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Oct 14, 2009 12:13 AM

Is very badly chipped enamel on cast iron safe?

Slightly different question from a thread started earlier today. I found a vintage enamel on cast iron Dutch oven, very much like Descoware. The lid feels lighter than the base and has several large chips at the rim. I feel like if I tried, I could chip more off. The inside of the base, the actual cooking surface, has 7 or 8 serious chips up to 6 or 7 mm in diameter exposing rusted cast iron underneath. I've spent a lot of time reviewing opinions on this site and a few others about the safety of chipped enamelware. This stuff is seriously chipped.

Scenario 1: I clean up the cool vintage piece and just stare at it.
Scenario 2: I take the plunge and cook with it, maybe it's great.
Scenario 3: I cook with it and enamel chips off into my food. OK if I notice it, not so great if I don't.

Some websites just categorically state, "When enamel chips off, it's time to get a new pot." Clearly several of you have a different experience. But it's the magnitude/number of chips here that concerns me. The chips are clustered, and I'm not sure what was done to this pot to result in this kind of damage. Thoughts on safety?

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  1. No answer, just more questions. I have a Le Crueset full size stock pot that I love. Never use metal to stir in it, but all of a sudden there are chips on the bottom anyway. No iron showing though, I guess it's double coated? But I feel like it will continue to chip now.

    I took it to the LeCrueset store which is a few minutes away, but the clerk said I had to ship it back to the factory (at my own expense) and if they felt it was their fault, they would replace it. So I never did, and now the holidays are coming.....guess I'll keep using it unless someone knows something I don't?

    3 Replies
    1. re: coll

      If you're confident, send it back. I would.

      For TC though, I'd say chip the enamel off. I don't know if it's sharp or not, but it could be dangerous/unsanitary. You could have a nice looking bare cast iron pot for free!

      1. re: coll

        Email them directly a description of what happened, I'd expect their customer service to be better and give you more specific answers than that. You don't pay over the odds for LC only to be disappointed with the quality and service.

        1. re: pass

          adding a photo of what the problem is should help. LC does have a limited lifetime guarantee.

      2. I'd give it a few test runs first, boil up some water, fry up some bacon, clumsily rattle a spoon in it whilst hot etc etc to see how it stands up. The open CI and be 'seasoned' enough for it not to be a worry (at least for me).

        Some vintage pieces do just have weak materials IMO which is why LC and others are so highly valued and much more common - they really do last - and why some groovy vintage pieces are much rarer. I've come across items from ColourCast and Arabia Finel that really do need to be treated with much more care than LC.

        I'd use it with caution until you get to know the pot and are happy with it. Sometimes you can see hairline cracks where the enamel may be separating from the CI and weakening so I would keep a close eye on it for further deterioration as you use it as well.

        What is it?

        1 Reply
        1. re: pass

          It's a DRU Holland piece with beautiful yellow enamel on the outside. I was excited about the idea of having a genuine Dutch oven, plus it was cheap. I don't really have space to keep nonfunctional items but this one is a looker at casual glance. From what I've read, DRU Holland stopped being sold in the US around the 60s, maybe 70s. I'd never seen a piece before. The company is still around making industrial stuff, from a quick web search.

        2. I have an LC frying pan w/ some chips (from burning the DEVIL out of it and cleaning agressively), but they've been there for years and no more appear to be happening and i do NOT get the impression that more is going to come off anytime soon.

          6 Replies
          1. re: danna

            LC do multiple layers of enamel - iirc, much more than anyone else. So it could be that LC can cope with what others cannot.

            What do you mean by aggressive cleaning BTW? Just to give me reference

            1. re: Soop

              If in the end you can't use the piece for cooking, I sugest growing herbs in it. I have a number of old pieces that I use in this way. I put some pebbles on the bottom and fill with soil and they make very, very attractive plant pots on my windwo sill.

              1. re: Soop

                agressive cleaning: using a knife like a chisel to chip off carbonized gunk. not good.

                1. re: danna

                  o__+ Yeah, that is pretty agressive! I thought you were gonna say scouring pads!

              2. re: danna

                I know this is replying very late, but I have the EXACT same problem---I burned the crap out of my 7 1/4-qt LC Dutch Oven (making apple sauce, of all things) and was able to get off most of the burn with my plastic dish scrubber and my nails (not fun) but then had to take a dull knife to it to get the last off. The first layer of enamel has chipped off in some places (nicely mimicking the shape of sliced apples, just to taunt me) and I don't know what to do. After having a complete breakdown thinking it was ruined, my friends and family convinced me perhaps not all is lost. It's heartening to know that you have still been using yours with no further trouble.

                My question is if this is something LC would cover under their warranty. I just assumed they wouldn't because it was completely my idiocy that caused me to burn the crap out of it. Thoughts?

                1. re: xerxes_xerxes

                  If they don't replace it they will probably give you a new one at 75% off the list price. It's worth a try. Call them at 877-CREUSET, and let us know what happens.

              3. Mishmash,

                I would definitely get a new pot if you have 7-8 serious chipped area. It isn't unsafe as "what is the point?" I mean technically you can seasoning those chipped area to prevent rushing, but it is difficult to do in multiple areas. You will spend lot of time and energy to keep it up. It will be easy for you just to get a bare cast iron Dutch oven or a cheap enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Actually I have a LC that is going strong and has kept all its enamel so far. I was taken by the idea of cooking with an older piece, but realistically I won't invest the time in seasoning the chipped DRU pot over and over, and I think I'd be too scared by the prospect of more enamel chipping to really enjoy cooking with it. I'll probably clean it up and just keep it around for a while to look at.