updated about 3 hours ago
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Some things look better and better with the patina of use. I love my well-worn copper pans and iron skillets, for example. Know what doesn’t look great after years of heavy duty kitchen use? An enameled cast iron Le Creuset.
Gifts from a long-ago Christmas, my large Dutch oven and small stovetop pot from Le Creuset are the workhorses of our kitchen. And do they ever look it, in particular the Dutch oven. That thing has made countless amazing meals, but in the process the gray enamel exterior has gotten absolutely gunked with, well, gunk. I used to keep it sitting on top of the stove in pride of place. Now I keep it hidden in the pantry because no matter how much we scrub it, it just looks gross.
Well, there may just be a solution that will bring my truly prized Le Creuset back into the kitchen… if it works.
The Reddit Tip for Cleaning a Dutch Oven with Oven Cleaner
They go on to say that their three Le Creuset pans would never come clean no matter how much they scrubbed with soap and a sponge. Other attempts — including salt scrub, baking soda, and Bar Keepers Friend — worked to some degree, but nothing did the trick to get the entire surface looking clean and new.
So what did this enterprising Redditor do? Brought out the big guns, in the form of oven cleaner. The result?
“I tested a small area first. Worked like a charm. So I did the whole thing (exterior only). Had to let it sit for a while to really clean it 100%. I first did 30 minutes and it worked ok. But then I reapplied and left for the day. Got home from work and every single bit of cooked-on grease just rinsed off.
I’ve just cleaned them with oven cleaner for the second time this year. No damage, no problems.”
What the Experts Said About This Method
A robust discussion ensued with many supporters of the method, but I try not to entrust my favorite possessions to the wisdom of groupthink on the internet, so I turned to two experts. First, straight to the source at Le Creuset.
And let me tell you, it took some persistent questioning to get a specific answer. The first response from their PR team sidestepped my “Hi, can I use oven cleaner on my Le Creuset?” with: “As a brand, we recommend using our cast iron cleaner or soaking in water with a little baking soda.”
Ok. I tried again, and this time got word that they couldn’t comment because they haven’t tested it internally. One last attempt got me a firm no comment, with a side observation that some things work and some don’t — and they can’t test everything. Fair enough.
So I moved on to one of our favorite cleaning experts, Carolyn Forté, the director of the Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab for the Good Housekeeping Institute.
And while I wouldn’t call her answer a ringing endorsement, I at least feel good that it’s coming from a place of extensive knowledge.
She hasn’t tried this tip personally, she says, and pointed out that Le Creuset doesn’t recommend it. BUT (emphasis mine) “many oven cleaners can be safely used to spot clean cookware, broiler pans, and other surfaces with burned-on residue,” she says.
It sounds like we’re filing this under: as a last resort.
“If other cleaning methods have not successfully cleaned it, oven cleaner might be worth a try,” Forté says. “Follow the label directions carefully and apply it to a small spot on the bottom as a pre-test. After several minutes, if there’s no damage, try a larger area.”
So how does this work, anyway? “Oven cleaners have ingredients to cut through and dissolve tough grease along with cleaners to wash away the soil,” she explains.
If you want to experiment, she left us with a caution. “I would recommend short periods of sitting and rinsing with repeated applications, if needed, rather than one long soaking,” she says. “It’s easier to monitor and control that way.”
Update: The Kitchn staff actually used this stuff on Dutch oven for the photos in this post and had shockingly amazing results. Our official takeaway, this works! But to be extra safe, follow Forté’s directions and try a test spot on the bottom and work in short periods of time rather than an all-day soak.
Have you ever tried oven cleaner on your Le Creuset? Or have another miracle cleaner? Let us know!