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Dec 2, 2009 08:44 AM

using enameled cast iron

After years of reading this cookware message board, I've grown weary of uninformed posts on the durability of enameled cast iron. I read stuff like "can't be used with hot oils", "hard to clean", "delicate", "enamel scratches easily", etc. etc. Most of it is hogwash.

So, for all you doubters, here's photographic evidence that enameled cast iron is tough: pics of my le Creuset in use on a charcoal grill. I've cooked everything from baked beans to cassoulet, to no-knead bread, to roasted potatoes directly over hardwood lump charcoal. Yes, the outsides get sooty, but it cleans right off. The interiors clean up just fine; really baked on stuff comes off with a soaking and a sprinkle of Barkeeper's Friend.

For everyone "saving" their enameled cast iron for some perfect use, get over it. Short of thermal shock, it's tough stuff.

See another pic here:

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  1. I'm trying to concentrate on the topic at hand, Celeste, but migosh. The food looks SO good; hard to focus. I'll try, though.

    I noted on another recent thread that none of my LC has chipped at all. The thing is, I'm kind of clumsy. I'm always whacking the edge of a pot or a lid on cabinet frames, removing or returning the cookware; the edge or rack of the oven; the frame of the dishwasher or other items in the dishware; the faucet or the ceramic sink. I always check afterwards, presuming I'll find at least a *little* hole in the pot's enamel coating, one, as of yet. And I use this stuff *everyday*.

    I do use silicon instruments mostly to cook with, but for serving I use stainless or sterling. I have had to use BF to get the little metal lines off the inside of the pot when someone had scraped a metal spoon across the inside enamel, but it's not a difficult clean-up. Last night, I had to use a metal whisk to finish the dish, and I thought the pot would be all marked up, but no...not one sign of it.

    I can't imagine how anyone could find this stuff hard to clean. I've never, ever had cookware that was *easier* to clean (and I've tried a *lot* of different cookware in my time). There are a few pots in my life that I've simply had to throw in the garbage because, no matter what, I couldn't get the cooked-on gunk off. Not one of those pots was enameled cast iron. This stuff is a dream to clean, and its dishwasherability is a big bonus for sanitizing purposes.

    I'm glad to know about your experiences using it on the grill. I was wondering if I'd be able to use it on the hearth this winter, as long as I don't stick it directly in the fire. What do you think?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Normandie

      It will work fine in the hearth. The dishes pictured cooked at temps from 350 to 550+, within 12" of a charcoal fire. I also use it on the stovetop daily; make very browned rouxs in it, soups, stews, chili, etc. About the only thing it isn't good for is a quick stir-fry.

      1. re: Hungry Celeste

        Between my mother and I, we've been using Le Creuset in some form or another for at least 40 years. One piece I bought at the Goodwill *had* been damaged inside--burned and then scrubbed with something horribly abrasive---and it's remained rough and stained ever since...that one IS hard to clean, but then someone totally destroyed the ceramic glaze.

        Otherwise, the ONLY damage I've ever seen Le Creuset sustain was during the infamous Christmas dinner, years ago, when my older sister and mother got in a horrible argument over something long lost to recollection. My parents stormed out of the house. My sister ran after them, carrying my mother's beautiful red round oven.

        "Here! Don't forget your damned food!" she shouted, and slammed it down on the curb.

        Ooops. Broke into pieces. Couldn't be repaired (unlike their relationship ;-)

        1. re: Beckyleach

          What a great story! What dish was in the (sadly broken forever) red round oven?

          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            Alas, that has been lost to memory. It would have added verisimilitude to the telling. ;-)

    2. Many years ago I dropped a beautiful blue #22 (exposed cast iron bottom) on the side walk from waist high. My first concern was my foot, then that sick feeling of, " . . . but I loved that pot!". No damage whatsoever. I'm using it tonight.

      1. As well as my good stuff I bought a nest of three oval dirt cheap ($40 total) Dutch ovens. The enamel has chipped at the edges. I suffer from Normandie Syndrome, which involves banging things together frequently to see what sort of noise they make.

        But to all those people out there who are seriously worried about the enamel chipping - they still work and they still clean up. At that price I'm prepared to take them to other people houses and leave them to be returned. I have had them in fire pits, dishwashed them, left them outside overnight till the contents froze solid and in other ways abused them. They even make good pet feeders as they are so heavy the animals can't tip them over or carry them away. The squirrels can't lift the lid off them. At a pinch, you can even use them for cooking.

        I have had the good sense not to tackle them with a stainless steel scrubber.

        1. I love all my ECI, and I am a huge proponent of eliminating "fussy" items from my life. My surprise Ozark West walnut end-grain cutting board was subjected to hot pots on Thanksgiving when we ran out of counter space, and I regularly abuse it. I also delight in letting my BF flour the thing up and roll his pizza dough on it (he bought it for me, btw). If it can't handle a little abuse, it just isn't suitable for me. I don't want to tiptoe around my possessions. My ECI gets the same sort of abuse...metal utensils, a Magic Eraser, high heat, etc. Even my knives are somewhat abused, though they don't take it as well. :)

          1. How about judging a used piece when purchasing? I recently read advice that if there is dullness on the flat inside cooking surface and... "the shine is now gone, the pot/pan was used on high heat or repeatedly scrubbed with an abrasive cleaner. The natural non-stick property of the enamel is now gone. Once the gloss is gone, it can not be restored except by re-enameling. Use this pot with recipes that require oil. Otherwise, your food will stick if not carefully watched."

            In used casseroles and stock pots, should some dullness be expected as long as there is not damage?

            Any advice is very much welcomed.

            10 Replies
            1. re: jianji

              First things first: enameled cast iron IS NOT non-stick. It won't behave like uncoated cast iron, but it sure as hell doesn't act like teflon (or similar surfaces commonly called nonstick). Regarding dulling of the interior enamel, you have to examine each piece carefully. Certainly dulling could be caused by decades of scrubbing with a metal scrubbie or maybe daily automatic dishwashing with hardcore detergent, but frequently, pieces look dull because they're just not clean. Plain hard tap water boiled in enamel will leave a film that is easily scrubbed off.

              If you're garage sale-ing, maybe bring along some Barkeeper's friend and ask nicely to use a garden hose? You could give it a quick scrub and find out. Or bring along your own gallon of water, lol.

              High heat, in my experience, won't dull the enamel (though I only have direct experience with LC, not other brands). I have cooked beaucoup loaves of no-knead bread (the pot preheats at 500 degrees and the bread bakes for a long time at high temps) and my pots still look new. Ditto for using them directly over a charcoal just have to take the time to CLEAN them, using elbow grease.

                1. re: jianji

                  I have a brand new LC and one my parents gave to me that is around 35 years old (bare cast iron bottom - is that how LC was producing them at the time or a specific model?) ....the inside enamel on the one they gave me is now "dull", but it cooks just as well as the brand new one.
                  I agree that these things last forever and through just about anything.

                  1. re: dcole

                    Is your bare cast iron bottom piece a skillet? A round oven?

                    1. re: Jay F

                      It is a round 5.5 quart dutch oven...yellow outside enamel, white interior enamel, and a bare cast iron bottom.

                      1. re: dcole

                        Anyway, yes, they did make them with the bare cast iron bottoms. I bought a set in 1979, all of which were like that. I'm so glad they changed that, and enameled the bottom as well.

                        I sent much of my set back for replacements in 2001, and I couldn't have been happier with enamel on the bottom.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          Although the bare bottomed cookware is harder to clean, you get much better conductivity than with the enamel bottom cookware.

                          I don't think the public is aware of this.

                          1. re: Leolady

                            I think that is common sense, no? (iron conducts heat better than porcelain enamel)

                  2. re: Hungry Celeste

                    Can you clean the enamel with vinegar? Or will that dull the finish. I clean my stainless steel pots with vinegar, and they shine up great. I find that boiling dried beans leaves a residue that is very hard to clean off. However, putting some vinegar in the pot to let soak, will take it right off.