From glazed Dutch ovens and braisers to colorful stock pots and saucepans, there’s a whole world of enameled cast iron cookware out there. These smooth operators of stovetop cooking — covered with fused glass particles — have a few things going for them that traditional cast iron pans don’t.
Enameled cast iron pans don’t require seasoning, either initially or after each use (woohoo!), can be easily washed with soap and warm water, and are even dishwasher-safe. Plus, their shiny glaze not only looks beautiful but means food is way less likely to stick on their surface, saving you elbow grease galore.
Below, we’ve got the soup-to-nuts details on maintaining your enameled darlings to cook everything from, well, soup to nuts.
“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, enabling you to cook with colors and designs that will spark joy every time you reach for them.
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.
Believe it or not, cleaning your enameled pan is actually super simple. “The best way for everyday cleaning is warm water, dish soap, and a nylon brush or non-metal sponge,” Collier says. Afterwards, wipe the piece dry with a towel or paper towel before storage — no need to season it or wipe it with oil.
And here’s a fun fact: The sand-colored enamel that’s a signature of the interior of Le Creuset was selected because it resists staining. If any dull gray 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 effect on the cookware’s wear and tear. But if you are using gas, 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.
Fortunately, 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 (heyyyyy, 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 make a baking soda-water paste 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 sink-ful 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. They’ll scratch the surface and remove the protective enamel.
To prevent food from 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.
As with other types of cookware like stainless steel sauté 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, but do be sure to keep them clean and dry.
And, even though they’re super durable, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the occasional dent or chip. “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.
For those new to cooking with enameled cast iron, its sheer weight does take some getting used to. Take care when lifting and moving the pots, pans, and lids so you don’t inadvertently bang them and cause chips or cracks.
If you’re 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! You might prefer a shallow braiser for short ribs or jambalaya, a roaster for whole chicken or pork loin, or a sheet pan for roasted vegetables. Keep in mind the size — bigger isn’t always better, since usage may require doubling or tripling the recipe to fill the pan and also require larger cabinets for storage.
They may look like veritable artwork in your kitchen, but caring for your enameled cast iron pots and pans isn’t like restoring the Mona Lisa. A little common sense and TLC is all it takes to keep these pretty, practical tools a steady presence in your kitchen for years (or even generations) to come.