If you have a Le Creuset griddle or skillet that has the black enamel interior, and which now has a glaze of sticky, shiny, or sticking spots that you can’t get off no matter how much you scrub it, I’m going to tell you how to fix it, and about the “patina”.
Now, I’m sure that you, like me, bought this pricey piece because, hey, it’s cast iron that you can abuse in the washing process. Pile on the soap. Leave it to drip dry. Heck, you can even put it in the dishwasher!
Plus, it doesn’t need to be seasoned.
Or so they say.
But then in your searches you may have come across some articles that talk about the “patina” that lays down on the black enamel cooking surface. Specifically certain Le Creuset sites say, of the black interior enamel cooking surfaces, that it “has excellent, easy food release properties, which are enhanced once a natural surface patina develops.” These sites go on to explain that the “patina is produced from oils and fats used for greasing and those released from the food. After a few uses, a brownish film will appear. This patina should not be scrubbed off, as it greatly enhances the cooking and release performance of foods from the surface.”
So in essence, your black enameled interior cooking surface on your Le Creuset skillet, griddle, or grill (or other item), does need to be seasoned, but it’s expected to develop the seasoning as it’s used, rather than your having to season it initially.
What this means is that your black enamel cooking surface isn’t supposed to get spotlessly clean, it is supposed to grab the grease and oil that you put on it, or that leeches out from the foods you cook, leading to those spots that you have probably been diligently trying to scrub off (you can’t), lamenting that you have probably ruined your beautiful cookware the first time that you used it (you didn’t), or, at least, making you sad because it doesn’t look like it did when you first unboxed it (it’s not supposed to).
Which leads us to this:
How to Clean and Fix Your Le Creuset Black Enamel Interior
You are actually going to
season patina that sucker. That’s right, even though you aren’t supposed to have to season patina it.
First, if you have sticky spots on your cookware, try to get them off as best as you can. What I did was I put a splash of dish soap, and a healthy sprinkle of baking soda, into the griddle, and then filled it with boiling water. Then I let the water cool until I could put my hands in it, and I scraped away at the sticky spots with my thumbnail. I should add that this was the only thing that worked – not scrubbing it with a nylon scrubber, not Bar Keeper’s friend – nothing else. Only the dish soap, baking soda, and thumbnail. Do the best you can, and don’t sweat it if there are glazed patches that remain behind (that’s baby patina), you just want to remove as much of the sticky patches as you can.
Now, preheat your oven to 400°, and while the oven is heating brush a neutral oil such as safflower or sunflower oil all over the interior of your pan. Make it a very thin layer. Any areas where the oil layer isn’t paper thin can end up sticky, instead of seasoned.
Now, put your pan in your oven for 30 minutes. Remove it, and let it cool completely.
Run your fingers along the inside of your pan to make sure that there are no sticky spots (if there are, put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so).
Assuming that the interior of your pan passes the “no sticky spots” test, repeat the oil-and-bake process two more times.
At this point, after the third coating and cooling, your black enamel cooking surface should be slick, and relatively smooth (not completely smooth, but relatively). Now when you cook on it, if things stick to it at all, they will come off fairly easily. You can still put it in the dishwasher, although expect to have to re-season it at some point if you do.
I call this “Still Life with Patina”