From Dutch ovens and braisers to stock pots and saucepans, enameled cast iron cookware already has a few things going for it that traditional cast iron pans do not. Enameled cast iron doesn’t require seasoning either initially or after each use, it can be easily washed with soap and warm water, and it’s even dishwasher-safe. And, its shiny glaze not only looks beautiful but means food is way less likely to stick than what your grandmother or great-grandmother was used to in the kitchen.
“Cooking on enameled cast iron is the best, [as] you get all of the heat retention and performance of cast iron but no need to constantly season or avoid water and moisture like raw cast iron,” explains Nate Collier, director of marketing communications and culinary for Le Creuset. “There is no need to season our enameled cast iron as it is already sealed in multiple coats of enamel to prevent any corrosion or pitting or other damage from exposure to moisture and oxygen.” In short, enameled cast iron provides form and function, with pieces that will spark joy every time you reach for them and will allow you to effortlessly create perfect dishes every time.
But enameled cast iron is admittedly a pricey investment, so we asked Collier for advice on maintaining these envy-inducing kitchen staples so they can be enjoyed for years—and even generations—to come.
“The best way for everyday cleaning is warm water, dish soap, and a nylon brush or non-metal sponge,” he says. Afterwards, wipe the piece dry with a towel or paper towel before storage—there is no need to season it or wipe it with oil. The sand-colored enamel that’s a signature of the interior of Le Creuset was selected because it resists staining; if any dull grey or brown stains develop over time, Collier suggests a mild abrasive like the company’s proprietary cast iron cleaner, which can be applied with a nylon brush or sponge.
As oil drips down the exterior of the pan and comes into contact with direct heat it can discolor, so try to immediately wipe away any drips. Using your cookware on a gas versus electric range won’t necessarily have any particular effect on the cookware’s wear and tear. But if you are using gas make select a burner that’s the appropriate size for the pan, otherwise the flame can flicker up and out around the pan, potentially causing discoloration and putting stress on the enameled finish. Because of their production method and finish, all colors of enameled cast iron hold up equally well, including Le Creuset’s stunning new blue-black tone, Cosmos.
And know that it’s absolutely normal for shiny patina to form on the black surface of enameled cast iron grill pans and griddles—this is designed for easy release and cooking performance, not for protection or maintenance.
If you have baked on, caked on or otherwise stuck-on food (hello forgotten pan of simmering rice), it’s fine to soak your enameled cast iron cookware in warm water and dish soap; you can also add a generous sprinkling of baking soda to the soaking water or add it to a little water and use it as a scrub. Just remember to always let the cookware come to room temperature before cleaning it; adding cold water to a hot pan or soaking it in a sinkful of cool water can result in thermal shock which has the potential to crack the enameled surface. If food is really stubborn, add dish soap and water and cook it on low heat until it releases. And definitely avoid metal scouring pads at all costs, which will scratch the surface and remove the protective enamel.
To prevent food sticking in the first place, always preheat the pan slowly over moderate heat (medium or medium-high), and use some sort of oil either on the food or on the pan. “Cast iron takes longer to heat and cool off, so let it do its thing and heat slowly,” Collier advises. And as with other types of cookware like stainless steel saute pans, the biggest tip is to resist the temptation to turn the food before it is ready. “If something feels like it is grabbing the surface, let it cook more until it releases—the pan will do the work,” he says. “Forcing food to turn too early will lead to shredded food and cooked-on remnants.”
Again, enameled cast iron pieces from Le Creuset and other manufacturers require way less maintenance than traditional black cast iron, so just keep them clean and dry. “Try not to bang metal utensils on the rim, and please contact our customer service team for questions about chips on the cooking surface,” Collier says. If you are new to cooking with enameled cast iron, its sheer weight does take some getting used to; take care when lifting and moving the pots and pans and removing and replacing the lids so you don’t inadvertently bang them and cause chips or cracks.
If you are just getting started, the most versatile piece of enameled cast iron is a round or oval Dutch oven, which Collier calls a true workhouse and anchor in any kitchen. Second would be a black enameled skillet or griddle for searing steak, sautéing, and even baking. After that it’s a matter of preference, from a shallow braiser for short ribs or jambalaya to a roaster for whole chicken or pork loin, to a sheet pan for roasted vegetables or an entire dinner. Keep in mind the size; bigger isn’t always better, as their usage may require doubling or tripling the recipe to fill the pan and also require larger cabinets or counter space for storage.
With these tips and advice, your enameled cast iron will remain indispensable tools in your kitchen for years, and even generations.