Care of Cookware

LeCreuset French Oven

LeCreuset French Oven

By Cat, Oct 2014 (Photo, right, from LeCreuset (7))

I just bought a new enameled cast iron Le Creuset French Oven for oven and stove-top use (similar to photo, right), which made me think about documenting its care on this site, for my own use and for that of my readers. I also document care of all types of cookware that I use.

  • Includes: 1. Cast iron; 2. Enameled cast iron; 3. Stainless steel; 4. Enameled steel; 5. Corning Ware. (Note: I do not use non-stick cookware, nor aluminum cookware).
  • See also: 1. Chantal enamel on steel cookware: use and care
  • Other Sites: Wellness Mamma: What are the safest cookware options? (10)

Cast Iron & Carbon Steel

(Photo, right, from Amazon)

Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan

Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan

A properly-seasoned pan is essentially no-stick; you need very little fat/oil to keep food from sticking. (NOTE: eggs do pose a challenge to this, so always add some fat to pan before cooking scrambled eggs or omelets).

Cast iron pans can be exposed to heat up to 500°F, once they have been seasoned (see below).

Cast iron is a great conductor of heat, but can rust easily. The only way to prevent the rust is to keep it well seasoned with fat, and to avoid cleaning with soap or detergent. If you do clean it with soapy water – as when you bring a new pan home, you MUST season it to prevent rust.

After seasoning the pan (see below), us a little extra fat the first few times you use the pan, as this will help the seasoning to last.

Cleaning Cast Iron

The following is adapted from the Lodge Cookware (2) site, but applies to any cast iron cookware that is not coated with enamel or other coatings, such as my antique Griswold Dutch oven.

To Soap or not to Soap:

NOTE: references to ‘‘soap’ mean real soap, not dishwashing ‘soap’ which is really a detergent. Best soaps to use are:

  • a bottle of Dr. Bronners soap, or
  • make a lather from Kirk’s Coconut Castile or homemade bar soap. Do not use soap with added fragrance.

If not using soap is too scary, wash with mild soapy water; dry well, and then oil immediately. However, consider that cookware reaches 400ºF in 4 minutes on medium heat and is sterile at only 212°F, so soap isn’t always necessary.

Not recommended: Dishwashers, strong detergents and metal scouring pads are not recommended, as they remove seasoning, allowing your cast iron to rust. If that happens, you need to re-season the pan (see below).

Cleaning (without soap)

The best way to clean a cast iron pan is to rinse it, inside and out, with warm or hot water (no soap), scrub with a kitchen brush,* and rinse again, and dry thoroughly.

*CAUTION: Do not use a steel brush on the inside of the pan, as bits of steel may remain in the pan and then get incorporated into the foods cooked in the pan. Steel in the food can give you digestive distress, including bleeding. However, you can use a steel brush on the outside of the pan if it is not enameled.

After using, or if brand new:

  1. Clean it with warm soapy water (use real soap, not ‘dish soap’ which is really detergent); do not use abrasive cleaners.
  2. Rinse well with warm water.
  3. Dry thoroughly. I have a pilot-lit gas range, so my stove is always warm and will quickly dry my pan. However, most companies that make these pans recommend drying with a dishtowel and not let it air dry.
  4. Because you used soap, you need to season the pan (see below).

Seasoning the pan

If the pan is brand new or just-cleaned with soapy water, you need to season it. You will know when it is time to re-season a pan if:

  • the surface is dull or rusted,
  • there is a lot of stuck-on food that won’t come off easily.

If the pan is brand new, I recommend rubbing Kosher salt into the pan before seasoning with fat (as below). See The Local Palate (12) for more detail.

Best fats for seasoning:

The best fats to use are rendered lard, goose or duck; avocado oil, or coconut oil. You can also use palm oil, but remember its production is destroying the planet’s rain forests. Do not use vegetable seed oils such as corn, soy, canola, safflower or seed oil. For more info, see Good Fats for Cooking and scroll down to ‘Fats to Avoid’ (near bottom of page).

To season:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 – 350°F. Arrange rack to a central position in the oven
  2. Prep pan:
    • New pan: Rinse and thoroughly dry pan (I set it in my warm pilot-lit oven set to Off setting; if yours is not pilot-lit, set oven at lowest setting. Once thoroughly dry, fill bottom with Kosher salt and scrub bottom and sides (inside) with a rag until smooth; then dump out salt.
    • Used pan: Clean and then thoroughly dry pan, inside and out (see above).
  3. Wipe pan, inside and out with a thin coating of lard, avocado or coconut oil, rubbing it well into the pan. These recommended fats can withstand high heat and do not generally contain toxic substances (note that commercial lard may be hydrogenated, a process that may introduce trans fats, so I render my own lard.) Do not use vegetable oil or shortening; see below.*
  4. Place oiled pan into oven, upside down, on the oven rack in center position. If desired, place a sheet of foil or parchment paper to catch any drips.
  5. Bake for 1 hour.
  6. Turn off heat but leave pan in oven while it cools thoroughly.

*Some instructions say to use vegetable oil or shortening, but I do not recommend this, as these products contain undesirable substances that can leach into your food. See Good Fats for Cooking and scroll down to ‘Fats to Avoid’ (near bottom of page) for more info.

See also The Kitchn blog (4).

To Refurbish (Re-season) the Finish

While maintaining the seasoning should keep your Cast Iron and Carbon Steel in good condition, at some point you may need to re-season your cookware. If food sticks to the surface, or you notice a dull, gray color, repeat the seasoning process:

  1. Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water (real soap, not dish soap) and a stiff brush; CAUTION: Do not use a wire brush, as it may leave microscopic bits of metal on the pan that will get taken up by food and harm your body. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).
  2. Rinse and dry completely.
  3. Apply a very thin, even coating of MELTED  coconut oil or rendered duck/goose/lard fat to the cookware inside and out. It’s important to use one of these solid-at-room-temperature, mostly-saturated fats. DO NOT USE salad oil, olive oil, avocado oil or other liquid oils. And remember: too much fat/oil will result in a sticky finish.
  4. Place aluminum foil or parchment on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any drips.Set oven temperature to 350° – 400°F.
  5. Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.
  6. Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
  7. Store the cookware uncovered, in a dry place when cooled.
  8. Repeat as necessary.

Enameled Cast Iron

(see photo at top of post)

The most well-known pan of this type is made by Le Creuset, but there are other brands as well. These pans are generally coated inside and out with enamel, but the top edge, and the bottom of the pan may not be coated. While the enamel coating is very durable, it may become cracked or chipped with use; these chips/cracks must then be sealed with fat and seasoned.

Moderate cooking temperatures are always recommended (medium setting for a burner; 350°F or lower in oven). You should always preheat the pan over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes before adding fats/oils or other liquids. Never use a burner size that is larger than the pan! When you remove a hot pan from stove/oven, set it on a trivet or hot pad; never set it directly on the countertop. (1)

I do not recommend cleaning it in a dishwasher.

To clean, whether just used or brand new:

  1. Wash pan and lid with warm soapy water (use real soap, not ‘dish soap’ which is really detergent).
  2. Rinse well with warm water.
  3. Dry thoroughly with a dishtowel. I have a pilot-lit gas range, so my stove is always warm and will quickly dry my pan.

To season the enamel:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Add fat (lard or coconut oil), enough to be a depth of ⅛” when melted. Using a cloth or soft brush, spread the melted fat over the sides (inside and out), and also over the exposed cast iron at the rim. Similarly, spread the melted fat/oil over top and bottom of lid, and over the bottom of the pan if it is also enameled.
  3. Place in preheated oven, setting its bottom on the rack.
  4. Remove from oven after 1 hour, and set on a trivet or hot pad.
  5. Let it rest, leaving the oil in the pan, for 12 hours.
  6. Pour off fat (reserve for another use), then wipe pan with cloth or paper towel.

If the bottom of the pan is exposed cast iron, it will need to be seasoned, at least initially:

  1. Preheat one to 300°F, and place rack in center of oven.
  2. Turn pan over and rub lard or coconut oil onto the exposed cast iron. Place in oven, upside down; remove after 1 hour.

If enamel becomes chipped or cracked, you need to protect the area from rust every time it gets wet:

  1. Rub a little fat/oil over the chipped/cracked area after cleaning and drying thoroughly.
  2. Wipe away any excess oil with a cloth or paper towel.

If food is burnt in pan:

  1. Rinse well with water and wipe off what is mostly loose in the pan.
  2. Fill with enough water to cover the burnt areas. If food is mostly carbohydrate: add some baking soda, stir to dissolve, then let the pan rest. You may set it over a very low simmer for several minutes if the food is really stuck on. If burnt food is fatty, lemon juice added to the soaking water may work better than baking soda.
  3. After resting for 30 minutes or so, rinse out and scrub again with soapy water.
  4. Repeat as needed.
  5. Do not use stainless steel scrubber on the enamel.

Stainless Steel

Most of my stainless steel cookware was my Mom’s and has a copper bottom. I long ago gave up on keeping the copper shiny…. but I do like to keep it clean.

Generally, a good scrubbing with a sponge or rag in warm soapy water will clean your pan inside and out. Rinse well, and then dry.

For stuck-on food, you can use a non-abrasive, non-bleach cleaner like Bar Keeper’s Friend, and work it with a non-abrasive scrubbing pad. See The Kitchn blog (5) for instructions on using this cleaner.

For burnt metal: As I’m getting older – into my 70s – I sometimes turn on the wrong burner. Last night it was a burner I seldom use and on top of which one of my stainless steel lids was resting. I didn’t notice it right away, as I was chopping veggies with my back to the stove. When I turned around toward the stove, I noticed dark marks on the top of that lid and realized what I’d done. That lid was burnt on top and bottom, and was way too hot to handle right away. So I set it on a rack to cool. Then, how to clean this?

I tried scrubbing with an SOS pad; that worked for the stains with a rough surface, but not so well for stains with a smooth surface. I might try the Bar Keeper’s Friend (see The Kitchn blog (5) for instructions on using this cleaner).

Enameled Stainless Steel

Chantal Cookware

Chantal Cookware

Photo, right, from Chantal Cookware (11)

This includes Farberware, Chantal and other good brands.

Basically, treat this like enameled cast iron, except you won’t need to season the exposed stainless steel on the bottom unless it has a tendency to rust.

See my post: Chantal enamel on steel cookware: use and care for more detail.

From Chantal (11), about cleaning their cookware:

    • To keep your Chantal looking new use Chantal Enamel & Ceramic Cleaner, or another brand of Ceramic Cooktop Cleaner
    • Never pre-heat Chantal dry. When left on high heat, Chantal can reach 1000°F in just two minutes and destroy enamel surface!
    • For the occasional dried-on or burnt food, mix with water in the pan: 2 tsp each baking soda and Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (found in the laundry detergent section of your grocer). Simmer in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes. Let pan cool to room temperature, then rinse. Repeat if necessary.
    • Another excellent cleaner for keeping the interior and exterior of the enamel shiny is Soft Scrub Cleanser.
    • Do not use steel wool scouring pads, oven cleaners or strong abrasive cleaners on Chantal.
  • Mineral deposits: In hard water areas, mineral deposits may accumulate at the water line. To remove, rub with a small amount of vinegar or baking soda.

See also: Chantal: Enamel-on-Steel Cookware Use and Care (11)

CorningWare

(Photo, right, from Bluecornflower.com (9))

Corning Ware Electric Fryer

Corning Ware Electric Fryer

Generally, I recommend treating this like enameled cookware. However, it is important to note that corning ware is a type of glass, not enamel, so when food is stuck or burnt on, it is treated differently than for enameled cookware. See CorningWare 411 blog (6) for lots more detail.

You should NEVER use anything more harsh than a plastic scrubbing sponge on your corningware – never use steel wool, etc., powdered or cream cleansers (except those listed in Cleaners for CorningWare, below).

Cleaners for CorningWare

The Corning Cleaner & Conditioner made for their cookware works wonders on Corningware, Pyrex and Visions or other glass cookware. [It also works on enameled cookware, but it says on the container not to use on enamel, so avoid that as much as possible.] You can find this cleaner on Amazon or ACE Hardware (8) websites.

  1. Shake well;
  2. Apply a small amount to a cleaning pad or cloth and gently rub on the surface.
  3. Wash well in soapy water to remove traces of the cleaner, then rinse well with hot water.

Bar Keeper’s Friend is also effective – it is an abrasive- and bleach-free powdered cleaner.

References:

  1. Le Creuset Cookbook by Irena Chalmers (This came with my first French Oven from the 1970s).
  2. lodgemfg.com/useandcare/seasoned-cast-iron
  3. Porcelain enamel Cast Iron Cookware Guide, from RuffHewn (a Le Creuset knock-off)
  4. The Kitchn blog on cast iron (thekitchn.com/how-to-season-a-cast-iron-skillet-cleaning-lessons-from-the-kitchn-107614)
  5. The Kitchn blog on stainless steel (thekitchn.com/how-to-clean-stainless-steel-pots-and-pans-cleaning-lessons-from-the-kitchn-200580)
  6. CorningWare 411 blog (corningware411.blogspot.com/2013/08/cornflower-is-new-green-renewing-p-10-b.html)
  7. Le Creuset photo (cookware.lecreuset.com)
  8. Amazon (amazon.com); Ace Hardware: acehardware.com
  9. Blue Cornflower.com photo (bluecornflower.com/electromatics/electromatic-trays.htm)
  10. Wellness Mamma: wellnessmama.com/5148/safest-cookware-options
  11. Chantal cookware: chantal.com/cookware and chantal.com/enamel-on-steel-cookware-use-care.html
  12. The Local Palate: thelocalpalate.com/articles/how-to-season-a-cast-iron-pan-by-chef-john-ondo-of-lana-s-restaurant/

About Cat

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