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Can't Get Staub or Le Creuset Pans Clean? Am I Doing Something Wrong?

I can't get my Staub or Le Creuset pans clean. Both have residue building up and are less than 6 months old.

I've read a lot of different articles and discussions saying one cleans better than the other, use this cleaner, not that, etc.

I'm looking for a straightforward answer. Have I ruined my pans by cleaning them with soap and water for the most part? Once, I used Bar Keeper's Friend to remove some residue, then I read that was the wrong choice.

What can I do to restore my pans to their original condition and I can stop being grossed out by the thought of old food and bacteria building up?

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    1. re: KateBristow

      Also, check this link out regarding seasoning: http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/201...

      I found this a while ago and it helped with my cast iron? I hope this link is pleasing to the Chowhound gods.

      Your seasoning doesn't look as sexy as the one on this site, but if it works it works. Don't get too obsessed with your seasoning, as I have done with mine in the past.

    2. use Easy Off oven cleaner and let them sit over night. next day rinse well and if necessary repeat. I do this once or twice a year to my LC that gets used most often. It comes back to looking almost new.

      1. The matte black interiors are SUPPOSED to build up a layer of seasoning. It says so both on the LC and Staub sites. The matte black enamels because they are rough, can build up and hold polymerized oils that makes the pans more nonstick. This coating is desirable and should not be removed. The matte black coatings aren't meant to be pristine and both manufacturers tell you to leave this coating and let it build up over time. The more is builds the more nonstick the pan becomes.

        5 Replies
        1. re: blondelle

          Thank you, but if you read the reply above yours, Candy says to use over cleaner... this is why I've gotten so confused, so many opinions on it. But your reply does seem to make sense, and goes with the majority of what I've read.

          Could you confirm for me please that the photo I attached in my Reply to my Question is a good representation of what they should look like after a lot of use?

          Thank you in advance.

          1. re: KateBristow

            I use Seventh Generation unscented, and wash my Le Creuset by hand. When the bottom gets filmy, I scrub a little bit harder, using a Dobie pad. If something gets caked on, I soak the pan with the Seventh Gen and hot water for several hours or overnight. I don't think I've ever used BKF on LC. I didn't know it existed, frankly, until 2009, and I've been using Le Creuset since 1979.

            1. re: KateBristow

              I've never seen that skillet after a lot of use. I would remove anything that looks like it could flake off. LC describes the good residue as a brown film. The film should be more like hardened (polymerized) oil that has baked in, not so much textured or food residue. You can scrub a bit till you get to that finish and then wipe the surface with oil and heat it until it stops smoking.

              1. re: blondelle

                They are cast iron enamel, does the same still apply?

                1. re: KateBristow

                  You can season black matte enamel to some extent, but not as well as you can season raw iron. The matte black enamel still has pores that can fill with the hardened polymerized oils. You can either use it without seasoning it and let it build up over time, or you can hurry it along by using the same methods you use for raw cast iron.

          2. Hi Kate, how long have you been using cast iron (in general, not these two)?

            Cast iron isn't supposed to be black (at least in its original form). In fact, cast iron just has a metallic color, and that deep, beautiful black color comes from seasoning, as some people have responded before.

            Some people do use oven cleaner on their cast iron, but a lot of time that is to strip the seasoning (if it was done improperly, or there are rust spots so they want to redo it). If you already have a nice layer of seasoning on there, there is no need to scrape it all off.

            One of the great things about cast iron is that it's so low maintenance. You don't have to wash it with soap and water, and in fact that can be damaging if done improperly. If I cook something with little residue (usually things with less sugar), I will just wipe it down with some oil and call it a day. If I cook something like Korean BBQ Short Ribs, there is a layer of almost burn syrup on the bottom. I will scrape it off with a spatula, and then add oil (to the still warm/hot pan) and kosher salt, and just use the salt as an abrasive to soak up the gummy residue and clean any gunk. What you should be seeing on your pan is not bits and pieces of your food, but instead, once again as someone else has mentioned, polymerized oil stuck to your pan. Basically, when you add oil, it will heat up a lot. As it heats, it can start to smoke (this is baddddd). When oil smokes, it is releasing free radicals (which are also baddddd). Ideally, once it gets past that smoking point, the free radicals will link together to form a hard film on the bottom of your pan. This is usually a very deliberate action (people seasoning their pans in the oven, etc).

            You don't really have to worry about that in your day to day cooking because the water in your food will be regulating your temperature to stay at a point below the smoke point, but as you use your pan, there will be oil residue (which is a GOOD thing), and it will begin to form into layers of seasoning.

            Honestly, don't worry about the stuff on the bottom. Bacteria will die at temperatures like above 125, and the most resistant go to 165. You will hit that temperature easily in your cooking, killing any bad critters that may try to release the wrath of God on your intestines.

            Once again, seasoning is a GOOD thing. It fills in the microscopic cracks and crevasses in your pan (which the protiens in food would LOVE to stick to), and it creates a hard layer which makes a near non-stick pan. There are people whose pans are as smooth as a baby's bottom, and they can crack an egg in it with no oil and have it slide right off.

            Embrace the residue.

            Okay, so that was long-winded, and I started to ramble on, but here is the deal:

            Clean your pans, yes, but not in the traditional method. Use oil to clean up easy messes, and use salt as an abrasive for the tougher gunk. Soapy water is okay as long as you dont scrub too much, and you rinse it right off. DO NOT SOAK IT. One thing to watch out for- some people say the pan can take on soapy tastes, so that's something to watch out for. Oven cleaner can work, but that stuff is there to get rid of polymerized fat (that black gunk on your oven), and it will strip your pan's seasoning (or it can if you try too hard). When you put your pans away, make sure you are putting them away completely dry or they can rust (it seems that you are doing fine). I like to put them in a dry oven for a short period of time, and then wipe a thin layer of oil to protect it from other moisture until next time.

            Of course, if your cast iron is enameled, then that's an entirely different story.

            Actually, what I meant to say is that, yes, you ruined your pans. Send them to me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JustyBear

              Ok, that's all very helpful if my pans were just cast iron, but they aren't, so like you said, that's probably a different story. I'm sorry that I didn't specify that they were (I actually didn't realize that LC or Staub made both).

              These are my first pans, and I'm relatively young, (nope, mom's not around to help), so while I may see really dumb about this, I'm appreciating the advice and education.

              Does it make a difference that these are my pans:

              http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

              http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

              1. re: KateBristow

                Honestly, I'm not as familiar with enameled cast iron. I have one french oven from Le Creuset, but that generally goes through a quick browning process before I deglaze the pot (and it's shiny enamel, not the black matte).

                I wish I could be of more help!

                Here is something from the Staub site:

                "Is Staub non stick?

                The black matte enamel surface is not non stick. Using oil will prevent most sticking, yet there still may be sticking which helps to brown, braise and reduce your meals better. Over time your Staub pot will naturally create a non stick surface on the bottom that you get from seasoning a piece of rough cast iron.

                However, if you would like your Staub product to have an immediate, nonstick surface you can coat the surface with vegetable oil and heat it on a low setting. The oil will penetrate the pores of the matte enamel and create a natural, nonstick surface. "

                I guess similar things work? I'm unsure what they really mean though. In another section they say there is no need for seasoning... but then they say there will be seasoning.

                Best way to prevent sticking is to heat the pan then add oil right before you put in the food. Don't blast the pan with high heat- it can ruin your enamel, but put it on a low to medium setting and take care to watch what's going on. I place one drop of water, and when it dances over the pan, sizzling away, I add the oil and then I add the food. This helps prevent sticking for the non-non-stick surface.

                On a random note:
                The myth is "hot pan, cold oil", but you want a hot pan with hot oil. I add the oil in the end because it helps me keep track of the pan's temperature (although I recently purchased a IR thermometer, so it's irrelevant now). Basically, if I heat the oil with the pan, I have less control over how hot it is (since I am unsure if it is hot enough, and I can't check with water, lest oil goes sizzling everywhere...although some people say that you can tell when the oil is ready by its appearance. ever see a cookbook say "when the oil is shimmering"?). Add the oil at the end, let it soak up some heat (this honestly happens almost instnatly), and then you add the food. The food will sizzle, creating a tiny layer of steam, separating the food from the pan, preventing sticking. If your oil isn't hot enough, it wont sizzle and steam, and the food will stick to your pan.

                My point here is that maybe you can try to prevent the chunks of food being stuck to the pan in the future to help aleviate the issue.

                I'm not sure what else to say :( Sorry! Best of luck, and if you find the answer, let us know! :) I am interested in buying the pieces you purchased, so it'd be good information to know.

              1. I have two Le Creuset Dutch ovens that I have had for at least 20-25 years. I use one of them at least once a week, and both look like new. A few hints. Never put them over a high flame! Low to medium heat under the pots will get them plenty hot enough to sear meats, if you are patient. I use them almost exclusively for soups, stews and braises and therefore low and slow works just fine and the pots essentially never stain. I clean them after each use with Barkeepers Friend and rarely will they have any staining whatsoever. When on the rare occasion they show a bit of staining, I put a little bleach and warm water in the pot and let it sit overnight. By morning, it's like new. LeC ovens are carefree as long as they are treated gently!

                1. My two year old Staub fry pan looks like new. I use sea salt, Soft Scrub, and BarKeeper's Friend.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: brooktroutchaser

                    My two >20 year old LeC Dutch ovens, one of which is used at least weekly, both look like new. I use them both stove-top (but never over more than medium-high heat...they get plenty hot to sear well) and in the oven. I clean them with a Dobie or sponge and Barkeeper's Friend powder (not the liquid). Every year or so if the bottom looks a bit tan, I put a half inch of Clorox in the pot and let it soak overnight. By morning, it's like new again. Whoops...I just realized I posted the same thing > 1 year ago. Sorry!