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Best of the Hotline: How to Clean an Enameled Cast Iron Pot

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Some questions on the Hotline have staying power, and for good reason -- they cover the questions we ask ourselves time and time again. Join us as we revisit some of the most popular.

Today: We've all been there -- kitchen mishaps happen. Here are the best ways to clean your Le Creuset and other enameled cast iron pots.

Le Creuset is a precious investment. Whether you acquired a few pieces thanks to your wedding registry or saved up for months to buy one, they are timeless pieces to add to your kitchen collection. A sturdy enameled cast iron pot should last a lifetime -- even if it gets a bit roughed up from your culinary adventures. 

Early contest winner and former Food52 employee Peter came home with 40 pounds of apples from the farmers market to make a big batch of applesauce in his massive Le Creuset. Unfortunately, the applesauce didn’t behave the way he wanted, and what he was left with was a blackened, burnt bottom in his Dutch oven. After soaking it overnight, scraping it with a sharp spatula, and scrubbing it, he was desperate for help and turned to the Hotline for cleaning advice -- where people have been sharing tips and tricks for 3 years and counting:

Soak, Soak Baby -- with Baking Soda:

  • StacyG suggests soaking the pot overnight with baking soda and hot water. The next morning, scrub it with a dish brush and repeat the process if needed. Citygal approves of this method -- she had the same thing happen to her when she made applesauce and StacyG's suggestion worked perfectly.
  • Sam1148 offers a similar solution: “Add about 1/2 inch of hydrogen peroxide to the pot. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Heat until it starts to bubble up. It needs the heat to start the reaction. Simmer for about ten minutes and brush with a scrub brush. Repeat as needed.” The method worked like magic for a number of community members, including dnfenwick, mikefromholden, and Ginatralala
  • Another tried and true method is a white vinegar and baking soda soak, suggested by aargersi and boulangere. Simmer white vinegar in the pot with a bit of baking soda added to it, scrubbing as needed. It took latoscana a few rounds of doing this, but it did eventually work and now she’s left with a spotless pot. 

More: Save yourself the trouble of a burnt pot and roast your applesauce instead.

Soak, Soak Baby -- with Something Stronger:

  • Dnbaer uses dishwasher detergent on her Le Creuset, and suggests using a brand that contains enzymes. Dissolve the detergent in hot water in the pot, and let the pot soak overnight. Gale seconds this method: “It softens the burnt on crud and makes it much easier to scrub off -- whether it's Le Creuset or stainless cookware.”
  • Put your other household detergent to work with the method frausimon outlines. She suggests filling the pot with one part laundry detergent and three parts water, boiling it for 5 to 7 minutes, letting it cool in the pot, and then scrubbing as needed. Once it’s clean, coat the inside with white vinegar using a soft cloth -- this will help make the inside shiny again.

Finally, Burnt Offerings provides some words of comfort if all else fails, nothing works, and you're still left with a scarred pot. Her favorite pot has burnt spots from rice grains that may never go away. “I’ve learned to live with them and would miss them in the bottom of my pot now. It has character.”

Tell us: How do you clean your precious pots?

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Community, Tips & Techniques, Advice, Hotline, Your Burning Questions