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Enameled cast-iron cookware is equal parts functional and beautiful, holding a special place in the hearts of many home chefs. But enameled cast-iron pieces like pans and Dutch ovens from Le Creuset and Staub can be expensive, and you’ll want to care for them properly so that they last many, many years.
Enameled cast-iron cookware has a porcelain enamel coating that is smoother and easier to clean than uncoated cast-iron cookware. Enameled cast-iron cookware is not the same as uncoated cast-iron, and it needs to be cared for differently from how uncoated cast-iron cookware is handled (check out our guide to cleaning and caring for uncoated cast-iron).
To understand the proper way to use, clean and store enameled cast-iron cookware, we tapped experts Nate Collier, the director of marketing communications for Le Creuset, and Adam Blank, a senior vice president of merchandising at Sur La Table, who explained the dos and don’ts of caring for enameled cast-iron pots and pans.
Enameled cast-iron cookware is less temperamental than uncoated cast-iron, but it still should be handled with care. These cooking, cleaning and storage products are the right ones to use with enameled cast-iron cookware.
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Both Blank and Collier recommend washing enameled cast-iron cookware by hand, rather than in the dishwasher — even if the piece is dishwasher safe. “The enameling makes it safe to use common mild dishwashing liquids,” Blank says, but “you want to avoid abrasive cleaners.”
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When washing nonstick cookware, Blank says, be sure to use a sponge that won’t scratch the enamel exterior. “I recommend using soft natural or nylon brushes or sponges. Avoid using anything abrasive like a scouring pad or metal sponge because these may damage the enameling.”
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Dobie Pads are non-scratch scrub sponges that are gentle enough to use on enamel surfaces but that are excellent at scouring away stuck-on food.
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If you dislike sponges, try our favorite Swedish dishcloth instead. This option is ultra absorbent and comes in a pack of fun colors so you can designate certain cloths for certain jobs. Read more in our review here.
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“A brush can be useful for removing small food deposits,” Collier says, “or for cleaning between the ribs on grills.”
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Baking soda can help to gently scour stubborn buildup and staining from the interior and the exterior of enameled cast-iron cookware. “A paste of baking soda and water,” Collier says, “comes in handy for cleaning tough stains, oil residue and marks.” Baking soda also comes in handy for other rooms and appliances in your house too, like when you need to tackle cleaning your oven.
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Deep staining on the interior of enameled cast-iron cookware can be removed by boiling OxiClean and water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, allow the solution to cool completely before dumping it out and washing the pot as usual.
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After washing enameled cast-iron, dry it thoroughly using a lint-free dish towel before storing. Flour sack dish towels can also be used to protect pieces while being stored; simply place the towel in the pot or pan before stacking another piece inside.
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“Quality enameled cast-iron is chip resistant,” Blank says, “but to be extra careful I recommend using pan protectors if you stack your cookware for storage.” Blank recommends this set of highly-rated pan protectors, which come in three sizes to accommodate smaller and larger pieces.
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A pot rack organizer can also help to protect enamel from scratching or chipping while the pieces are being stored.
“First let your cookware cool down for at least 15 minutes,” before washing, Blank says. “While many brands are dishwasher safe, I recommend always washing by hand to preserve the patina inside the pan, which helps with food release, and keeps the color on the outside of the pan vibrant.”
Blank and Collier recommend washing enameled cast-iron following these steps:
Step 1: Allow the piece to cool to room temperature before washing.
Step 2: If there is significant residue in the pot or pan, soak in warm water and dish detergent for 15 to 20 minutes before going in with a sponge. If not, simply wash the pot or pan with a sponge and hot, soapy water.
Step 3: Wipe the piece clean with a sponge or dishcloth.
Step 4: Rinse with warm water.
Step 5: Dry with a soft towel.
“My favorite tip,” Blank says, “is to fill your cookware with water, add baking soda and boil for about 10 minutes. This should eliminate any stuck food particles or stains.” The same method can be used with OxiClean or any other oxygen bleach for an even deeper clean.
There are some dos and don’ts when it comes to using, cleaning and storing enameled cast-iron pieces to ensure they last a long time. These cooking, cleaning and storage tips will help you to keep these pieces in good working condition for many years.
- Use silicone tools, wooden or heat-resistant plastic cooking tools.
- When absolutely necessary, metal cooking tools, such as spoons or balloon whisks may be used, but do so with care, as they should not be scraped over the enamel surface.
- Do not knock cooking tools on the rim of the pan.
- Hand-held electric or battery-operated beaters should not be used, as their blades can damage the enamel.
- Knives or utensils with sharp edges should not be used to cut foods inside an enameled cast-iron pan.
- Never place a hot pan in cold water or fill a hot pot with cold water, as it can cause the enamel to crack due to thermal shock.
- Do not use scouring agents or other abrasive cleaners on the cooking surface.
- Do not use metallic pads or harsh abrasive cleaning scouring tools.
- Store pans in a dry cupboard or airy space away from steam.
- Never store enameled cast-iron cookware while wet or damp.
- Use pot and pan protectors to safely stack enameled cast-iron cookware.
- Maintain the tightness of all handles and knobs by checking and retightening them regularly.