LePockmarQuet: fatal kitchenware failure?
October 31, 2013 11:55 AM   Subscribe

So I heated my trusty 24cm LeCreuset frying pan for pre-frying some eggplant today, and now there are some moon-like craters on it...

This is a cast-iron fryer with angled straight sides (I found a picture here on eBay) that's outwardly covered in glossy brown enamel, and inwardly with the dark grey, rough, and presumably sturdy enamel typical for this type of cookware (so, to make this very clear, this is not about the sizing of uncoated cast iron. I know how to handle that part, it doesn't apply here).

The thing has served me for more than thirty years almost daily without a hitch - now the inside is pockmarked at five or six spots where the enamel has popped off. So my questions:

1) Obviously overheated. Why after 30+ years and not before? Is this some age-related type of behavior?
2) I can size the pan to prevent the iron from rusting (in fact that's what I'm doing right now). Is that a feasible avenue? Does anyone have any experience with this?
3) Yes, I did Google, and the answers are all over the map (a little like asking "my Windows computer is slow"). Two answers stuck out:
--one about the risk of water getting in between the still-in-place enamel, causing corrosion. If I size the pan properly, is this still a risk?
--and one about that the chemicals used to bond the enamel to the iron are nasty and one should avoid getting them into the food. Does anyone know more about this?
4) Bonus question: If the enamel is shot, how to get it all off in order to create a true iron-surface cast iron pan?

Eternally grateful for answers.
posted by Namlit to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Something similar happened to one of my pots. I shipped the pot to La Crueset and they sent me a brand new one. They're expensive pans, but they're also guaranteed for life. They've made a lifetime customer out of me, for sure.
posted by answergrape at 12:24 PM on October 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Le Creuset's lifetime guarantee—the best reason to buy their stuff, IMO. Call them for instructions on returning it. You'll have to pay to ship it back to them, but they'll send you back a brand-new pan of the closest equivalent currently in stock.
posted by booknerd at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Absolutely call them. They replaced a loaf pan for me without any trouble.

Sort of related point that might help with google: are you using the term 'size' to mean 'season'?
posted by barnone at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks this is already very helpful. I sent an email to the Scandinavian office in Denmark, will see what they say. I'll report back.

(no, as I was googling for varieties of flaking/pop-offing enamel, I didn't search for size/season/first treatment of cast iron. Still interested in the tech-part of this problem, for matters of avoidance on other pans...)
posted by Namlit at 1:12 PM on October 31, 2013

1) Obviously overheated. Why after 30+ years and not before? Is this some age-related type of behavior?

My enamel pans-- all gone now-- seemed to chip where there had been some sharp impact a significant period of time before the chipping event, either from a hard metal implement inside the pan or a blow on the outside.
posted by jamjam at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2013

If the enamel is shot, how to get it all off in order to create a true iron-surface cast iron pan?

You can have it sandblasted (or maybe bead-blasted, ask the sandblasting place which is more appropriate). It might be cheaper to buy a plain cast-iron pan though.

Sizing cast iron pans relates to 10" pans, 12" pans, etc., not seasoning them. You size your pan when you are buying pans, or when choosing a pan from your pot rack. Properly sizing your pan is helpful for cooking, but it has nothing to do with seasoning.
posted by yohko at 3:17 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok since this seems an issue: I was assuming that the verb sizing - in my professional corner one does, for example, size a musical instrument's soundboard wood by applying diluted hide glue - would be applicable to the act of seasoning cast iron by means of oil and heat as well.
Like here: "Sizing or size is any one of numerous specific substances that is applied to or incorporated in other material [...] to act as a protecting filler or glaze [...] Sizing also refers to the process of including or applying the substance."
Apparently I was wrong.

posted by Namlit at 4:15 PM on October 31, 2013

Made sorta sense to me, Namlit, as I have to wash the sizing out of material before I use it to make cloth items. I'd not heard it applied to harder items before, thanks!

I'd go with getting it replaced by Le Crueset. I think it's like heat tempered glass - you can knock it around for years until one day it finally has enough. I had a few non LC stew pots that chipped after a few months of use and I couldn't keep up with the rust. I'd scrub it off (around the edge of the pot, not in the deep/flat cooking surfaces) and keep it oiled but it'd just get rusty again (I also live in humid Florida near the coast).
posted by tilde at 6:13 AM on November 1, 2013

Best answer: I suspect that what has happened is that cold water was added to the pan while still a bit warm and a small amount of water was pulled into otherwise invisible cracks as it cooled. Then, when you heated it up today, the water underwent that 1244-fold expansion from a liquid to a gas and blew of the bits of enamel.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:21 AM on November 1, 2013

Response by poster: Got an answer from LeCreuset Denmark just now:

"Unfortunately the lifetime warranty startet first in 2000, so you[r] fryingpan is not covered by the warranty. A lot has changed in the cast iron production and therefore is the lifetime warranty now in place."

Any other salvaging tips, or is this a lost case?
posted by Namlit at 12:38 AM on November 4, 2013

Sounds like an art project, then ....
posted by tilde at 5:14 AM on November 4, 2013

Response by poster: Okay I will keep the "best answers" in place on behalf of the post-2000 LeCreuset owners who may stumble upon this thread, although they ultimately didn't help me.

Art Project it will be: Performance Art of the tip-it-in-the-scrap-metal-container kind. Sad.
posted by Namlit at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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