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Le Creuset interior discolored by NoKnead Bread - please help

Snorkelvik Jan 9, 2014 08:01 AM

I'm sure what I've got isn't that unusual, I just haven't found a way to fix it. My exterior is fine on the 5.5 Qt oven, but the interior is discolored to a medium brown with utensil scratches on the bottom.

Initially I cleaned it with barkeepers' friend and soaked it with soft scrub with bleach overnight and those attempts didn't work. I was scared to try anything too rough on the enamel.

I stopped making the bread ( oven at 500, parchment paper in bottom, knob covered with tin foil) because I couldn't stand what it was doing to my pot.

I still use it for chilis, stews, etc., and I hoped that over time, the discoloration would go away as I continued to cook in it and clean it. That hasn't happened, but I do notice items mildly sticking when I brown them.

Can anyone help?

  1. p
    pamlet Jan 18, 2014 06:36 AM

    My LE Creuset pots are some 20 years old and look pretty decent. Have done everything in them, from no-kneed bread to... Gosh, everything. Someone told me this trick yonks ago: boil water in pan. Add goodly amount of baking soda (quarter cup?). Boil until dry. You will be left with a baking soda crust. Wash off. Voila!

    1 Reply
    1. re: pamlet
      BiscuitBoy Jan 21, 2014 06:07 AM

      I may try that later this yonk

    2. BiscuitBoy Jan 10, 2014 08:44 AM

      I don't believe the bread is responsible for utensil scratches. The Creuset is supposed to be a workhorse, not a trailer queen. Put it to use, enjoy...for $200 or more, I sure would

      1. b
        bevwinchester Jan 9, 2014 09:26 PM

        I have an old Descoware (Julia Child''s choice) pot that I purchased on EBay that I use for the NK bread. It was a bit discolored on the inside when I bought it, but I adore that wonderful old pot!

        2 Replies
        1. re: bevwinchester
          monavano Jan 10, 2014 06:17 AM

          Having foresight, it's a really good idea to buy an older, used piece for bread and spare the "good stuff".

          1. re: monavano
            Snorkelvik Jan 10, 2014 08:22 AM

            here, here! I wish I knew this way back when!

        2. a
          autumm Jan 9, 2014 08:59 PM

          Glad to know I'm not the only one with this problem.

          Mine is that I wore away some of the enamel trying to remove burnt on crud with bar keeper's friend and I'm pretty Le Crueset will say user error and voided warranty due to the one small scratch from something.

          Badge of honor, I guess, cause that was the Best wedding gift I got. And now I"ve been seduced by the Le crueset side. . .

          1. monavano Jan 9, 2014 01:59 PM

            This happened to my Lodge cast iron enamel years ago, due to ANKB with parchment.
            No biggie!
            Real kitchens don't look like the Food Network kitchens!
            That said, I won't use any other vessel for my ANKB so that they stay pristine-ish, but my Lodge works just fine for anything and everything after years of loving use.

            1. DuffyH Jan 9, 2014 01:55 PM

              You don't HAVE to use your LC to bake the bread. I routinely bake mine in a 4.5 quart SS saucepan. In fact, I don't even own a piece of enameled cast iron.

              Anything that can be preheated in your oven will do the trick. Remember, the oven spring comes from the initial blast of heat from the hot pan. You don't need a pan that holds onto heat to achieve that.

              If you don't have a covered pan that will work, use foil for the lid.

              6 Replies
              1. re: DuffyH
                kaleokahu Jan 9, 2014 02:04 PM

                Hi, Duffy:

                You mean I don't need my last remaining piece of LC after all?

                I thought the idea was that the larger amount of heat stored in the thicker cast iron (as opposed to a thin SS vessel) was important for quickly steaming the loaf during the lid-on phase.

                I would be interested in hearing from Hounds who have made the same recipe in pans of both SS and CI and can compare.


                1. re: kaleokahu
                  DuffyH Jan 9, 2014 04:38 PM

                  Good evening Kaleo,

                  Yeah, go ahead and kick that pot to the curb, you don't need it. ;)

                  I decided to try it in my saucepan (instead of my SS DO because of it's smaller diameter. I wanted a taller, rounder loaf and got it.

                  I got the idea to use it after reading an article (can't recall if it was the SE one) that suggested a heavy SS pot.

                2. re: DuffyH
                  Mr Taster Jan 9, 2014 02:06 PM

                  Two things need clarifying, DuffyH

                  The heavy enameled cast iron in a LC pot evens out the heat so that the bottom of the bread doesn't scorch at those extremely high temperatures.

                  You said you're using a 4.5 qt stainless steel saucepan. I don't know what brand or model you're using, or the thickness of the stainless steel, but I'm betting that it's not 100% entirely stainless or you'd likely up with a black, scorched bottom to your bread after 45 minutes in a 425-500F oven. (Although if you're using a thick, heavy gauge of steel for short periods of time, like making pizza on the baking steel, you can get great results.)


                  Stainless steel is a very poor conductor of heat, so I'd guess that you're probably using a clad pot with an aluminum core, which evens out heat like heavy cast iron (not as well as cast iron, but way better than a 100% stainless pot, which is good for boiling water and perhaps nothing else). So to say that all you need is a big stainless steel pot in order to successfully bake no-knead bread is not accurate. In any case, it is essential to know what brand/model of pot you're using, because all pots are not created equal... someone could take your advice, buy a cheap, thin $10 stainless steel pot from Walmart, and end up with a scorched mess. ("It worked for DuffyH-- why didn't it work for me?!")

                  Secondly, the lid. Professional bread ovens have steam injection. Home ovens obviously don't. The steam is responsible for creating a bakery quality crust. The reason why the no-knead bread gets such a deep, golden brown, crispy crackly crust is because the recipe creates an unusually wet dough, which goes into a 425-500F pot (depending on your recipe). The instant the wet dough hits the hot pot, steam instantly releases. You clamp on that heavy lid, and suddenly you've recreated a steam injected bakers oven type environment. That's the whole reason behind the success of crispy, crackly, deep golden brown no-knead bread crust. (More knowledgable Chowhounds can feel free to explain the science as to why this is... I've had it explained to me several times and I never seem to remember.)

                  The heavy cast iron lid of a LC pot does a lot to help trap that important steam inside the pot. If you throw on a light lid (or, *gulp*, just a sheet of foil?!) you're going to lose a LOT of steam, and the resulting crust won't be nearly as golden, crispy and crackly as it otherwise might be.

                  Before no-knead bread, home bakers were always trying to rig up their ovens to fill them with steam by various means... pans of boiling water in the bottom of the oven, etc. The no-knead bread technique finally was the key to simulating this well, and the results speak for themselves.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster
                    Mr Taster Jan 9, 2014 02:23 PM

                    ....answering my own question, here's the science behind no-knead bread.


                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster
                      DuffyH Jan 9, 2014 04:35 PM

                      Mr Taster,

                      It's a Calphalon Tri-Ply 4.5 Quart saucepan. Note that in the SE article, Kenji talks about dumping the heat into the bread. Arguably, a clad pan is going to do this better than cast iron, which is about heat retention.

                      And no, it doesn't scorch.

                      1. re: DuffyH
                        Mr Taster Jan 9, 2014 10:50 PM

                        Hi DuffyH, you said you bake your bread in a stainless steel saucepan, but that's not specific enough for a newbie who might be reading this in the future. Your original post read as if someone could go out and get any stainless (i.e. not clad) saucepan and get the same results, and that's not true. It's got to be a heavy pot (i.e. a good conductor of heat), with a heavy lid (or at least a good thick rim of heavy duty foil to trap steam) in order to maximize steam retention, in order to get optimal results. Your clad pot (and the dutch oven) both are good conductors of heat, but any old "4.5 quart SS saucepan" is not. That's all I was getting at in clarifying your statement.

                        Mr Taster

                3. Mr Taster Jan 9, 2014 11:45 AM

                  By the way, there is a modified recipe for no-knead bread that puts the cold dough in a cold dutch oven and then heat the oven to 425. When it reached temp, you cook for 30 minutes, then remove the lid, and bake until internet temp reaches 210F, about 10-15 minutes longer.

                  I've done it several times and it works great. Beats the hell out of manipulating a screaming hot 500F piece of metal.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. MikeB3542 Jan 9, 2014 10:58 AM

                    I find that a very basic cast iron dutch oven works great for no knead bread -- I use a 5-qt Lodge with the loop handles which can be had for $35 at Target or WalMart. No issues with staining, no issues with the knob.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MikeB3542
                      DGresh Jan 21, 2014 06:29 AM

                      Yeah I got that same pot for nk bread because I felt nervous subjecting my LC to that treatment. It's perfect.

                    2. Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2014 09:21 AM

                      <Le Creuset interior discolored by NoKnead Bread - please help>

                      Very very normal. There is absolutely no point to worry about discoloration. If it really brothers you, then you can clean it up, but never to use it to do another no-knead bread.

                      You best bet is to use bleach, and you said you did. I still try it again. Again, pour some diluted bleach in your pot. Cover it. Now, this is the danger part: turn up the heat. Then turn off the heat and let it sit. Heat will help remove the discoloration. Alternatively, it may be easier just to heat up the water first in the pot, then turn off the heat and then pour in the bleach into the very hot water.

                      However, I must warn it. There is a significant difference between removing discoloration vs making the pot better. Your pot may very well perform worse off after getting bleached. Yes, it will look a lot whiter, but it won't cook better. Just a word of caution.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                        Mr Taster Jan 9, 2014 10:44 AM

                        Once again, Cooks Illustrated to the rescue.

                        They did a test where they took a couple of stained pots from the test kitchen and filled them with Le Creuset's recommended stain-removal solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1 pint of water. The pots were slightly improved but still far from their original hue. They then tried a much stronger solution (which was OK'd by the manufacturer) of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. After standing overnight, a lightly stained pot was just as good as new, but a heavily stained one required an additional night of soaking before it, too, was looking natty.

                        Mr Taster

                      2. r
                        rasputina Jan 9, 2014 08:51 AM

                        Good luck. I've tried everything after my husband burned something in my LC and nothing got it off. I even wasted the money on the LC cleaner after BKF didn't get it clean and nothing.

                        1. b
                          Big Easy Jan 9, 2014 08:11 AM

                          I stopped worrying years ago about my Le Creuset being discolored. Consider it a badge of honor that shows you actually use the cookware.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Big Easy
                            Snorkelvik Jan 9, 2014 08:18 AM

                            oh, I wish. I feel like a failure every time I see it and every time it emerges from the soapy water still discolored.

                            1. re: Big Easy
                              Paprikaboy Jan 9, 2014 08:31 AM

                              Quite right. Pristine Le Cruset , like skinny chefs should be treated with suspicion;)

                              1. re: Big Easy
                                dixiegal Jan 9, 2014 09:32 AM

                                >I stopped worrying years ago about my Le Creuset being discolored. Consider it a badge of honor that shows you actually use the cookware<

                                Ditto for me. My 4.5 qt that I use most often is discolored. it started when I slightly scorched some white beans and has remained the same. I finally got over it. The pot still cooks as good as it ever did. The only cookware that stays looking brand spanking new, it the cookware you don't use. Just like everything else in life. I figure a couple generations from now, what we think is a new, scorched pot, others will see it as an old pot with character.

                                1. re: dixiegal
                                  Snorkelvik Jan 9, 2014 12:00 PM

                                  All right, thanks for chiming in. I guess an attitude adjustment is in order. And then I could go back to baking my bread!

                                  What's the deal with Ina Garten then? Maybe she cooks with a fresh pot every episode?

                                  1. re: Snorkelvik
                                    kaleokahu Jan 9, 2014 12:57 PM

                                    Hi, Snorkelvik:

                                    You can clean LC's light enamel pretty easily and effectively until it loses its gloss. After that, it's going to discolor pretty much no matter what you do.

                                    I too use my LC 5.5 round for NKB. In fact that's all i use it for any more. I simply hit the interior with Bon Ami or BKF after every 10-12 loaves.

                                    Oh, those cooking shows are busy trying to sell pans. If you saw a discolored piece, the producers know you'd be *less* likely to buy any.


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