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Shel_B

Cleaning Le Creuset Interior

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The interior of my Le Creuset Dutch oven is starting to exhibit some staining - not much and certainly not anything (yet) that impedes the cooking process or the pot's usefulness.  However, is it possible that, over time, this staining could effect the cooking process?

 

With that vague thought in mind, maybe someone knows the best way to clean the LC interiors - rid them of stains or perhaps cleaning techniques that will minimize staining.

 

I've checked a little on various web sites, and the comments were all over the place.

 

I don't want to use anything that may damage the enamel, nor do I want to use harsh chemicals, such as oven cleaner (which may not be too good anyway).

 

Any suggestions, especially based on experience, would be appreciated.

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You do know they (like most cookware manufacturers today) have a website?

 

The information on it is the same as that which appears on the little brochure that comes with the regular enamel cookware, or the black enamel cookware. The black LC Dutch oven I have has a bit of tan staining, as is to be expected, and makes no difference to the performance.

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When my big Le Creuset pot started to go the same way, I searched the web and found a recommendation at Le Creuset Australia, to make a paste of washing-up liquid and baking soda, and rub with that.  I tried it.  It damaged the enamel (scoured it matt).  I wrote to Le Creuset Australia about it and they were not only unhelpful but insulting.

 

Le Creuset's pretty when it's new.  Stuff doesn't stick.  Once that staining develops, stuff sticks easily.  The uses in a modern kitchen that really leverage the characteristics of enamelled cast iron are quite limited: it turns a single hob ring into an oven; it keeps stuff hot while you hold it.  It stays where it is because it's heavy.

 

Otherwise, it's expensive, awkward to handle because of that weight, unresponsive and not an especially good cook surface.  Take a few pieces and use them at the bottom end of a mooring for your boat, and buy some proper cookware.

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Standard abrasive cleaner with bleach, like ajax or comet. Will make short work of it and won't damage the enamel (the enamel is hard as rock ... there's very little in the kitchen that will scratch it, and probably nothing that will react with it. 

 

These cleaners have chlorine bleach, so gloves aren't a bad idea, and if you're sensitive to it make sure there's ventilation.

 

If you don't want to deal with chlorine, you can use a non-bleach abrasive like bon-ami. This won't be as tough on the stains, so you'll need more elbow grease.

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I have a couple of pieces that I allowed to stain past the point of no return. The only damage I've noticed is to my pride. Do use their cleaner and work to stay ahead of the stains - in other words, don't let them get bad if you want to maintain the pristine look.

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Blether, I don't agree about the uselessness of enameled cast iron. Yeah, it's limited. I would only want it for dutch ovens. But these are spectacular for braises (the thermal mass evens out the cycles of the oven), and the non-reactivity of the material makes it my only cookware that goes from fridge to stove. 

 

I do most of my braises sous-vide now, but for big batches of soup/stew that i feed on for a week at a time, I can't imagine anything better.

 

As far as sticking ... I'm all for it. The things I make in this kind of cookware brown first and deglaze later. If the fond doesn't stick, its much harder to separate the oil. If you really need non-stick, there's teflon. Once every three months I make an egg or omelet for someone, and the $20 teflon restaurant pan sees some action.

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I bet a self-cleaning oven would return an enameled cast iron piece to brand new condition. 

(take the knob off)

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When my big Le Creuset pot started to go the same way, I searched the web and found a recommendation at Le Creuset Australia, to make a paste of washing-up liquid and baking soda, and rub with that.  I tried it. . . .

 

What?! I don't understand why they told you that, when the site specifically says to avoid abrasive cleansers. Does the LC Australia site still say that?

 

My Dutch oven is still behaving as it did when I first got it, although it has those tan patches here and there on the inside. All I do is soak it, if there are cooked on bits, use a plastic dough scraper to remove the softened debris, then wash it up like anything else.

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Paul: blind taste test on that "evening out oven cycles" ?  Stainless steel for me, every time: I can stop browning the onions without having to judge them way in advance.  Goes into the fridge.  Lets me build up a fond or saute and release, in other words lends itself to more uses than the LC.  Doesn't need special care.  Doesn't deteriorate over time.

 

Mjx: who knows what their web site says now ?

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Paul: blind taste test on that "evening out oven cycles" ?  Stainless steel for me, every time: I can stop browning the onions without having to judge them way in advance.  Goes into the fridge.  Lets me build up a fond or saute and release, in other words lends itself to more uses than the LC.  Doesn't need special care.  Doesn't deteriorate over time.

 

Mjx: who knows what their web site says now ?

here's what their website says now: 

If there are food residues fill the pan with warm water and leave to soak for 15 – 20 minutes, then wash in the usual way. Nylon or soft abrasive pads or brushes can be used to remove stubborn residues. Do not use metallic pads, or harsh abrasive cleaning agents as these will damage the enamel and polished trims.

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here's what their website says now: 

If there are food residues fill the pan with warm water and leave to soak for 15 – 20 minutes, then wash in the usual way. Nylon or soft abrasive pads or brushes can be used to remove stubborn residues. Do not use metallic pads, or harsh abrasive cleaning agents as these will damage the enamel and polished trims.

 

That doesn't address interior enamel that has become stained.  The enamel has become stained even though I wash the pots carefully and soon after they have cooled sufficiently from cooking.

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(just addressing the question of whether they've amended their care instructions.)

when i used to use le creuset, i would make a paste of barkeeper's friend and water and let that stand on stained enamel for an hour or more. that worked well, and my le creuset was purchased used at a garage sale, so it was well-used. finally switched to staub, which has a cast iron interior and enameled exterior. i prefer it for superior browning and fond development, as well as the fact that the staining you are experiencing is a non-issue. 

good luck, shel_b.

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Staub is superior for me, as well Cherie.

 

At any rate, Barkeeper's Friend works well on just about everything.

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Standard abrasive cleaner with bleach, like ajax or comet. Will make short work of it and won't damage the enamel (the enamel is hard as rock ... there's very little in the kitchen that will scratch it, and probably nothing that will react with it. 

 

These cleaners have chlorine bleach, so gloves aren't a bad idea, and if you're sensitive to it make sure there's ventilation.

 

If you don't want to deal with chlorine, you can use a non-bleach abrasive like bon-ami. This won't be as tough on the stains, so you'll need more elbow grease.

 

I don't think I'll be using abrasives on my LC interiors.

 

What?! I don't understand why they told you that, when the [Le Creuset site] specifically says to avoid abrasive cleansers.

 

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I bet a self-cleaning oven would return an enameled cast iron piece to brand new condition. 

(take the knob off)

 

It won't remove stains, and that's my concern.  Others, elsewhere, have suggested that it's good for getting off crusted and burnt on junk, though.

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This is my un-proven theory:

 

Enamel is similar to glass, nothing can stain glass.

 

However, due to difference of thermal expansion coefficient between glass and cast iron, over time, there will be billions of nano cracks on the surface of the enamel, which traps stain, which can be very difficult to remove by cleaning alone.

 

dcarch

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Ajax and Comet will not scratch the enamel. The abrasives aren't remotely hard enough to do so. If the manufacturer is making a blanket statement against abrasive cleaners, it's because they have no way of knowing what some cleaner somewhere might have in it. There may be some industrial cleaner with silicon carbide abrasives in it, who knows. The kitchen and bathroom cleaners don't have anything like this.

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This is my un-proven theory:

 

Enamel is similar to glass, nothing can stain glass.

 

However, due to difference of thermal expansion coefficient between glass and cast iron, over time, there will be billions of nano cracks on the surface of the enamel, which traps stain, which can be very difficult to remove by cleaning alone.

 

dcarch

 

HF will stain glass

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HF will stain glass

 

Actually, Hydrofluoric acid can dissolve glass, but not stain glass.

 

dcarch

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It's a cooking vessel, not a serving piece.  Who cares if the inside is stained?  It's purely esthetic and isn't going to effect the quality of the dish.

 

I have a whole set of Corning ware that belonged to my mother and it is stained on the transfers from 50+ years of use.  Vigorous scrubbing is going to remove the designs, so I let it go.

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It's a cooking vessel, not a serving piece.  Who cares if the inside is stained?

 

I think stains actually add character to pieces like these. I wasn't completely sure if the OP was just talking about stains or actual burned residue above the surface.

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I have numerous LC pots; a couple are so old that they have the unglazed bottoms. But I digress.

Barkeeper's Friend works very well for my pots. Except for the ones that have been used for no-knead bread and have gone into 500° ovens. Those will never be pristine again. Some staining is inevitable considering what all is cooked within.

Edited for spelling.


Edited by lindag (log)

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I can't remember where I came across this recommendation, but it works. Make up a 5% bleach solution and allow it to soak for 24 to 48 hours. Sometimes more. The more stained it is, the longer it takes, but it will get there. You can actually see the progress quite clearly and stop soaking when it's cleaned to your liking.

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Enamel is similar to glass, nothing can stain glass.

 

Correct! Little known fact: The stained-glass used in churches all over the world is mined from a single quarry in Italy that has been in service for almost 500 years. Only green, blue, and red are extracted from the rock, all other colors are created by melting colored wax (like Crayola Crayons) in thin layers over plexiglass, which is not real glass, so it can be stained.  I'm kidding, of course...

 

OP was concerned about performance degradation. I haven't noticed any as a result of the staining.


Edited by lordratner (log)

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