Archived entries for dutch oven

Burned Out

I’ll never forget the story my friend (who, for obvious reasons, will remain nameless) told me about her first piece of Le Creuset cookware. As I remember it, her mother gave her a beautiful orange L.C. dutch oven as a dorm-warming present her freshman year of college. One of the first times she used it, she burned her food to the bottom. Apparently, deciding dish washing was not her cup of tea, she just threw it out. Years later, as a joke, she wanted to buy the same pot as a Christmas present for her Mom. She laughingly told me how she nearly shit her pants at the store when she saw how much it would cost to replace it. “I finally understood why she was so upset with me!”

Blackened Le Creuset Originally posted by flickr user Rochelle, et. al.

Hopefully, she made some dumpster diver’s day. My aunt found an L.C. green dutch oven in precisely this way. Burned, abandoned, alley. She took it home, cleaned it properly and now uses it all the time.

OK, so this leads me to today’s topic: How to care for and clean your enameled cast iron (are you sick of hearing the term Le Creuset? I am, but, at least now I know how to spell it correctly). Although incredibly durable, enamel, as I found out the hard way, can be scratched or chipped if you don’t handle it correctly. Use wooden or plastic utensils instead of metal when cooking as metal spatulas, whisks, etc can scratch the enamel, weakening the molecules which, in the future can lead to cracking and chipping. That said, hand mixers are obviously a bad idea.


Kitchen Essentials Originally uploaded by Flickr user Ginny Griffin


Tool Originally uploaded by Flickr user 16thLetter

Enameled cookware is meant for slow cooking at medium-low temperatures. Le Creuset suggests you never use high heat on the stove top and avoid temperatures above 375 degrees in the oven. The handles of the newer pots are made of material called phenolic which is a laminate of various materials, usually plastic or glass held together with resin. Handles may melt above the suggested 375 degrees. I didn’t know about this temp limit until doing the research for this post, and I have used mine up to 500 degrees with luckily no problems with the enamel or handles.

Image courtesy of

However if you can buy melt it you can purchase replacement handles. Don’t put pots with wooden handles into the oven; they can scorch or even catch on fire.

You also want to avoid creating huge temperature differences. You don’t want to take a hot pan from the stove and fill it directly with cold water. This can cause thermal shock, which may result in cracks as the enamel contracts as it is cooled too quickly. Wait until your pot has cooled down so you can pick it up without pot holders and then fill it with warm water to soak.

Unlike regular cast iron, the enamel creates a non-permeable surface so it doesn’t need seasoning. Because of this, its OK to use soap and water to clean your pots. The suggested method is to fill your pot with warm soapy water and allow it to soak. After a while you will notice the grime should come off just by doing a quick wipe with a wash cloth.

If you use a sponge, always use the soft side. Avoid abrasives, especially steel wool! They even say not to use the plastic abrasive side of your sponge, but I occasionally use it and have not had any ill affects. I suppose it small scratches could build up over time and cause cracks, so if you want to be safe, just use soft sponges.

Le Burnt Creuset originally posted by Flickr user Rachel and Bed.

But what do you do if you if you really burn that shit on. Everyone says you should start with soaking, if that doesn’t work, try boiling for a while to see if that loosens up the food particles. People also suggest baking soda and vinegar. Just be careful with being too rough with scrubbing, because you don’t want to chip your enamel. Here is some good advice on cleaning black grime buildup which can accumulate on the bottom of your pans.

There’s tons of info on the web to help with a menagerie of crazy scenarios from burnt pots with a stink that won’t quit to pots where the enamel has completely melted off. If worse comes to worse and your pot is just fucked, you can always try utilizing the lifetime warranty. If L.C. won’t allow the warranty due to “abuse” try taking it back to the store you got it from, I’ve heard, most stores usually just replace it no questions asked.

Burned Pot Originally uploaded by Flickr user Fibby

Some good tips to avoid burning your pots:

  • Don’t cook on high heat
  • Don’t heat an empty pan
  • Occasionally stir when cooking foods with high sugar content (sucrose, fructose etc), as sugar is easy to burn

Here is more official Le Creuset suggestions for proper care and maintenance.

Oh, wait I forgot. This is a food blog, not a cookware blog. Enough product pushing. Le Creuset isn’t even paying me for this. I should get cooking.

Cookware First, Second Hand

Beside buying cookware new, you can always buy second hand. As I said before, my other pieces of enameled cast iron have been collected along the way via eBay, thrift stores and garage sales.

I swiped this great design piece at a garage sale this summer. I bargained the price down to $5.00, pointing out the severely rusted bottom, which had not been coated in enamel; a scam on my part as rust is really easy to remove with steel wool. (Never use steel wool on enamel coating though!) I got it home, scoured the rust off, and was able to recognize the old Revere Ware logo.

This is a real vintage piece, as Revere Ware doesn’t make enameled cast iron any more, favoring modern non-stick Teflon (yuck!).

Cheap Le Creuset and such are a bit of a find at thrift stores, as they have gained mass popularity lately and are known to most clerks who take advantage marking them way up. However, every now and again, you might get lucky. This is a replica of a pot my Dad is constantly gloating about buying for only $2.50 at a small town thrift store in Michigan. So there are some deals out there, but good luck finding them at city thrifts.

Vintage Le Creuset originally posted by eBay seller Maggs775.

I got this picture off a current eBay auction which currently has no bids and has a minimum bid for $16.00. Not as good as $2.50, but what can you do? There are a few chips on the edge but I don’t think its a big deal as it won’t affect your food. You may have to watch for rust developing there, but sometimes you have to suffer for a nice vintage design.

eBay is also a great place to find used cookware, as they have tons of Le Creuset and other enameled cookware listed.

Here is an awesome vintage red skillet (in perfect condition) my sister got me for Christmas last year for only $15.oo!

You’ll find a lot of eBay sellers hawking liquidated wares for near to full price, but scattered within, there are some good deals.  Beside eBay, Craig’s List is also a great place to search. Check out this awesome post on which tells you how to do multi-city Craig’s List queries and set up an RSS feed to alert you if any of your preferred items comes up! Thanks BackGarge, informative as always.

So get out there and perhaps this Le Creuset Pear Casserole dish could be yours!

I know its stoneware and not cast iron, but lets not quibble over details!

Freedom Fry Pans

Although I love Le Creuset cookware, it does have one downside; its fu**ing expensive! Full price, the casserole Ira bought me runs close to $180 which is why I mentioned before, he got it for major markdown.

When buying Le Creuset, your $$$ gets you quality and style, but you are also paying for the name.

I’ve been doing a bit of light research as I am in the market for a dutch oven and the L.C. one I want costs upwards of $250.00. Youch!

Cooks Illustrated recently did an article about other less expensive options. Their two affordable top picks are the Chefmate dutch oven listed for around $59.99 and the Mario Batali version available for around $100. Of course, everyone is all excited over the frugally friendly Chefmate. Although listed to be available at target, people seem to be having a difficult time finding it. They must all be selling fast!

Chefmate (left) and Martio Batali (right) Dutch Ovens

My parents gave me a Martha Steward 3 1/2 quart dutch oven from Kmart many years back, and I like it a lot.

My issues with it are that it is too small as I like to cook in bulk and the enamel coating isn’t as even overall. Imperfections like this may irritate grouchy gourmands but its never bothered me too terribly.

It does seem to scratch easier then the L.C. pots I’ve used. However, I also got it when I was much younger and ignorant to the ways of handling cast iron. I think I treat its more costly cousins with a gentler hand. Martha Stewart is now selling most of her cookware through Macy’s instead of Kmart, but the prices don’t seem to have risen that dramatically.

Reading different forums on the topic, people seem to say buy cheap, buy twice. While I agree its best to buy quality if you can, for some of us, this just isn’t an option. You can’t spend money you don’t have. (Don’t mention credit card debt to me, OK!)

So, should we go in debt to be smooth and stylish in the kitchen? I know what the Republicans would say. Boycott the froggy french, buy freedom fry pans!

I <3 Le Creuset

Yay! I just opened my birthday present from Ira. He got me a Le Creuset 3 Quart Buffet Casserole Pan. He assures me he got it on super discount. I am soo spoiled!

I love cooking with cast iron cookware because of its durability, strength, and its even distribution of heat, which helps food from sticking and burning to the bottom as well as allows food to be cooked slow and evenly for increased flavor. By coating the cast iron in enamel, it creates a non-stick non-permeable surface which eliminates the need for seasoning necessary of regular cast iron. Nothing can saute and caramelize better.

Le Creuset originally posted by Flickr user Niznoz.

Le Creuset is one of the finest makers of enameled cast iron. Their pieces are known, not only for the quality of their craftsmanship, but also for their style and design. With these pieces, you can marinate, cook and serve all with one piece of cookware! And they come in all kinds of awesome colors!

Dutch Oven originally posted by Flickr user Chotda

I’ve always drooled after my Aunt Dottie’s collection of vintage Le Creuset pots, which are in my favorite Creuset color, blaze, a fiery variegated orange. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when she gave me one of her smaller sauce pans she doesn’t use anymore! Added with a smaller piece I found in a thrift store, as well as a beautiful skillet my sis got off eBay for my Xmas present last year, I am beginning to start my own little collection.

Ira said he gave me this pan because as we get into fall, we are entering his favorite time of year for casseroles. To celebrate my new present, I am going to be doing a week of casseroles in October and I need your help. Email Me your favorite casserole recipes for me to try. I’ll post my favorite reader pics along with foolproof favs of my own.

So pull out your Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks and lets get cookin! Please only send me the tasty ones, not the ones which include hotdogs with jello!

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