Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

So I cracked my enameled cast iron

I can hardly express what a complete idiot I feel like right now. Not knowing any better, I put my new Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven, a Christmas gift to us, on the burner to dry after washing before storing, as I do regular cast iron. Little did I know at the time that you should NEVER do this. Worse, I forgot about it when I got busy dealing with feeding the children dinner, and walked back into the kitchen after the poor Dutch oven had been on top of a roaring burner for eight to 10 minutes. What you see here in the extreme close up of the pot’s surface is the result.
Let me ask ye who have experience cooking with enameled cast iron: have I killed my Dutch oven? The care and cleaning sites — the ones that say never to put enameled cast iron on the burner with nothing in the pot — crackpot.jpgsay when the surface is cracked, the pot is done for, because liquid gets underneath the enamel and onto the iron surface underneath. I ran my fingers over the surface of the cooled enamel, and it feels completely smooth. Does that mean anything?
That’s a hundred-dollar Dutch oven. It’s been a great piece of cookware, too. I’m so sick to the stomach over my carelessness that I can’t even think of eating dinner. Idiot, idiot, idiot. Go ahead, make crackpot jokes. I deserve them. On the other hand, maybe this is Julie’s fault for leaving town with me in charge. Argh!

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posted February 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I think it’s still okay. But I’m no expert. I have regular cast iron.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 8:32 pm

So sorry to hear about the pot. Was it because Roscoe was taking too long out in the snow???
Julie is expressing some anguish over your repetitive mishaps. Something about burnt apple butter.
Hang in there! She’ll be headed home to manage your next thoughts for you.
Love, paw, little johnny

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Rod Dreher

posted February 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Thank you, Starhill cheering section. Go soak your heads, the both of you. And please send my wife back before the whole place goes to hell. Next thing you know the kids will be eating out of the dog bowl.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 8:49 pm

You committed murder Rod. And you can’t bring her back…
Your only avenues of solace are alcohol and spiritual counseling.
P.S. Makes a nice flower pot though.

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Rod Dreher

posted February 27, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Oh, brother, I am going to crawl into a bottle of Maker’s Mark here in just a few minutes. Four days of just me and the kids, more than half of that time total confinement because of the weather, and I’m done, cap.

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Siarlys Jenkins

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I’ve never had an enameled Dutch oven, but from my experience with cast iron frying pans, I would have done exactly the same thing, and felt equally bad afterward. I had hoped someone would be offering good advice here, but apparently that is not in the cards. For what it is worth, thank you for allowing me to learn from your bitter experience, on the off chance that I ever have such cookware in my kitchen.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I’m sorry. I’ve done things like that, too. Oh, the humanity.
We have broken a 100-yr record for February snowfall here, so I think cabin fever can take some of the blame for temporary mental aberrations.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 9:29 pm

What the hell is a “Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven”?

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posted February 27, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Is it possible that this small fiasco could be looked at as a compliment to Julie? One of those wonderfully funny Valentine cards showing her how indispensable she is to you? Anyhow, I always loved how many things went wrong when my poor hubby was left with our kids for a few days. The looks of relief on their faces when I came back was truly priceless! :)

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Rod Dreher

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm

What the hell is a “Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven”?
That’s why God made Google.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm

FWIW: mine cracked a long time ago, and I’ve been using it in all manner of ways for a few years now without incident…

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posted February 27, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Sorry to hear about your dutch oven.
I had been contemplating buying one of those as an adjunct to my ancient lodge cast iron dutch oven. After hearing about your accident I think I’ll stick with the old fashion kind.

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Elizabeth Anne

posted February 27, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Well… the good news is that if it’s one of the red ones, they make REALLY NICE planters for peonies.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Rod! Don’t despair. Chris Kimball to the rescue… Cook’s Illustrated tested less expensive enameled cast iron dutch ovens last year to see if any performed as well as Le Creuset. They ended up recommending the Tramontina model…6.5 qt. size is around $40 at Walmart. Said it performed nearly as well as the LC version in all of their tests. The model # was 80131/504. Hope this helps!

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posted February 27, 2010 at 11:51 pm

looks bad – suspect it will rust underneath over time but as long as nothing is flaking why not use it? I have Le Creuset some of which is pushing 30 years – the stuff is indestructible but you can send the pots/pans back to them if they break. Perhaps Lodge can fix yours? Lodge is made in China – they must have US reps? If you must replace – try Home Goods or Marshall’s – both stores have all the usual big names for considerably lower prices – you just might have to check back a few times.

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posted February 28, 2010 at 12:16 am

Rod, we all make silly mistakes, and I’m sure we all make expensive silly mistakes. Don’t feel bad.
I think you need a hug more than you need jokes. *internet hug*

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Lord Karth

posted February 28, 2010 at 1:20 am

Look at it this way: you now have a reference, in advance, for how your children will feel when they have an accident and crack up your car.
Pay it forward, Mr. Dreher. Pay it forward. Give the Lady Julie your very best and most sheepish smile, be up front about what happened. Remember: in family, as in politics, it’s not the crime that gets you in hot water, it’s the coverup.
Start saving your pennies for a new Dutch oven. And promise—“pinkie swear”, as my second daughter used to say !—to never, Never, NEVER to do such a silly thing again.
Also, give her flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. If nothing else, she’ll be too busy laughing at you to be very angry.
Your servant,
Lord Karth

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Zane Greywolf

posted February 28, 2010 at 1:36 am

One reader stated that Lodge is made in China, hardly! Lodge brand is one of the few things still manufactured in the U.S., Tennessee to be exact. I think that as long as its just surface cracks in the enamel and not cracked all the way through the cast iron underneath, you’re ok, perhaps you caught it in time. I never used enameled cast iron, just plain cast iron anyways. By yhe time you properly use and clean cast iron it builds up the patina or whatever you call and the surface becomes non stick.
[Note from Rod: Lodge’s website says its enameled cast iron cookware is made in China. — RD.]

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posted February 28, 2010 at 2:05 am

I did almost exactly the same thing about a year ago to my $200+ Le Crueset 9.5 quart dutch oven, I put it under the flame to dry and the phone wrung….I also searched the internet but finally decided I couldn’t risk anyone breaking a tooth or worse. I was so mad at myself but eventually I decided that I would give up various luxuries for a few months and wait for a sale. Six months later I found one on sale and I had saved the money so I got it. I love cooking with it (pot roast with leeks is awesome) and I handle like a precious gem. Give yourself a break, we all make mistakes and you had a tough few weeks.

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posted February 28, 2010 at 9:35 am

Most of my expensive mistakes involve backing up a car with some immovable object below my field of view. Fire hydrants, for example are completely unfazed by a car backing into them, but they have those pointy bits which do lots of damage before you have a chance to react to the crunch noise.

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posted February 28, 2010 at 10:10 am

Oh, I feel your pain! But perhaps all is not lost. I have never dry-boiled my enameled cast iron, but I have burned lots of stuff in it! The surface of my 2 qt pot in particular, is no longer pretty. But it still works just as well as ever. Before you go replacing it, I would boil some water in it. If anything is going to make the cracked enamel flake up, that would probably be it. Boil the water, then take a wooden spoon and scrape it along the bottom a bit. If nothing happens, I say keep using it. If it flakes, then amm139’s lead on the cheaper brand that Cooks Illustrated liked might be the way to go. Best of luck.

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Appalachian Prof

posted February 28, 2010 at 10:17 am

Well, look on the bright side: you didn’t cause a fire. That might have made for a far more anguished blog entry.

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Dan Berger

posted February 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I dunno. I’ve got a 20-year-old LL Bean enameled cast iron Dutch oven, from which the interior enamel is long gone (at least in the bottom of the pot), and I just keep conditioning it periodically like any other piece of cast iron. The interior is now quite black instead of blue, but it still works great.
Coat the thing with soybean oil or corn oil, and put it in a 350-degree oven for half an hour, right-side up. Wipe out the excess, turn it upside down, and let it bake another hour or hour and a half.
Soybean oil (“vegetable oil” for you who don’t read ingredients labels) is a curing oil, meaning that exposure to oxygen eventually turns it into a varnish. The heat in the oven accelerates this process, and you get a nice hard coating on the cast iron that lasts for two or three uses before it needs to be renewed.
Note: canola oil won’t work as well, as it doesn’t have the high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids that you find in soybean or corn oil.

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posted February 28, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Dan Berger is right. I’ve got a few pieces of enameled cast iron (mostly Lodge) and I’ve scratched or scraped the enamel in places on most of them. Just season it up like you would any uncoated cast iron and it will be fine. Soybean oil works great, but most fats will work well too. One tip, don’t use too much. A really light coating is all that’s needed. If you use too much fat it will polymerize and make the surface sticky. It’s a real pain to clean up.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 8:32 am

I second the emotion on the Tramontina if you need a replacement…

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Dan Berger

posted March 1, 2010 at 8:43 am

Much as I appreciate Rich’s support, the fat is supposed to polymerize; that’s what makes it into a hard coating. What makes it sticky is insufficient polymerization, which can be cured by baking it a bit longer.
And, while most fats will work because they almost all contain unsaturated fatty acids (coconut oil is the major exception), highly polyunsaturated oils like soybean oil are better because they cure faster.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 10:30 am

FYI, when shopping for Dutch ovens and then like, ask yourself how important and enamel surface is to you, because it’s the enamel that drives up the cost. If a plain old cast iron oven will go, mosey over to good outfitter place like Academy where you can get a large cast iron Dutch oven for less than $20.

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posted March 6, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Well, seeing as how this topic’s a week old, who knows if anyone will see it. But maybe Rod could create a new post with some of his thoughts.
I’ve been scouting around online for a new skillet this afternoon. I’m determined to include some Crunch in my decision. That means: nothing made in China (see Rod’s more recent post), nothing made in any other country where the item is manufactured simply because it’s cheaper, some sense of craftsmanship, and hopefully as few toxins involved as possible.
This is not an easy task. Nearly every pan at a nearby box store was made in China or Thailand (I had no idea Thailand had become such a big cookware producer). Some had the dubious label “Made in Reputable Country with imported materials”. That, to me, sounds like “We’re trying to avoid having to put ‘Made in China’ on our boxes.” That leads to an online search, where plenty of retailers will sell you professional-quality cookware for professional-quality prices. Even more disheartening is the fact that some reputable brands outsource some of their production to shady places.. so you get to hunt down what’s made where.
So far, I’m leaning towards Scanpan products, as well as an American-made Lodge skillet. Does anyone else have any recommendations for Crunchy-Compliant cookware that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Rod: What do you use? Have you gone through this same chase?

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posted March 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I did exactly this the other day, with a Lodge 6 quart enameled dutch oven. I was trying to dry it on the stove top and totally forgot about it. It has a large chip (about 1/4″ across) about to flake off. I’ll probably still use the pot even though I’ve ordered a replacement. Live and learn.

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