Dear Home-Ec 101:
I have one of those pricey enameled cast iron Dutch enameled cast iron Dutch, err…French ovens. One particularly rushed morning while doing laundry, entertaining the baby, and vacuuming the endless pet hair from my carpets, I let chunky ragu scorch onto said pricey French oven. After several days of soaking, I gave in and scrubbed. Now my cookware is stained and lacks the original luster I paid for. Can the enamel luster be restored and saved?!
Stained in St. Stephens
Le Creuset’s website recommended soaking stained enameled cast iron in dilute chlorine bleach for several hours or overnight (1 TBSP per pint of water). This is how I occasionally clean the interior of my enameled cast iron, too.
I suppose some brilliant folks out there decided that if a little bleach worked well, that a lot would work even better. Le Creuset has now changed their site to suggest using their proprietary cleaner. My theory is that this is their idiot safeguard or a way to make a little more money. Who can blame them?
If you decide to use the bleach route, do NOT do some of the things I have seen while perusing random cooking message boards:
- Do NOT heat a mixture of bleach and water on the stove.
- Do NOT use a straight or 50:50 mix of bleach.
We all do stupid things on occasion, but let’s learn from each other’s mistakes. We’ve talked about how to use chlorine bleach safely in the past.
I frequently cook black beans in my enameled dutch oven, and they leave quite the interesting discoloration behind.
*2021 update – this is no longer true. I now use an Instant Pot to make my black beans because times have changed!
I usually ignore it for a few months, telling myself that discoloration doesn’t hurt anything. And it’s true, the discoloration of the enamel is harmless. Maybe we should call it a patina and move on. (This part has not changed, I still call it a patina and only address the staining on occasion.)
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