How Should I Care for Cast Iron Enamel Le Creuset and Staub Fry Pans?
I can't seem to get my Staub or Le Creuset Cast Iron Enamel 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. And, it seems that a bit of the layer has been removed on the LC.
If they are not ruined, how then should I really be caring for them?
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? Is that food at all, or is the proper seasoning that is occurring? Or, should enamel cast iron pans be seasoned at all?
These are my pans:
If you've used just washing up liquid and water with a sponge then that doesn't cause any damage. Just don't use wire brush, mesh or anything too harsh on them. The layer is probably seasoning layer that has probably built up. Enamel cast iron pans do not need seasoning (the black enamel layer inside is basically seasoning applied at the factory).
If I am not mistaken that is just a layer of caramelized food which creates the seasoning. It is not harmful and there's no bacteria there. As long as you wash the pan after with dish soap and the rough side of a spounge like Bill says in his post below you will be fine. Whatever the sponge can't get rid of forms the seasoning layer (obviously as long as food hasn't been heavily burned in the pan to the extent that the sponge can't shift it that is).
I see a lot of misinformation around about what constitutes "seasoning," so I would like to attempt to clarify. Polymerized oil creates the seasoning layer--not caramelized food. Polymerization is what happens when oils are heated to a certain point and basically harden, creating a smooth, slippery finish that resists sticking. That is absolutely not what is happening here.
No, what is happening to these pans is that proteins and sugars from stuck-on food are being repeatedly heated and becoming caramelized (you're right about that), so that a residue of carbon builds up at the bottom of the pan. This is by NO MEANS desirable or what seasoning a pot entails--in fact, this gunk actually creates a barrier over the enamel particles (to which seasoning can adhere) and thus interferes with the gradual seasoning of the pot.
Food debris building up over time is not "seasoning," and it should be avoided if possible. The low moisture content of the material and continual heating will prevent bacterial growth, so that isn't an issue, but you should still try to rub off as much of it as you can with a dishcloth or soft sponge. It seems difficult, but it can be done. Then, after drying the pan over low heat, you can oil it with just the THINNEST layer of soybean or flax oil (best for polymerization, due to complex reasons involving iodine content with which I will not bore you) with a paper towel, and set it over low heat until a few minutes after the oil seems to be gone. Do this two or three times, each time using the very thinnest layer of oil on a paper towel. This will speed up the seasoning of the pot. And yes, I am aware that Staub says their pots do not need to be seasoned, but they CAN be lightly seasoned this way, and if you want them nonstick, this is what Staub advises.
After a while when you do have that prized seasoning layer, food will stop building up so much and they will clean up more easily.
**What I have described will work for the Staub pots. For the Le Creuset there isn't much you can do except resort to caustic cleansers.
Bar keepers friend is no friend to enamel, it is grit andwill only scratch the surface and make food stick.
We have lots of Le Creuset and they do become stained with use, they do not stay in original condition. Just use hot water and dish soap and a plastic scrubber,or the rough side of a two composite sponge. Let them soak first.
Always oil the pot or pan before cooking to prevent buildup, and deglaze where called for.
No seasoning needed foe enamel cast.
Food and bacteria don't build up if cleaned properly, only staining.
Also, cook all food as per the recipes you use and bacteria should all be killed anyway.
re: Scary Bill
I'm interested in the fact that you said "staining." Maybe that's what's going on here? It's not a lot of stuff I can feel, but there is a couple of sticky spots on the LC. The Staub though is not sticky at all.
I just didn't realize they were stainable as dumb as that may sound. In looking at my photo, would you venture a guess that is the case?
No pot or pan, even stainless, retains that new look forever, all will over time and use develop discoloration, and in my experience that occurs even moreso with enamel. I will say that I do not have the same matte enamel that you do, but I see no reason why they would not stain like the colored enamel we have, some of which are around 25 years old, and are as serviceable today as they were new, just not as pretty (much like people, KB!)
Coarse salt and a little hot water works pretty well. And a bit of Soft Scrub might help, also.
when it comes to enameled cast iron - IMO there are two types - pretty and used.
the interior surface of your pans is porcelain, BKF should not damage but it is mildly abrasive.
An enamel cast iron frying pan cannot be seasoned like a raw one - your cooking surface is essentially glass - cleaning it with soap and water will not hurt it the way it would a seasoned raw cast iron pan.
You want it to be clean after each use - for frying and saute you will need to use sufficient fat, unlike raw cast iron it will not develop a non stick surface with use - any attempt to season it will just gunk it up.
I do not really understand enamel cast iron fry pans - For Dutch ovens it is a great combo - the massive heat retention of iron with the non reactive quality of porcelain for braising is perfect - for fry pans and skillets I prefer raw seasoned cast or scour-able stainless but i dont think you have really damaged you pans or they are dirty - they are just used and developing a patina which is ok, they are durable well made cookware and will take much use/abuse. Clean well after each use - soak - scrub (gently) if you really burn something to it hit it with oven cleaner (just rinse really well before you use it again) Since the surface is enamel not cast iron treat them as enamel do not follow cast iron cookware instructions.