How to Clean and Care for Enameled Cast-Iron Cookware: Dutch Ovens and Skillets

Tips on how to clean, restore, and avoid chipping and scratching your favorite pot or pan.

Published Aug. 27, 2017.

We love enameled cookware in the test kitchen. Some of our favorite equipment features this glaze made from powdered glass, including the winner and best buy in our Dutch ovens testing and one of our favorite cast-iron skillets. Because we have so much experience cooking with it, we've acquired lots of knowledge about enameled cookware over the years. Here are answers to three commonly asked questions.

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How do I prevent my enameled cookware from scratching or chipping?

Enamel is a glass-like coating which is fired on the cast iron pot, similar to a glaze that is painted and fired on pottery. If it’s sharply struck with something harder, it will crack or chip. (In our Dutch ovens testing, we whacked each pot’s rim with a metal spoon 50 times and slammed each pot’s lid down onto its base 10 times. Two enameled pots in our lineup chipped slightly.)

But that doesn’t mean you should avoid using metal utensils when using enameled cookware. You can use metal utensils in normal fashion as long as you don’t bang them at full force against the edge of the pot or whale it around inside, striking the sides. (And rest assured: If your enameled cookware does crack or chip, it’s not the end of the world: There’s just plain cast iron under the enamel, which is perfectly safe to cook with.)

There are additional measures you should take to keep your enamel intact:

  • Don't subject your pot to dramatic temperature changes, especially near moisture
  • Don't heat an empty pot; reserve high heat for boiling water or cooking dishes with plenty of liquid.

How do I remove stains from enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens?

We are very fond (no pun intended) of our two favorite Dutch ovens, the Le Creuset 7¼ Quart Round Dutch Oven and Cuisinart 7 Qt. Round Covered Casserole. Other brands have black interiors that hide discoloration and stains, but these pots' light-colored enameled interiors allow us to monitor browning. But the downside to these workhorses is that the light-colored enameled interiors that we love so much become discolored and stained with use.

We took a couple of stained pots from the 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. We 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.

Enameled Dutch ovens are prone to staining, and while we're not concerned with keeping our cookware pristine, staining can be problematic if the bottom of the pot darkens so much that we can't monitor browning. This is a photo of a well-used pot before and after it was cleaned with a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water.

What’s the best way to clean enameled cookware?

We’ve created our share of messes in the test kitchen and have had a few cooking snafus that required tons of cleanup. Here’s how to clean your enameled cookware. (It also works well for cookware of any material, though it’s usually unnecessary for nonstick.)

  1. Boil Water: Fill it halfway with tap water and put the pan on the stovetop, uncovered. Bring to a boil and boil briskly for two or three minutes, then turn off the burner.
  2. Scrape Off Residue: Then scrape the pan with a wooden spatula, pour off the water, and let the pan sit briefly. Residue will start to flake off as the pan dries. Wash the cookware with hot water and dishwashing liquid, and dry.
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