Enamelled cast iron cookware can last for several lifetimes with proper use and care. However, problems can arise with enamel coating if pots and pans are used incorrectly. Damaged enamel cannot be repaired at home, but for the most part chipped, scratched and peeling enamel is a non-issue. It just requires a little extra care.
Plain cast iron pots and pans have been used for hundreds of years. These bare iron vessels are durable and retain heat well, but they require a good deal of care to prevent rusting. That's where enamelled cast iron comes into play. Enamelled cast iron cookware is made when basic cast iron pots are coated with a vitreous enamel glaze, which is easy to clean and provides a non-stick surface. The enamel glaze is made from glass.
The enamel coating on cast iron pots and pans can withstand the prolonged high temperatures of cooking, but it's relatively fragile in many other respects. Abrasive cleaning supplies can damage enamel, as can metal cooking tools. For these reasons, most manufacturers recommend hand washing enamelled cast iron pots with soft sponges. Silicone or wooden tools are also recommended when cooking. If you follow these basic guidelines, your cookware's enamel coating should remain intact for years of use.
Most cookware manufacturers include lengthy warranties with their enamelled cast iron products, so if chips and scratches do occur and you've been using the products properly, you will be able to get replacements free of charge. Damaged enamel that results from improper care won't be covered by a manufacturer's warranty, but cracks in enamel coating don't mean that your cookware is ruined. Underneath the enamel is solid cast iron, which will cook food as well as enamelled products. Exposed cast iron simply needs additional care to keep it in good condition.
Upkeeping Damaged Enamel
Cast iron pots and pans with peeling or chipped enamel should be treated in the same way as bare cast iron cookware. They must be seasoned regularly to prevent rusting and to build up a natural non-stick coating. To season your pan, rub it with lard or bacon grease and place it in a preheated oven at about 148 degrees C. After 15 minutes, remove the pan and pour out any excess liquid. Place the pan back in the oven for two to three hours. Repeat this process several times for the best results. Cookware with damaged enamel also should not be washed with soap. Clean your pots and pans with warm water and a soft sponge to prevent further enamel peeling and to maintain the seasoning. With regular seasoning and proper cleaning, your damaged enamelled cookware should work to your highest expectations.