kitchen or a Chinese wok gas circle) I prefer thick cast iron for it's ability to retain some heat. It is a bit of a cheat, but I get the ability to sear and brown in a way that I would not with thinner steel.

                  6. re: tanuki soup
                    Chemicalkinetics RE: tanuki soup Oct 5, 2009 09:54 PM

                    Tanuki soup,

                    Silit Silargan cookware you mentioned will do better than an enameled cast iron cookware, but they are not really for high-temperature cooking, probably medium-high temperature in my definition. If you are really talking about high temperature cooking like StriperGuy and I, then probably only cast iron and carbon steel can handle it. I can write ten pages on this, but in short, the Silit Silargan cookware is ceramic on top of steel. At high temperature, ceramic and steel do not expand at the same rate (thermal expansion coefficient), so yes, technically both ceramic and steel can handle high heat by themselves (if alone), but together they will expand differently, so they will put stress on each other until they crack. This does not include the fact that steel and ceramic have different heat conductivity so they will probably experience temperature difference and further makes it unstable.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      tanuki soup RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 5, 2009 10:41 PM

                      Hi Chemicalkinetics,

                      Yes, I agree. I suggested Silit Silargan to the original poster as an alternative to replacing Le Creuset pots based on the assumption that he prefers to use enameled (i.e., nonreactive) cookware for some reason. Ceramic fused to steel should hold up better than enamel on cast iron, and still provide a nonreactive and easy-to-clean surface for cooking with wine, tomatoes, or whatever.

                      I enjoy cooking with my Silit Silargan "Fry N Serve" pan (sort of a cross between a frying pan and a low casserole). It can take high heat and just feels a lot tougher than my Le Creuset casseroles and French ovens.

                      Like you, I prefer carbon steel and cast iron for high-temperature cooking. When I want to stir fry something, I reach for my carbon steel evasee. When I grill steaks, I use a cast iron grill pan. When I sear spare ribs, I use a cast iron skillet.

                      Regards,

                      tanuki soup

                      1. re: tanuki soup
                        Chemicalkinetics RE: tanuki soup Oct 5, 2009 11:01 PM

                        Hi Soup,

                        I definitely agree that your Silit Silargan is much better than a Le Creuset pots. In fact, the Le Creuset enameled cast iron cookware has a very limited role at low temperature cooking. Sounds like you have tons of cookware. It must be fun to have all these toys. When I grow up, I want to be just like you. :)

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          tanuki soup RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 5, 2009 11:16 PM

                          Thanks for the kind words, Chemicalkinetics. Since I am not a particularly good cook, I like to console myself by buying lots of cookware and kitchen gadgets to play with.

                          1. re: tanuki soup
                            Chemicalkinetics RE: tanuki soup Oct 5, 2009 11:36 PM

                            Tanuki Soup,

                            I am sure you are a good cook. Have you start to play with cutlery? Like knives? I am slowly upgrading my cutlery set and have a DMT diamond stone and a Japanese waterstone for sharpening, so it will be fun.

                            Yesterday, I was sharpening my knife and as I wiped the knife with a towel, I suddenly saw blood. I didn't even feel the wound at first. What so funny is that I didn't cut myself because of the knife. I cut myself because I rammed my thumb into the stone.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              tanuki soup RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 6, 2009 12:11 AM

                              Funny you should mention that, CK. Actually, my whole kitchen upgrade program began with buying a bunch of Global knives, then Japanese ceramic water stones and a diamond stone to sharpen them, then an Edge Pro Apex knife sharpening system and ceramic steel, etc., etc.

                              I taught myself how to sharpen knives by watching videos on YouTube. It was so cool to be able to slice the corners off sheets of paper just like in the videos. I may not be a great cook, but my knives are sharp as dammit!

                              I haven't cut myself yet, but I have accidentally sliced up a few dish towels by drying my knives on them without paying sufficient attention.

                              1. re: tanuki soup
                                StriperGuy RE: tanuki soup Oct 6, 2009 02:46 AM

                                It is all well and good to like kitchen gadgets and fancy knives, everyone has to have a hobby.

                                But don't confuse owning stuff, and playing with stuff, with cooking stuff.

                                I have an old friend, with some disposable income, who had a kitchen FULL of gleaming, fancy, French copper cookware. Seriously there was about $3,000 worth of French copper in this kitchen. They never saw the stove. She basically ate out. But she really liked the way the copper looked with the cherrywood floors...

                                With some inexpensive Chicago cutlery knives, (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/655103) a $10 sharpening stone, reasonably-priced cast iron, and a few other limited items I can prepare pretty much anything in the kitchen from pancakes to beef wellington...

                                And if you really like playing with knives, get some carbon steel, they will make those Globals look like they can't hold an edge.

                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                  tanuki soup RE: StriperGuy Oct 6, 2009 03:27 AM

                                  Of course, a brilliant chef can whip up a world-class meal in an old coffee can heated with a butane lighter. You may consider yourself to be that chef. I know that I am not.

                                  Given my limited culinary skills, I have found that, for example, switching from cheap nonstick frying pans to carbon steel pans and cast iron skillets or from stainless steel stock pots to Le Creuset French ovens has actually made the humble meals I prepare at home TASTE BETTER. As a result, I am becoming more interested in trying out new recipes and learning to become a better cook.

                                  Buying extremely expensive cookware as "kitchen jewelry" that will never be used is one thing. Buying good-quality cookware and teaching yourself to use it properly in order to improve your cooking skills is quite another, IMO.

                                  1. re: tanuki soup
                                    StriperGuy RE: tanuki soup Oct 6, 2009 07:00 AM

                                    I do take my cooking VERY seriously. And I am of the ilk that can cook a top notch meal with the cheap aluminum cookware at a beach shack summer rental.

                                    I guess my point was, even though I have a decent amount of "kitchen jewelry" (by the way I like that term) including some rather fru fru french saucepans and a lot of Le Creuset myself, I find myself using them less and less often and focusing on a few, very basic knives and pieces of cookware.

                                    My soups taste no different when cooked in my large Le Creuset Dutch oven vs. old stainless Revereware. I NEVER use my giant Le Creuset skillet it just does not make things taste better. I agree that cast iron and steel are a big plus as far as flavor is concerned.

                                    I think a $30 cast iron dutch oven is every bit as good as the Le Creuset.

                                    Beyond some VERY basic items, I really do feel it is just kitchen jewelry.

                                    I should probably sell off much of mine on ebay and donate the $ to Oxfam.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy
                                      Chemicalkinetics RE: StriperGuy Oct 6, 2009 04:17 PM

                                      I agree that a good cook does not require good cookware. In fact, no one requires expansive cookware. Like Striper said, most good cooks do not need really expensive cookware. On the other hand, some nicer gadgets help. For example, once I was making some cookies and needed to crush walnut and I did not have any real tool, so I used a meat tenderizer and pounded those nuts for 15+ minutes and finally got the job done. After that hassle, I decided to buy a cheap little food processor ($30-40) so I don't have to go through that again. Now, my cookies do not taste better one way or the other, but it makes the baking experience more enjoyable. A similar story regarding squeezing key limes for key lime pies, and I finally convince myself to get a small lime juicer (~$10). Squeezing by bare hands is just crazy.

                                      Tanuki,

                                      Glad to know you have fun with your Global. I had considered them, but the handle look so strange. A good knife is a joy to work with and it is a bit safer too, but you two are correct that a good knife does not make better foods. It just makes the experience more pleasant, which in the long run can make you cook better because you are more willing to cook. I know the thought of squeezing key limes by bare hands would have seriously deteriorated my interest of making another key lime pie, so the $10 I spent on that lime juicer is well worthy.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                        tanuki soup RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 6, 2009 04:48 PM

                                        Very well said, CK. Even if the final result is the same, it is always a pleasure to use well-made, high-quality tools. (And it is also often cheaper in the long run.)

                                        I especially agree with your point that the more pleasant your experience is in the kitchen, the more time you will spend cooking, making you a better cook in the long run.

                                        At the end of the journey, one can hope to achieve the Zen state that StriperGuy alluded to: "No ingredients, no cookware, only a gesture" to create a delicious meal.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                          StriperGuy RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 7, 2009 06:35 AM

                                          I have a good trick for walnuts, because I think a food processor pulverizes them.

                                          Put your walnuts between two cutting boards and apply gentle pressure. You get nicely busted up walnuts without turning them to dust.

                                          Hey, even I bought an electic citrus juicer recently. Last time I juice 5 pounds of lemons for cocktails for a party it was WAY too much work.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy
                                            Chemicalkinetics RE: StriperGuy Oct 7, 2009 11:16 AM

                                            Striper,

                                            Good suggestion. In that particular cookie recipe, it was not a problem because it called for finer walnut bits. However, you are correct, there is not much control in a food processor if I want coarser walnut bits.

                                            I don't have an electric citrus juicer. I have those cast iron squeezer

                                            http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-Int...

                                            Actually, I think I bought it for $5 because I bought it at Marshall or TJ Max.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                              StriperGuy RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 7, 2009 12:49 PM

                                              Are those any good? I have heard some mixed reports on them.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                                Chemicalkinetics RE: StriperGuy Oct 7, 2009 02:03 PM

                                                Striper,

                                                I have heard mix reviews like you. The worst compliant I heard is that the hing can pop out. I bought it because it was only $5, so it was worth to take a chance. I have great experience with mine. They are easy to use, very easy to clean of course, and does not take up much space. I think the whole hing thing popping out is only true if you are pressing against something tough. Most of the those compliants come from big fruit squeezers (like grapefruit squeezer), not lime and lemon squeezers.

                                                I would say my squeezer works well with normal limes (Persian limes) and not as well with key limes because key limes are much smaller, so when the squeezer press all the way down, there are still space for the key limes. So what I do is to squeeze one key lime and then another key lime and then took the two already squeezed key lime together and squeeze again to get the last few drops of juice.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                  StriperGuy RE: Chemicalkinetics Oct 8, 2009 12:48 AM

                                                  Cool, thanks.

                                        2. re: StriperGuy
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                                          surfereddie RE: StriperGuy Dec 17, 2009 08:58 PM

                                          StriperGuy, I firmly believe you're a stock holder in Bayou Classics cookware company. I don't own a Le Creuset or a cast iron dutch oven. I own a cast enameled Staub from Sams for $40. You CANNOT cook acidic foods in a cast iron pot and get the same results as a cast enameled pot. If you truly believe this either you are a stock holder or your taste buds are shot. Which is it?

                                          1. re: surfereddie
                                            StriperGuy RE: surfereddie Dec 17, 2009 11:33 PM

                                            You obviously did not read the whole thread. For long simmering of acid items, veg soup for example, I would NOT use cast iron. I would use stainless or enamel. Above I mention using Revereware which is stainless.

                      2. g
                        gki RE: gki Oct 6, 2009 01:32 PM

                        I found a kiln owner who will fire my enameled iron pots. If that ruins it, I'll still be able to replace it with warranty discounted pieces from Le Creuset. I don't travel, I don't eat out, I don't buy new cars but I do set aside a budget for cookware. I'll have to try bare cast iron again. I enjoyed reading the thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/515126

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: gki
                          StriperGuy RE: gki Oct 7, 2009 01:25 PM

                          You can patch the enamel in an already enameled piece unless you match the chemistry of the previous enamel, whatever flux, pretreatments, etc. they use exactly. There is quite a bit of science and art in enameling particularly on iron (copper or silver is MUCH easier). Almost impossible to try and "patch" old enamel. In fact enameling iron at all is really not a craft endeavor at all, but really more industrial. If your friend can do it I will be WAY impressed.

                          1. re: StriperGuy
                            StriperGuy RE: StriperGuy Oct 8, 2009 11:25 AM

                            Typo above meant to start with "You can NOT patch the enamel..."

                            1. re: StriperGuy
                              g
                              gki RE: StriperGuy Oct 12, 2009 12:22 PM

                              Yeah, I'll bet you are correct. I supposedly have a kiln day, TODAY. I'll know tomorrow if it worked.

                              1. re: gki
                                Soop RE: gki Oct 13, 2009 02:48 AM

                                That means today!

                                1. re: Soop
                                  g
                                  gki RE: Soop Nov 3, 2009 06:15 PM

                                  I'm still waiting for this experiment to happen. I don't expect to make it pretty or to even fix it. Just hoping for a slight improvement in the cracks I made in the enamel. I finally made these points with the actual employee who will be doing this and she says it should be done next week.

                        2. s
                          surfereddie RE: gki Dec 17, 2009 08:25 PM

                          Please let everyone know if you attempted this and what were the results. I would also like to know what you consider cracked enamel. If it is chipped and flaking off then that should be returned. If you have hairline cracking you can easily make it disappear by pouring a diluted bleach solution in the pot and letting it soak for a day or two. Hairline cracking is purely aesthetic. The only reason I can imagine you're using high heat in a cast enameled pot is for bread. Get a cheap cast enameled pot at sams club, a cheap cast iron pot, or get a la cloche made from hard fired clay. I hope it's just hairline cracks but please do let us know.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: surfereddie
                            g
                            gki RE: surfereddie Apr 14, 2011 07:20 PM

                            I was SO disappointed when the Color Me Mine paint your own pottery place finally got back to me and said they did not fire my pot. I'm sure it is exactly what StriperGuy says about matching the chemistry of the existing enamel. I mentioned this to the store owner and she said she would try it anyway. Sad to say she lied. The pot has a small piece of enamel chipped off the inside bottom. I spoke with Le Crueset and they will give me a slight discount to replace it. Not worth going through them because the shipping is not covered. I will definitely stick with less expensive brands from now on.

                            1. re: gki
                              StriperGuy RE: gki Apr 15, 2011 06:37 AM

                              There is NO WAY standard enamel intended to go on pottery would adhere to the iron in a Le Creuset! Enameling iron is a serious industrial process.

                              That said, one little chip, who cares. You should see how battered some of the Le Creuset I've seen is, chips all over the place, 30+ years old, still work fine.

                              1. re: gki
                                StriperGuy RE: gki Apr 15, 2011 11:07 AM

                                Just to nerd out a bit further, the only way you could "repair" dinged enamel on a Le Creuset would be to sandblast or grind off ALL the enamel, and start from scratch with enamel intended to be used on Iron.

                                Whoever at Color Me Paint told you that enamel intended for ceramic would work is just clueless.

                                1. re: gki
                                  d
                                  Dave5440 RE: gki Apr 15, 2011 01:11 PM

                                  If you can send me the pot i'll send it through a kiln , to see what happens, I know what happens when I've sent through tools and low carbon steel, turns pretty much to dust

                              2. n
                                natschultz RE: gki Apr 18, 2011 09:38 AM

                                Comparing glazing ceramics to enameling metal is literally like comparing apples to oranges - it will NOT work. You CAN have metal (cast iron, steel, aluminum) re-enameled, but the original enamel must be completely removed first, and the cost of doing so will make buying new Le Crueset seem cheap!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: natschultz
                                  StriperGuy RE: natschultz Apr 18, 2011 11:15 AM

                                  Which is more or less what I said two posts above.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy
                                    d
                                    Dave5440 RE: StriperGuy Apr 18, 2011 03:23 PM

                                    Yup

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