My Sad Le Creuset Pots

Would I be a loser if I admitted that it is 10:45 am and I am laying — not in, but on top of — my bed, messing around on my computer? First of all, it is a Saturday, my day of rest. Second, I am nursing an illness. A cold. A manly/sexy low voice. Before the phlem, but after the aches. And I believe laying on my bed will improve my chances at a speedy recovery. Am I still a loser?

Dave says yes.

No worries. I have the self-esteem to weather that particular storm.

So, I’m writing. I love to write. I just don’t usually have the time… Oh boy… you’re in for a treat today!

Actually, I do worry how often clients end up on this particular site and wonder how it is that I manage to post ‘Meatless Monday X’ when they are still waiting for their project to be delivered. It’s a valid concern because it happens a lot. It’s psychology for another post; my need to procrastinate work until the last possible moment…

Anyway, enough of that depressing topic. I’ve been on a bread baking flurry. I used to only make it once a week, but I now seem to be on at least a 2x-a-week schedule. Plus, the first week of every month through June, I am committed to delivering an additional 12 loaves to two silent auction winners that bid on and won 8 months of bread deliveries. I just completed my fifth month and it has really made me feel the need to expand my repertoire. I tend to stick to my favored techniques and recipes, up on YouTube, that I can do it in my sleep. And yet…

I want and need more.

Not just because I worry about the bread auction recipient’s satisfaction, but because every once in a while, I come across a baguette that speaks to me. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is that is so different from my own bread. I’m not that skilled, I guess. So, I’ve spent the last hour on the internet reading about bread and looking at a couple newer books. Good Lord in Heaven. No wonder people are afraid of making bread. If you get caught up in the BS, it’s enough to make anyone cower: Hydration, crumb, retardation…

Now there’s a word that I can understand: retardation.

Oh forget it. I’ll just get in trouble.

What is the name of this post again?

I’ll try to bring it back around. Because of all the bread I’m baking, I had to re-visit Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread recipe in order to bring enough variety of loaves to the auction winners without spending an insane amount of time on new recipes. I tried the recipe when it first came out three years ago and thought it was sort of a pain in the ass, what with the pre-heating of the pan, the spastic flopping of the dough into the pan, etc. At the time, I had no knead of it. (ha ha. couldn’t resist).

However, since then, I had to start making loaf pan styles to satisfy Charlie’s desire for “Wonderbread” type bread. To be honest, I absolutely detest — DETEST — making bread in a loaf pan. Why? because I’m bad at it. Sometimes they rise too much, sometimes not enough. They make me feel like a failure. It makes me mad. Bread should not have the ability to ruin your day. I’ve slowly weaned him off the need for standard loaf bread in favor of ciabatta and the No-Knead Boules.

When I started making the No Knead Bread again though, it brought up this long-standing issue I’ve had with my Le Creuset Pans. And that is: why do mine always look like shit? Everywhere I’d read said that the No-Knead method was safe for Le Creuset, the exception being the black plastic knob on the lid, and even that was probably OK. Yet, taking mine out of the oven was always heart-wrenching. Discolored areas, finger marks baked on to the exterior. The interior dark and frightening. For crying out loud, was it only me? Why am I always ruining my pans?! Isn’t enameled cast iron supposed to be practically indestructible?

Every maddening cooking blog or TV show with Le Creuset shows these sparkling, gleaming pans. I’m willing to believe television cooks get new pans for their shows, but bloggers? How can it be that bloggers, who presumably cook a lot, can have perfectly new and shiny Le Creuset pans? Mine look like shit. [Sorry, I can’t help but swear so much. It’s a very emotional topic for me. Another inexplicable failure.]

I have used every trick in the book, on the internet and at the store. The only thing that can even come close to restoring my pan to a usable state after a particularly frisky pan-sear or oven tour is Bar Keepers Friend. But even with that, my pans are hopeless. They look like I’ve had them for 50 years — at least. I even replaced the first two that I received as wedding presents because I thought they were ruined. Now I just live with them, since the ‘new’ ones look just like the old ones I replaced. And I am now a miser which prevents me from frivolous expenditures.

No new pans for me. Well. No new Le Creuset Pans for me.

You see, in order to be able to peacefully make the No-Knead pot bread method without angst over ruining my bazillion-dollar pans, I decided to pick up an old enameled cast iron pan from an antique store. Problem was, I couldn’t find any around here. So I called my trusty parents in Hayward and had them go back to the place I got all my latest ones. They, too, were out! …the heck? On their second stop, they found a bountiful selection. After a tense phone call, fraught with impatience on my part — no, I don’t remember why; I’m always impatient — they selected a light blue one that I love. It’s slightly smaller than the 5-quart size recommended by Lahey for his bread. I like the smaller size because I find the bread rises up more than out. The interior is crazed/crackled, but it really doesn’t matter. I cleaned it all up nice. I just love it.

But just to illustrate what happens to me, when I cook the bread, this is what it looks like when it comes out of the oven:

I have to wonder who else suffers this pan-wrecking affliction?

I also have to wonder how other food bloggers keep their pans looking so perfect?

Baking soda, salt and vinegar?

Isn’t that the recipe for those exploding volcanos?

I’ll stick to Bar Keepers Friend.

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  1. says

    You are so funny! My Le Creuset pots (my small little collection of two) also have gotten marked up (permanently, I guess) over the course of time. I haven’t tried making the Lahey bread in them, so I can’t speak for what that does to the pot.

    I’m just impressed by your bread-baking! I’ve never attempted, but may soon get up the nerve. :)

  2. Nat Alea from OK says

    Well, I’m going to oogle over your Le Creuset becase I’ve not nothing!!!! I do have my old cast iron dutch oven that I’ve been using for my no knead bread and it works great. I am luvin your crackled enamel ware. That just looks like it’s got lots of character. See there you go. Keep your Le Creuset for the kids and tell them it’s vintage.

  3. John Davies says

    Have you tried putting some diluted bleach into the pans and letting them soak for awhile?

  4. says

    John: Oh yes. And when diluted didn’t work, went to full strength. It lightened it, I also fear it dulled it.

  5. says

    Not positive if anyone’s ever stated this to you or not, but any time I use the Opera browser to read your blog, it doesn’t load the right way. A bunch of the graphics don’t seem to be loading and the words seems out of alignment. Just figured I’d let you know so you can check into it.

  6. says

    hi this site of your blog was very interesting and funny for me. But it was difficult to find it with ask. Maybe you should improve it with seo plugins for wordpress like WP seo.

  7. says

    this seems awfully spamming to me, but I’m not 100% sure and your website is in German, so I’ll take my chances and leave it.

  8. Peggy says

    Hi Jen!
    My daughter and I think you are a very witty/funny person, and we enjoyed reading your blog and watching your ciabatta and baguette videos.

    I use Romertopf and La Cloche (from Breadtopia) to bake my bread, and I am very happy with the results! Very good crust, and less expensive than Le Creuset $$$. AND, you can roast chicken in the Romertopf, too!

  9. says

    Hi Peggy (and daughter)!, That is so very funny and ironic because guess what I asked for and received for christmas this year?…. A ROMERTOPF FROM BREADTOPIA.COM!

    I love it! And I have a question for you: Do you find there to be any leftover chicken essence that pollutes your bread? I haven’t used mine for anything except bread yet and that worries me…

    thanks for reading!

  10. gloria says


    I stumbled upon your site, and I had to reply about the issues you’ve had with your Le Creuset pots. The cleaner that Le Creuset sells, works well, but I doubt you’ll ever be able to regain that new look to them. I was fortunate with my Le Creuset set. I had wanted them so badly for years before I was able to afford them, that I really researched everything about them, including how to clean them. The set I have now is 4 years old, gets used on a regular basis, and looks brand new. If you ever do get a new set here’s the best care guide I can recommend.

    First of all, on the stovetop, try never to cook on more than a medium flame. Too high of heat will scorch the pans and is completely unnecessary considering Le Creuset’s ability to retain and distribute heat. Always heat the pan first, then add oil, then add food, in that order. If you add food to a cold pan then turn on the heat, the food will stick and will be very hard to remove. If you heat the pan first, then add the oil, then add the food, the pot is almost non stick. Any food that does stick can easily be removed while the pan is still hot with some hot water. The same applies for baking bread, heat the pan first, put a little butter or oil in the pan when the pan is warm, then after it is warm put the bread in.

    When cleaning the Le Creuset pans I use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, it is completely gentle, and works like a charm. You never want to use abrasive cleaners that can harm the surface. If you have any more questions, email me.

    Good luck. :)

  11. says

    that’s interesting about the magic eraser! I keep hearing what people use those for. No wonder Costco sells them by the bucketful now! Thanks for your input. I’m done buying new Le Crueset. I’ve reconciled to loving them just the way they are. :)

  12. Jodi says

    For Christmas, I got 2 Le Creusets & a Staub. I haven’t yet tried the bread in those. I have made the no-knead bread in my 6 qt. red Lodge cast iron Dutch oven from Target. It worked great the first time! The second time the bread stuck horribly to the bottom. The bread didn’t look so pretty once I pried it out but at least the pot cleaned up nicely. I am now afraid to use the pot since reading that it was made in China. (Lot of recalls from painted items from China due to scary stuff they sometimes try to sneak in there?)

    On another note, I think we might be related! My mom was a Menke & grew up on farms in the northern part of Iowa. I don’t come across the name Menke all that often. Only with relatives.

    So there you go. I also feel the need to swear often.

  13. says

    Funny Jodi! You are a lucky christmas girl! Did u get fun colors? Hey though–I wouldn’t use your new pots for bread. Really I wouldn’t. Get a cheap non enameled cast iron or covered clay. It just isn’t worth wrecking them.

  14. Kelly says

    This is great advice. My mom owns LC and I have a couple of them myself. I plan to purchase more.

  15. Rochelle says

    Yes, bleach is alkaline and will dull the finish. I ruined my first set with bleach. Several people have complained on the various boards I read that making several cycles of the no knead bread discolored their LC permanently so you’re not the only one.

    I would just use a Lodge 5 qt. raw cast iron pot for the bread. With continued high temps there’s a good chance the crackled pot will chip those small pieces off the bottom as the enamel bond to the iron is more fragile with the crackling. Gorgeous looking loaf of bread though.

  16. Stephen says

    Are you sure ….. the secret to no marks on your pans is …….. don’t use them…. LOL
    All my Le Creuset Pans are marked it adds to the flavour it means they are seasoned I only use hot water to wash them, NO soap.
    I think your blog is great

  17. says

    Ha! Yes, well… you are right Stephen. I truly only go after them with bar keepers friend every so often. And even then, very carefully. It doesn’t prevent me from lusting after the shiny interiors of those lesser used pans!! As for the blog… well… someday I will return!! Just got my oldest off to college, the garden is winding down, and I might have some time to wax my wasteful poetic. :) thanks for reading!

  18. says

    Well, I found your site because I’ve effed up my pans, too. They seem to work just fine, but I feel like a le creuset failure since the bottom of my pans are stained. Since it’s now just my husband and me I bought a smaller pan so I can make smaller loaves. Right this minute my new pan is all shiny and new, but tomorrow I’ll be baking my first loaf in it and I guess it’s doomed. On the plus side it doesn’t seem to affect the performance of my pan at all; it’s just a looks thing. And maybe a guest or two thinks I don’t wash my pans adequately. Oh well.

  19. says

    I’m convinced there is a secret society of other sad le creuset owners. It’s like The Emperors New Clothes in that no one will ADMIT it. The more people I ask, the more I hear that others (who actually use them more than once a month to boil water in) have discolored insides as well. But even knowing this, the cloud refuses to lift. I am still – and will be forevermore – sad about them.

  20. says

    Well then, I’m glad to have finally met up with my peeps and come out of the closet that I obviously don’t know shit about how to keep a pot clean that everybody else in the world knows how to do. And I’m glad to have met our leader.

  21. MountainMawMawWVa says

    Howdy, got to your site by looking up vintage enamelware dutch ovens, I have several that are all antique or vintage and I bake them in as well as cook in them even in the wood cook stove. They all get discolored some worse than others depending on what I cook in there. here is what I use to keep them sparkling clean. Clorox clean up with bleach. I just wet the pot down and empty it, leave it in the sink and spray the hell out of it and leave it alone and when I come back a few hours later. Perfect! Hope this helps dear.

  22. says

    Thanks mountainmawmaw… I used that on my original white Le Crueset and while it took the discoloration out, it also knocked the finish down to a dull matte.

    I continue to be flummoxed by this. My best friend has been BAR KEEPERS friend, but that too, wears away the enamel. Truly. this topic reduces me to well placed effenheimers and 3-year-old-style tantrums.

  23. MountainMawMawWVa says

    Oh dear, sorry to hear that. This cleaner has never done that to any of mine. i have been of recent using parchment paper to bake breads in I have a big ole cast iron dutch oven with the legs on it and wire bale handle we use it mostly on cattle drives thought about trying to stick in the gas oven legs hanging down and all and see what i get. LOL
    Keep smiling dear, besides dinged up pots and pans are part of the norm, well…at least around here. MawMaw

  24. Andrew says

    Lye would get that crud off. Just make sure to rinse it could enough after. You could use lye from home depot or easy off-which is the same thing. Thats what ive done with my le creuset when they get bad.

  25. Rochelle says

    I use Earthbrite from HSN on mine. It’s a French clay dry paste that you use with a moist sponge. It takes off brown from food residue after cooking and marks from the burner on the outside without scratching. Barkeeper’s Friend does scratch and even Magic Erasers does a bit. They say not to use them on shiny surfaces. It won’t remove stains like yours but on new pots it does keep them shiny and new. I wipe them out with a bit of olive oil after use and they stay looking shiny and new. I’ve never baked bread in them and would use plain cast iron for that.

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